LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Patrick Towles used the same right arm that threw two touchdown passes against No. 25 Missouri to exhort Kentucky fans to cheer and celebrate as the final seconds ticked off of the Wildcats' biggest win in recent memory.
Teammates joined the party with a small yet diligent group of fans that kept looking up at the scoreboard to take in Saturday night's 21-13 victory that spoke volumes about their resolve just a week after a disappointing loss to Florida.
Towles played the biggest role with two TD passes and another on a 14-yard score that helped end the Wildcats' 18-game losing streak against ranked teams.
''It was important for me for sure, really not playing as good as I could have in any of those three games,'' said Towles, whose arm and feet were critical in the Wildcats' first upset of a ranked team since beating then-No. 18 South Carolina 31-28 in Lexington five years ago. ''Coming out and playing like this was important for me.''
The junior threw TD passes of 24 yards to tight end C.J. Conrad in the third quarter and the 5-yard clincher to Dorian Baker with 6:20 remaining that brought cheers of ''Go Big Blue!'' from the crowd of 58,008. Towles completed 14 of his first passes for 120 yards before finishing 22 of 27 for 249 yards, adding nine runs for 21 yards.
His performance helped the Wildcats (3-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) gain 369 yards against the nation's fourth-ranked defense and snap a school-record, 11-game road winning streak for the Tigers (3-1, 0-1).
Andrew Baggett's 24-yard field goal with 3 minutes left kept the two-time defending SEC East champions within a touchdown and two-point conversion of tying, but several runs by Kentucky's Jojo Kemp after the kickoff provided the first down that allowed the Wildcats to run out the clock and seal third-year coach Mark Stoops' signature win.
Though it's too soon to see whether the Wildcats are now division contenders, Stoops believed it was a step forward.
''I'm very proud of the team,'' Stoops said. ''It's just gratifying to win a game like that against such a quality opponent. There's good and bad that happens, but you have to be able to overcome it and make the plays to win the game. We're really starting to grow.''
Garrett Johnson caught six passes for 119 yards as Towles hit eight receivers -- including himself for a 1-yard gain on a throw that slipped back to him.
The Wildcats overcame an early 7-0 deficit and eight penalties for 91 yards to prove they were much better than the team that managed just three field goals in last week's 14-9 loss to Florida.
Missouri sought some redemption as well after outlasting Connecticut 9-6 at home last week, and the Tigers succeeded on their second possession as Maty Mauk hit J'Mon Moore for a 17-yard touchdown and the initial lead. Baggett's 39-yard field goal provided a 10-7 lead before Kentucky took control to score the next 14 points.
''We came out and started fast and strong, but we killed ourselves,'' Mauk said. ''We just have to get back to the basics.''
Towles bounced back a week after he completed just 8-of-24 passes for 126 yards with two interceptions and six sacks last week against Florida.
The Tigers managed to finally drop Towles twice in the third quarter, but he stood tall late in the period to find Conrad down the middle for the touchdown and Kentucky's first lead at 14-10. Towles then led the Wildcats 93 yards in nine plays to their final TD and close the deal on a top-25 team that was a long time coming.
Mauk was 15 of 30 for 180 yards for Missouri, which gained 338 yards. Drew Lock replaced him briefly and was 3 of 5 for 47 yards.