This time UK turned bitter loss into dramatic win thanks to Austin MacGinnis’ clutch field goal

Austin MacGinnis celebrates the win. (Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics)

Austin MacGinnis celebrates the win. (Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Even for Kentucky, this was going to be a tough loss to accept for a lot of reasons.

Kentucky had a 34-24 lead early in the fourth quarter Saturday night and had the ball inside the Mississippi State 10-yard line. A touchdown would push the lead to 41-24 and secure the win.

Instead, quarterback Stephen Johnson fumbled for the eighth time in six games. Mark McLaurin got the loose ball for State and went 81 yards to score. A possible 41-24 lead suddenly was 34-31. But it got worse when State scored on a 7-yard pass with just 1:09 left to take a 38-37 lead.

A game UK had often dominated was slipping away. So was the chance for a bowl bid — the Liberty Bowl had officials at the game — and maybe even coach Mark Stoops’ job.

But perhaps it was only fitting that on the same night the Chicago Cubs reached the World Series, Kentucky had its own miracle when kicker Austin MacGinnis — who had missed a chip shot field goal in the first quarter when it bounced off the right upright — nailed a 51-yard field goal as time expired for a 40-38 win that set off a mini celebration led by Stoops.

“I’ll be the first one to tell you, we’ve come a long way. Last year, even the year before that, it was almost like people would just quit and give up after we were down, but today and the past few weeks we’ve proven everyone wrong. Just fighting, it’s been a dog fight,” said linebacker Jordan Jones, who had 11 tackles.

Johnson said he watches MacGinis make the same type of kick daily in practice. Yet he was nervous.

“My stomach was everywhere. My mind was everywhere. And after, I was filled with joy. I am still in shock. This is a great feeling,” Johnson said.

Freshman running back Benny Snell was overcome with emotion after the game, especially when he went over to his family.

“It was just me crying and my dad saying, ‘It’s ok. You did it.’ I’m just really emotional about this game because I just love this game. Everybody on the team loves it,” Snell said.

“Putting all the pressure on just one guy and him being able to make that play and win the game is just amazing. We just fought so hard and he pulled through. So, I had nothing to do but cry. I was so happy.”

And what about MacGinnis? Well, he was downright giddy after the game as he was surrounded by media members and should have been.

“It felt so good. It felt like relief. It feels so good to get over the hump. We haven’t beaten Mississippi State since I’ve been here, so it felt really good to get the SEC win,” MacGinnis said.

He was not thinking about his early miss.

“You always have to put any kick behind you. Make or miss, it’s always about the next kick. If you’re thinking about the last kick, you don’t give yourself a chance,” he said.

Running back Boom Williams had told MacGinnis before the last drive that the offense would give him a chance to win the game, and he delivered.

Stoops hugged MacGinnis on the field.

“He was telling me he was proud of me, that everyone had faith in me and they trusted me. He was glad I made the kick,” MacGinnis laughed and said.

It was the third straight end of game loss for Mississippi State. Still, defensive back McLaurin admired what UK and MacGinnis did to win.

“To be honest the kicker made a great kick. So, there was nothing we could do about it. It hurts knowing we fought so hard and we knew we came back, but for that 51-yard kick… It hurt watching that,” McLaurin said.

Stoops never hesitated to call on MacGinnis after Jeff Badet made a reception and got down at the 33-yard line with 3 seconds to play.

“I was good with it either way because I felt like our team, our players played their hearts out; I know our coaches coached their hearts out. And I have a lot of confidence, I’ve been telling you guys that I felt like Austin was getting real close to being an elite kicker, getting back to like he is. He did miss one early but I have a lot of confidence in him,” Stoops said.

The coach didn’t remember all he said to MacGinnis on the field.

“I gave him a hug and probably told him I loved him,” Stoops laughed and said. “He’s a wonderful kid and he works hard, and he’s healthy, and our team has a lot of confidence in him. He just told the team that he was just proud to be a part of it and get it for them.”

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  1. Great win period!!! Had to have this game if we go to a bowl. The way I see it we need to win two from either Missouri, Georgia at home, or Austin Peay. Tenn or UL will be tough. I see us getting 6 wins, and who knows maybe 7!!!! Proud of the Cats tonight. GO CATS!!!!!

  2. This was a great victory for UK. Overcame our mistakes and forged ahead. There should no longer be any doubt as to what this team is made of. We found a way to win. That’s what winners do.

    GO CATS!!!!

  3. You’re spot on Norm. Winners never quit and this team showed it. My hats off to the receivers. They did a great job of getting open so that Johnson could be successful. But the real hero’s of night were the O-Line. They were wearing the MS linebackers out all night. Man, Snell is a hoss plain and simple. He runs with his body ahead of his feet and creates leverage. Nothing flashy, just smack ’em in the mouth, get up and do it again.

    Good win.

  4. This was a historic win for the Cats. That said, they made it far more difficult than it should have been by dominating the entire game, but making potentially game losing mistakes in the red zone. Johnson could have been the goat had it not been for Macginnis. What a kick. With 1:09 left I thought UK’s goose was cooked. They dug down deep and found a way to win. It was awesome to see a UK football team defy past fate and pull out the win, wiping the smiles off the faces of MSU fans and players, breaking their winning streak over the Cats..

    There is still work to do to get bowl eligible, with a road game at Columbia next Sat against a Mizzou team that has their backs against the wall. The Cats need to get tate win against the Tigers because the schedule gets real tough after that, with AP the probable 6th win. I don’t “count em until you win em.” UK must take one game at a time and take care of business. Johnson needs to hang on to the football too. Go Cats!!!

  5. We have had relatively “drop free” football for most of the year and then the affliction returned during the first half and a few others at tide changing times. I still don’t understand what Gran was thinking with his first half play calling. He didn’t quite pound the middle enough and why isn’t he getting the tight ends more involved? I think he realized at halftime that he was coaching for his job and opened it up more to start 2nd half. Our defense has been improving from game to game, but we still missed a lot of sure tackles. Will Mt. Elam ever be the player we were all hoping he would be?

    1. The one Baker, I believe it was, dropped, crossing the goal line could have sealed the deal. I agree with you Mike on Gran’s play calling. He threw only two to the TE’s the whole game as I recall. Conrad dropped one, and Hart caught one. Got to get them more involved in the passing game IMO. As for Elam, he just clogs the middle, that’s all. Apparently that isn’t going to change.

      1. Ya know, I was thinking the same thing you guys were about Gran’s play calling but then I starting watching the oline and how they were wearing MS linebackers out. Gran was beating them down. At that point in the game it was a game of wills. He was trying to beat them down. Had that touchdown occurred instead of the fumble Gran would have succeeded but the fumble put new life in them. I would not have called some of those plays but then, I’m not the coach. In retrospect, Gran was playing it smart. He was taking some risk but playing it smart. That said, I can’t say a lot of good things about the clock management in the last minute of play. Hey, but they pulled it out. I think the coach learned something there.

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