Kentucky football falls to Vanderbilt at home, 24-21

The Vanderbilt Commodores topped Kentucky 24-21 at Kroger Field on Saturday with back-up quarterback Mike Wright.
UK senior quarterback Will Levis warms up before the Vanderbilt game.
UK senior quarterback Will Levis warms up before the Vanderbilt game.(UK Athletics)
Published: Nov. 12, 2022 at 3:29 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The Vanderbilt Commodores topped Kentucky 24-21 at Kroger Field on Saturday.

Previously, Vandy had lost 26-straight SEC games.

On the opening drive, Vanderbilt’s junior wide receiver Will Sheppard fumbles the ball- it was recovered by UK junior defensive back, Carrington Valentine. UK would settle for a field goal, as Matt Ruffolo, a graduate student (who went 0-2 on FG attempts last week), knocked down a 47-yard attempt to take an early 3-0 lead. The lead didn’t last long- on the next Commodore drive, Mike Wright found space and ran it in for a 59-yard touchdown. Before the half, Ruffalo would nail another FG, leaving Kentucky down 7-6 at the half.

In the third quarter, Ruffalo attempted a 37-yard kick for the lead, but it was blocked by the ‘Dores. Vandy would add to their lead with a 10-play drive that ended in a 1-yard touchdown run from senior running back Ray Davis to go up 14-6. Again, UK would respond with a field goal as Ruffalo kept the Wildcats afloat, hitting one from 39-yards out to make it 14-9.

Kentucky’s offense didn’t find the end zone until the fourth quarter with a 5-yard touchdown run from senior running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. Senior quarterback Will Levis was sacked on the two-point conversion attempt, to make the score 15-14.

There was a lot of back-and-forth in the fourth quarter, Vanderbilt would hit a field goal to retake the lead, but the Cats would score again as Levis handed off to C-Rod once more; he would score on a 72-yard run, but once again, the two-point attempt failed. Kentucky had a 21 to 17 lead.

Vanderbilt continued to run the clock and with just over 30 seconds remaining, Wright found Sheppard on a 8-yard pass to take a 3-point lead. Levis was intercepted on the final play of the game to seal the deal.

“Tough loss there. You know, bottom line is we didn’t do the things that we talked about all week. Really just the intensity that we played with a week ago, just thought it was average at best. The execution in playing clean, once again, just didn’t happen. We’re leaving points on the field. You know, missed-kicks, two-point conversions and driving the ball and not converting in the red zone. Defensively inconsistent,” said Head Coach Mark Stoops following the loss. “Our team has to -- we’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and address the situation and address the things that are going on and respond one way or the other. I anticipate our team will. It’s been a hard year and challenging times. There are things that everybody can do better. I’m sure the team is very hurt and embarrassed with the way they played. We all are.”

Levis finished the game 11-23 passing for 109 yards and 1 interception. He was sacked 4 times for a loss of 23 yards. Rodriguez had 18 carries for 162 yards and 2 touchdowns. UK was just 4-12 on third down.

The Cats are now 6-5 on the season and drop to 3-5 in conference play.

They host Georgia on Saturday, set for a 3:30 P.M. kickoff on WKYT.