Meanwhile, Auburn's defense had by far its worst performance of the season, prompting defensive coordinator David Gibbs to vow after the game, "We've got good kids. We'll rebound."
The Tigers will be rebounding from a game in which they gave up 20 first downs, 115 rushing yards and 335 yards through the air. That was a career-high for UK quarterback Andre Woodson. Prior to improving their record to 7-2 on Saturday, no opponent had passed for 200 yards, much less 300 vs. the Tigers.
The star of the show for Auburn was redshirt freshman Tristan Davis, who ran 75 yards for a touchdown on his first carry since the Ball State game. He finished the contest with eight runs for 162. His average of 20.25 yards rushing is the SECOND most ever for an Auburn tailback who rushed for 100 yards in a game behind Brent Fullwood's 20.7 vs. Vanderbilt on seven carries for 145 yards in 1986.
Tre Smith ran the ball 13 times and finished with 99 yards including a 46-yard scamper for Auburn's final score as the Tigers were trying to run out the clock.
"I knew we were going to have some problems intensity-wise going into this game," Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville said. "I thought we came out in the first half and played pretty well on both sides except for a few plays on defense."
Auburn led 28-10 at halftime and stretched the lead to 35-10 early in the third quarter, but Kentucky picked up its level of play on offense the rest of the game before 60,519 fans at Commonwealth Stadium.
Tailback Rafael Little gave AU major problems. He rushed for 124 yards to go past 1,000 for the season and caught six passes for 122 yards.
"In the second half on defense, they came out in no-huddle and we played base defense and they moved up and down the field and made some yardage," Tuberville said. "The game was never in doubt, but you have got to give them credit. They were trying any way possible to get the ball in the end zone.
"We played a lot of guys. Most of the guys we brought, we played them...It was a good effort. It was not anything we are going to brag about, but it is something that will get us over this hump we'll go back and we will start our second season. The second season is coming up next week (vs. Georgia). We have got a lot of work to do."
Kentucky head coach Rich Brooks had praise for his quarterback, who was mauled a year earlier at Auburn. Woodson passed for 335 yards and one score. The Tigers sacked him four times, but that didn't affect his play. He hit 26-43 passes with one interception. "I thought Andre got into a pretty good tempo as the game went on," Brooks said. "He played extremely well in the second half and made some pretty good throws."
Gibbs said that the Tigers let the UK quarterback get into a groove in the second half. "I am just happy to get out of here with a victory," the AU defensive coordinator and secondary coach said. "We have a lot of improvement to make between now and next Saturday."
After a three and out by the Auburn defense to start the game, Kentucky got a break when Tre Smith fumbled a punt for the third time in the past two weeks. Tuberville said he gave serious consideration to benching the junior after that, but didn't make the change. Smith's turnover gave the Wildcats the football at the Tiger 36.
After converting a third down pass, Little took a deep handoff, cut back at left end and made a cut back inside past safety Will Herring on his way to a 25-yard touchdown run. Taylor Begley's kick gave the visitors a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the action.
Auburn answered with a strong drive, moving 80 yards on 12 plays featuring the running of Kenny Irons. Irons scored on a nine-yard run at right end one play after a review on a fumble by Ben Obomanu. The officials on the field ruled his knee was down as he was fighting for extra yardage and the replay official agreed.
The Tigers scored on their second possession, too, moving 69 yards on 14 plays. Irons scored again, this time a one-yard, fourth down leap into the end zone over left guard with 13:39 left in the second quarter to put the Tigers on top 14-7.
UK answered with a score of its own, but thanks to a TD-saving tackle by Montae Pitts at the Auburn three-yard line the Tigers were able to mount a goal line stand and force the Wildcats to kick a Begley field goal.
Auburn made it three of three on possessions and touchdowns on a play that upset the Kentucky coaching staff and the home fans.
Cox threw a long sideline pass to wideout Prechae Rodriguez. He was pushed out of bounds by the UK defender, but ran back in bounds to make the catch at the Wildcat three-yard line and then he ran into the end zone for the score. In college football, a player pushed out of bounds can run back onto the field and be an eligible receiver.
The Cox to Rodriguez play capped a five-yard, 80-play scoring drive and put the Tigers on top 21-10 with 7:54 to play.
Two unsportsmanlike conduct calls on the UK bench allowed Auburn to kickoff from the Kentucky 35. Kicker Matt Clark tried to hit the ball off of a UK kickoff return man, but missed and the ball rolled through the end zone for a touchback.
The Tigers got two more first half possessions. They failed to score on their fourth possession of the day, but a short field, set up by a partially blocked punt by Anthony Mix, set up another score.
The Tigers overcame a holding penalty on Troy Reddick that forced a second and 20 and moved the ball 48 yards on seven plays in 3:10. Irons walked in at right guard from two yards out with 56 seconds left before intermission to put the Tigers ahead 28-10.
At halftime the Tigers enjoyed a 19:08-10:52 advantage in time of possession and Irons had 103 rushing yards on 23 carries. Brandon Cox was effective, too, hitting 12-16 passes for 186 yards. Cox only threw five passes in the second half and finished with 201 yards passing.
Auburn rested Kenny Irons in the second half, but the production actually increased from the tailback spot thanks to safety-turned-tailback Tristan Davis. The first time he touched the ball he raced 75 yards for a score. "Once I got to the linebackers, I knew I had a chance to score," he said.
UK quickly matched that TD by scoring in just five plays, moving 80 yards for a TD with 8:33 left in the third quarter. Little just got across the goal line from two yards out at left guard.
Prechae Rodriguez scores on a reverse.
Nobody scored again until 10:14 was left in a fourth quarter that featured three TDs and a field goal. Auburn got the first one on a five-yard reverse by Prechae Rodriguez, who scored unopposed to cap a 10-play, 81-yard drive.
With 8:03 to play, UK scored again on an 11-yard fourth and goal pass to Keenan Burton from Woodson, who broke out of the pocket and threw on the run.
UK scored again on a 27-yard field goal with 4:03 that was set up by a fumble lost by walk-on receiver Rod Smith who had just gained a first down on a reverse.
Tre Smith wrapped up the scoring on a 46-yard run with 1:35 left as the Tigers were running out the clock.
UK almost scored again, however. They moved to the Tiger one-yard line before running out of time.
Auburn left Tim Duckworth at home to rehab from a groin pull and started Jonathan Palmer at guard and Leon Hart at tackle. "I thought I played pretty well," said Palmer, who added, "I didn't realize we had that much rushing yardage (388). That is something an offensive lineman likes to see."
Kentucky's Little said his team put played hard from start to finish. "We gained a lot of confidence from last week's game," he said. "We wanted to win badly. Even though they're a top team, we thought we had a chance."
Kentucky fell to 1-3 in the SEC and 2-5 overall, but set a school record for points scored vs. Auburn with 27. The 450 yards of UK offense was the most allowed by Auburn. The previous high was 342 vs. Western Kentucky.
Auburn's 589 yards was a season high, 17 more than the total vs. Ball State. AU's 388 rushing yards were two shy of the total vs. Ball State.
The Tigers return to action next Saturday night for their final road game as they take on the Georgia Bulldogs, who were idle this week.