LEXINGTON — No. 25 Missouri found a little more offense than last week and seemed on the verge of putting something together against Kentucky.
The Tigers just couldn’t follow through and must deal with a 21-13 loss and two games that have yielded just 22 points.
“It’s pretty down right now,” running back Tyler Hunt said after Missouri (3-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) gained 338 yards but was left with two Andrew Baggett field goals and a second-quarter touchdown pass by quarterback Maty Mauk.
“After a loss like that, we need to get our stuff together to jump back next week. You have to give Kentucky credit. They’re a good team all around.”
The Wildcats (3-1, 2-1) certainly were in snapping Missouri’s school-record, 11-game road winning streak. Unfazed by trailing twice against the two-time defending SEC East champions, Kentucky rallied to tie before taking the lead for good in the third quarter on the first of Patrick Towles’ two touchdown passes.
Baggett’s second field goal from 24 yards with 3 minutes remaining kept the Tigers within a touchdown and two-point conversion of tying. But Kentucky took the kickoff and gained a key first down that helped run out the clock.
Towles ended up winning the matchup of mobile quarterbacks with Mauk, with TD passes of 24 and 5 yards and a 14-yard scramble in the second quarter. Mauk threw a 17-yard TD pass to J’Mon Moore but couldn’t get much more against a Kentucky defense that sacked him and replacement Drew Lock once apiece.
“We came out and started fast and strong, but we killed ourselves,” said Mauk, who completed 15 of 30 for 180 yards. “You have to give credit to them. They played a great football game, but a lot of what went wrong was missed throws, catches and protection. We just have to go back to basics.”
Both teams sought redemption after scoring just nine points last weekend, Missouri more so after outlasting Connecticut 9-6 at home. The Tigers succeeded on their second possession as Mauk had time and space to find Moore in the back of the end zone for the game’s first score.
Points and defensive stops were hard to come by for the Tigers after that, especially when several starters left the game with injuries. Running back Russell Hansbrough returned from an ankle injury that sidelined him against UConn but carried six times for just 11 yards.
Some defensive players also exited, including safety Ian Simon with a head injury and linebacker Kentrell Brothers with an injured ankle.
“If you coach long enough it’s going to happen sooner or later, and tonight it just did,” Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said of the injuries.
Towles began nearly flawless for Kentucky, which ended an 18-game losing streak against ranked teams. He completed 14 of 15 first-half passes to finish 22 of 27 passing for 249 yards, adding nine runs for 21 yards including a 14-yard TD in the second quarter.
The Tigers sacked Towles twice but he stood tall for a performance that helped the Wildcats gain 369 yards against the nation’s fourth-ranked defense, which had allowed 217 yards per contest coming in.
Pinkel said the Tigers just need to regroup.
“Circle the wagons and stay positive and get back to work,” he said. “That’s what we will do.”
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