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. 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. The questionable defensive line exceeded expectations to hold Ito Smith and the Southern Mis rushing attack to just 55 yards. Adrian Middleton had 5 tackles, while Matt Elam and Calvin Taylor added four apiece. 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. Kentucky’s rushing attack that dominated SEC opponents a year ago was nowhere to be found. The Wildcat was ineffective and the offensive line lost the battle in the trenches. 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. 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. The Kentucky punter was excellent. Patton averaged 42 yards per punt, two punts were downed at the one and Southern Miss started six drives inside their own 20. 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.