Despite gashing the Ole Miss defense for a whopping 559 total yards and 408 on the ground, the UK defense managed to give up 42 points and 449 total yards, including 320 total yards and four touchdowns through the air.
More specifically, the Rebels gained 8.8 yards per play in the second half and overtime, scoring touchdowns on the UK defense in four of their six final drives. In a game where the offense was overwhelmingly positive and dominated in most statistical categories, the Wildcats still didn’t do enough defensively to pull off the win.
For UK head coach Mark Stoops, it was an effort that simply wasn’t good enough.
“You have to get stops in critical moments,” he said after the game. “We did not play very good defense tonight. That’s on us. We have to get them in position and play better.”
As Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin has done throughout his 24-year coaching career, the Rebel offense is explosive, fast, and keeps defenses off-balance. With a young, struggling secondary, the UK defense simply couldn’t keep up.
“They were doing what they wanted to do, to be honest with you,” Stoops said. “They really had us off balance. They spread you out. They go extremely fast. We’ve got to play better. We got it to a two touchdown lead, and then from there, we really played poor on defense, and they scored so quick that momentum can shift.
“You’re going to go through stretches in these games this season, again, with the margin for error is small. You have to do things right, and you definitely knew that going into the game that a team like that could put the foot on the gas and go extremely fast. Again, it will be very similar this next week.”
With the UK defense failing to slow down Ole Miss’ high-octane offense, Terry Wilson and the Kentucky offense had to play near-perfect football to have a chance.
For Stoops, that pressure is too much to put on one side of the football.
“Certainly, every possession, as you know, in a game like this, possessing the ball, getting yards and scoring points, they’re all important,” Stoops said. “With the way we were rushing the ball and creating explosive plays in the run game, it gave us the best opportunity, and it certainly added to that when we played such poor defense.
“It kind of puts pressure on myself and on the offense to where every possession was so important. Possessing the clock, but also scoring points is important. There comes a time when you get off balance like we were, you have to play as a team. I thought our offense responded several times tonight. Obviously, there’s things they could do better, but there were times they responded really well, where they had long drives and gave the defense an opportunity to kind of get over there and do some adjustments and try to get their feet up underneath them and play better.”
The Kentucky defense will look to turn things around when the Mississippi State Bulldogs head to Lexington next weekend.