Kentucky football was in need of a spark in its 2023 season opener against Ball State.
The Cardinals led 7-3 after the first quarter, and even once UK took the lead back in the second quarter, things felt far from comfortable inside Kroger Field.
Enter senior defensive back Jalen Geiger.
Playing in his first game since suffering a knee injury last year, Geiger stepped up in a big way for the Cats, scooping up a fumble forced by teammate Alex Afari and returning it 69 yards for a touchdown.
The score marked UK’s first fumble return touchdown since Jordan Wright recorded one in the 2019 Belk Bowl win over Virginia Tech.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) September 2, 2023
It’s also the second career touchdown for Geiger, who recorded a pick-six against Vanderbilt during the 2021 season.
Additionally, Geiger’s play was the first touchdown scored by Kentucky’s defense since Keidron Smith had a pick-six at Florida last season.
It also should have been the first of two fumble return scores for the UK defense on the day.
Later in the second quarter, sophomore defensive back Maxwell Hairston forced a fumble while making a tackle on a Ball State wideout that would have been returned for a score by sophomore defensive back Jordan Lovett.
But officials blew the play dead initially, saying the Ball State receiver was down by contact and no fumble had occurred.
Replay review overturned that ruling and UK got the football, but the touchdown was wiped off the board and the Wildcats’ offense had to go to work from the Ball State 31-yard line.
The Cats had to settle for a 46-yard field goal on that ensuing drive instead from senior transfer kicker Alex Raynor.
The last time UK has two defensive touchdowns in the same game?
A pair of interception return scores from Kelvin Joseph and Jamin Davis at Tennessee in October 2020.