Through the first half of 2015, Auburn’s season has been a disappointment. Thursday night, they avoided it toppling over into the embarrassing.
Up 23-10 at halftime, AU watched as Kentucky mounted a semi-furious second-half rally, with the Tigers hanging on for a 30-27 win. The win was the Tigers’ first in SEC play against two losses, and pushed them to 4-2 overall with six games remaining.
Conversely, the loss was seriously damaging to any hopes Kentucky had held to keep pace with Florida in the SEC East. Not only did UK fall to 2-2 and into a tie with Georgia in the division, they now, in reality, are two-and-a-half games behind 4-0 UF as the Gators already beat the Wildcats earlier in the season.
Arguably the key sequence that could very well have changed the narrative in the above paragraph came a handful of minutes into the fourth quarter.
A Peyton Barber run from the UK 48-yard line ended with what was ruled a fumble that was recovered by the Wildcats with 10:18 remaining. Upon further review, however, Barber was ruled down and the ball reverted back to the Tigers. Two plays later, Sean White hit Ricardo Louis for 34 yards down to the UK 12; three plays later, Barber ran in from three yards out to push the lead to 30-20 with 7:56 remaining.
Roughly four minutes after that, a Mike Horton one-yard touchdown run sliced the lead to 30-27 4:06 left. The Wildcats got the ball back at their own 15 with 2:12 remaining and one last chance, and managed to move as far as the Tigers’ 44-yard line before Patrick Towles, forced out of the pocket, was stopped on a fourth-down run that gave the ball back to AU on downs with just 25 ticks left on the clock.
All six touchdowns scored in the game, three by each team, came on the ground. AU’s Peyton Barber and UK’s Boom Williams accounted for two apiece.
Towles passed for 359 yards in a losing effort. It was the junior’s second straight 300-yard game and fifth of his career; the Wildcats’ record in those games dropped to 2-3.
The loss was Kentucky’s ninth straight at home to Auburn. The Wildcats have not beaten the Tigers in Commonwealth Stadium since 1966.