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Ole Miss thwarts Kentucky’s rally

by Chris Burrows Associated Press | October 2, 2022 at 3:34 a.m.
Kentucky wide receiver Tayvion Robinson (9) reacts after a 5-yard touchdown catch during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)

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.

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

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."

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.

  photo  Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops watches during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Mississippi won 22-19. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
 
 
  photo  Mississippi linebacker Troy Brown (8) reacts after a Mississippi sack during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
 
 
  photo  Kentucky linebacker Jordan Wright (15) reacts after breaking up a Mississippi pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
 
 
  photo  Mississippi linebacker Austin Keys (11) sacks Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
 
 
  photo  Kentucky linebacker Jacquez Jones (10) intercepts a Mississippi pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
 
 
  photo  Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) looks to pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
 
 
  photo  Mississippi safety AJ Finley (21) and linebacker Austin Keys (11) force a fumble from Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Mississippi won 22-19. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
 
 
  photo  Mississippi defensive tackle JJ Pegues (89) and defensive end Cedric Johnson (2) react after a fumble recovery during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Mississippi won 22-19. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
 
 
  photo  Mississippi running back Quinshon Judkins (4) reacts after a run during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Mississippi won 22-19. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
 
 

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