Kentucky romps on Senior Day, thumps NM State 56-16

Nov 20, 2021

Will Levis overcame an early fumble to throw for four touchdowns and 419 yards as Kentucky cruised past New Mexico State 56-16 in Saturday’s home finale. The Wildcats earned their 14th consecutive non-conference victory behind Levis, who completed 21 of 31 passes to become the first Wildcats quarterback to surpass 400 yards since Andre Woodson against Tennessee in 2007. Things didn’t start so well for the junior QB, who couldn’t corral a high snap past him on the first series and fumbled, which Trevor Brohard ultimately returned 25 yards to give the Aggies a 7-0 lead within three minutes. Kentucky outscored NMSU 56-9 from there, including Quandre Mosley’s 38-yard interception return to make it 14-7.

From UK athletics:

Kentucky (8-3) amassed 707 yards of total offense in the game, the second-highest total in school history. Kentucky's only greater output came when the Cats piled up 801 yards against Louisville on Sept. 5, 1998.

Levis connected on 21 of 31 through the air on his way to the most passing yards by a UK quarterback in 14 years (Andre Woodson had 430 against Tennessee in 2007).

Wan'Dale Robinson was on the receiving end of eight of those passes, covering 181 yards. Senior Josh Ali caught seven passes for a career high 164 yards and two touchdowns.

On the ground, Chris Rodriguez Jr. rushed 16 times for 119 yards and a score, while freshman La'Vell Wright had 75 yards on just six carries.

New Mexico State took the opening kickoff, but went three-and-out on their first possession. The Aggies punted and the Cats took over at their own 30 yard line.

Kentucky got a first down on its first possession, but on the subsequent first-down play, Levis fumbled the shotgun snap and New Mexico State's Trevor Brohard scooped it up and returned it 25 yards for an Aggie touchdown. Ethan Albertson added the point after and New Mexico State led 7-0 with 12:18 left in the first half.

The Cats would start at their own 19 on the game's next possession, and they wasted little time in tying the game. Kentucky needed just five plays to cover the 81 yards, with the last 32 coming on a pass from Levis to Justin Rigg for a touchdown. Matt Ruffolo added the PAT and the game was tied 7-7 with 9:27 left in the first.

The teams would exchange punts and New Mexico State would take possession with 6:02 left in the first quarter. From there, NMSU quarterback Jonah Johnson was intercepted by UK senior Quandre Mosely, who took it 38 yards for a touchdown. Ruffolo added the PAT and UK grabbed a 14-7 lead with 5:54 left in the first quarter.

After another NMSU punt, Kentucky drove down the field again. Boosted by a 29-yard pass from Levis to Robinson, the Cats got to the Aggies' six yard line. From there, Rodriguez scored on a six-yard touchdown rush and Ruffolo added the PAT, giving UK a 21-7 lead with two seconds left in the first period.

On its next possession, New Mexico State drove into Kentucky territory for the first time in the game. The Aggies covered 43 yards and go to the UK 32 before the drive stalled. However, the Aggies got a 50-yard field goal from Albertson to cut the UK lead to 21-10 with 12:06 left in the half.

Kentucky would answer with a scoring drive of its own. UK needed just five plays to cover 75 yards, aided by a 37-yard completion from Levis to Robinson. The scoring play was a nine-yard touchdown pass from Levis to Josh Ali. Ruffolo added another PAT and the Cats led 28-10 with 9:19 remaining in the half.

New Mexico State got another Albertson field goal, this one from 30 yards out, on its next possession to cut the UK lead to 28-13 with 5:16 left in the half.

On the first play of the next drive, Levis swung a pass to Robinson, who took it 79 yards to the New Mexico State four. But on the next play, Rodriguez fumbled and the Aggies took over at their own two yard line.

Kentucky's defense would hold and force a punt, giving the Cats the ball back with 2:13 left in the half. The Cats would again drive down the field and, on first and goal from the two, Levis hit Rigg with a touchdown pass in the back left corner of the end zone. Ruffolo added the PAT and UK took a 35-13 lead with 46 seconds left in the half.

New Mexico State would quickly get the ball down the field on the half's final possession. On the final play of the first half, Albertson hit a 32-yard field goal to cut the UK lead to 35-16.

The Cats had some impressive numbers in the first 30 minutes. Levis passed for 287 yards and Robinson had 176 yards receiving. UK had 381 yards of total offense in the half.

Both teams punted on their initial possessions of the second half. But on UK's second drive, the Cats hit pay dirt again. Kentucky covered 90 yards in seven plays, culminating with a 62-yard touchdown pass from Levis to Ali. Ruffolo made another PAT and the Cats led 42-16 with 8:09 left in the third period.

Kentucky would add another touchdown on a 23-yard rush from Kavosiey Smoke. Ruffolo's PAT gave the Cats  49-16 advantage, which would be the score after three quarters.

Beau Allen came into the game in the fourth quarter and, on his first drive, he led the Cats down the field and into scoring territory. Allen would score his first collegiate touchdown on a three-yard run and Ruffolo would add the PAT, making it 56-16 with 11:40 to play.

Kentucky returns to action next week, visiting Louisville in the regular season finale. Kickoff time has not been set at this time for the game at Cardinal Stadium.

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis looks for a receiver as New Mexico State linebacker Trevor Brohard (80) closes in during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb)