Mizzou suffers crushing last-second loss to Kentucky
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Kentucky’s offense didn’t score a touchdown in the first 60 minutes against Missouri. But after the Tigers were called for pass interference in the end zone on what would have been the final play, the 12th-ranked Wildcats got one last chance from the 2 with no time left on the clock.
“I felt like I was going to have a heart attack,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said.
He felt better after Terry Wilson completed a touchdown pass to tight end C.J. Conrad to give the Wildcats a 15-14 victory Saturday night.
“Amazing victory by our team,” Stoops said. “Just could not be more proud of this group, the way we just stuck together.”
Missouri (4-4, 0-4 Southeastern Conference) led 14-3 midway through the fourth quarter and appeared to have the game well in hand after stuffing Kentucky running back A.J. Rose on a fourth-and-goal play from the 2-yard line. But Kentucky (7-1, 5-1), which did not allow a first down in the second half, forced a punt that Lynn Bowden Jr. returned 67 yards for a touchdown.
The Tigers had a chance to put the game away in the final two minutes when they faced a third-and-2 situation from their own 26. But Drew Lock’s pass fell incomplete, which saved Kentucky a valuable timeout for its 81-yard winning drive.
With Kentucky on Missouri’s 10 and four seconds left, Wilson threw into the back left corner of the end zone for Ahmad Wagner, who caught the ball out of bounds as time expired. There was contact between Wagner and Missouri cornerback DeMarkus Acy, and Acy was called for pass interference. That gave Kentucky one last chance.
Missouri’s defense had held on three fourth-down attempts and limited Kentucky to 3 of 14 third-down conversions, but the Tigers couldn’t make the last play.
“I had that championship-winning mentality,” said Wilson, who completed 22 of 31 passes for 267 yards. “At that point in the game, you’ve got to have that mind-set. Playing quarterback, you’ve got to have it. I felt like it was unacceptable for us not go down there and score, because we had so many opportunities to go put it up.”
Kentucky’s Benny Snell, who entered the game as the nation’s fourth-leading rusher, was held to 67 yards on 19 carries. Bowden, a wide receiver, had a huge game, with 13 catches for 166 yards to go with his punt return.
Missouri opened a 14-3 halftime lead on a 2-yard touchdown run by Damarea Crockett and a 1-yard run by Larry Rountree. But eight second-half drives resulted in eight three-and-outs. Lock completed 15 of 27 passes for 165 yards, and Missouri managed only 249 total yards.
“They definitely stopped us, but we could have made some plays,” Lock said. “It’s hard to say you beat yourself, because they were playing good, but we definitely could have made the game a little different.”
Kentucky entered the game ranked second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 12.9 points per game. After looking vulnerable in the first half, the Wildcats completely shut down a Missouri team that scored 65 points last week against Memphis.
Kentucky’s lanky cornerbacks — Derrick Baity, Lonnie Johnson and Chris Westry — dominated Missouri’s outside receivers. Lock tried to test Kentucky deep multiple times, but standout freshman wideout Jalen Knox couldn’t get any separation.
“In previous years, we never played defense like that,” said Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen, who had two sacks and forced fumbles on both. “We never played a whole fourth quarter like that. We knew coming into the season we were going to have a special team.”
Allen now has 10 sacks on the season.
Missouri fans were livid about the pass-interference penalty on Acy that led to the final touchdown. Wagner, a 6-foot-5, 238-pound former University of Iowa basketball player, engaged in some hand-fighting with Acy before he went after the ball like a rebound.
“I played it as perfectly as I could,” Acy said. “His hands were all over my helmet. I tried my best to get his hands off. I guess the referee saw otherwise.”
Missouri coach Barry Odom declined to comment on the call, saying he didn’t have a good view of the play.
Kentucky: Stoops inserted backup quarterback Gunnar Hoak into the game in the third quarter in an attempt to jump-start the offense. Hoak completed 3 of 8 passes for 27 yards before Stoops went back to Wilson.
“It says a lot about him,” Stoops said of Wilson’s response to the temporary benching. “I’m glad it worked out that way. I felt that I had to get Gunnar in that game. I had just been feeling that way. I still will do that. And Terry responded.”
Missouri: Odom is now 0-7 against ranked opponents in three years as head coach. Lock is 0-9 against Top 25 teams in his four years as a starting quarterback.
They are likely to get one more chance against a ranked team in the regular season, next week at Florida, but moving on from such a draining loss won’t be easy.
“There’s anger, there’s hurt, there’s sadness — about every emotion on that side of things that you can feel,” Odom said. “That’s what we have.”
Kentucky, which was a seven-point underdog to unranked Missouri, should rise in the rankings.
Kentucky: The Wildcats return home to face seventh-ranked Georgia.
Missouri: The Tigers travel to ninth-ranked Florida.