Kentucky remains unbeaten, defeats LSU 42-21


Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (24) runs the ball during the No. 16 University of Kentucky vs. LSU game on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 42-21. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Barkley Truax

The Cats partied like it was 1950 Saturday night.

No. 16 Kentucky defeated LSU 42-21 to improve to 6-0 for the first time in 71 years and 4-0 for just the fourth time in program history. Quarterback Will Levis led the charge with five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) and running backs Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriguez Jr. combined for 251 of Kentucky’s 330 rushing yards.

“Really appreciate our coaches and our players,” head coach Mark Stoops said post-game. “We just have had a good, quiet confidence about us from the preparation that we are doing, a lot of hard work preparing hard, guys are sacrificing and doing things that are necessary. Coaches are putting out great game plans and we’ve really had good, hard disciplined practices and felt like we were getting better and better and really feel like our guys are playing exceptionally hard and we are executing better.”

The Wildcat defense picked up right where they left off last week as DeAndre Square forced LSU quarterback Max Johnson to fumble on the opening drive of the game and Kentucky quickly capitalized. 

44 yards and nine plays later—Kentucky quarterback Will Levis found Chris Rodriguez Jr. wide open in the end zone on fourth and goal for the four-yard-line for the opening score for the second receiving touchdown of his career.

LSU and head coach Ed Orgeron played the same gamble on fourth that paid off for Mark Stoops and his Wildcats for the touchdown—but once again, Kentucky’s defense came up big as Carrington Valentine broke up Johnson’s pass for the second turnover for the Wildcat defense in two drives.

The next drive would give Kentucky fans what they’ve been begging for all season—explosiveness from the Wildcat offense.

Rodriguez Jr. crossed a major career milestone on the first play of the next drive—rushing for 17 yards and becoming the 11th player to rush for 2,000 yards in Kentucky history. An RPO from Levis to tight end Justin Rigg for 34 yards pushed Kentucky into the red zone to end the first quarter directly after.

Levis would connect with his favorite receiver Wan’Dale Robinson from 11 yards out on the first play of the second to put Kentucky in front 14-0.

LSU went into the locker room scoreless. The Tigers were only able to muster 120 totals yards on offense while Kentucky had 202 by halftime. Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke combined for 104 rushing yards and Levis went an efficient 9-12 for 84 yards and two scores.

Levis called his own number to start the second half with a 33-yard rush that saw the quarterback bounce off three tackles, carrying the fourth for 10 extra yards before sneaking into the end zone two plays later to ignite the crowd in Lexington.

“We just had a little miscommunication with the backs on who was doing what, and both of them were doing the same thing when one of them should have been getting the ball, so I shouldn’t have even had the ball in my hands obviously,” Levis said about his long run. “So I just pulled it, saw the edge, took it, got to the second level, tried to do a little spin move. I don’t know if I’ve ever done a spin move. It worked pretty well, I guess. Tried to stay on my feet and get as many yards as I can.”

Down three scores, LSU was desperate for a score and did exactly that. Kentucky made them work for it, though. Tyrion Davis-Price took the one-yard carry across the pylon on fourth and goal to bring the Tigers back to within two touchdowns.

Rinse and repeat—Levis found the end zone for the fourth time Saturday night and his second rushing score of the third quarter to put the Cats back up three scores for the second-straight drive heading into the final quarter of regulation.

“I really thought he played exceptionally well,” Stoops said about his quarterback. “You could tell early on, just to me, his comfort level was there. You know, he looked really poised, really confident and just going through his progression, making some really nice throws.”

Another fourth down stop for the defense allowed the Kentucky offense room to work with a short field yet again. Levis connected with JuTahn McClain from 25 yards out for McClain’s first score of the year. The sophomore running back was able to sneak behind the defense and found himself wide open up the numbers to stretch the lead to 35-7 with 12 minutes remaining.

Johnson found Max Nabers for a 41-yard touchdown strike to help pad the score, but it was too late for them to amount a full comeback. Davis-Price scored again after a Kentucky three-and-out on their next drive to cut the lead to 14 with just over five minutes remaining.

Rodriguez Jr. called game with an 18-yard score one minute later, pushing the score to 42-21 as the crowd shouted the familiar C-A-T-S chant and security came down across the student section to prevent the fans from rushing the field for the second week in a row.

Two kneel downs kept Kentucky’s undefeated season alive and the Cats took down the Tigers for the first time since 2007. Kentucky will have their biggest test of the season on the road against No. 2 Georgia next Saturday in Sanford Stadium for sole possession of first place in the SEC.