COLUMBIA, Mo. — There was lots of talk at Kentucky last week about envisioning a celebratory plane ride back to Lexington.
"Finally enjoying a plane ride, coaches coming around and talking to you on the plane," UK senior Alvin "Bud" Dupree painted the victorious picture.
That plan hit some major turbulence on Saturday as Kentucky's road losing streak ran to 20 straight games with a 20-10 loss at Missouri.
It meant a familiar return trip to Lexington with loads of questions about trying to halt a three-game losing streak — and the road losing streak, with two of the Cats' final three on the road. It also meant loads of questions about finding a way to get that all-important sixth victory.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"Be silent again," Dupree said of this trip. "Last plane ride will be silent. Just got to learn from this and just make sure it don't happen again."
After falling behind 20-3 late in the fourth quarter, Kentucky kept it interesting with a 12-play, 80-yard drive to score on a 1-yard pass from Patrick Towles to Javess Blue.
The Cats (5-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) even managed to recover the ensuing onside kick, but it was too little too late.
Missouri (7-2, 4-1) finished with 320 yards of offense behind 164 yards passing from quarterback Maty Mauk, who also ran for 75 yards in the win. Bud Sasser had both of the Tigers' touchdowns, both in the second quarter. The wide receiver finished with six catches for 67 yards.
"The message today is they beat us," Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops said. "They beat us in every one-on-one matchup; they outcoached us; they outplayed us. And it wasn't a good enough effort, so very disappointed in the way we came in and played."
The disappointment came exactly one week after being within a touchdown late against top-ranked Mississippi State.
This time around, Kentucky looked rudderless on the road at Missouri, especially early.
"We played outstanding defense consistently," Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel said.
UK's 258 total yards on offense were its second lowest of the season, behind only the blowout at Louisiana State.
The Cats' running game, which they needed to hold off an aggressive Missouri pass rush, worked at times, but finished with just 100 yards on 35 carries. It was the third straight game that UK's run attack was held under 120 yards.
Mikel Horton led UK's rushers with 10 carries for 62 yards.
After a career night against Mississippi State a week ago, quarterback Patrick Towles struggled, throwing for just 158 yards.
"They've got the best D-line, pass rush probably we've played so far this year and (we) wanted to get into a rhythm running the football," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "Never did because we couldn't convert third downs."
That was a big problem on both sides of the ball, with UK converting on just two of its 16 first downs, including failing on its first nine tries.
"We just gotta make plays," Brown said. "We had a couple drops today. Patrick's got to make some throws. I gotta call better plays. We've gotta run block. It comes down to this: We can talk all we want (but) it comes down to this: You gotta be prepared, and we didn't look like we were prepared as we needed to be. And at the end of the day, that falls on me."
Kentucky didn't convert on any of its four third-down tries in the first half and on the other side, the Cats couldn't stop the Tigers (7-for-10) on third down.
The defense righted the ship in the second half, allowing Missouri to convert on third down just three times in its next 10 tries, but Stoops and staff still weren't pleased with the end result.
"Give them credit. They just flat beat us. They've won an awful lot of SEC football games in the last year and a half and they deserve the credit."
There weren't many holdovers from a Missouri pass attack that torched UK for 203 yards and five touchdowns, including four to Dorial Green-Beckham last season.
Sasser was one of those remaining wide-outs from that SEC East champion team. He continued the big plays against the UK secondary with both touchdowns in the first half, first on a 3-yard pass from Mauk to open the scoring early in the second quarter.
"Bud has been playing great for us," Pinkel said. "He's stepping up. He's the most experienced guy out there."
When UK cut it to 7-3 on an Austin MacGinnis 47-yard field goal, Sasser and the Mizzou offense responded with a pretty 26-yard pass over J.D. Harmon in the right corner of the end zone.
That Mauk pass was his 10th in a succession of 11 consecutive against the Cats' defense for 110 yards.
UK got a stop late in the first half and gave the offense 1:14 to try to cut into the Missouri lead. Instead Towles was picked off by Aarion Penton on a long pass to Blake Bone.
Before the pick, Towles had gone 159 straight passes without an interception, second most in school history.
Early in the second half, twice Kentucky tried to go for it on fourth-and-8 and failed.
The Tigers put the game seemingly out of reach with a lengthy 13-play, 87-yard drive capped by an Andrew Baggett 21-yard field goal to make it 20-3 with 7:23 to go. Baggett also hit a 41-yarder late in the third quarter before UK's late rally.