Kentucky can’t overcome costly call, standout receiver in loss at Auburn

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An unfortunate call by the officials. A fumble in its own territory. A future NFL wide receiver.

All of those factors combined to keep Kentucky from pulling off an achievable upset at Auburn in its 2020 season opener. The No. 8 Tigers prevailed, 29-13, over the No. 23 Wildcats.

Seth Williams was sensational for Auburn. The junior receiver caught six passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns, his 6-foot-3 frame proving to be too big for UK’s lauded secondary.

Quarterback Terry Wilson was shaky in his first action since suffering a season-ending knee injury in UK’s second game last season. He was 24 of 37 for 239 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw a costly interception at the end of the first half. Early in the fourth quarter he lost a fumble in his own territory, which Auburn quickly turned into points.

UK got into Auburn territory on six of its 11 drives, but it came away with only 13 points.



Kentucky drove 93 yards on 11 plays, the last a 35-yard touchdown run by Kavosiey Smoke, to take the first lead with 6:44 left in the opening frame, but Auburn answered with a TD run by D.J. Williams. A two-point pass from Grant Lloyd to John Samuel Shenker put the Tigers on top, 8-7, with 4:30 to go in the quarter.

Wilson looked spry on the Cats’ second drive, converting runs of eight and 12 yards on consecutive plays to extend the possession, but the series ended at Auburn’s 39 on a failed fourth-and-3 pass attempt. The Tigers drove to UK’s 16 and opted to go for it on a fourth-and-1; DeAndre Square wrapped up D.J. Williams and brought him down behind the line of scrimmage on his own.

Kentucky moved past midfield on its third series, getting to the Tigers’ 30, but it went backward from there due to a holding penalty and back-to-back plays for losses. Max Duffy’s first punt of the season went into the end zone.

Auburn went three-and-out its next time up. Kentucky drove to Auburn’s 1-yard line and appeared to score on a run by Chris Rodriguez, but he was ruled down by the officials. With no timeouts to aid in the set up of a potential field-goal try on fourth down, UK elected to throw the ball on third-and-1.

Wilson’s pass was picked off by Auburn’s Roger McCreary, who returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. However, during the return, Auburn defensive end Derick Hall was flagged for targeting; Hall was ejected and the touchdown erased. Nix took a knee to end the half.

A three-and-out, Kentucky’s first of the game, kicked off the second half. Auburn got to the Cats’ 41 but also was forced to punt on its first drive following the break.

Kentucky started on its own 2-yard line and evaded a safety; Duffy came up with a 75-yard punt to make things more difficult on the host. Auburn still extended its lead, though, stringing together a nine-play drive capped by an 11-yard TD catch by Seth Williams to push the lead to 15-7.

The Wildcats responded with an 11-play, 73-yard drive that ended in Wilson’s first touchdown throw in more than a year. Akeem Hayes reeled in an 8-yard score, the first of his career, to bring the Cats within 15-13; Wilson threw a two-point pass attempt out of bounds.

After consecutive completions from Nix to Eli Stove, a 9-yard tackle for loss by Josh Paschal pushed the Tigers back to their own 47. Nix threw a third-and-14 incompletion to put the ball back in Wilson’s hands. It wasn’t there too long, though; he lost the ball while performing a spin move, setting Auburn up at the Cats’ 32-yard line. Williams brought down his second TD five plays later, pushing the Tigers’ lead to 22-13.

Kentucky’s next drive ended with a rush attempt by Duffy out of a punt formation; it went for a loss in its own territory, and Auburn swiftly extended its lead to 29-13 on a 21-yard TD throw from Nix to Stove.

The Wildcats got into the red zone late in the fourth, but a fumble by DeMarcus Harris cost them a chance to make things more interesting at the end.


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