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Kentucky Kernel

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Kentucky football falls 33-27 against No. 21 Tennessee

Kentucky Wildcats running back Ray Davis (1) runs the ball down the field during the Kentucky vs. No. 21 Tennessee football game on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Isaiah Pinto | Staff

Kentucky football (5-3) fell to No. 21 Tennessee 33-27 on Saturday at Kroger Field, with the loss extending the Wildcats’ losing streak to three games.

The loss also marked the third straight year of Volunteer dominance in the Kentucky-Tennessee rivalry, with Kentucky’s last win in the series coming in 2020 when the Wildcats defeated UT 34-7.

Kicking things off, the Vols won the toss and elected to defer, with the Wildcats beginning their first drive on their own 25-yard line.

A three-and-out would send the Kentucky offense to the sideline as senior quarterback Joe Milton III took over for Tennessee’s first drive of the evening.

Milton and the UT offense would also put together a short first drive, with the Volunteers’ having a much different outcome after junior running back Jaylen Wright’s 52-yard rushing touchdown.

Senior Devin Leary led the Kentucky offense back on the field for its second drive, one that would end much like the first as the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs on their own 34-yard line.

Despite having great starting field position, the Vols would fail to add six to their lead and would instead settle for a 44-yard field goal from senior Charles Campbell.

The Wildcat offense would show life on its third drive, with Leary giving Kentucky its first first down by way of a 22-yard strike to sophomore Jordan Dingle.

Leary would then march the Wildcats down to the redzone, but would leave without the crown jewels as Kentucky settled for three to cut its deficit to one possession.

Tennessee would keep its offense on the ground to follow the Kentucky field goal, gaining 39 of its 44 yards on the ground before Campbell knocked in a 49-yard field goal attempt.

With the deficit extended back to 10, Leary would kick off the Wildcat drive with back-to-back completions to sophomores Barrion Brown and Dane Key.

Leary would find Key again for a 17-yard completion before finding Brown in the endzone for a contested 11-yard touchdown grab to bring Kentucky within three.

The Volunteer offense would follow by orchestrating another short scoring drive, with Tennessee running only five plays before Milton found freshman Chas Nimrod for a 39-yard touchdown.

Kentucky football players line up on the ball during the Kentucky vs. No. 21 Tennessee football game on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Isaiah Pinto | Staff

Needing a rebuttal, Leary would lead the Wildcats down the field, finishing the last drive of the half for the home side with a seven-yard touchdown run from senior Ray Davis, his 14th on the year.

Looking to extend its lead, Tennessee would start on its own 25 with just under two minutes left in the half and would end up getting in position for Campbell to add three with a 34-yard field goal to end the half.

The Wildcat defense would come out of halftime strong, forcing a three-and-out as a Tennessee punt found Kentucky’s offense starting on its own 30-yard line.

Leary would find Key on a 14-yard pass to move the sticks on the second play of the drive, with fifth-year receiver Tayvion Robinson following with a nine-yard catch to enter Tennessee territory.

A sack was followed by a 15-yard reception from Dingle and found Kentucky in a fourth-and-six, which would prove to be too much as the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs for the second time.

The Volunteers would find themselves in the red zone, but wouldn’t be able to capitalize as they once again settled for a 35-yard field goal.

Kentucky would answer on the following drive, with Leary completing all three of his attempts, including a seven-yard touchdown to Key to bring the Wildcats within two.

After a forced punt by Kentucky’s defense, the Wildcats would get the ball as the game entered the fourth quarter.

Leary would march the Wildcats into field goal range by way of receptions from both Key and junior Demie Sumo-Karngbaye, but it would all be for not as junior Alex Raynor missed the 53-yard attempt, his first non-blocked field goal miss of the year.

Following the miss, the Vols would push their lead to two possessions after a 65-yard drive was topped off with a 12-yard rushing touchdown by sophomore Dylan Sampson.

Needing points on the drive to stay alive, Leary would string together completions to five different receivers as the Wildcats offense moved down the field before stalling out on the 11-yard line, with Raynor stepping up to knock the 28-yard attempt through as all the pressure shifted to the Kentucky defense.

Tennessee’s run game would ultimately prove too much for the Wildcats, with Sampson gaining 32 yards on three rushes as Tennessee entered Wildcat territory.

A Milton rush for a first down would eclipse all hopes of a Wildcat comeback as the Vols ran the clock out to secure the 33-27 victory.

The Wildcats will look to end the skid when they travel to Starkville, Mississippi, on Saturday, Nov. 4. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.

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