The entire first half was about as bad as it could get for Kentucky, as Sawyer Smith threw a pick-6 right out of the gate.
Kentucky would stall on a promising drive late in the first quarter, and Chance Poore made a 40-yard FG to make it 7-3.
The Cats’ offense had their chances to get into the end zone, but they were not able to make the plays when we had the chance.
Mississippi State would get a TD on back to back drives and extend their lead to 21-3.
After yet another Kentucky offensive drive resulted in a punt, the defense finally stepped up and made a big play as Quandre Mosely came up with a big INT.
Unfortunately, the Cats would have another chance for a TD, but another drop by Lynn Bowden would force the Cats into a long FG try that was wide left.
That would be the end of a brutal half and the Cats found themselves down 21-3.
The second half was going to tell a lot about this team and how they respond after a half like that.
Well, on the first defensive possession, the Cats forced the Bulldogs to fumble it and came up with the recovery.
The Cats would drive 80-yards in 11 plays finished with a 2-yard TD run by Kavosiey Smoke to make it a 21-10 game.
After forcing the Bulldogs to punt, the Cats drove down the field again but stalled at the 8-yard-line and unfortunately Poore missed his 2nd FG of the game.
Once again, the defense made the stop and Kentucky drove down the field but stalled at the 11-yard-line. This time however, Matt Ruffolo was on to attempt the FG and drilled it cutting the lead to 21-13.
The Cats needed one more defensive stop to have a chance to force OT. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs answered the call and drove down the field for the TD and would go on to win it 28-13.
Thoughts on the game
Receivers didn’t make plays
When you look at the final stats, you will see that Smith was 15/41 passing, but it wasn’t all his fault.
The receivers didn’t help him out any, as the Cats dropped 3 TD passes and had other dropped passes throughout the day.
At times, the accuracy for Smith was off, but on all 3 TD opportunities, you couldn’t ask for a better throw, and the receivers didn’t come down with it.
Time for a permanent kicking change
Coming out of high school, Chance Poore was one of the nation’s top-rated kickers. However, that hasn’t been the case in his first college season as the starter.
We all know about the kick that he missed a week ago. But this week when he had his chances again to put points on the board, he couldn’t convert.
He missed 2 FG attempts in this one and that stuff can’t happen as he was 1/3 for the day.
So, on the last FG try , Mark Stoops went with Matt Ruffolo, who drilled a 29-yarder. He took the kick with confidence and put it right through, and in my opinion, deserves the start next week.
The second half was better overall
It would be hard to have a second half that was worse than the first, but thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
The Cats came out of the break and showed some fight and had their chances to climb all the way back.
The ball just didn’t bounce their way when the had the chances but the fight that the team showed was great to see, and they will have to make a statement next week. If they just play four four quarters in Columbia like they did in the second half today and avoid those critical mistakes, they should come away with a win.
One big bright spot
Not everything was doom and gloom from this one, as we finally saw AJ Rose step up and get into a groove.
All season, Rose has been underwhelming to say the least, but we finally got a glimpse of what we expected to see since week 1.
Rose carried the ball 9 times for 105 yards. I would argue that he should’ve been given the ball more as he averaged 11.7-yards-per-carry.
Hopefully, Rose will build off this performance and this will be the breakout game he needed to get himself going because we need him to be a consistent contributor in the backfield.
With the loss, next week is now a MUST win for the Cats as they make another road trip to face the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Now, here are the postgame notes and milestones via UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Information
- Kentucky is 2-2, 0-2 in the Southeastern Conference. Mississippi State is 3-1, 1-0 in the league.
- Mississippi State leads the series, 24-23.
- Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats have their only back-to-back road games of the season as UK visits South Carolina on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. It will be televised on the SEC Network.
- UK’s game capts: OG Logan Stenberg, DL Calvin Taylor, LB Josh Paschal and athlete Lynn Bowden Jr.
- Junior athlete Lynn Bowden Jr. caught seven passes for 129 yards, his first 100-yard game of the season and second of his career.
- Now has 1,285 career receiving yards, moving past seven players for 18th place on the UK career receiving yardage list.
- Now has 111 career receptions, moving into 15th place on the UK career list.
- He is the first UK player with at least six receptions in each of the first four games since James Whalen in 1999.
- Has caught a pass in 18 consecutive games.
- Also rushed three times for 37 yards and had 210 all-purpose yards on the day.
- Junior WR Josh Ali caught five passes for 61 yards, both career highs.
- Redshirt freshman RB Kavosiey Smoke rushed for 25 yards, including a two-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
- Junior RB Asim “AJ” Rose rushed nine times for 105 yards, averaging 11.7 yards per carry.
- It is his first 100-yard game of the season and third of his career.
- Junior CB Brandin Echols got a sack/caused fumble in the third quarter, his first for both plays at Kentucky. He had a career-high 10 tackles.
- Redshirt freshman CB Jamari Brown recovered the fumble, his first as a Wildcat.
- Sophomore S Yusuf Corker had the first two pass breakups of his career and tied his career high for tackles with seven.
- Sophomore LB DeAndre Square had nine tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
- Junior DE Kordell Looney and junior S Quandre Mosely made their first collegiate starts.
- Mosely made his first UK interception in the second quarter, with a 39-yard return.