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Kentucky Football

Cats Derail in Second Half to Fall to Auburn 29-13

September 26, 2020
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Kentucky came out strong to open the season, matching Auburn stride for stride and showing rhythm and confidence on offense. The game looked early like it may turn into a barn burner, but solid drives ended often without points. The first half, however, came to a close in memorable fashion as Chris Rodriguez was called down short of the goal line in a spectacularly questionable call from the officials. The series of events that followed left both teams frustrated, as Terry Wilson’s intercepted pass appeared to go for a pick-six initially before a targeting call against Auburn negated the score.

The Cats never got their groove back, struggling through the second half with virtually no offense and allowing Auburn to blow the game open. Wilson looked great at time, running with confidence and making a large number of throws, but the inevitable rust of not playing for a year reared its ugly head at key moments, first with the interception at the goal line and later with a costly fumble. Kentucky’s defense played well, if somewhat inconsistently, missing tackles in the first half before cleaning it up. Two of Auburn’s three scores in the second half came off short fields, leaving the defense in a tight spot.

We saw some good things from the Cats, but some red flags as well throughout the matchup that will have the Cats working hard to make corrections next week. The turnovers were deadly, and an inexplicable fake punt by Max Duffy killed any chance to keep Kentucky in the game late. The Cats owned time of possession in the first half, 21:01 to 8:59, the distribution was almost equal in the second half as the Cats struggled on offense, bringing the total time of possession to 36:29 for Kentucky and 23:31 for Auburn.

Kentucky outgained Auburn 384 yards to 324. They only picked up 145 yards on the ground while Terry Wilson threw for a net 239 yards. The Cats converted 12 of 19 third downs versus Auburn’s 4 of 10. While promising, these numbers couldn’t overcome the story of the day, which was critical turnovers and an inability to finish drives. The Cats totaled 6 red zone points versus Auburn’s 22, and three turnovers destroyed any chance of Kentucky walking away with the win. 

On defense, the defensive line played a very solid game, headlined by Josh Paschal who was active all over the field throughout the game. The linebacker group showed times of brilliance but weren’t as consistent as they needed to be, while the secondary struggled to contain Seth Williams. The defense played well enough to get a win today; the turnovers were the difference-maker. 

 

First Quarter

The Cats came out well early with the season-opening on defense. After a gain of 12 yards on a Bo Nix run, the Cats defense closed in and forced 3rd and 2 when Phil Hoskins made the tackle the bring up 4th and 1. Auburn punted and the Kentucky offense made their debut.

 Terry Wilson looked comfortable from the get-go and Kentucky set their tone on first down, handing off to AJ Rose who went for a gain of 7 yards to start things off. After three plays on the ground, Wilson went to Josh Ali for three straight plays, the first two of which netted one yard on the right sideline. On 3rd and 8, Ali broke through traffic around the line of scrimmage and picked up 23 yards to kickstart Kentucky’s drive, which carried on methodically to the Auburn 35. On 3rd and 3 from the 35, Kavosiey Smoke hit his stride and beat the defense for the breakaway touchdown. Kentucky took a 7-0 lead.

Auburn came out looking to answer, and what looked to be some early nervous energy from the Kentucky defense left them missing multiple tackles. The Tigers took advantage of a balanced run/pass attack including a 26-yard pickup from Bo Nix to Seth Williams and another completion from Nix to Anthony Schwartz for 23 yards that took the Tigers to the one-yard line. From there they punched it in and brought out some of Gus Malzahn’s trickery, getting the two-point conversion on a swinging gate play. Auburn up 8-7.

Kentucky picked up right where they left off, starting on their 25-yard line and working down the field. Chris Rodriguez carried to start the drive before Terry Wilson took off himself, looking more comfortable each time he pulled the ball and ran. Wilson continued to spread the ball around including two to AJ Rose, one of which came back due to offsides by Auburn. The last play of the first quarter brought up 4th and 3, and Wilson’s pass to Clevan Thomas fell incomplete, turning the ball over on downs.

 

Second Quarter

Auburn’s offense came out to start their drive on their own 39-yard line looking to increase their lead. The Tigers continued their balanced offensive attack, going for 14 yards to open the drive on a pass from Nix to Seth Williams. Kentucky continued to miss some key tackles, and the Tigers advanced to the Cats’ 16-yard line on seven plays before being brought up short on their own 4th down try by a key stop from DeAndre Square. The ball went back to the Cats.

Kentucky took over on their own 16 and opened with the run game again, this time going to Kavosiey Smoke for 14 yards on the first play. The Cats kept their rhythm, working down the field on the legs of Rodriguez and arm of Wilson to the Auburn 30 yard line. On an eight-yard connection from Wilson to Rose, Upshaw was called for holding and the Kentucky drive stalled. Two backwards plays brought up 3rd and 28 and Wilson’s pass intended for Isaiah Epps fell incomplete. Duffy’s punt gave Auburn the ball on their own 20.

Kentucky’s defense came to play, forcing a three-and-out after a gain of only 4 plays by Auburn on 3 plays, and Kentucky took over with 4:20 left in the first half.

The Cats went to their four-minute offense, grinding down the field thanks to AJ Rose and Terry Wilson. Chris Rodriguez took over as back in Auburn’s red zone and looked to punch it in, but was called down at the 1. After a review, the call stood despite it appearing that Rodriguez was well over the goal line, and on 2nd down Terry Wilson failed to get the ball across the line on a quarterback sneak. He went to the air on 3rd down and was intercepted in the end zone by Roger McCreary, who returned the pick 100 yards for what appeared to be a touchdown. That score was then called back to Auburn’s 30-yard line thanks to a targeting call against Auburn’s Derick Hall and Auburn took a knee to bring a wild end to the half. Auburn led 8-7.

 

Third Quarter

Kentucky got the ball to open the second half, but the momentum killer of Rodriguez’s touchdown-that-wasn’t continued as the offense looked lackluster. The Cats netted two yards before punting to close a three-and-out and Auburn took over only 1:39 into the second half.

Seth Williams continued to plague the Cats’ secondary on the second play of the drive with a 32-yard catch that took Auburn across midfield and into UK territory. The drive fizzled then thanks to a stop by Boogie Watson and pressure from Jordan Wright and the Cats started on their own two-yard line after another great punt by Bo Nix.

Kentucky couldn’t get out of the shadow of their own end zone, two runs by Kavosiey Smoke netting a loss of one. On third down Wilson went down the field but was unable to connect with Josh Ali, and Max Duffy continued his incredible punting campaign with a booming 75-yard kick that gave Auburn the ball at their own 24-yard line.

The Tigers took advantage of Kentucky’s struggles and put together a nearly five-minute drive that ended in a touchdown pass from Bo Nix to Seth Williams. The drive featured two false starts by Auburn, one of which was offset by a personal foul against Kelvin Joseph. Auburn opened the lead to 15-7.

Kentucky took over and went to the air to open, a pass attempt to Akeem Hayes falling incomplete. Wilson then ran it to pick up 9, and the Cats settled into a rhythm for the first time in the second half. The drive was almost entirely through the air complemented by rushes by Chris Rodriguez. The Cats capped the drive with a touchdown pass from Wilson to Hayes. Kentucky went for two and Wilson threw the ball away, leaving the score at 15-13. 

With one minute left in the third quarter, Auburn’s offense came back out, starting hot with two completions from Nix to Eli Stove before the ball hit the ground and Josh Paschal made the tackle for a loss of nine yards after Auburn recovered. The Tigers were forced to punt.

 

Fourth Quarter

Starting on their own 26-yard line, Kentucky’s offense needed to get something going. On the third play of the drive, after burning a timeout to save the play clock, the Cats turned the ball over. Terry Wilson’s fumble gave Auburn possession on Kentucky’s 23-yard line.

The Tigers quickly took advantage, reaching the end zone in five plays as Bo Nix once again connected with Seth Williams to give Auburn a 22-13 lead.

Kentucky’s offense once again struggled to get going, failing to pick up a first down for the fourth time in the half. On fourth down from their own 30, Kentucky came out to punt but Max Duffy pulled the ball and ran it, trying to convert the 4th and 5 but failing to do so. Auburn once again gained possession with a short field, this time taking over at Kentucky’s 27-yard line.

Auburn’s offense, now hitting their stride, scored in two plays. Bo Nix connected with Eli Stove in the end zone to extend the lead to 29-13.

Kentucky continued to flail on offense with their fifth three-and-out of the half, failing to find any rhythm and giving the defense almost no break on the sideline. Despite that, Kentucky came through with a stop this drive, forcing Auburn into a three-and-out.

With only 4:59 left in the game Kentucky’s offense came back out to try to bite into Auburn’s lead. Wilson opened the drive with three completed passes and continued to find some success in the air, pushing the offense down the field to Auburn’s 15-yard line but taking over 3 minutes to do so. After catching the pass from Wilson on 1st down, DeMarcus Harris coughed up the ball and Auburn took over, once again keeping Kentucky off the scoreboard in the red zone. Auburn ran out the clock, cementing the 29-13 victory.

 

The Cats will look to improve their errors and rebound next week against an Ole Miss team that failed to contain the Florida Gators in any way today.

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Cats Derail in Second Half to Fall to Auburn 29-13

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