Make no mistake about it: Boom Williams will finish his career as one of the greatest running backs to ever grace the Commonwealth. He gained 78 yards on his first eight carries in this one thanks to several big runs to open the game:
Williams also reached a nice milestone in this game as only Moe Williams has rushed for 1,000 yards faster than Boom:
Boom Williams is the 2nd fastest player at UK in the last 30 seasons to reach 1,000 career rushing yards (16 games)— Corey Price (@coreyp08) October 25, 2015
However Boom once again became nothing more than a sparkle in the second half as he disappeared yet again. After gaining 78 yards on his first eight carries, his next 10 carries netted him just 17 yards. Boom has been ineffective in the second half of several games this season as it appears he's getting worn down after just 10-15 touches. Your star player can't wear down like that, and it's a big reason why UK scored only points after the first quarter in this game.
Chris Westry is a Gamer
The defense has struggled mightily over their last three games dating back to the EKU game, and it reached its worst point tonight as Dak Prescott gouged the Cats on the ground and through the air. However, Chris Westry still managed to shine as the true freshman cornerback made several key tackles and deflections to help end Bulldogs drives. One such play came in the form of a pass deflection in the first quarter to help UK force an MSU three-and-out before the Cats took the lead on the ensuing drive.
Oh, Westry recorded the only interception Dak Prescott has thrown this season in over 250 passing attempts.
That also came at a pivotal point in the game when UK was only trailing 14-10 late in the second quarter and appeared to be on the verge of taking a lead thanks to his pick. A loss is a loss, but UK has a star in the making in Westry, and he's been one of the biggest bright spots on this team even during their worst points this season.
Stoops Icing Own Kicker Was Turning Point
Kentucky appeared poised to take control of the game at least temporarily toward the end of the first half after Westry's pick, but the Cats couldn't gain a yard once they got down to the MSU 31. Austin MacGinnis then came on and hit a 49-yard field goal to cut the Bulldogs' lead to just 14-13...except Mark Stoops called a timeout right as Mac kicked it before missing the ensuing attempt.
It wasn't clear why Stoops did that other than to chew out the refs a little for what he thought was a missed penalty on MSU the previous play, but it's still wasn't worth calling a timeout and inadvertently icing his kicker.
Stoops is filling up the swear jar tonight. https://t.co/gIhZCLCVJ3 @RoushKSR @MrsTylerKSR— Dave Scott (@Finna_Go_HAM) October 25, 2015
The time was also running down on the clock, and Stoops may have called it thinking they wouldn't get the kick off in time. Still, that's poor execution, and in either case, it's a big mistake by UK that proved costly. After the missed field goal, MSU went right down the field in five plays and scored a touchdown after Prescott hit Brandon Holloway for an eight-yard score.
Towles would throw an interception the ensuing drive, and the Bulldogs went right back down the field again, taking just three plays before Prescott scored on a 20-yard run to put MSU up 28-10.
That's right. Had UK gotten the field goal, it's not crazy to think the score could have been just 14-13 or 17-13 at halftime, but instead, it was 28-13. UK has done a good job at overcoming adversity this season, but they melted down in this instance and it effectively cost them the game.
D.J Eliot's Defense Collapsing Again
As mentioned above, UK's defense is once again collapsing in the second half of a season after a strong first-half start. The same happened last year when UK allowed no more than two touchdowns in regulation in four of their first five games. They went on to give up 40-plus points in six of their final seven games, a stretch which they went 0-7 in and missed out on a bowl game.
After starting out strong this season once SEC play began, defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot's defense has now allowed 33 points per contest over their last three games. Against Mississippi State, Eliot looked vastly overmatched against Prescott and Dan Mullen as they moved obliterated UK's defense. UK couldn't even get lined up right and made several critical errors that led to big plays by the Bulldogs.
Kentucky with the rarely used "3 man box" against a Dak Prescott QB draw https://t.co/qeixSGFKlg— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) October 25, 2015
I'm done making excuses: Eliot doesn't look like he's ready to be a defensive coordinator in the SEC. As Jesse Palmer said at one point during this game, "It's like Mississippi State's offense is playing against air." Eliot's unit is going to have to show more going into another critical late-season stretch of games that will determine if UK becomes bowl eligible.
If his unit keeps playing like "air" as they did down the stretch last season and did in this game, Eliot is going to find himself on he hot seat.