In addition to being a must-win game if they had any hope of sliding into a bowl game, the Wildcats had a chance to make a statement about their SEC viability on Saturday in Starkville, Miss.
As has been the case for seemingly forever, UK did just enough against a mediocre team to pull out a win. While any conference road win is a worthy victory, Mississippi State is not a good squad. Thankfully, the Kentucky offense is.
Andre' Woodson's three touchdown passes, along with a career game from redshirt freshman (and all-world potential team member) Alfonso Smith, who tallied 18 carries for 101 yards and a score, paced the Cats to a 34-31 squeaker win over the Bulldogs.
Again this season the offense came out firing and built an early lead (14-0 in this case), and again the defense folded against an inferior opponent. MSU scored more points this year against only one other team -- 35 against Jacksonville State -- and entered the game 2-6 on the year.
I know this kind of negativity about a win (rare as they are at UK) is not very becoming. But while I am pleased the Cats earned the 'W', beating inferior opponents by the skin of their teeth has become irritatingly commonplace, and a sign that whenever a talented or even riled-up team comes calling, the Cats get their tails kicked. This bodes ill for supposedly 'winnable' games like the annual "who's worst" tilt with Vanderbilt.
Smith's breakout performance is the story of the day, however. The speedy back led the scout team last season as a redshirt, then finally got the chance to shine today, and shine he did, averaging over 5 yards per carry.
A suddenly vulnerable Georgia team visits Commonwealth Stadium next weekend, and one no longer wonders which team we'll see. We'll see an offense with skill, speed and a lack of depth battle valiantly against a nationally ranked defense, while the Cats' own meek defensive group allows a Bulldogs team with scoring troubles 30+ points.
After watching the same old story win or lose on the defensive side of the ball this year, anyone care to disagree with that?