The Kentucky football team walked away from Hattiesburg with a 24-17 win thanks to the heroics of the UK defense.
The Cats forced four fumbles, recovered three and turned one into a touchdown. Â Darius West popped the ball free from Kwadra Griggs and Denzil Ware took it 20 yards for a touchdown, the one that would prove to be the game-winner.
The defense was at its best in the trenches. Â The questionable defensive line exceeded expectations to hold Ito Smith and the Southern Mis rushing attack to just 55 yards. Â Adrian Middleton had 5 tackles, while Matt Elam and Calvin Taylor added four apiece. Â On the edge, Ware and Josh Allen excelled, combining for 3 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.
The defense received little help from an offense that ran just 54 plays and possessed the ball for only 28 minutes. Â Kentucky’s rushing attack that dominated SEC opponents a year ago was nowhere to be found. Â The Wildcat was ineffective and the offensive line lost the battle in the trenches. Â They finished with only 78 rushing yards.
Kentucky’s offense had one final chance to redeem themselves by salting the clock away for the final 5:02. Â They never managed to make a big play, but two Southern Miss penalties gave the Cats enough room to breathe and enough clock to burn.
The difference-maker that allowed the defense to contain Southern Miss was Matt Panton. Â The Kentucky punter was excellent. Â Patton averaged 42 yards per punt, two punts were downed at the one and Southern Miss started six drives inside their own 20. Â After his final punt, Southern Miss put the nail in their own coffin with three penalties on the return to back them up inside their own five.