Kentucky’s junior quarterback completed 22 of 27 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns in leading the Wildcats to a 21-13 victory over two-time defending SEC East champion Missouri. Towles also rushed for UK’s other touchdown to play a role in all three scores.
"I was telling the team in there that I'm pretty stingy with gameballs," UK head coach Mark Stoops said, "but I think (Towles) deserved one tonight. Twenty-two for 27, two 2 TDs, so I gave him a gameball. I thought he played a really good game and made some really good plays with his feet and was aggressive down the stretch."
The impressive performance came just a week after Towles went 8-for-24, was sacked six times and picked off twice in a 14-9 loss to Florida that saw the Cats fail to find the end zone.
"It feels unbelievable. Incredible. Just awesome," Towles said. "It was a great team win. Our offensive line played awesome, even though we had three or four guys go down. A bunch of guys stepped up."
"He had a great week of practice," UK offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said of Towles. "All the guys did. You prepare good, you typically play good... I told him Monday, it's not the critic that counts, it's the man in the arena."
Kentucky rolled up 369 yards of total offense against one of the top defenses in the country. Missouri entered the game first in the SEC in scoring defense (9.7 ppg) and first in total defense (217 ypg).
Missouri broke a 7-7 halftime tie with a 39-yard field goal by Andrew Baggett with 6:04 remaining in the third quarter, but the Wildcats had a strong response. Towles led UK down the field on a nine-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a 24-yard touchdown strike to freshman tight end C.J. Conrad, the first of his college career.
The Cats extended the lead to 21-10 with an even more impressive nine play, 93-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter. This time, it was capped by a perfectly-thrown 5-yard fade pass from Towles to sophomore receiver Dorian Baker in the corner of the end zone.
Missouri made it a one-score game with a 24-yard field goal by Baggett with 3:00 to go, but UK iced the win with a clock-consuming possession that featured 20 tough, between-the-tackle yards by junior running back Jojo Kemp and a clinching quarterback sneak by Towles.
Kentucky (3-1, 2-1 SEC) snapped a three-game losing skid at home against league competition. Meanwhile, the Cats also put an end to an 11-game road winning streak by No. 25 Missouri (3-1, 0-1 SEC). It was UK's first win over the Tigers since 1968 and the first in four matchups since Missouri joined the SEC.
In this AllWildcats Rapid Recap feature, we touch on the highlights of the game...
WHAT WE LIKED:
Kentucky played one of its better all-around games -- from an offensive and defensive standpoint -- in recent memory. The UK offense moved the ball well against one of the most respected defenses in the SEC, while the defense limited the Tigers to 338 yards and only one, penalty-aided touchdown drive. Big Blue Nation has seen one side of the ball play well and the other struggle on many occasions in hard-fought SEC games. This time, getting it from both units on the same night paved the way to victory.
Backed up to its own 7-yard line with 10:43 left in a 14-10 game, Kentucky completions of 35, 25 and 24 yards from Towles. Two of them went to Garrett Johnson on 2nd-and-11 and 3rd-and-10 plays. They set up Towles' 5-yard TD pass to Baker.
Towles earned it with his great day on the offensive side of the ball, but a strong case could also be made for senior defensive tackle Cory Johnson, who posted a career-high 11 tackles and a sack to spearhead one of UK's best defensive performances in a long time.
STAT OF THE DAY:
Kentucky was 9-for-14 on third down against a Mizzou defense allowing only a 25-percent conversion rate on the season.
BY THE NUMBERS:
- 1st - Win by Kentucky over a Top 25 foe in its last 19 tries.
- 7-0 - Record by Stoops' UK teams when leading at the end of the third quarter.
- 13 - The fewest amount of points allwoed by a UK defense against a ranked opponent since a 1993 shutout of Ole Miss.
- 23 - Consecutive red-zone scores by UK dating back to last season.
- 2013 - The last time UK had a touchdown pass to a tight end (Steven Borden).
Kentucky returns to action next week at Commonwealth Stadium against Eastern Kentucky. The Colonels (2-1) rolled to a 51-13 win over Austin Peay on Saturday night.