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Mark Stoops and Wildcats recap loss to Mississippi State, plus postgame notes

A tough setback, but there’s still plenty of season left.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats had an ugly let-down game Saturday in Starkville, where they were defeated 31-17 by the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Kentucky, who entered the game ranked 12th in the country, struggled in nearly all phases despite having an extra week of preparation for Saturday’s contest.

Quarterback Will Levis was dreadful as he threw three interceptions, while running back. Chris Rodriguez fumbled twice, losing one and had a third fumble that was called back upon review.

Kentucky’s defense had no answers for Mike Leach’s air-raid offense, as Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers completed 36-39 passes for 344 yards and a touchdown. They also allowed a Mississippi State offense that came into Saturday night’s game ranked dead last in the nation in rushing offense to run for 94 yards and three touchdowns.

The loss pushes Mark Stoops’ record in Starkville to 0-5.

After the game, Stoops and several players broke down the loss with the media. Here’s a look at what they had to say via UK Athletics.

And here are the postgame notes and milestones via UK Athletics.

Team Records and Series Information

  • Kentucky is 6-2 overall, 4-2 in the Southeastern Conference. Mississippi State is 5-3 overall, 3-2 in the SEC.
  • Mississippi State leads the series, 25-24. The home team has won the last seven meetings.
  • Next for Kentucky: Kentucky returns home to play host to Tennessee on Saturday, Nov. 6. Game time is 7 p.m. and it will be telecast on ESPN2.

Coach Mark Stoops

  • Coach Mark Stoops is now 55-52 at Kentucky. After two games of the 2016 season, his record was 12-26 but has gone 43-26 (.623) since.
  • Stoops extended his school record for total games coached at UK (107).
  • Coach Stoops is in his ninth season as head coach of the Wildcats, tying Fran Curci (1973-81) for most seasons as head coach at UK.

Player Notes

· Junior quarterback Will Levis completed 17 of 28 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown.

· Junior running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. led the Wildcat rushing with eight carries for 34 yards.

  • He has 2,170 career rushing yards, remains in ninth place in school history.

· Junior running back Kavosiey Smoke rushed eight times for 19 yards.

  • He has 1,186 career rushing yards, 33rd place on the UK career rushing list.

· Junior wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson caught nine passes for 79 yards. He caught 12 passes in the previous game at Georgia.

  • He is the first Wildcat to catch at least nine passes in two games in the same season since La’Rod King in 2012.
  • He is the first Wildcat to catch at least nine passes in two SEC road games in the same season since Randall Cobb in 2010.
  • He is the first Wildcat to catch at least nine passes in consecutive games since Keenan Burton in 2006.
  • He is the first Wildcat to catch at least nine passes in consecutive SEC games since James Whalen in 1999.

· After having missed the last two games because of injury, senior wide receiver Josh Ali got the scoring started with a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown following MSU’s first possession.

  • It was Ali’s first punt return TD of his career and UK’s first since Lynn Bowden Jr.’s 58-yard scoring jaunt on Jan. 1, 2019 in the Citrus Bowl vs. Penn State.
  • It is UK’s longest punt return since Rafael Little’s 84-yard return vs. Louisiana-Monroe in 2006.
  • It is UK’s longest punt return in an SEC road game since Derek Abney’s 86-yard return in 2002 in Arkansas.
  • He also caught two passes for nine yards and has 1,103 receiving yards in his career.

· Sophomore wide receiver DeMarcus Harris caught two passes for 30 yards, including his first collegiate touchdown, a 17-yarder early in the fourth quarter.

· Senior linebacker Jacquez Jones had a career-high 18 tackles.

· Senior defensive end Josh Paschal had six tackles, including two for loss.

  • He has 32 tackles for loss in his career.

· Senior linebacker DeAndre Square made 12 tackles, including one for loss.

· Senior safety Yusuf Corker had 11 tackles and a pass breakup.

· Sophomore safety Vito Tisdale had his first career sack and first career pass breakup. He finished with five tackles.

· Sophomore noseguard Josaih Hayes made his first collegiate sack. He finished with four tackles.

· Senior punter Colin Goodfellow kicked three times for a 53.7-yard average.

  • For the second game in a row he had a career-long 70 yarder, becoming the first player in school history to have two punts of at least 70 yards during his career.
  • He entered the game leading the SEC with a 46.7-yard average.

· True freshman Trevin Wallace made his first collegiate start at outside linebacker and had a career-high 12 tackles.

· Game captains for today were Josh Paschal, DeAndre Square, Will Levis and Luke Fortner.