Story published: Sunday, October 23, 2005
OXFORD, Miss. --The Kentucky football team has shown the past couple of weeks it can make plays.
The plays the Wildcats do make always seem to be the ones that lose games instead of winning them.
That was the case again yesterday, as Rich Brooks' squad was buried by its own mistakes and turned a winnable game against Ole Miss into a 13-7 loss.
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Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron picked up his first conference win.
Two weeks after fumbling on three consecutive plays at South Carolina, the Wildcats (1-5, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) fumbled three times in six touches against the Rebels.
When they weren't putting the ball on the ground, the Wildcats committed drive-killing penalties. They came into the game the Southeastern Conference's second-least penalized team, yet they were flagged nine times for 62 yards yesterday.
"We competed and we played hard but we continue to make too many mistakes to have a chance to win, particularly on the road," Brooks said.
Despite all of that, Kentucky trailed by six points with 2:36 remaining after scoring on a 4-yard run from Arliss Beach.
Brooks huddled with defensive coordinator Mike Archer to discuss whether to go for the onside kick. Believing his defense, which had done a decent job containing Ole Miss most of the afternoon, could get a stop, Archer suggested that Brooks kick away.
Brooks agreed, and UK pinned Ole Miss back to its 13-yard line with two timeouts in its back pocket.
Ole Miss then handed off to freshman tailback Mico McSwain, who was bottled up at the line of scrimmage. But McSwain broke away from containment, bounced outside to the right, and sprinted 40 yards to the UK 47.
"I told Rich to kick it," Archer said. "I thought our kids fought our butts off. We had played with our backs up against the wall all game. We put the game on the defense's shoulders, and we didn't do it. We fight, fight, fight.. and with 2:36 to go, we didn't get it done."
Archer said McSwain's big run was a result of someone being out of their gap.
"A guy freelanced," he said. "We hadn't had that happen all day. We were disciplined in our gaps."
Kentucky spent most of the first half going backward on offense and giving up field position.
Partially thanks to three botched field goals by Ole Miss, the Wildcats kept the Rebels off the scoreboard until just before halftime.
Tim Masthay had four first-half punts less than 30 yards, the last of which was a 26-yarder that gave Ole Miss the ball at the UK 42 with 4:15 left in the half.
It took the Rebels just two plays and 28 seconds to score as quarterback Micheal Spurlock scrambled in the backfield, avoided several UK defenders and hit Taye Biddle for a 33-yard gain to the Kentucky 9. Spurlock hit Mike Espy on the next play for a TD and a 7-0 Ole Miss lead.
Kentucky then tried to run out the clock with 32 seconds left, but running back Rafael Little fumbled the exchange from quarterback Andre Woodson at the 27. Kelvin Robinson recovered, and Matt Hinkle kicked a 45-yard field goal two plays later for a 10-0 Ole Miss lead with 18 seconds left.
The Rebels nearly got another field goal when they recovered the ensuing squib kick that bounced off Alexis Bwenge's knee. But Hinkle's 47-yard attempt hit the crossbar.
UK showed some energy on its first drive of the second half, as Little ripped off a 16-run and a 2-yard run and then bolted into Ole Miss territory before being stripped by Travis Johnson at the Rebel 46, where UM defensive back Jamarca Sanford recovered.
"We'd drive, then turn it over," Beach said. "We'd drive again, then turn it over. Drive again, penalty. We just kept killing ourselves."
Kentucky got into Ole Miss territory on each of its next three possessions following Little's fumble but ended up with nothing.
First, on fourth-and-three from the Ole Miss 38, Beach was stopped a yard short on a fake punt run.
The Cats got to the Rebel 30 on their next drive, but a false start, a Woodson five-yard loss on a scramble, and a delay-of-game stalled the drive and forced a punt at the Ole Miss 33. (Brooks said the wind prevented him from sending Begley out for a 50-yard field-goal attempt.)
Brooks sent Begley out for a 48-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter, but the kick was wide right.
The Rebels (3-4, 1-3 SEC) mustered 361 yards of offense compared to 256 for the Cats. But the Rebels also went the entire game without a turnover.
UK offensive coordinator Joker Phillips was candid when asked if his team is finding ways to lose instead of being beaten.
"No question," he said. "The last two outings we beat ourselves. I don't feel like the last two teams have really stopped us. Penalties, sacks, turnovers, that's beating yourself."