LEXINGTON, Ky. - Myron Pryor caused three key turnovers, and Dicky Lyons Jr. caught his fifth and sixth touchdowns of the season as Kentucky defeated Mississippi 31-14 on Saturday to win its first Southeastern Conference opener in 19 years.
The victory moved the Wildcats to 2-1 on the season, the first time in three-plus years under coach Rich Brooks that the team has been above .500. Mississippi dropped to 1-2.
What was billed as a run-heavy, low-scoring affair proved to be anything but. The difference for Kentucky was sophomore defensive tackle Pryor, who stopped three Rebel drives in their tracks when he grabbed one interception, forced a fumble and recovered another.
And on offense, it appears the Wildcats have found the receiving threat opposite Keenan Burton they had been searching for all offseason. It's Lyons, the son of the former Kentucky standout by the same name, who has now scored twice in each of Kentucky's first three games.
Mississippi got on the board first after Rafael Little fumbled, giving the ball to the Rebels near midfield. Quarterback Brent Schaeffer took advantage, lobbing a flat pass to Marshay Green, who eluded several Kentucky defenders at the line of scrimmage, then darted untouched toward the end zone for a 47-yard score.
The Wildcats responded immediately, thanks to Lyons, who caught a 33-yard Andre' Woodson pass to put Kentucky in position, then scored on a 26-yard slant a few plays later.
Lyons struck again on Kentucky's next possession, leaping in the back of the end zone for yet another touchdown. Lyons would finish with four catches and 83 yards.
Woodson had 290 yards and his second consecutive three-touchdown game.
After Schaeffer hit a wide-open Robert Hough for a 27-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14, Woodson connected on a 22-yard scoring pass to Curtis Pulley, who he beat out for the starting quarterback job. That put the Wildcats in front for good.
Kentucky took a 21-14 lead into halftime, and it could have been even more.
With the seconds ticking down, Pryor knocked the ball out of Schaeffer's hand, and J.D. Craigman recovered it for the Wildcats. But freshman kicker Lones Seiber, trying his first field goal since winning the starting job this week, had his 37-yard attempt blocked as time expired. Seiber would hit a 41-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
ARKANSAS 21, VANDERBILT 19
In Nashville, Tenn., freshman Mitch Mustain threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns, leading Arkansas past Vanderbilt in the Razorbacks' first road game this season.
Vanderbilt (0-3, 0-2 SEC) had a chance to upset the Razorbacks for a second consecutive year by scoring during the final minute. But Bryant Hahnfeldt's 48-yard field-goal attempt with 55 seconds left fell a few yards short on fourth-and-2.
The Commodores did their best to slow the league's best rushing team. They held the ball for more than 32 minutes and limited the Razorbacks to 170 yards rushing on 39 attempts, and Darren McFadden ran 19 times for 71 yards, a yard shorter than his best run last week against Utah State.
But Mustain, who became the Razorbacks' first freshman quarterback to win his first start last week, responded easily for Arkansas (2-1, 1-0).
Mustain was 13-of-20 and drove the Razorbacks to a touchdown on their opening drive, hitting Marcus Monk on a 56-yarder that tied it 7-7. He also connected with Felix Jones on a 21-yarder and a 15-yarder to Ben Cleveland left Arkansas up 21-13 at the end of the third quarter.
The Commodores had hoped returning home after playing Michigan and Alabama on the road would provide the edge they needed. They wouldn't have needed the field goal if not for trouble on extra points.
They botched a kick attempt after pulling to 14-13 when the kicker handed the ball to an Arkansas defender. Chris Nickson's pass failed on a 2-point conversion that could have tied it at 21 early in the fourth after the quarterback ran 15 yards for his third TD of the game.
That ruined a day in which Nickson threw for 124 yards and ran for 74.