Scouting report: UK takes on Ole Miss in home opener


Kentucky safety Darius West and Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones pressure Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu during the game against Ole Miss on Saturday, November 4, 2017 in Lexington, Ky.

Barkley Truax

In their first home game of an adjusted COVID-19 season, the Kentucky Wildcats will look to bounce back from a tough loss in the season opener against the Auburn Tigers with a match-up against the Ole Miss Rebels.

Both Kentucky and Ole Miss lost their season openers to top-10 ranked opponents in Auburn and Florida respectively, so each will look to notch their first win of the season this Saturday in Kroger Field.

For Cats fans, it is easy to focus on the negatives from last Saturday – an interception before halftime, Terry Wilson’s turnovers, a called-back touchdown or a fake punt in the third quarter – but the team is prepared to learn from those situations.

“There’s not a team in this league that’s not going to make mistakes. There’s the ones that can make the fewest and have the ability to overcome the mistakes,” said Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops after the Auburn game.

In the first half, Kavosiey Smoke had two rushes for 49 yards and a touchdown. Both run plays were complimented by great blocking from one of the highest-rated offensive lines in the country.

UK played through their offensive line throughout Saturday’s game, earning 145 yards rushing yards and 239 yards through the air from passes from Wilson. Overall Kentucky put up 384 yards against Auburn on Saturday against a top defense in the nation.

Defensively, Kentucky only allowed Auburn 91 yards on the ground, something they Cats will hope to replicate this week against Ole Miss.

The Rebels were defeated 51 – 35 at home against Florida on Saturday. Despite the score, the Rebels’ quarterback, Matt Corral passed for 395 yards (22/31) with three touchdowns.

Kentucky gave up 324 yards through the air last week, allowing three passing touchdowns as well.

In particular, the Wildcats had trouble shutting down Auburn’s Seth Williams, who scored two touchdowns on six receptions for 112 yards. Against Ole Miss, the player to watch is wide receiver Elijah Moore.

Moore had a career-defining game last week, hauling in 10 receptions for 227 yards. While he didn’t score, he was responsible for over 50 percent of all Rebel receiving yardage. He leads the SEC in receiving yards after week one.

Moore will likely be guarded by highly-touted LSU transfer, Kelvin Joseph. Joseph didn’t have the game many thought he would, only recording four tackles and picking up a bad penalty by pushing an Auburn receiver before a play. Joseph also gave up a critical touchdown to put Auburn up by two scores on Saturday.

The Ole Miss defense gave up 51 points and 642 yards overall against Florida. The Gators gained nearly 200 yards on the ground against the Rebels, a number that grants hope to Kentucky’s offensive line.

While there aren’t many questions about the Wildcat’s running game, the passing game is another situation. Terry Wilson passed the ball 37 times on Saturday, completing 24 (65%) of those passes, throwing one touchdown and an interception.

Saturday was Wilson’s first game back after recovering from a torn patellar tendon, an injury received in the fall of 2019 from a horse-collar tackle in a game against Eastern Michigan. While Wilson’s first game back was an uphill battle against a national championship contender in Auburn, the rust of not playing football for a year was clear. On top of the interception, Wilson fumbled the ball twice, and had another fumble that went out of bounds before Auburn could recover.

“I’m very confident we can get them [turnovers] corrected and move on,” Stoops said.

This will be the 42nd meeting all-time between the two programs, the eighth since the turn of the century. Ole Miss was not on Kentucky’s original schedule, but due to COVID-19 and the SEC playing only in-conference, the Rebels were added along with Alabama.

The last meeting between the two schools was in Lexington in November of 2017. Ole Miss defeated Kentucky 37 – 34 with a last-second touchdown pass from quarterback D.K. Metcalf to Jordan Ta’amu. All of Kentucky’s points in that game were scored by kicker Austin McGinnis and Benny Snell Jr.

Three years later, the Rebels will once again journey to Kroger Field and play in front of a limited crowd. The game begins on Oct. 3 at 4 p.m. EST and will be broadcasted on the SEC Network.