Drive Chart
UK
USM

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Defense leads Kentucky to 24-17 win over Southern Miss

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) Kentucky coach Mark Stoops freely acknowledges his team's offense wasn't very good on Saturday. If it weren't for a few well-timed forced fumbles by the defense, the Wildcats could have left Southern Mississippi's stadium with a very empty feeling.

But that didn't happen: Kentucky clawed its way to a hard-fought 24-17 road victory over Southern Miss.

With the result he wanted in hand, Stoops wasn't going to spend much time dwelling on the negative.

''It was a thing of beauty to me,'' the fifth-year Kentucky coach said. ''I know a lot of people are going to have their own opinions, but I loved it.''

Kentucky was sputtering on offense throughout most of the game. Stephen Johnson threw for a modest 176 yards and a touchdown while Benny Snell was held to just 67 yards rushing.

The Wildcats were clinging to a 17-10 lead in the third quarter when Darius West slammed his helmet into Southern Miss quarterback Kwadra Griggs' arm, forcing a fumble that Denzil Ware scooped up and ran 20 yards for the touchdown.

Even though he was wide open on his touchdown run, the junior linebacker had just one thing on his mind after he picked up the fumble.

''Run, run, run because somebody's coming,'' Ware said. ''I'm not trying to get hit. I don't want the big hit to happen to me.''

Then with the Wildcats leading 24-17 in the fourth quarter, the Kentucky defense killed another Southern Miss drive when Chris Westry forced a fumble that was recovered by Courtney Love at midfield.

Kentucky's offense had some success during the first half over the middle of the field on two pass plays from Johnson to tight end C.J. Conrad. The second completion was a 23-yard touchdown that put the Wildcats ahead 14-3 midway through the second quarter.

Conrad finished with three catches for 97 yards.

Johnson completed 11 of 20 passes and had no interceptions. He wasn't great, but he didn't have to be. This was a day for the defense.

''As a whole team, we can fight for 60 minutes,'' Johnson said. ''If the offense isn't doing too well or the special teams isn't doing well, the defense can pick us up, which they did today.''

The Southern Miss offense improved significantly in the second half when Griggs replaced Keon Howard at quarterback. Griggs hit Korey Robertson for two touchdowns - one in the third quarter and another in the fourth. The second pulled the Golden Eagles within 24-17 with 12:42 remaining.

The comeback was reminiscent of last season's opener, when Southern Miss rallied from a 35-10 deficit to beat Kentucky 44-35 . This time, the Golden Eagles couldn't finish the job.

Griggs finished with 222 yards passing and two touchdowns, all in the second half. Robertson had seven catches for 111 yards and the two touchdowns.

''We felt like we were ready to make a run in the fourth quarter. I could see it in their eyes,'' Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson said. ''I wish the game had another 15 minutes, but that's reality. We played tough football, did a good job.''

THE TAKEAWAY

Kentucky: It wasn't always pretty, but Kentucky was able to pull ahead in the first half and shake off a Southern Miss rally in the second half to win the season opener. The Wildcats' offense was just so-so, but the defense was solid. Ware's fumble recovery for the touchdown was a crucial play.

Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles made this one interesting, but a sputtering offense and a few big mistakes ended their chance to beat Kentucky for a second season in a row. Griggs gave the offense a lift with his play in the second half, making the case that he's the team's best option at QB going forward.

UP NEXT

Kentucky: The Wildcats host Eastern Kentucky next Saturday.

Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles host Southern next Saturday.

-----

More college football coverage: http://collegefootball.ap.org/ and www.twitter.com/AP-Top25 .

Copyright 2017 by STATS. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited.

Scoring Summary
4th Quarter
No scoring this quarter
Point After TD 12:42
21-P.Shaunfield extra point is good.
plays
yds
pos
24
17
Touchdown 12:42
7-K.Griggs complete to 18-K.Robertson. 18-K.Robertson runs 26 yards for a touchdown.
11
plays
16
yds
02:18
pos
24
16
3rd Quarter
No scoring this quarter
Point After TD 0:49
99-A.MacGinnis extra point is good.
plays
yds
pos
24
10
Touchdown 1:00
7-K.Griggs to USM 32 FUMBLES (25-D.West). 35-D.Ware runs 20 yards for a touchdown.
1
plays
63
yds
0:00
pos
23
10
Field Goal 2:09
99-A.MacGinnis 41 yards Field Goal is Good.
7
plays
-11
yds
03:21
pos
17
10
Point After TD 10:40
21-P.Shaunfield extra point is good. Team penalty on KEN Offside declined.
plays
yds
pos
14
10
Touchdown 10:40
7-K.Griggs complete to 18-K.Robertson. 18-K.Robertson runs 42 yards for a touchdown.
7
plays
27
yds
02:12
pos
14
9
2nd Quarter
No scoring this quarter
Point After TD 7:01
99-A.MacGinnis extra point is good.
plays
yds
pos
14
3
Touchdown 7:01
15-S.Johnson complete to 87-C.Conrad. 87-C.Conrad runs 23 yards for a touchdown.
4
plays
-21
yds
01:09
pos
13
3
Field Goal 8:25
21-P.Shaunfield 22 yards Field Goal is Good.
15
plays
22
yds
06:25
pos
7
3
Point After TD 14:54
99-A.MacGinnis extra point is good.
plays
yds
pos
7
0
Touchdown 14:54
15-S.Johnson runs 8 yards for a touchdown.
2
plays
-50
yds
00:06
pos
6
0
1st Quarter
No scoring this quarter
Team Stats
1st Downs 12 19
Rushing 5 7
Passing 5 10
Penalty 2 2
3rd Down Conv 3-13 4-17
4th Down Conv 0-0 2-4
Total Net Yards 245 347
Total Plays 55 78
Avg Gain 4.5 4.4
Net Yards Rushing 77 55
Rush Attempts 35 38
Avg Rush Yards 2.2 1.4
Net Yards Passing 168 292
Comp. - Att. 11-20 22-40
Yards Per Pass 8.4 7.3
Sacked - Yards Lost 1-8 2-17
Penalties - Yards 12-70 10-80
Touchdowns 3 2
Rushing TDs 1 0
Passing TDs 1 2
Other 1 0
Turnovers 2 2
Fumbles - Lost 2-2 2-2
Int. Thrown 0 0
Punts - Avg 9-41.6 6-34.5
Return Yards 78 38
Punts - Returns 0-0 1-3
Kickoffs - Returns 3-78 2-35
Int. - Returns 0-0 0-0
Kicking 4/4 3/3
Extra Points 3/3 2/2
Field Goals 1/1 1/1
Safeties 0 0
1234T
Kentucky 1-0 01410024
Southern Miss 0-1 037717
168 PASS YDS 292
77 RUSH YDS 55
245 TOTAL YDS 347
Passing CP/ATT YDS TD INT
S. Johnson 15 QB
IN-GAME COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
55% 176 1 0 145.4
SEASON COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
55% 176 1 0 145.4
S. Johnson 11/20 176 1 0
Rushing ATT YDS TD LG
B. Snell Jr. 26 RB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
20 67 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
20 67 0
B. Snell Jr. 20 67 0 10
S. King 22 RB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
8 12 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
8 12 0
S. King 8 12 0 4
S. Johnson 15 QB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
5 10 1
SEASON ATT YDS TD
5 10 1
S. Johnson 5 10 1 8
Receiving REC YDS TD LG
C. Conrad 87 TE
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
3 97 1
SEASON REC YDS TD
3 97 1
C. Conrad 3 97 1 59
G. Johnson 9 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
2 22 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
2 22 0
G. Johnson 2 22 0 14
C. Walker 88 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
1 21 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
1 21 0
C. Walker 1 21 0 21
B. Snell Jr. 26 RB
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
1 13 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
1 13 0
B. Snell Jr. 1 13 0 13
K. Ross 19 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
1 8 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
1 8 0
K. Ross 1 8 0 8
T. Richardson 11 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
1 5 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
1 5 0
T. Richardson 1 5 0 5
C. Thomas 18 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
1 4 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
1 4 0
C. Thomas 1 4 0 4
G. Hart 85 TE
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
0 0 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
0 0 0
G. Hart 0 0 0 0
Defense T-A SACK INT
D. West 25 S
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
2-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
2-0 0 0.0
D. West 2-0 0.0 0
C. Westry 21 CB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
2-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
2-0 0 0.0
C. Westry 2-0 0.0 0
D. Ware 35 DE
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 1.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 1.0
D. Ware 1-0 1.0 0
J. Allen 41 LB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 1.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 1.0
J. Allen 1-0 1.0 0
Kicking FG LG XP PTS
A. MacGinnis 99 K
IN-GAME FG XP
1/1 3/3
SEASON FG XP
1/1 3/3
A. MacGinnis 1/1 41 3/3 6
Punting NO AVG IN20 LG
Kickoff Returns NO AVG LG TD
S. King 22 RB
IN-GAME NO AVG LG TD
2 34.5 46 0
SEASON NO AVG LG TD
2 34.5 46 0
S. King 2 34.5 46 0
Punt Returns NO AVG LG TD
Passing CP/ATT YDS TD INT
K. Griggs 7 QB
IN-GAME COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
57.7% 222 2 0 154.8
SEASON COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
57.7% 222 2 0 154.8
K. Griggs 15/26 222 2 0
K. Howard 2 QB
IN-GAME COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
50% 87 0 0 102.2
SEASON COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
50% 87 0 0 102.2
K. Howard 7/14 87 0 0
Rushing ATT YDS TD LG
I. Smith 25 RB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
16 37 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
16 37 0
I. Smith 16 37 0 6
K. Howard 2 QB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
10 18 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
10 18 0
K. Howard 10 18 0 7
T. Daniels 28 RB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
3 3 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
3 3 0
T. Daniels 3 3 0 1
J. Adams 3 WR
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
1 2 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
1 2 0
J. Adams 1 2 0 2
B. Bourgeois 40 K
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
1 -1 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
1 -1 0
B. Bourgeois 1 -1 0 -1
K. Griggs 7 QB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
7 -4 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
7 -4 0
K. Griggs 7 -4 0 10
Receiving REC YDS TD LG
K. Robertson 18 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
7 111 2
SEASON REC YDS TD
7 111 2
K. Robertson 7 111 2 42
Q. Watkins 16 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
4 103 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
4 103 0
Q. Watkins 4 103 0 47
I. Smith 25 RB
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
9 78 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
9 78 0
I. Smith 9 78 0 24
I. Jones 88 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
2 17 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
2 17 0
I. Jones 2 17 0 9
C. Whitehead 83 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
0 0 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
0 0 0
C. Whitehead 0 0 0 0
A. Staggers 15 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
0 0 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
0 0 0
A. Staggers 0 0 0 0
J. Washington 1 TE
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
0 0 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
0 0 0
J. Washington 0 0 0 0
T. Daniels 28 RB
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
0 0 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
0 0 0
T. Daniels 0 0 0 0
Defense T-A SACK INT
S. Ruff 37 LB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 1.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 1.0
S. Ruff 1-0 1.0 0
Kicking FG LG XP PTS
P. Shaunfield 21 K
IN-GAME FG XP
1/1 2/2
SEASON FG XP
1/1 2/2
P. Shaunfield 1/1 22 2/2 5
Punting NO AVG IN20 LG
Z. Everett 93 P
IN-GAME NO AVG IN20
4 38.5 1
SEASON NO AVG IN20
4 38.5 1
Z. Everett 4 38.5 1 42
B. Bourgeois 40 K
IN-GAME NO AVG IN20
2 26.5 0
SEASON NO AVG IN20
2 26.5 0
B. Bourgeois 2 26.5 0 44
Kickoff Returns NO AVG LG TD
T. Daniels 28 RB
IN-GAME NO AVG LG TD
2 17.5 25 0
SEASON NO AVG LG TD
2 17.5 25 0
T. Daniels 2 17.5 25 0
Punt Returns NO AVG LG TD
A. Staggers 15 WR
IN-GAME NO AVG LG TD
1 3.0 3 0
SEASON NO AVG LG TD
1 3.0 3 0
A. Staggers 1 3.0 3 0
1st POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
14:53 UK 26 1:17 3 2 Punt
12:27 UK 27 1:44 5 70
9:01 UK 48 1:29 4 4 Punt
5:07 UK 27 3:07 5 23 Punt
2nd POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
15:00 USM 8 0:06 2 -50 TD
8:10 USM 37 1:09 4 -21 TD
2:43 UK 37 2:17 6 18 Punt
3rd POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
13:41 UK 43 0:41 4 -9 Punt
10:36 UK 30 1:50 3 8 Punt
5:30 UK 46 3:21 7 -11 FG
0:49 USM 7 0:00 1 -58
4th POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
12:42 UK 25 2:59 7 13 Punt
8:44 UK 50 1:49 4 0 Punt
5:02 UK 13 3:14 10 39 Punt
0:44 USM 1 0:00 1 -1 End of quarter
1st POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
13:26 USM 34 0:48 3 -2 Punt
10:36 USM 3 1:27 3 5 Punt
7:21 USM 1 2:05 4 30 Punt
1:50 USM 20 0:34 3 66 FUMBLE
2nd POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
14:50 USM 13 6:25 15 22 FG
6:54 USM 25 4:04 10 29 Punt
0:15 USM 1 0:00 1 1 End of quarter
3rd POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
15:00 USM 25 1:12 3 -7 Punt
12:52 USM 15 2:12 7 85 TD
8:37 USM 27 2:58 6 27
2:03 USM 25 1:03 3 -5 TD
4th POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
15:00 USM 36 2:18 11 64 TD
9:36 USM 25 0:39 3 25 FUMBLE
6:46 USM 12 1:37 6 43 Punt
1:37 USM 4 0:46 4 -3