Well, we knew it was likely to happen, and with the additional complication of losing 3 more starters to injury before the second half, the hill was just way too tall for this young Kentucky team to climb. To their great credit, they never gave up on either side of the ball, but they were just overmatched.
Congratulations to the Mississippi St. Bulldogs on an outstanding victory. They did what they needed to do, and instead of just running the ball up the gut, they opened up their playbook and threw the ball really well. The Bulldogs took advantage multiple Kentucky miscues, and were aided by an officiating crew that didn't need to help them -- they would have won going away without the brain-dead calls and no-calls. I rarely take this tough a line with officials who were surely trying to do the right thing, but this much ineptitude requires pointing out. I think it's also important to point out that even if they had gotten every call right, it would have almost certainly affected only the final score, not the outcome.
With that (probably unnecessarily) said, I thought MSU really showed character in this game. They ran, they threw, and they were successful with both. That's the way you have to play to win football games. Kentucky, to their credit, never gave up, but they never were really in this one, although MSU fans must have had an anxious moment when UK recovered a gutsy onside kick after scoring their second touchdown. In a final act of class, MSU took a knee when they could have scored an additional touchdown at the end of the game. Kudos to them -- worthy foes, and worthy of the win.
The Wildcats tried, but they were simply ill-fated from the start. Freshman Patrick Towles guided the Wildcats to a touchdown on his first possession by throwing a little lob to an unopposed La'Rod King. But the offense bogged down after that thanks to a tough MSU defense, and on his last play of the half, Towles sustained an ankle injury that looked far less severe than the one sustained by Maxwell Smith in the last game against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
- I don't know whether the defense toughened up in the second half, or the Bulldog offense just went conservative, but UK only allowed one touchdown after the first stanza. Kudos to them for the hard work and not giving up, despite the ridiculous amount of time they spent on the field and the loss of two more experienced players, Martavius Neloms and Ashely Lowery, to injury.
- Good effort by the offense, but UK simply could not consistently run the football. That wound up killing many a drive.
- Jalen Whitlow is improving snap by snap. At the end of this year, there's no telling how good he will be.
- Landon Foster had a very good day punting the ball with only one lousy kick and several enormous ones. Unfortunately, he had to take the field way too often.
- Special teams, other than the punt team, were pretty bad today. I think a lot of that was due to what I consider outstanding special teams play by Mississippi St.
- I think Randy Sanders could have called a better game. Too many runs at the wrong time.
- Both young quarterbacks played tough, and stood tall and strong in the pocket. Hope for the future, to be sure.
- The receiving corps was mostly very good. The running backs, less so.
Kentucky is just going to be unfortunate this year. They have too many injuries to too many key players to recover from, and UK just isn't deep enough to sustain this kind of attrition. This happens to teams every now and then, I recall a Georgia Bulldogs team a two years ago that was decimated by injury, and they have much better backups than UK does. Even they were unable to have a winning season that year, and given that Kentucky is in the SEC, that just means that our road gets even tougher than it already was, if that is actually possible.
Anyway, all I can say is that A Sea of Blue will be here to support these young men through this unprecedented (at least in my memory) adversity. We have talent, but unfortunately, it is too inexperienced to effectively compete in the SEC.
Next up, things get a little easier with the Arkansas Razorbacks, who have struggled almost as much as Kentucky, although they beat the Auburn Tigers today. All I can say is, at least it isn't some God-awful creature team like Alabama or LSU, or we really might have to suit up the coaching staff.