LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Outscoring opponents is all that matters to Kentucky after another tense victory that came down to the final play.
The Wildcats can also feel good about getting back on track in Southeastern Conference play as they enter a bye.
Austin MacGinnis kicked four field goals, including two in the fourth quarter, and Stephen Johnson and Benny Snell each had two touchdowns as Kentucky outlasted Missouri 40-34 in a back-and-forth marathon Saturday night.
Kentucky (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) led by double digits three times but allowed Missouri to eventually tie the game at 27 late in the third quarter and 34 early in the fourth. MacGinnis’ 53-yard field goal with 9:40 remaining provided a three-point edge before Lonnie Johnson blocked Tucker McCann’s 45-yard field goal attempt with 6:15 left, setting up MacGinnis’ 20-yard kick with 1:48 left that gave the Wildcats a cushion in a game that lasted nearly four hours.
“We’ve found ways to win and we’re responding to adversity,” said Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, whose five victories have come by a combined margin of 38 points.
“We’ve got to find ways to clean those things up. But I’m proud of our fight, I’m proud of our effort.”
Before that Johnson threw touchdown passes of 14 and 64 yards while Snell ran for scores of 71 and 6 yards. Those scores merely provided breathing room as Tigers quarterback Drew Lock threw TD passes of 50, 58 and 75 yards, the last of which tied the game. Lock’s 48-yard completion set up his 1-yard TD run.
Lock’s final pass attempt to Albert Okwuegbunam in the final seconds fell a few yards short of the end zone.
Missouri (1-4, 0-3) outgained Kentucky 568-486 but lost its fourth in a row. The Tigers also lost to the Wildcats for the third straight season.
“In a game of evenly matched teams, it’s going to come down to who makes more plays,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “I’ve been in games like that before. It usually comes down to six or seven plays over the course of the game. There’s a deciding factor, and that’s the way it was tonight.”
The game was stopped briefly in the fourth quarter as Kentucky reserve quarterback Luke Wright was treated for a medical emergency on the sideline. He was taken away on a stretcher, but Stoops did not elaborate on what caused it.
Missouri: Entering the game ranked ninth nationally with six plays over 50 yards, the Tigers used big plays to stay close and eventually tie. Lock connected with J’Mon Moore for a 50-yard touchdown, Emanuel Hall for a 58-yard score and Johnathon Johnson for 75 yards that tied the game. Lock finished 22 of 42 for 355 yards. Turnovers hurt the Tigers, as two fumbles led to Kentucky touchdowns.
Kentucky: Eager to rebound from a subpar offensive effort against Eastern Michigan, the Wildcats scored on four straight first-half drives and built three double-digit leads. Good thing, since they also allowed the Tigers to claw back. Johnson’s 22-of-36 passing for 298 yards was huge, as was Snell’s 71-yard TD run in a game he finished with 117 yards on 20 carries.
Needing eight points to become Kentucky’s career scoring leader, MacGinnis finished with 16 points to surpass Lones Seiber (305).
As Kentucky still seeks that convincing victory, it can take heart in registering season highs in points and yardage. The Wildcats’ 486 yards comes a week after it managed just 228 against Eastern Michigan, including just 53 rushing.
Missouri needed a win more than statistics but came away with its second-highest totals in points and yardage in the loss. In its three previous games the Tigers had combined for just 30 points, while their past two games yielded 543 yards.
Lock’s three TD passes gave him 40 and moved him into a tie for fourth in program history.
Missouri visits No. 5 Georgia next week.
Kentucky has a bye before traveling to Mississippi State on Oct. 21. The Wildcats won last year’s meeting 40-38 on a last-second field goal that turned their season around.
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