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Kentucky outlasts Missouri, 35-28

The Wildcats and Tigers opened conference play in exciting fashion.

Missouri v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In what has become typical Missouri Tiger and Kentucky Wildcat series fashion, they played a close and hard fought football game. In this 2021 edition, Kentucky prevailed for a 35-28 win in front of an absolutely raucous Kroger Field crowd. UK has now won six of the last seven in this series.

It looked like this win was going to be quite easy for the Cats in the beginning of this one. On the first drive of the game, Nebraska transfer Wan’Dale Robinson took a jet sweep 64 yards down inside the Mizzou 10 yard line. Three plays later, Will Levis found Chris Rodriguez for a short TD pass. Rodriguez did all of his damage the rest of the night on the ground, however.

The UK lead swelled to 21-7 before Connor Bazelak dinked and dunked the Tigers back to within a touchdown at halftime.

Mizzou received the second half kickoff and promptly threw an interception. Kentucky capitalized with the short field and went up 28-14. But the Tigers immediately answered and then after a few traded punts answered again to tie it up 28-28 with 13:11 left in the game. Those two touchdown drives were impressive. 10 plays for 75 yards and 14 plays for 80 yards respectively. The Kentucky defense was on their heels and didn’t create much pressure for most of the game.

From this point on, Kentucky willed their way back into the lead and ultimately a win behind strong offensive line play that has become a staple of Mark Stoops’ Wildcat squads. Following the drive where Mizzou tied it up, the Cats answered quickly with a 5 play TD drive.

The end of the game wasn’t fully cut and dry as the Tigers blocked a field goal attempt that would have effectively put the game away at 38-28 if successful, but Mizzou was able to block and recover at their own 45 yard line. The official clinching the game was JJ Weaver’s sack on Connor Bazelak to make it 4th and 13 with 1:30 left.

Standouts in this game were Connor Bazelak and Tyler Badie for Missouri and Chris Rodriguez and Wan’Dale Robinson for Kentucky. Bazelak threw for over 290 yards and four TDs, while Badie contributed with 61 rushing yards and 88 receiving yards. He was a load to bring down for the Wildcat defense. For Kentucky, Chris Rodriguez had a career day, rushing for 206 yards on 27 carries. Robinson had an impressive SEC play debut, with 101 receiving yards on just five receptions and 73 rushing yards.

If not for mistakes, this could have been a bigger win for Kentucky, but ultimately the stats paint the picture. The Cats had 519 total yards, including 340 on the ground. Even with Will Levis and the improved passing game, it’s no question that Mark Stoops and Co. can still rely on bruiser ball. Mizzou definitely has work to do on defense, but they’ll leave this game encouraged by what their offense can do with Eli Drinkwitz’s play calling wizardry. They will give a few teams headaches this season.

After getting conference play started before everyone else, both teams have what should be easy non-conference home tilts next week. Mizzou welcomes Southeastern Missouri State, while Kentucky will host Chattanooga.