Rapid Reaction: Kentucky overwhelms LSU to move to 6-0, set up showdown with Georgia
One of the teams in Saturday’s Kentucky-LSU game looked calm, collected and like it belonged in a primetime SEC matchup. The other was LSU.
Kentucky showed no signs of hangover from last week’s win over Florida, and leaned on its stingy defense and punishing ground game to take an early advantage and then coast to a 42-21 win. The victory moved Kentucky to 6-0 and 4-0 in SEC play and for the second time in 4 seasons, and set up a showdown with Georgia for a likely SEC East title.
LSU took the game’s opening kickoff and drove into Kentucky territory before UK linebacker DeAndre Square sacked LSU QB Max Johnson and forced a fumble, which UK’s Josiah Hayes recovered. Kentucky drove to the LSU 3 where on 4th-and-goal, Mark Stoops elected to keep his offense on the field. QB Will Levis flipped a quick throw to open RB Chris Rodriguez for an easy touchdown, giving the Wildcats a lead they would not relinquish. Matt Ruffolo’s extra point made it 7-0 with 6:17 to go in the first quarter.
On the following possession, LSU drove to the UK 31 and then elected to try for a 4th-and-1 conversion. Johnson’s pass was broken up by UK defensive back Carrington Valentine to force the turnover on downs. Kentucky then drove down the field, largely on the strength of a 34-yard pop pass from Levis to tight end Justin Rigg. On the first play of the second quarter, Levis hit Wan’Dale Robinson in the end zone with an 11-yard scoring strike. The extra point made it 14-0 with 14:54 to play in the first half.
No further scoring ensued in the first half, but Kentucky opened the second half with a 75-yard scoring march. Levis carried the ball over the goal line from a yard out to extend UK’s advantage to 21-0. LSU got on the board on the following drive, as the Tigers converted on a 4th-and-goal from the UK 1 on a handoff to Tyrion Davis-Price to pull LSU within 21-7 with 6:43 to go in the 3rd quarter.
Kentucky immediately regained momentum with a 75-yard scoring march, with Levis covering the last 5 yards on his own carry. Kentucky then led 28-7. After stopping LSU on downs, UK stretched its advantage on a 25-yard scoring pass from Levis to running back JuTahn McClain. Kentucky’s lead reached 35-7 with 12:07 to play.
LSU answered on a 41-yard bomb from Johnson to freshman WR Malik Nabers to pull within 35-14 with 11:03 remaining. With Kentucky content to eat clock, LSU struck again on a 2-yard scoring run by Davis-Price to pull within 35-21 with 5:29 to play.
Kentucky’s ground game controlled much of the second half of play as it topped 300 yards. Starting back Chris Rodriguez eclipsed the 140-yard rushing mark and added a TD, and backup Kavosiey Smoke topped 100 as well. Levis was efficient on the ground (topping 50 rushing yards) and in a selective passing game, with his 3 touchdowns and high completion percentage keeping the clock moving late.
Kentucky moves to 6-0 with the victory, marking the first time since 1950 that the Wildcats have opened with such a run. UK also has an 8-game winning streak at the moment. The Wildcats will take on Georgia next week in Athens, which figures to be a tall order. LSU fell to 3-3 and will host Florida next week as the seat gets hotter for Tigers coach Ed Orgeron.