Saturday's Top 25: No. 7 Kentucky fumbles game away against No. 14 Ole Miss

By Chris Burrows
Associated Press

Oxford, Miss. — Lane Kiffin changed his opinion of his defense after No. 14 Mississippi forced two turnovers in the final three minutes to preserve a 22-19 win over No. 7 Kentucky on Saturday.

“Our guys really showed up, especially in the fourth quarter, getting those two turnovers to win it,” Kiffin said. “I had told them at halftime, I didn’t think they were very good. At the end, our team found a way to come through.”

Even better, Austin Keys and Jared Ivey each created those takeaways inside the red zone. They forced Wildcats quarterback Will Levis to fumble on consecutive possessions with AJ Finley and Tavius Robinson recovering each, respectively.

Mississippi safety AJ Finley (21) and linebacker Austin Keys (11) force a fumble from Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) during the second half.

Both plays stopped potential game-winning drives inside the 20 to preserve the victory for the Rebels (5-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference).

Jonathan Cruz’s go-ahead, 26-yard field goal late in the third quarter put Ole Miss up 22-19 and set the stage for the tense, frantic finish. The Rebels’ defense first forced the Wildcats to turn over the ball over on downs early in the fourth before creating the turnovers to seal the win.

“We certainly had our opportunities,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “It came down with two opportunities late in the red zone. We came away with zero.”

TOP 25 SCOREBOARD

Levis led Kentucky (4-0, 1-1) to the Ole Miss 18 before fumbling while diving for additional yardage. The Wildcats created a final opportunity on Levis 51-yard pass to Barion Brown to the 7. After a touchdown-nullifying illegal motion penalty, Levis fumbled on the next play on a sack by Ivey with 58 seconds remaining.

“I stayed on my feet, put a move on their tackle, got the bend (angle) and reached out to slap at the ball. After that, it was a blur,” Ivey said. “Coach (Kiffin) said I missed four chances in the last game to make a play and it was about time for me to make one.”

Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins rushed 15 times for 106 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown that built a 14-0 first-quarter lead. Zach Evans added a 4-yard scoring run and Tavius Robinson was credited with a safety after an intentional grounding penalty by Kentucky for a 19-12 halftime lead.

Jaxson Dart was 15 of 29 passing for 213 yards as the Rebels finished with 399 yards of total offense. Troy Brown and Finley had a game-high nine tackles apiece and the Rebels had nine stops for loss.

Levis tossed TD passes of 5 and 17 yards, respectively, to Tayvion Robinson and Jordan Dingle. The QB completed 18 of 24 attempts but was sacked three times besides the two late fumbles.

Brown’s game-breaking speed added 164 return yards and 81 yards on two receptions.

More Top 25

No. 2 Alabama 49, (at) No. 20 Arkansas 26: After Bryce Young was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury in the second quarter, Alabama turned to Jahmyr Gibbs and backup quarterback Jalen Milroe to pull away from Arkansas.

Young left with 10:34 remaining in the second quarter with what coach Nick Saban called a sprained right throwing shoulder and did not return.

Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) led 14-0 when Young was hurt. Milroe led Alabama to touchdowns on his first two drives to open a 28-0 lead.

No. 20 Arkansas (3-2, 1-2) scored the next 23 points and held the Alabama offense, missing Young, to minus-1 yard in the third quarter.

On the first drive of the fourth, Milroe restored order for Alabama. His 77-yard scramble on third-and-15 put the Crimson Tide on the Arkansas 3 and Jase McClellan scored three plays later.

(At) No. 5 Clemson 30, No. 10 North Carolina State 20: DJ Uiagalelei ran for two touchdowns and threw for a third as Clemson won its 11th consecutive game, its 37th straight at home and took control of the ACC Atlantic.

The Tigers (3-0 ACC) started 5-0 for the seventh time in eight years and completed a two-week stretch where they bested the two teams thought most likely to block their return atop the division – first with a 51-45 OT win at No. 22 Wake Forest last Saturday and now the Wolfpack (4-1, 0-1) at Death Valley.

Uiagalelei ignited the Tigers right before and right after the half to build a lead that N.C. State, playing in its first-ever Top 10 matchup, couldn’t overcome.

Uiagalelei finished a 75-yard scoring drive by stretching the ball over the goal for a 1-yard score to move in front 13-10. Then, after Clemson’s defense forced a three-and-out with a pair of sacks on Wolfpack quarterback Devin Leary, Uiagalelei cashed in again with 7-yard touchdown throw to tight end Jake Briningstool.

(At) Mississippi State 42, No. 17 Texas A&M 24: Mississippi State forced Texas A&M into four turnovers, including three inside the red zone, for the win.

Decamerion Richardson scooped up Emmanuel Forbes’ critical third-quarter blocked field goal and returned it 50 yards for the touchdown to give the Bulldogs (4-1, 1-1 SEC) a 21-3 lead. The Aggies (3-2, 1-1) got no closer to 11 as MSU’s defense denied A&M inside the 20 all game long with big plays inside its 20.

The Bulldogs had another efficient day offensively with 473 yards, 329 of those from Rogers on 31-of-45 passing with three touchdowns.

(At) TCU 55, No. 18 Oklahoma 24: Max Duggan ran 67 yards for one of two touchdowns and threw for three scores, leading TCU to a rout of Oklahoma. It’s the second consecutive loss for new Sooners coach Brent Venables.

OU quarterback Dillon Gabriel was knocked out of the game in the second quarter when he was hit while sliding by TCU linebacker Jamoi Hodge, who was ejected for targeting. And in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma defensive back Damond Harmon was carted off after being immobilized on a stretcher.

When Lincoln Riley shocked the Sooners by leaving for Southern California, they hired their former defensive coordinator after Venables won two national titles in that role at Clemson.

His defense was no match for Duggan and company as Oklahoma lost consecutive regular-season games for just the second time since 1999. The Sooners (3-2, 0-2 Big 12) opened conference with a home loss to Kansas State. It’s the most points Oklahoma has allowed since a 63-28 loss to LSU in the 2019 national semifinals.

The Horned Frogs (4-0, 1-0) had four touchdowns of at least 62 yards, topped by Taye Barber’s 73-yard catch during a 27-point first quarter.