LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Will Levis’ short touchdown passes stood out because his throwing touch has been a work in progress.
The gutsy Kentucky quarterback continued to show how he can take and give hits rushing the ball, spinning free from several tackles during one run before carrying a few LSU defenders a few extra yards for a highlight-worthy clip. Both impressive skills helped the No. 16 Wildcats earn their most remarkable victory this season.
Levis threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more scores and Kentucky dominated LSU throughout in a 42-21 blowout Saturday night.
The Wildcats have their first 6-0 start since 1950, improved to 4-0 in the Southeastern Conference and earned a second consecutive win over a conference heavyweight. Kentucky beat then-No. 10 Florida 20-13 last week. The Wildcats’ biggest challenge looms at No. 2 Georgia next week in an East Division showdown, and they’ll enter with their best performance since the season opener.
Levis had a huge hand in that, with the QB bouncing back from a lackluster stretch to account for three second-half scores alone as Kentucky pulled away to a 35-7 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Penn State transfer sandwiched TD passes of 25, 11 and 3 yards between rushing scores of 5 and 1 yards as the Wildcats outgained the Tigers 475-408, though much of LSU’s yardage came after the game was out of reach.
Levis’ 3-yarder to Chris Rodriguez Jr. might have been the most rewarding because of the risk involved on fourth down. Instead of kicking the easy field goal, Kentucky gambled and it paid off as Wan’Dale Robinson was wide open off on the right side for the game’s first score.
“I was pumped when (they) called it,” Levis said. “I wasn’t expecting it, but it shows the mindset (offensive) coach (Liam) Coen and (head coach Mark) Stoops had and the confidence in the offense and how we prepared.”
Levis finished 14 of 17 passing for 145 yards. Rodriguez rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries as the Wildcats outrushed LSU 330-147, its second-highest total this season.
“You could tell early on he had confidence,” Stoops said about Levis.
Of the punishing ground game, the coach added, “When you rush for 330 yards, that gets them off balance and the play action gets going.”
LSU (3-3, 1-2) sought to rebound from last week’s 24-19 loss to No. 18 Auburn. Instead, the Tigers played catch-up and by the time Tyrion Davis-Price rushed for the first of two TDs midway through the third quarter, the Tigers trailed 21-0.
Kentucky answered with two more scores to pad its lead.
Davis-Price rushed for 147 yards on 22 carries, while quarterback Max Johnson completed 22 of 38 passes for 261 yards and a 41-yard TD to Malik Nabers.
LSU also lost a couple of key players during the game. Star receiver Kayshon Boutte, who entered leading the nation with nine TD receptions, left the field on a cart after injuring his leg in the fourth quarter. Defensive end Ali Gaye sustained a leg injury, though LSU coach Ed Orgeron said both players had to be evaluated.
Chris Rodriguez Jr.’s 10th 100-yard rushing game also made him the 10th Kentucky player to break 2,000 career yards. He has 2,129 yards and passed Artose Pinner (2,105 from 1999-2002) for ninth on the career list.
RED ZONE PERFECTION
Kentucky and LSU combined to convert all seven red zone chances with touchdowns. The Wildcats went 5 for 5 while the Tigers were 2 for 2 to improve to remain perfect on 16 opportunities inside the 20. LSU’s total includes nine TDs rushing and three passing.
Kentucky stands to rise a few spots after another SEC victory.
LSU: Social media speculation about the future of Tigers coach Ed Orgeron began before halftime of a game and is certain to increase in which they were dominated on both sides of the ball. A lost fumble on the opening drive set up one Kentucky touchdown before LSU turned it over on downs to set up another TD and a hole it never came close to climbing from.
“I do believe that we got beat at the point of attack,” Orgeron said. “I knew they were a good zone blocking team. Sometimes it was just physical at the point of attack, sometimes it was just technique.”
Kentucky: After several games of relying on its defense to preserve slim leads, Levis and the Wildcats offense carried the load. The defense did its part by keeping Johnson and Boutte from doing damage, recording four sacks and nine tackles for loss. Not bad for a squad that played without nose guard Marquan McCall and receiver Josh Ali, both starters, because of injuries.
“We came in with a game plan after a big win the week before and wanted to set the tone,” linebacker DeAndre Square said.
LSU: Hosts No. 20 Florida on Saturday.
Kentucky: At No. 2 Georgia on Saturday.
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