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No. 14 Kentucky holds off rally by No. 12 Penn State for Citrus Bowl victory

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Despite a furious effort by Trace McSorley on a broken foot, No. 12 Penn State (9-4) was unable to dig out of a big hole in the second half as No. 14 Kentucky (10-3) celebrated a rare 10-win season with a 27-24 victory in the VRBO Citrus Bowl. A record-setting day by running back Benny Snell and a dominating performance by linebacker Josh Allen were key in the victory for the Wildcats.

Snell rushed for a game-high 140 yards and two touchdowns to lead the charge. Kentucky’s offense was not a threat at all until the second half when Snell provided a much-needed charge after a tough first half. Kentucky bewildered Penn State to build a 27-7 lead late in the third quarter.

In that third quarter, Trace McSorley was reportedly being taken out of the game with a broken foot. But just moments after that information was relayed by Penn State beat reporters following an update from a Penn State spokesperson, McSorley appeared to talk his way right back onto the field with Penn State down 20-7. That drive did not last long and it did not end well for McSorley as he tossed up an interception to Lonnie Johnson, who returned the football to the Kentucky 34-yard line. After a quick 54-yard pass from Terry Wilson to Lynn Bowden Jr., Snell rushed up the middle for a 12-yard touchdown run to push Kentucky’s lead to 27-7.

The touchdown run by Snell also set the new Kentucky career rushing record. Snell passed the previous school record held by Sonny Collins, who held the record of 3,835 career rushing yards for 44 years in Lexington.

But after going down 27-7, McSorley and Penn State somehow came to life. Penn State scored on a short McSorley run early in the fourth quarter and McSorley completed a touchdown pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth with nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter to cut the Kentucky lead to 27-20. Nearly five minutes later, Penn State settled for a field goal by Jake Pinegar to trim the lead to three points for Kentucky rather than take a chance on a fourth down play. Kentucky would drain the clock on the ensuing possession with Snell handling things on the ground and forcing Penn State to use their three timeouts. The Wildcats did have to give the ball back to the Nittany Lions, with one second left on the clock after a punt.

This was Kentucky’s first time winning 10 games in a single season since 1977. The goal of hitting the 10-win mark was not one taken lightly by Kentucky either, as the Wildcats were extremely motivated to do something rarely done in this program’s history. It was part of the reason why a player like linebacker Josh Allen, with all the hardware to show off and nothing more to prove, decided to play in the bowl game when the trend is for potential first-round draft prospects to sit out of what many consider to be a meaningless bowl game. But this wasn’t a meaningless bowl for the Wildcats. This was a bar the team wanted to clear, and now they have.

What does it mean moving forward? For Mark Stoops, the bar has been set and now he must continue to work recruiting and player development to ensure there isn’t a dropoff in 2019. Doing so may prove to be difficult, but the Kentucky football program has been taking small steps forward every season under Stoops and it reached new heights this season. In a division that is already pretty challenging and could potentially get tougher, Kentucky does not look like it might be ready to start taking backseats in the division mix just yet.

Penn State falls shy of winning 10 or more games in three straight seasons for the first time since 1980-1982.

Penn State special teams a disaster as Kentucky leads Nittany Lions in Citrus Bowl

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The VRBO Citrus Bowl between No. 12 Penn State and No. 14 Kentucky has been dictated by the defenses by both teams and a handful of special teams miscues by the Nittany Lions. At the half, Kentucky leads Penn State 10-7 in Orlando, with Kentucky prepping to get the ball to start the second half.

It was a first half of special teams blunders for Penn State, but none were more costly than Lynn Bowden Jr. returned a punt out of the Penn State end zone 58 yards to the house for a touchdown late in the first quarter. Paired with a field goal on Kentucky’s first offensive series of the game, Kentucky had a 10-0 lead in the first quarter despite not getting much on offense against a stingy Penn State defense.

Penn State started the game with two straight three-and-outs and then capped their third possession of the game with a missed field goal try in the first quarter. Penn State picked up some momentum at the beginning of the second quarter with a screen pass to speedy KJ Hamler, which setup Trace McSorley for a short touchdown pass to tight end Nick Bowers to bring the score to 10-7 in favor of Kentucky.

Penn State has had a few special teams miscues in addition to giving up the punt return touchdown. The Nittany Lions were stuffed on a fake punt run on the opening possession of the game, missed two field goals, and cost themselves some field position by not calling for a fair catch in their own end. It hasn’t been all bad, however, as Blake Gillikin did get off a 71-yard punt that pinned Kentucky deep on their side of the field.

If Kentucky was able to get anything going on offense, Penn State would be in serious danger. But because the Nittany Lions defense is keeping things within reach, this is still anybody’s game in the second half.

Neither team has a third-down conversion at halftime, with Penn State 0-for-8 and Kentucky 0-for-7.

No. 12 Kentucky upsets unranked Missouri on TD with no time left

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Yes, you read that first half of that headline correctly.  And the last half was even more unbelievable.

Despite Kentucky entering Saturday at 6-1 and ranked 12th in the country, 4-3 Missouri, winless in SEC play, was a touchdown-ish favorite at home in Memorial Stadium. In the end, UK showed that the wise guys aren’t right all the time.

Very literally snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, an improbable 81-yard drive culminated in a touchdown with no time left on the clock to give the Wildcats a walk-off 15-14 win over the Tigers in Columbia.  The game-winning points came on a two-yard touchdown pass from Terry Wilson to C.J. Conrad on an untimed down; on the previous play, Mizzou was called for pass interference in the end zone to give the Wildcats one final shot.

Missouri actually took a 14-3 lead into halftime, but could do nothing in the second half.  Literally.

The Tigers had eight offensive possessions over the last two quarters.  On all eight possessions, they went three-and-out.   That’s right, Mizzou failed to record a single first down the entire second half.  It was all part and parcel of an abysmal offensive performance that saw the Tigers muster just 249 yards of offense and average just 2.4 yards per carry.

The Wildcats weren’t much better on the ground as they were at 2.6 ypc, although they did get 294 yards through the air from Wilson.

Despite their host’s offensive ineptness, Kentucky still trailed 14-3 until deep into the fourth quarter when Lynn Bowden‘s 67-yard punt return for a touchdown with just over five minutes remaining breathed some much-needed life into the Wildcats.  A Wilson interception on UK’s next offensive possession a minute later could have iced the game for Mizzou, but, you guessed it, another three-and-out handed the ball back to the Wildcats with 1:24 remaining.

From there, Wilson and his 87 yards passing on the 81-yard game-winning drive (he was sacked twice) set the stage for the late-game heroics.

With the win, Kentucky and Georgia remain tied atop the SEC East at 5-1.  It also sets the stage for a huge Week 10 matchup as the Wildcats will play host to the Bulldogs next Saturday.

So huge, in fact, that, as both teams have beaten 4-2 Florida, and the next-closest team in the division is 2-3 South Carolina, the winner of the UGA-UK game will win the division and represent the East in the SEC championship game in early December.

Alabama-Kentucky in Atlanta, anyone?

Snell No: Sputtering offense sees No. 13 Kentucky take first loss of season

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There was absolutely no secret about how Kentucky won its first games, rocketing from the realm of the unranked to No. 13 in the AP poll: play defense and run Benny Snell, Jr., over and over and over again. The junior entered Saturday night’s trip to College Station leading the SEC in rushes (115), yards (632) and touchdowns (8).

But one question remained: what would happen to Kentucky if Snell couldn’t get going?

We found out Saturday night, and it wasn’t pretty. With Snell limited to 60 yards on 13 carries, the Wildcats did not run a single play in Texas A&M until overtime, which was forced by a shocking 40-yard fumble return with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Kentucky accepted the ball to open the extra frame and gained eight yards on their first two plays, but quarterback Terry Wilson took a 5-yard sack on third down and Miles Butler‘s 43-yard field goal doinked off the cross bar. Snell did not touch the ball in the extra frame.

Texas A&M made no such mistake, feeding Trayveon Williams four straight times, including a soaring 14-yard touchdown run out to give Texas A&M a 20-14 overtime win over the previously unbeaten Wildcats.

The Wildcats actually jumped to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter after Wilson flipped the ball to Lynn Bowden, Jr., who raced 54 yards for a touchdown.

That was it for Kentucky’s offense for the night, though. The Wildcats (5-1, 3-1 SEC) punted 10 times and registering six three-and-outs, including three consecutive in the second half.

The Aggies (4-2, 2-1 SEC) dominated the ball for most of the night, and so it was really just a matter of time until they broke through to take the lead. After a 48-yard drive ended in a turnover on downs at the Kentucky 27 early in the second quarter, the Aggies notched the equalizer on a 3-yard Kellen Mond toss to Quartney Davis with 1:14 left in the first half, capping a 12-play, 70-yard drive.

Texas A&M threatened more without scoring in the second half, but one drive ended in a 40-yard Seth Small field goal that was no good, and another ended in a tipped interception by Kentucky’s Darius West.

After yet another Kentucky three-and-out, another Mond tipped pass worked out in A&M’s favor, as a deflection landed in the hands of tight end Jace Sternberger, who dashed 46 yards for a touchdown, handing the Aggies a 14-7 lead with 10:13 to play.

That 14-7 lead appeared like it would hold as Texas A&M took over with 7:47 to play until, facing a 3rd-and-1 from their own 43, Mond bobbled a rare snap from center, regained control only to fumble it again. West recovered the ball and raced it 40 yards for a touchdown, forging a shocking tie with 4:17 left.

An intentional grounding call on Mond to open the A&M drive essentially ended it before it began, and Kentucky, who appeared dead to rights two minutes ago, took over in a tie game at its own 9 with 2:07 to play.

Kentucky pushed all the way to its own 41, but the drive sputtered from there — with Wilson actually losing the ball in his own backfield before it was recovered by an offensive lineman — and a short Max Duffy punt, his 10th of the night, gave Texas A&M the ball at its own 41 with eight seconds left. A 15-yard Wilson burst allowed Mond to launch a Hail Mary as time expired from the Kentucky 44, but the rainbow landed incomplete.

Wilson finished the game 13-of-20 for 108 yards and a touchdown; 54 of those yards were gained on one pass, while the other 19 also went for 54.

Mond hit 18-of-29 yards for 226 yards with two touchdowns and two turnovers, while Williams carried 24 times for 138 yards and the game-winning score.

The win snapped a 7-game losing streak against ranked teams for Texas A&M. The Aggies’ last win came in 2016 over No. 9 Tennessee in double overtime.

No. 13 Kentucky and Texas A&M in a defensive struggle

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A pair of teams built on the running game have struggled to get their running backs going, and as a result No. 13 Kentucky and Texas A&M are knotted at 7-7 at the half in College Station.

Kentucky’s points came, essentially, through one play, a 54-yard flip pass from Terry Wilson to Lynn Bowden, Jr.,  at the 1:10 mark of the first quarter.

Texas A&M put together two good drives, a 48-yard push that ended when Jashuan Corbin was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 at the Kentucky 27, and a 12-play, 70-yard touchdown drive. Kentucky put the Aggies in a 3rd-and-goal situation from the 7, but Josh Allen was flagged for roughing the passer and Kellen Mond hit Quartney Davis for a 3-yard score with 1:14 left before the break.

After the touchdown drive, Kentucky’s final three first half possessions all went three-and-out, and each trip was shorter than the last — seven yards, two yards and, finally, minus-2 yards. Benny Snell, Jr. has been limited to 23 yards on six carries, and Wilson has completed 7-of-12 passes for 77 yards, which means that, aside from the touchdown pass that wasn’t really a pass, Texas A&M limited him to 6-of-11 for 23 yards.

Mond hit 9-of-16 passes for 105 yards and a score.

Texas A&M will receive to open the second half.