Cats claw back, defeat Mizzou 21-17 in Columbia


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Dane Key (6) and running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (24) celebrate during the Kentucky vs. Missouri football game on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri. UK won 21-17. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky football (6-3) overcame a late deficit to defeat Missouri 21-17 in Columbia, finishing out the Wildcats’ road-schedule with a win.

“I’m very proud of our football team,” Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said. “There’s ups and downs and you have to be able to respond and bounce back. I was really proud of our defense, I thought (the defense) really played solid.”

It was a low scoring affair in “CoMo” with both teams entering the halftime with just one score as Kentucky led 7-3.

The Cats forced a three-and-out on their first defensive possession before marching downfield to score a touchdown thanks to a nine-yard pass from quarterback Will Levis to freshman wide receiver Dane Key.

The Tigers looked to counter on offense but appeared to come up short as kicker Harrison Mevis’ eventual field goal attempt was no good. Luckily for the home team, a lengthy review concluded that Kentucky had been caught making a late substitution and had 12 men on the field.

Mevis refused to squander the opportunity twice and sent his second attempt, from five yards closer, through the uprights.

What followed were numerous examples of either defensive integrity or offensive ineptitude from both squads as Kentucky was forced to punt three times and Missouri was forced to punt twice with a turnover on downs as well.

Punts were not the only results fans were treated to on the remaining first half drives, though they may have been preferable in the other instances, with Tigers’ quarterback Brady Cook also bobbling and fumbling a ball that Kentucky recovered and Wildcat kicker Matt Ruffolo missing two consecutive field goal attempts.

The two missed attempts brought Ruffolo down to 9-15 (60%) on the season, a staggering number considering he entered the season with a 26-32 (81%) record.

Coming out of the half with possession, Kentucky would ultimately extend its lead, but not in the way visiting fans may have predicted.

The Cats were forced to punt on their offensive drive before the UK defense forced a turnover on downs courtesy of Missouri’s punter, who bobbled the ball and attempted to run for the first down but came up short.

Taking over on Missouri’s 34-yard line, Kentucky went on to score as Levis record a one-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Dingle to lead 14-3.

Two punts, one from each team, later and Kentucky found itself in the fourth quarter with the 11-point lead, looking to coast its way to the finish line, but Missouri had other plans.

The Tigers marched into the red zone and, while at first it appeared they may be stuffed on the goal-line, Cook kept the ball himself on fourth down to record a one-yard rushing touchdown and get Missouri back into the game.

Unfortunately for Mizzou, the two-point attempt fell to the ground incomplete, leaving the score at 14-9.

The Tigers weren’t done though, forcing a quick three-and-out before scoring again, this time to take the lead, courtesy of yet another quarterback keeper from Cook, this time rushing for 20 yards.

As fate would have it, Missouri’s second two-point attempt was good, giving the home team a 17-14 lead over Kentucky with eight minutes left to play.

The three-and-out from Kentucky that preceded the scoring drive was especially disappointing for the Wildcats as it featured two sacks on Levis.

Levis was sacked six times on the day as a whole for a combined loss of 39 yards, bringing the season total to 36 sacks.

“I’m not going to pin (the sacks) on anyone at this point,” offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello said. “We have to watch the film, but I will say this, I think a couple may have been on Will and a couple were on the O-line and I mean, maybe a couple were on the play calls, you can always put it on that stuff.”

Kentucky, unwilling to throw in the towel, marched down the field on the very next drive, overcoming a penalty that negated a touchdown, to retake the lead on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Levis to Key, the second by the duo in Missouri.

“It was really big,” Stoops said. “Early on it’s a double-edged sword, we drop back, and we take sacks. We hadn’t been running the ball very successfully early like we normally can so, late, it was very big. We just got to continue to grind away.”

The matchup in Missouri was far from over though, with arguably the biggest headline to come as Kentucky looked to run out the clock.

The Wildcats were faced with an apparent three-and-out after some runs to drain clock before a bad snap sent the ball well over the head of punter Colin Goodfellow.

Rather than kicking the ball out of the endzone and taking a safety, Goodfellow picked the ball up and punted it anyways, but not without incident as Missouri’s Will Norris dove into his plant leg.

The Wildcats were awarded a “roughing the kicker” penalty that provided an automatic first down, but Goodfellow did not get back up after the play and, unfortunately for the graduate student, he would have to be carted off the field.

“It was a remarkable play by him (Goodfellow),” Stoops said. “At first I wished he would have taken the safety but he made a remarkable play. The way it was explained to me was that he was in the tackle box still. Unfortunately for him he is injured so I hope it’s nothing major, I know he’s hurting bad.”

With every subsequent play met with a chorus of boos from the Missouri fans in attendance, the game soon came to an end for the Tigers with a whimper as a series of desperation lateral passes saw Mizzou lose yards before UK’s J.J. Weaver picked a ball out of the air to officially bring the game to a close.

With the road schedule officially concluded, Kentucky returns home to Kroger Field on Saturday, Nov. 12, to battle the Vanderbilt Commodores. Kick off against Vanderbilt is scheduled for noon EST and will air live on the SEC Network.