Scout.com/Jeff Drummond

MacGinnis 51-yard FG at buzzer gives Kentucky Wildcats 40-38 win over Mississippi State

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Kentucky Wildcats' affinity for drama was taken to the extreme Saturday night against Mississippi State.

In a game which saw the lead change hands six times, including twice in the final 69 seconds at Commonwealth Stadium, Kentucky rallied for a 40-38 victory over the Bulldogs on a 51-yard field goal by Austin MacGinnis as time expired.

The junior kicker's fourth field goal of the night was the first game-winner by Kentucky since Seth Hanson beat LSU with a 33-yarder at Baton Rogue in 1998. 

"I had already told myself I was going to make this kick, they just need to put me in range," said MacGinnis, who had uncharacteristically missed a 28-yarder at the same end in the first quarter. "I had it made up in my mind a long time ago that I was about to make this kick."

It was only the second game-winner of the Alabama native's career. The other came in high school. 

https://twitter.com/ESPNCFB/status/790030883122282496

Kentucky (4-3, 3-2 SEC) led by 10 early in the fourth quarter and appeared poised to add to the margin, but Mississippi State's Mark McLaurin returned a Stephen Johnson fumble 81 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs new life at 34-31 with 9:33 remaining.

After a MacGinnis 32-yard field goal at the 6:52 mark extended UK's lead to 37-31, MSU drove the length of the field for a go-ahead touchdown pass from Nick Fitzgerald to Fred Ross from 7 yards out with 1:09 to play. 

Kentucky took over possession at its own 21-yard line with 1:02 remaining and all three timeouts available. Johnson completed a 10-yard pass to Garrett Johnson and two completions of 12 and 18 yards to Jeff  Badet to give MacGinnis an opportunity to win it. With the wind at his back facing the East end zone at Commonwealth Stadium, MacGinnis booted the game-winner right down the middle with a couple of extra yards to spare.

"Just like we drew it up," Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said to begin his postgame press conference.

"We seem to like to put some drama in things," the UK boss added, "... But once again, we showed that resiliency and that toughness and all that stuff I talked about in the offseason about being physically tougher, mentally tougher, and be able to bounce back from adversity. That's what I'm most proud of."

Stephen Johnson overcame a pair of fumbles to throw for 292 yards and two touchdowns. Seven of those passes went to Badet for 139 yards and both TDs. Benny Snell and Boom Williams added 128 and 99 rushing yards, respectively, for the Cats, who racked up 554 yards of total offense. 

Kentucky got huge plays from all three phases of the game, including a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown by senior safety Marcus McWilson to give the Cats a two-score advantage at the start of the fourth quarter.

It marked UK's first win over Mississippi State (2-5, 1-3 SEC) since the 2008 season, snapping a seven-game skid to its annual SEC West rival.

The Bulldogs got 107 yards rushing, 81 yards passing and three combined scores from Fitzgerald.

In this All Wildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some of the highlights from UK's win... 

WHAT WE LIKED:

Kentucky has found countless ways to lose this very game in the past. But on a night when the Chicago Cubs clinched their first trip to the World Series since 1945, perhaps something was in the cool October air for loveable losers of the sports world. Instead of folding when Mississippi State rallied for a go-ahead score with 1:09 remaining, the Cats responded with an almost textbook two-minute drill offense (with the exception of oddly not using one of their timeouts). The staff later praised the poise of Johnson at quarterback and the discipline of Badet to go down and call timeout with three seconds remaining rather than attempting to gain more yardage on the play to set up the winning kick. We've all seen that play botched by even the pros on Sunday afternoons, so it was encouraging to see UK execute it properly. MacGinnis also showed some mental toughness to bounce back from his first-quarter miss and drill the game-winner of almost twice the distance at the same end of the stadium.

GAME BALL:

Austin MacGinnis, Kentucky --  There were several candidates for the game ball this week -- Snell, Badet or McWilson all could have been good choices -- but there's no way anyone but the 5-foot-10, 180-pound kicker with the huge leg was going to claim the honor this week. MacGinnis accounted for 14 of the Cats' 40 points on the night.

BY THE NUMBERS:

3rd - Time UK has rushed for 250 or more yards in a game this season.

30 - Consecutive wins by UK, 12 under Stoops, when leading at the start of the fourth quarter, the longest streak in the SEC.

34 - Second-half points were the most by UK in an SEC game since scoring 35 in 2003 against Mississippi State.

81 - The fewest passing yards UK has allowed to an SEC opponent since Mississippi State had 79 in 2004.

22-22 - All-time series record between UK and MSU.

1996 - The last time UK won three consecutive SEC home games.

QUOTABLE:

"As soon as we went up six, I started telling myself, this might come down to me. They started driving, so I had to put in my mind, 'I'm about to kick a game-winner.'" -- UK kicker Austin MacGinnis.

UP NEXT:

Kentucky returns to action next Saturday at Missouri. The Tigers (2-5, 0-3 SEC) lost 51-45 at home to Middle Tennessee State earlier today. Kickoff for the Wildcats and Tigers is slated for Noon ET on the SEC Network.


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