Cats collapse in opener to Southern Miss

09/04/2016 12:49 AM

Year four under Mark Stoops got off to a rough start tonight, as Kentucky fell to Southern Miss 44-35.

The start of the game was shaky for UK, as the end of their first offensive possession was a blocked kick that led to a Southern Miss touchdown. The offense did find their rhythm after that, thanks to Drew Barker.

Barker connected with Jeff Badet on a 72-yard touchdown to open the scoring in the first quarter for UK. After that, he found Garrett Johnson, Kayaune Ross and then Johnson again to end the first half with 287 passing yards and 4 touchdowns. Kentucky’s offense going into the half had 387 total yards to Southern Miss’ 259 yards.

“We’ve got a lot of great playmakers,” said Barker. “I think I’ve said it before, but my job is just to get the ball to them…they did a great job in the first half, and like I said, we’ve just go to translate to the second.”

Momentum was a big key towards the end of the first half. UK was about to go into the half with a 35-10 lead until Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens threw a 71 yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Jones with 26 seconds left to cut the lead to 35-17.

That was just the start of the collapse, as UK’s offense ended up only gaining 56 yards on 14 plays in the second half. Meanwhile, Southern Miss’ offense found their groove, racking up 295 yards on 53 plays in the third and fourth quarters alone. Southern Miss ended up running 95 plays in the game, 45 more than Kentucky. The Golden Eagles ran all over Kentucky for 262 total yards

The loss was especially tough on Mark Stoops, who felt for the first time in his career that he needed to apologize to the fans.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever in my career, ever wanted to apologize for a game, but that’s a tough pill to swallow right there, and I do,” said Stoops.

While Stoops is feeling the heavy weight of this loss on his shoulders, he is confident that this team can bounce back and still have a successful season.

“I know everybody has every right to question what we’re doing and we’ll stay the course. You saw how we can play and how we will play. We made plays on all sides of the ball in that first half and the guys knew what they were doing. We were executing, played with urgency, made plays, and did some very good things,” said Stoops.

Stoops and his staff will have a week to prepare this team for Florida next weekend. Kickoff will be at 3:30 and the game will be televised on CBS.


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