LEXINGTON, Ky. - Austin MacGinnis hit a 51-yard field goal as time expired, lifting Kentucky to a 40-38 win over Mississippi State on Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium.
Kentucky (4-3, 3-2 SEC) led 37-31 late in the fourth quarter when Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald hit Fred Ross with a seven-yard scoring pass. The extra point by Weston Graves gave the Bulldogs a 38-37 lead.
But the Wildcats did not give up. Kentucky drove 46 yards in just 59 seconds to give MacGinnis a chance at the game-winner.
Kentucky had a balanced offensive attack, with 292 yards passing and 262 yards rushing. Quarterback Stephen Johnson accounted for all passing yards, while Benny Snell (128 yards) and Boom Williams (99 yards) accounted for most of the rushing attack.
Neither team scored in the first quarter, but the Wildcats were the first to put points up in the second stanza when MacGinnis nailed a 46-yard field goal to give Kentucky a 3-0 lead.
Mississippi State, which was held without a first down in the first quarter, answered Kentucky's score with a 45-yard Malik Dear run for a touchdown with 8:45 left in the second quarter. Weston Graves' extra point gave the Bulldogs a 7-3 lead.
The Bulldogs (2-5, 1-3) extended their lead before halftime. After forcing and recovering a fumble by Stephen Johnson, Mississippi State drove 35 yards in four plays, capped by a three-yard touchdown run by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, giving the Bulldogs a 14-3 lead with 2:00 remaining in the half.
The Wildcats answered back, going 61 yards in nine plays to nail a 32-yard field goal from MacGinnis to cut the lead to 14-6 with 20 seconds left in the first half.
The Wildcats struck early in the second half on a trick play. Snell took a direct snap, handed the ball to Garrett Johnson, who flipped the ball to quarterback Stephen Johnson who threw a 44-yard strike to Jeff Badet for a touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, and the score remained 14-12.
Mississippi State then mounted another drive, this one covering 56 yards in nine plays and resulting in a Graves field goal, making it 17-12 Bulldogs.
Kentucky would retake the lead on the ensuing drive when Snell broke loose for a 34-yard scamper for a score. The Wildcats converted on the two-point conversion when Stephen Johnson hit Tavin Richardson, who just barely cleared the pylon to give Kentucky a 20-17 lead.
The lead was short-lived as Mississippi State promptly marched 68 yards in just four plays, with Fitzgerald covering the final 38 yards with a touchdown rush, giving the Bulldogs a 24-20 advantage.
The Wildcats fired back with their own four-play scoring drive to retake the lead. Kentucky covered 75 yards in those four plays, with Stephen Johnson hitting Badet with a 40-yard touchdown pass to give Kentucky a 27-24 lead.
On its next drive, Mississippi State faced a crucial third-and-six on the first play of the fourth quarter. It turned into a game-changing play when Marcus McWilson picked off Fitzgerald and returned it 45 yards for a score, giving Kentucky its biggest lead of the game at 34-24.
After the Bulldogs were forced to punt, the Wildcats drove inside the Mississippi State five yard line, appearing to be ready to add to their lead. But on second and goal, Stephen Johnson fumbled and MSU's Mark McLaurin scooped up the miscue and returned it 81 yards to cut Kentucky's lead to 34-31.
Kentucky was not done, as the Wildcats went 61 yards in six plays to get into the red zone again. But the drive stalled there. MacGinnis was called upon again, and he delivered once more, this time from 32 yards, to give Kentucky a 37-31 edge.
Kentucky returns to action next Saturday against Missouri at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri. Kickoff is set for noon ET and the game can be seen on SEC Network.