LEXINGTON – September 11, 2021 – KEVIN CONLEY
Mistakes. Miscues. Errors. Mental lapses. Choose the word or phrase you most prefer and insert. [Insert Word or Phrase Here] could have cost the Kentucky Wildcats a 2-0 start to the 2021 season. Fortunately, a late defensive stand sealed the win after Chris Rodriguez capped off a 5-play, 75 yard drive with his 4th TD of the game to give UK the lead, and eventually the win, over SEC foes Missouri Tigers, 35-28.
Kentucky continued the hot offensive start to the 2021 season Saturday night at Kroger Field in Lexington, scoring twice in the first 10 minutes of the contest against the Tigers, taking an early 14-0 lead. Will Levis connected with Rodriguez on a 5-yard touchdown pass for Kentucky’s first score of the game, giving the Cats a 7-0 lead with 12:52 left in the first period. That score was made possible by a Wan’Dale Robinson 64-yard run that set up the great field position on UK’s opening drive. Rodriguez scored from 2 yards out after a pass interference call against the Tigers placed the Cats inside the Red Zone. UK took a 14-point lead, 14-0.
The Cats were poised to expand a 21-7 advantage to three scores at 28-7 when mistake number one occurred. While dominant on all sides of the ball through most of the first half, a late Chris Rodriguez fumble at the goal line created a 14-point swing that allowed Missouri to cut the Cats’ lead to seven. Instead of 28-7, UK’s lead was now 21-14. That was how the two teams entered the locker room. However, Missouri appeared to have the momentum and was set to receive the ball to begin the second half.
Kentucky’s defense created a turnover on Missouri’s first drive of the second half when Jaquez Jones picked off a Connor Bazelak pass to give the Cats possession at the Tigers 38 yard line. Three plays later, Rodriguez found the end zone on a 3-yard run to give the Cats a 28-14 lead. The Tigers cut the UK lead to seven with 9:15 remaining in the 3rd quarter when Bazelak found Daniel Parker from six yards out for the touchdown, 28-21.
A dropped interception by Galen Geiger in the end zone gave Missouri a second opportunity and allowed Bazelak to find Tyler Badie for a 16-yard score to tie the game at 28 with 13:11 left in the 4th quarter. Mistake number two. However, the Cats responded for the winning score with 11:28 remaining in the 4th quarter. The Rodriguez touchdown, his fourth of the night, proved to be the margin of victory despite a blocked Mark Ruffolo field goal attempt late in the 4th quarter. Mistake number three.
Wan’Dale Robinson topped the 100-yard mark on a 33-yard reception for a 1st down on 3rd and 11. He is the first UK player to have consecutive 100-yard receiving games since Jeff Badet did that in 2016. Josh Ali surpassed the 1,000 yard mark for a career. He is the 31st player to do so in a Kentucky uniform.
This was the fifth consecutive game that Rodriguez scored a rushing touchdown tieing Benny Snell and Artose Pinner in that category. Chris Rodriguez crossed the 200-yard threshold on the night. The last UK player to rush for 200 yards was Lynn Bowden in the Belk Bowl.Levis finished 10-18 for 179 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception. He rushed for 25 yards and had one score. Rodriguez finished with 207 yards on the ground and three scores. Robinson had three carries for 73 yards.
For Missouri, Bazelak finished 34-52 with 294 yards, 4 touchdowns and one interception. UK out gained Missouri in total yards 520 to 398 and out-rushed the Tigers, 341 to 104.
The Cats will be in action next Saturday when they host the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Game time is set for 12 pm.