In my relatively short time as a Kentucky football fan, and now reporter, I have never witnessed a game that was quite as heartbreaking as this one. The early Florida games and some narrow losses to Louisville in the early stages of the Stoops era come to mind, but this one takes the cake. The Wildcats had opportunity after opportunity to pick up a huge win in Oxford, but they simply wouldn't allow themselves to win. With that, lets revisit the horrors (and some positives) of October 1st at Ole Miss.
The Good: Chris Rodriguez Is Back
The stats still don't pop off the page, but there were certainly some more promising plays in the run game on Saturday. Chris Rodriguez matched the touchdown numbers of the other Kentucky running backs combined in just one quarter of playing. The 3.8 yards per carry are not flashy by any means, but Rodriguez was his usual self, as he was moving the pile all day long for the Wildcats. Expect the run game to gradually improve, now that one of the best backs in program history is back in the mix.
Honorable Mention: Barion Brown
I cannot talk about the good of this game without mentioning Barion Brown. Every time the true freshman touched the ball, it was nearly a house call for Kentucky. If it wasn't for him getting his feet tangled with La'Vell Wright, the Wildcats are likely 5-0 as I'm typing this.
The Bad: Injuries
It hurts to lose a game like Kentucky did against Ole Miss, but what may hurt Kentucky more in the short term are some of the injuries that were sustained. Most notably, Jacquez Joenes and Jeremy Flax got banged up during the game. The game sealing sack and fumble came off of the right side, which would have been where Flax was, if not for his injury. D'Eryk Jackson stepped in for Jacquez Jones and handled himself well, given the circumstance. Jackson had two big plays including a TFL on Kentucky's goal line stop in the second half and a two tipped passes, one that would have likely been a touchdown otherwise. Still, losing both of those guys for an extended amount of time could loom large over the next few weeks.
The Ugly: The Last Three Possessions
Kentucky was in prime scoring range on all three of their final possessions, yet they managed to walk away with zero points scored on those opportunities. The last two drives in particular are what are sure to haunt the Big Blue Nation in the coming weeks. A great effort by Will Levis on 4th and 3 got him beyond the sticks, but Kentucky's quarterback was hit right on the ball in mid air which resulted in a fumble that was recovered by the Rebels. With two timeouts and just under three minutes to go, Kentucky's defense got the three and out and gave Levis and the offense another chance. A screen pass to Barion Brown got Kentucky inside the Ole Miss 10 yard line with just under a minute to go. Dane Key hauled in a beautiful pass by Will Levis on a fade route, but the aforementioned Brown was flagged for not being set by a fraction of a second. We all know what happens next: pressure gets home on the right side, causing another sack and fumble that was once again recovered by Ole Miss. The execution on the final three drives were flawless until it counted most. Unfortunately, that was the difference in a win and a loss on Saturday.
Doom and gloom will be the name of the game around the fanbase for the next week, but Kentucky is still very much alive in everything they want to accomplish. The rest of the SEC has shown they can be beaten on any given Saturday and the Wildcats proved they have what it takes to be in these big time matchups. The reset beings this Saturday, when Kentucky and South Carolina meet inside Kroger Field at 7:30 PM ET on the SEC Network.