Mississippi State football falls to Kentucky

It didn’t matter who was playing quarterback for Mississippi State football as the Kentucky Wildcats defense dominated its way to a 24-2 victory over the Bulldogs.

Don’t look at the stat sheet because it tells a totally different story than the final score. Mississippi State outgained Kentucky 295-156 in total yards, had nine more first downs than the Wildcats and ran almost 30 more plays. Turnovers made the difference as Mississippi State turned the ball over six times to Kentucky’s lone turnover.

Mike Leach’s air raid offense looked like the definition of insanity. Mississippi State continually did the same thing over and over again, and for the Wildcats, they were perfectly fine with that. The Mississippi State offense threw for 277 yards, failed to score any points and turned the ball over six times. The only points scored by Mississippi State were on a safety due to a bad snap on a Kentucky punt.

This game marks the first time in Leach’s coaching career his offense failed to score a single point. Leach was previously held to just three points in three games throughout his career.

Quarterback controversy?

Interceptions were the name of the game for Mississippi State’s quarterbacks. K.J. Costello could get nothing going on offense and after throwing his third interception in the third quarter, Leach pulled Costello in favor of freshmen Will Rogers. Rogers looked about the same as Costello throwing for 43 yards and two interceptions.

Leach inserted Costello back into the game around the midpoint of the fourth quarter, but the SEC’s single-game passing record holder could not spark the offense and threw his third pick-six of the season to seal the win for Kentucky. Costello finished with 232 yards and four interceptions.

If Costello’s interceptions were good plays by the defense, that would be something but Costello’s interceptions all season have been right to the defenders. Judging from the back and forth insertion of Costello and Rogers, we could see a quarterback competition between the grad transfer and the true freshman the rest of the season, or until one starts to settle in as the starter.

Whoever starts at quarterback next week is going to have to do better than six yards per completion. Mississippi State must look to push the ball down the field. It looked like both quarterbacks were throwing the ball three yards down the field on virtually every play.

Offense struggles again

The Mississippi State offensive line went through some changes pregame and during the game, and it struggled mightily. Left tackle Greg Eiland was back in action, and James Jackson started at center for the first time this season, replacing Cole Smith. The offensive line as a whole struggled as Kentucky created pressure on three-man rushes consistently throughout the game. A number of Mississippi State’s interceptions were thrown due to the Kentucky pass rush.

It was a known fact the SEC’s previous leading rusher wouldn’t lead the conference once again, but most expected a little more production out of Kylin Hill. Even in mostly three-man looks up front on defense, Hill found no success on the ground rushing the ball seven times for 17 yards with a 2.4 yards per rush. Hill had more success as a receiver leading the team in both receptions and yards with 15 receptions for 79 yards. So far this season, Hill has only rushed the ball 15 times for 58 yards.

Kentucky did just enough

Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson didn’t make too many flashy plays but looked like a poised game manager against Mississippi State. Wilson’s running ability was the fear coming into the game, and he proved everybody right on a huge 51-yard run on a third down in the second quarter. Wilson wasn’t required to throw the ball too much but made the key throws to win the game throwing for 73 yards and one touchdown.

The Kentucky defense shined all game and added a little spice to Arkansas’ game plan from a week ago. Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White called mostly a rush three, drop eight look on defense but added quite a bit of delayed four-man blitzes that worked wonders against the confused Mississippi State offensive line.

“We didn’t run eight-man drop every time. I know everybody is going to talk about that,” said Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops after the game. “White knows what he’s doing. This team is going to get better and better with every opportunity.”

Clearly whatever Kentucky did worked as it resulted in six interceptions, a quarterback change mid-game and the Wildcats won while gaining over 100 yards less than the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State’s defense deserves credit

All the talk about Mississippi State revolves around Leach and the air raid offense, but the Bulldogs defense doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

Kentucky came in with the nation’s No. 5 rushing offense, gaining 276.5 yards per game, and Mississippi State held it to just 80 rushing yards. The conference leaders in sacks also added two more against Wilson. Defensive end Marquiss Spencer was a standout for the Bulldogs participating in both sacks.

The Mississippi State defense was stellar against great field position by Kentucky all game. Kentucky punter Max Duffy was practically Kentucky’s MVP by pinning the Bulldogs back on virtually every punt. He had two punts downed inside the 5-yard line, but the Mississippi State defense countered him by not allowing the Wildcats to take advantage of their great field position.

The Bulldogs did everything they could to keep the game close on the defensive side, but they could not overcome the six turnovers committed and the overall lack of efficiency by the offense.

What’s next?

Mississippi State football travels back home to Starkville and will attempt to stop the red hot Texas A&M Aggies on Oct. 17. The Aggies are coming off of a huge upset win over the Florida Gators 41-38. The game will be televised on SEC Network at 4 p.m. ET.

Photo courtesy of MSU Athletic Communications