LEXINGTON Ky. — Thirty-five first half points for Kentucky were followed by zero in the second half.
It’s the simplest yet strongest stat out of the stunner in Commonwealth Stadium Saturday night. Southern Miss scored 34 unanswered points and the UK offense went from sizzling to stone cold.
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran pointed to a single play when a medley of mistakes snowballed for the Wildcats.
It was a bootleg where sophomore QB Drew Barker was trying to find his tight end. Instead, the signal caller was swallowed in a sack and coughed up the football on the Southern Miss 27-yard line. The Cats were up 35-24 at the time with 9:24 left in the third quarter.
“That to me was the momentum change of the whole game,” Gran said. “If we can go in there and we can score I think we have the chance to put them away. If I could go back to it I wish I would’ve called a run play.”
Barker threw an interception two possessions later on a four verticals route where he was supposed to hit a running back with a checkdown pass.
“He was kind of pressing right there, trying to make a play when there wasn’t one to be made,” quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw said.
Despite the turnovers, Barker’s stat line shines on the scoresheet. The sophomore went 15-24 with 324 yards and four passing touchdowns, but almost all of it came in the first half. The four first-half touchdowns were replaced by three second-half turnovers and of the 324 passing yards, only 36 of them came after halftime.
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“Drew did a fantastic job in the first half, exactly what our game plan was,” Hinshaw said. “We wanted to attack them in different ways throwing the football, and we did, and our receivers made plays. It’s exactly how we practiced and came into it.”
It’s hard to diagnose the downturn. Coach Mark Stoops says he’s never seen an offense move with that much ease in one half and stall completely in the next.
“We put in a lot of work this offseason and we worked really hard for these things not to happen,” Barker said. “But, you know, for some reason it did.”
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