GAMEDAY College Football

Kentucky 31, Northern Illinois 23

(AP Photo/Michael Clubb)

By GARY B. GRAVES
AP Sports Writer

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Will Levis tied a career best with four touchdown passes, including critical scores of 70 and 40 yards to Barion Brown and Tayvion Robinson, respectively, after halftime, and No. 8 Kentucky held off Northern Illinois 31-23.

After allowing the pesky Huskies a tying touchdown seconds before halftime, Levis put the Wildcats (4-0) ahead 21-14 just 58 seconds into the third quarter by hitting Brown across the middle on third and 10. Coming a snap after the senior quarterback was nearly intercepted, it was just what Kentucky needed to gain room from a NIU squad unfazed by being 26-point underdogs.

Matt Ruffolo's 49-yard field goal later in the third provided a 10-point cushion and came during a hot stretch in which Levis completed eight consecutive attempts. Levis later found Tayvion Robinson, who spun off a tackle and ran 40 yards for his second TD to make it 31-17 with 8:46 remaining.

That cushion helped as the Huskies fought back to within 31-23 with 2:47 left on Justin Lynch's 2-yard run after a defensive holding penalty. Ethan Hampton's two-point conversion pass failed, Kentucky recovered the onside kick and Levis knelt to seal the win.

Levis overcame five sacks to complete 18 of 26 passes for 303 yards, his third 300-yard effort this season, with chunk plays comprising each TD. Robinson (seven catches, 147 yards) also had a 69-yard score on a crossing pass just as Levis was a second away from a crushing sack. Brown caught four passes for 102 yards and two scores, including a 15-yarder on Kentucky's first possession.

NIU (1-3) drove 75 yards on the opening possession for Hampton's 2-yard TD pass to Tristan Tewes, who also snagged a 3-yard score from Shemar Thornton six seconds before halftime. The Huskies made it a one-score game late but lost their third in a row and second in as many weeks to a Southeastern Conference school.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Kentucky won but might drop after having to work harder for this victory as a heavy favorite.

THE TAKEAWAY

Northern Illinois: Like last week against Vanderbilt, the Huskies started fast and forced the Wildcats to counterpunch before shocking them with a wideout pass in the second quarter. They harassed Levis early and often but couldn't slow his receivers who broke coverage to get open for big-play TDs.

Kentucky: Pass protection remains a concern after again allowing multiple sacks of Levis, whose rollouts bought time to hit big passes later in the game. The Wildcats still have things to correct before visiting Mississippi next week.


Scoring Summary
First Quarter NIUKty
NIU TD 8:53 Tristen Tewes 2 yard TD pass from Ethan Hampton (John Richardson Extra Point) 7 0
Kty TD 0:48 Barion Brown 15 yard TD pass from Will Levis (Matt Ruffolo Extra Point) 7 7
Second Quarter NIUKty
Kty TD 5:08 Tayvion Robinson 69 yard TD pass from Will Levis (Matt Ruffolo Extra Point) 7 14
NIU TD 0:06 Tristen Tewes 3 yard TD pass from Shemar Thornton (John Richardson Extra Point) 14 14
Third Quarter NIUKty
Kty TD 14:02 Barion Brown 70 yard TD pass from Will Levis (Matt Ruffolo Extra Point) 14 21
Kty FG 3:04 Matt Ruffolo 49 yard field goal 14 24
Fourth Quarter NIUKty
Kty TD 8:46 Tayvion Robinson 40 yard TD pass from Will Levis (Matt Ruffolo Extra Point) 14 31
NIU FG 5:26 John Richardson 38 yard field goal 17 31
NIU TD 2:47 Justin Lynch 2 yard TD run (Harrison Waylee 2pt conversion attempt is NO GOOD) 23 31
Team Stats
  Northern Illinois Kentucky
First downs 14 19
  Rushing 6 6
  Passing 7 12
  Penalty 1 1
3rd Down Efficiency 6-15, 40% 10-16, 63%
4th down efficiency 2-2, 100% 2-2, 100%
Rushes-Yards 33-128 35-104
Passing Yards 199 303
Return Yards 42 29
Completions-Attempts-Int 14-26-0 18-26-0
Sacks-Yards Lost 0-0 5-20
Punts 6 3
Fumbles Lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties - Yards 6-45 2-8
Northern Illinois Passing
Player Cmp Att Yds TDs Int
E. Hampton 13 25 196 1 0
S. Thornton 1 1 3 1 0
Kentucky Passing
Player Cmp Att Yds TDs Int
W. Levis 18 26 303 4 0
Northern Illinois Rushing
Player Carries Yds Avg TDs
H. Waylee 18 63 3.5 0
A. Brown 6 37 6.2 0
J. Lynch 7 21 3.0 1
E. Hampton 1 6 6.0 0
M. Blakemore 1 1 1.0 0
Kentucky Rushing
Player Carries Yds Avg TDs
K. Smoke 12 85 7.1 0
J. McClain 3 15 5.0 0
L. Wright 9 14 1.6 0
W. Levis 9 -9 -1.0 0
Northern Illinois Receiving
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
K. Rutkiewicz 1 63 63.0 0
C. Tucker 3 55 18.3 0
T. Tewes 6 37 6.2 2
F. McCray 2 33 16.5 0
S. Thornton 1 7 7.0 0
L. Soraghan 1 4 4.0 0
Kentucky Receiving
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
T. Robinson 7 147 21.0 2
B. Brown 4 102 25.5 2
J. Dingle 1 19 19.0 0
D. Key 2 15 7.5 0
L. Wright 1 8 8.0 0
B. Bates 2 7 3.5 0
J. McClain 1 5 5.0 0
Northern Illinois Interceptions
Player Int Yards
Kentucky Interceptions
Player Int Yards
Northern Illinois Punting
Player Punts Yards Avg
T. Foley 5 236 47.2
E. Hampton 1 51 51.0
Kentucky Punting
Player Punts Yards Avg
C. Goodfellow 3 139 46.3
Northern Illinois Punt Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
Kentucky Punt Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
T. Robinson 2 6 3.0
Northern Illinois Kick Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
B. Dozier 1 42 42.0
Kentucky Kick Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
K. Smoke 3 22 7.3
B. Brown 1 1 1.0
Northern Illinois Missed FG
Player Length
Kentucky Missed FG
Player Length




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