Grading Kentucky’s mind-blowing OT loss to Ole Miss
Kentucky football fans could be forgiven if they thought they had seen every possible way to lose a football game. From LSU Hail Marys to Florida play-clock expirations, Big Blue Nation has been there. They added a new one Saturday, when Matt Ruffolo’s doinked extra point spelled the difference in a 42-41 overtime loss to Ole Miss. Let’s break down this tough loss for the ‘Cats.
What we liked
The 3-headed rushing attack
We’re not sure which was the last SEC team to lose a game in which it boasted three 100-yard rushers, but Kentucky pulled off the trick, losing despite triple-digit games from Chris Rodriguez (133 yards on 17 carries), Terry Wilson (129 yards on 22 carries) and A.J. Rose (117 yards on 12 carries). There’s plenty of blame to go around in this one, but it’s not generally on the ground game.
The senior wide receiver again had a standout game, snagging 7 passes for 88 yards, sometimes spectacularly. He caught literally half of Terry Wilson’s completions on the day and gained almost 60 percent of UK’s passing yards. For the second week in a row, Ali was solid, although other wideouts struggled.
A week after nearly passing themselves out of the Auburn game, Kentucky largely went back to their bread and butter, going with 56 rushes against 18 passes. Not surprisingly, QB Wilson responded with a very solid performance. Wilson is best running first and throwing on a somewhat as-needed basis. While Kentucky did have a few errors that hurt offensively, scoring 41 points would win most SEC games for the Wildcats.
What we didn’t like
Kentucky has had massive problems in the kicking game for each of the past three seasons. Several competitive games have been left on the line because of missed kicks (Texas A&M in 2018, Florida in 2019). That said, an extra point, as missed by senior Ruffolo in overtime, has rarely been the defining moment. Ruffolo also missed a 49-yard field goal earlier in the game, but that’s about a hundred times more understandable than a sliced PAT. Kentucky has to fix this issue pronto.
Call them the “secondary,” because they brought no ‘D’
Kentucky’s secondary, which was one of the best in the SEC last season, has been torched twice in two games. Matt Corral threw just 5 incomplete passes on his way to 320 passing yards and 4 touchdowns. And we’re not even getting into several costly pass interference penalties — admittedly, some of which were a bit questionable. Given the presence of Mississippi State as Kentucky’s next opponent, coverage (and pass rush) skills are at a premium in Lexington.
On Kentucky’s first offensive play, senior running back Rose broke free for a long run. So certain was he of his path to the end zone that he was visibly celebrating by the 25-yard line. Somebody forgot to tell Ole Miss DB Jakorey Hawkins, who hauled down Rose from behind at the 3-yard line. The play became even bigger two plays later, when Rose lost a fumble reaching for the end zone. For the second consecutive week, Kentucky lost a turnover inside the opposing 1-yard line on a play that should have never been needed. But while the gaffe at Auburn came after an officiating screw-up, this week’s costly play followed an even more costly mental error. So much for senior leadership!