Will Rogers set school and SEC single-game records by completing 92.3 percent of his passes and threw for 344 yards as Mississippi State rolled to a 31-17 victory over No. 12 Kentucky in SEC play on Saturday night at Starkville, Miss.
Rogers completed 36 of 39 passes and threw one touchdown pass, Dillon Johnson rushed for two scores and the defense forced four turnovers to help the Bulldogs score 31 consecutive points in one stretch while winning their second straight game. Jalen Green, Shawn Preston Jr. and Cameron Young recorded interceptions and Jett Johnson recovered a fumble for Mississippi State (5-3, 3-2 SEC).
Will Levis was intercepted three times while completing 17 of 28 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown for Kentucky (6-2, 4-2). Josh Ali returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown for the Wildcats, who dropped their sixth consecutive game in Starkville.
The Bulldogs outgained Kentucky 438 to 216 while controlling the ball for 41 minutes and 10 seconds.
The Wildcats, who lost their second straight game, possessed the ball for just 5:42 in the second half and ran only 17 plays.
Mississippi State led 14-10 at halftime before dominating the third quarter and adding on 17 points.
The Bulldogs took the third-quarter kickoff and drove 66 yards on 14 plays and Brandon Ruiz booted a 27-yard field goal to cap the drive of eight minutes and 26 seconds.
Kentucky took over and Chris Rodriguez lost a fumble on the second play and Jett Johnson recovered at the Wildcats’ 22-yard line. Three plays later, Dillon Johnson scored from the 1 to give Mississippi State a 24-10 lead.
More disaster occurred on Kentucky’s next play from scrimmage as Levis’ pass was tipped by Tyrus Wheat and intercepted by Young, who returned it five yards to the Wildcats’ 24.
Three plays later, Rogers tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Rara Thomas to increase the lead to 31-10.
Kentucky finally scored an offensive touchdown with 13:37 left in the game when Levis threw a 17-yard scoring pass to DeMarcus Harris.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 10-0 lead behind Ali’s 74-yard punt return midway through the first quarter and Matt Ruffolo’s 41-yard field goal with 12:14 left in the second.
The Bulldogs received a 7-yard scoring run by Jo’quavious Marks with 7:45 left in the half and took a four-point lead on Dillon Johnson’s 9-yard run with 1:40 remaining.
–Field Level Media
The Georgia Bulldogs showed why they are the top-ranked team in the country, easily handling the visiting, No. 11-ranked Kentucky Wildcats 30-13 on Saturday in Athens, Ga.
With the win, the Bulldogs (7-0, 5-0 SEC) remained in the driver’s seat to earn the top spot in the SEC East, while Kentucky (6-1, 4-1) lost for the first time this season.
The Bulldogs entered Saturday’s contest leading the nation in total defense and scoring defense, allowing just 5.5 points allowed per contest. And Georgia’s stout defense did not disappoint, holding a Kentucky offense averaging 411.8 total yards per game to just 249 yards on offense.
Georgia has now won the last 12 meetings over Kentucky.
The Bulldogs finished with 166 rushing yards, led by James Cook’s 51 rushing yards on six carries. Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett completed 14 of 20 passes for 250 yards and three scores.
Brock Bowers topped Georgia with five catches for 101 receiving yards and two scores.
For Kentucky, quarterback Will Levis completed 32 of 42 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Chris Rodriguez Jr. entered Saturday’s contest leading the SEC in rushing but finished with just seven yards on the ground. Wan’Dale Robinson topped Kentucky with 12 receptions for 44 receiving yards and a score.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Bulldogs got on the scoreboard first on the first play of the second quarter when Bennett hit Cook over the middle on a 19-yard catch and run for the first score of the game and a 7-0 advantage.
Georgia upped its lead to 14-0 on a five-play, 80-yard drive capped by a Zamir White 24-yard run with 10:35 left in the second quarter.
Kentucky responded with a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Levis finding tight end Justin Rigg out in the flat on a play-action pass for a 1-yard score, cutting Georgia’s advantage to 14-7 with just under four minutes left in the first half.
It was the first time Georgia’s defense allowed a touchdown in the first half this season.
The Bulldogs pushed their lead back to 14 points on the opening drive of the second half, with Bennett connecting with Bowers for a 27-yard score.
The Bulldogs added a Jack Podlesny 26-yard field goal and a Bowers 20-yard touchdown, while Kentucky’s Robinson scored a 1-yard touchdown in the game’s final seconds for the final tally.
–Field Level Media
It’s something of a role reversal Saturday night as Kentucky hosts LSU in Lexington, Ky.
This time, No. 16 Kentucky (5-0, 3-0 SEC) is a ranked team with a highly touted defense coming in off a big win over a Top 10 opponent, and LSU (3-2, 1-1) is trying to sort out inconsistencies that already have its season on the edge.
The Wildcats stayed unbeaten by knocking off then-No. 10 Florida 20-13 last week, marking their Wildcats’ first home victory over the Gators in 35 years, and moving them back into the Top 25.
Coach Mark Stoops acknowledged the win as a big step in continuing to build the program.
“This is the next opportunity,” Stoops said. “That’s what it’s about for us. We want to play in a lot of big games.”
Kentucky is No. 10 in the country in total defense (284.4 yards a game) — No. 24 against the rush and No. 26 against the pass, and tied for 20th in scoring defense (16.8 points a game).
The defense saved the day against Florida, which ran nine plays inside the Wildcats’ 20-yard line in the final minute but couldn’t score, and the fans stormed the field.
“We proved our identity,” said defensive lineman Josh Paschal, who blocked a Florida field goal that Trevin Wallace returned 76 yards for the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter. “We’re a defense that will swarm around the ball and that, no matter what happens, we’re going to bounce back and respond.”
The Wildcats held the Gators to 382 yards, including a season-low 171 rushing. Florida had rushed for 245 in losing to Alabama 31-29.
The Wildcats’ offense, however, showed areas in need of improvement. They converted just one of nine third downs against Florida and held the ball for less than 24 minutes. They gained just 224 yards as Will Levis completed just seven passes in 17 attempts.
“Offensively we will get it going,” Stoops said. “I’m very confident that we’ll continue to get better. We’re going to get there.”
LSU has its own offensive problems, which were painfully clear in last week’s 24-19 loss to Auburn, which climbed to 22nd in this week’s poll. LSU had just 33 yards rushing.
The Tigers rank 128th of the 130 major college football programs in rushing offense (70.6 yards per game).
“We’re trying to run the football, (but) every time we run the football, we get stuffed,” head coach Ed Orgeron said. “We’ve got to find ways to run the football and we’ve got to block.”
Orgeron said that going into the season he thought the offensive line “would’ve been one of the strengths of our football team, but it’s not.”
LSU is just two seasons removed from a national championship but went 5-5 last season, and another slow start has critics questioning Orgeron.
Moreover, Auburn was the first of six straight ranked opponents whom the Tigers will face.
Kentucky and LSU have not met since 2014 but consider that it’s just the second time since 1985 that the Wildcats have been ranked facing LSU, while the Tigers have been ranked for seven of the past 11 meetings.
–Field Level Media
It’s prove-it time for the Kentucky football program.
At 4-0, the Wildcats feel like they are ready to compete with the Southeastern Conference’s big boys. And with No. 10 Florida coming to Lexington for a big East Division contest Saturday night, opportunity is literally knocking on the big blue door.
How will Kentucky answer?
“I think our players know that we can play with anybody if we play well,” said Wildcats coach Mark Stoops. “That’s the point where we’ve gotten to as a program. But we still have to do that.
“We have to have a great week. We have to play well. We have to prepare well. We have to control what we can and execute at the highest level.”
While Tennessee is historically Kentucky’s biggest football rival, it’s the Gators who have traditionally dispensed the cruelest outcomes, particularly since Stoops was hired after the 2012 season to build a program that could do in football what the Wildcats have done for generations in basketball.
Kentucky is 1-7 against Florida under Stoops with at least four losses harder to swallow than a plate of offal. One of those losses included 2017, when the Wildcats squandered a 13-point fourth-quarter lead and lost 28-27.
Another was the result of a controversial call in 2014 that helped the Gators pull out a 36-30 triple overtime win. And in 2015, Kentucky managed just three field goals, but had the chance to win with two fourth-quarter possessions.
That was one of 16 straight Florida wins at Kroger Field, which will be sold out for what insiders around the Kentucky program believe can be its breakthrough game. The Cats are 2-0 in the conference, thanks to last week’s 16-10 win at South Carolina.
“We’ll have our hands full, but we’re really looking forward to having a great home atmosphere this weekend,” Stoops said.
The Gators (3-1, 1-1) come into this one after handling Tennessee 38-14 last week. Some wondered if Florida would suffer an emotional letdown after nearly shocking top-ranked Alabama (31-29) on Sept. 18, but the Gators took a lead just before halftime and pulled away from the Vols in the second half.
Quarterback Emory Jones paced Florida with arguably the best game of his career. Jones completed 21 of 27 passes for 209 yards while running for 144 yards, making him the first Gators’ QB to pull off the 200-100 double since Tim Tebow did it in 2009.
“I was just processing information, processing the defenses and I was doing that pretty smooth,” Jones said. “I made quick decisions. That’s me feeling more comfortable out there, from what I know about myself.
“Overall, it was a pretty good performance by me, but there were a lot of things I could still do better and a couple of mistakes I still made.”
After being intercepted five times in the first three games, Jones avoided a pick against Tennessee. And at least for now, the talk of inserting redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson has died down.
Florida will need that version of Jones in its first real road test. The Gators did win at South Florida on Sept. 11, but the Bulls are nowhere near the level of opposition that the Wildcats will provide this weekend.
“It’s such a challenge from one weekend to the next,” said Florida coach Dan Mullen.
–Field Level Media
If South Carolina and Kentucky were to receive grades for the first three weeks of the season, neither team would get an A-plus.
But as the Gamecocks prepare to host the Wildcats Saturday in Columbia, S.C., both teams still have plenty of reason to be optimistic.
For Kentucky (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference), that optimism comes from its undefeated start. The Wildcats followed up a lopsided win over Louisiana-Monroe by posting close wins over Missouri and Chattanooga to secure their first 3-0 start since 2018.
Sure to figure prominently for the Wildcats is wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, who has opened the season with three straight 100-yard receiving games. Robinson grabbed eight passes for 111 yards in Kentucky’s 28-23 victory over Chattanooga.
The win also was keyed by timely plays in the fourth quarter.
After Kentucky grabbed a 21-16 lead on a long drive culminating in a Will Levis touchdown pass, Tyrell Ajian recorded an interception on the ensuing drive and returned it 95 yards for a score.
“I’m proud of our guys making the plays,” head coach Mark Stoops said. “Offensively, finally piecing together a 75-yard drive and converting with a touchdown pass to put us ahead, and Ty making the big pick and defensively making the stop when we had to.”
South Carolina (2-1, 0-1) could use some of those timely plays, especially when the primary reason for much of its positive outlook — a manageable schedule — is currently at hand.
The Gamecocks dropped a 40-13 decision to No. 2 Georgia last week, but the schedule eases up with no ranked opponents on the docket until an Oct. 23 road trip to current No. 7 Texas A&M. Before that tilt, South Carolina hosts Kentucky, Troy and Vanderbilt with a road trip to rebuilding Tennessee on Oct. 9.
To take advantage, the Gamecocks will need to stay positive and pounce on opportunities while limiting mistakes.
“I’m not sitting here patting myself on the back about us being 2-1,” Gamecocks head coach Shane Beamer told Rivals. “But I’m just trying to maintain positivity, maintain composure on the sideline and help our players throughout the game be successful.”
Luke Doty will receive his first start of the season after coming on in relief of Zeb Noland.
Doty sustained a sprained foot in a practice on Aug. 13 and was ruled out of the first two games of the season.
Noland, the former graduate assistant who joined the team after Doty’s injury, left last Saturday’s game after his throwing hand was stepped on. Doty replaced him and completed 13 of 26 passes for 153 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Beamer is expecting Noland will be available if needed. He has passed for 407 yards, five touchdowns and one interception this season.
For now, Stoops solely is focused on Kentucky.
“They’re playing good football,” Stoops said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge of going down there and playing them, trying to get another SEC East victory. Big game for us.”
–Field Level Media
Tyrell Ajian returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter as Kentucky staved off an upset attempt and registered a 28-23 victory over Chattanooga in a nonconference game Saturday at Lexington, Ky.
Will Levis passed for 246 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Wildcats (3-0). Wan’Dale Robinson had eight receptions for 111 yards, Isaiah Epps and Izayah Cummings caught scoring passes and Josh Ali tacked on a touchdown run for Kentucky.
Ailym Ford rushed for 128 yards on 21 carries and Reginald Harrison had nine receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown for the Mocs, the 22nd-ranked FCS program. Chattanooga lost its 55th consecutive game to SEC teams since beating Tennessee in 1958.
Cole Copeland completed 21 of 35 passes for 168 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while rushing for a score for the Mocs (1-2). Aaron Sears kicked three field goals.
Chattanooga trailed by five and was stationed at the Wildcats’ 35-yard line when Copeland threw into double coverage. Ajian made the interception at the 5 and navigated toward the left and sprinted down the sideline to give Kentucky a 28-16 lead with 7:40 left.
The Mocs charged back with a 14-play, 75-yard drive and Copeland scored on a 2-yard keeper to make it a five-point margin with 1:20 to play.
Ali recovered the ensuing onside kick and Kentucky ran out the clock for its 13th straight nonconference victory.
Kentucky outgained Chattanooga 348-339 while committing three turnovers. The Mocs’ only miscue was the costly interception.
Sears booted a 43-yard field goal with 10:43 left in the third quarter as Chattanooga pulled within 14-13.
Rashun Freeman intercepted Levis late in the third quarter at the Mocs’ 34-yard line. Chattanooga drove 53 yards on seven plays to set up Sears’ 30-yard field goal that gave the Mocs a 16-14 edge with 13:27 remaining in the game.
The Wildcats answered with a swift seven-play, 77-yard drive. Levis, who completed 23 of 35 passes, concluded it with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Cummings to give Kentucky a five-point lead with 10:18 left.
Kentucky opened the contest with Ali’s 11-yard scoring scamper on the fly sweep. The Mocs answered with Copeland’s 12-yard scoring pass to Harrison with 6:46 left in the opening quarter.
The Wildcats moved back ahead when Levis threw a 20-yard touchdown to Epps to make it 14-7.
–Field Level Media
Christopher Rodriguez Jr. scored four touchdowns Saturday as Kentucky kicked off SEC play with a 35-28 victory over visiting Missouri in Lexington, Ky.
After a strong Week 1 performance in which he ran for 125 yards and a touchdown in a rout of ULM, Rodriguez took his game to another level against the Tigers. The junior tailback finished with 207 rushing yards on 27 carries, including three touchdowns. He added another score on his only catch of the night.
With the game tied at 28-28, Kentucky went on a crisp five-play drive that ended with Rodriguez’s 8-yard TD run up the middle with 11:28 to go. Missouri later drove into Wildcats territory, but quarterback Connor Bazelak was sacked on third down, and his fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
Kentucky’s Will Levis was 10 of 18 for 179 yards with one touchdown through the air and another on the ground. Wan’Dale Robinson was his favorite target with five catches for 101 yards to lead the Wildcats (2-0, 1-0 SEC).
Bazelak threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns in a losing effort. Tyler Badie led Missouri (1-1, 0-1 SEC) in rushing yards (61 on 14 carries) and receiving yards (88 on 10 receptions).
Kentucky led by 14 points three separate times before Missouri ultimately crawled back into a fourth-quarter deadlock.
Rodriguez caught a 5-yard touchdown pass on the game’s opening drive and added a 2-yard TD run later in the first quarter for a 14-0 cushion.
Bazelak’s first touchdown pass to Daniel Parker made it 14-7 late in the first quarter before a 3-yard TD run by Levis restored a two-touchdown lead. Bazelak responded with another scoring strike, this one a 17-yard hookup with Keke Chism in the waning seconds of the opening half.
Once again, Kentucky answered to create another 14-point lead, going ahead 28-14 on Rodriguez’s short TD run less than two minutes into the third quarter.
Bazelak then rallied Missouri into a 28-28 tie with two more touchdown passes — first a 6-yard strike to Parker midway through the third, and then a 17-yard connection with Badie with 13:11 to go in the contest.
–Field Level Media
Mark Stoops has rebuilt the Kentucky football program to the point where it has gone to bowl games in the last five seasons of his eight-season tenure.
The Wildcats open their season at home Saturday in Lexington against a Louisiana-Monroe program that first-year coach Terry Bowden is just starting to try to elevate from rock bottom.
Kentucky is coming off a 5-6 season after a win in the Gator Bowl, which ended a streak of four consecutive winning campaigns.
The opener provides the first look at first-year offensive coordinator Liam Coen’s scheme that he brought from the Los Angeles Rams. He’s trying to upgrade a passing game that finished last in the SEC in each of the last two seasons.
Penn State transfer Will Levis takes over at quarterback after a brief three-man training-camp battle.
“He’s been very efficient,” Stoops said. “His presence is felt immediately. He’s a very mature young man, very intelligent. There’s command in the huddle. And there’s the talent in the arm. It doesn’t take long to see the arm talent.”
Kentucky hopes a rejuvenated passing offense is accompanied by a rejuvenated pass rush.
The Wildcats had 15 sacks last season after having at least 30 in each of the previous three seasons. That drop-off coincided with an increase of nearly seven more points per game allowed.
Bowden, a former head coach at Samford, Auburn, Akron and North Alabama, is trying to improve a program that finished 0-10 a year ago.
He brought in more than 50 new players to try to upgrade the roster and create more competition.
“I’m kind of at that point where I’m used to seeing new faces,” offensive tackle Blake Lodes said. “That comes with the territory. It doesn’t really faze me, and I enjoy seeing the new guys.”
The newcomer with the highest profile is quarterback Rhett Rodriguez, son of first-year offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez, a former head coach at West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona.
The younger Rodriguez is expected to start, but otherwise Bowden has been tight-lipped about his depth chart.
“We’re going to be evaluating up until the last minute, and I’m not going to want to publicize that any sooner than I have to,” Bowden said. “There’s some unknowns there, and I think you don’t want to make a decision there publicly until you have to.”
–Field Level Media