Five things you need to know about Kentucky’s No.12 31-17 loss to the Mississippi State Bulldogs:
1. Mike Leach takes revenge.
A year ago, when the former Kentucky offensive coordinator returned to Lexington as head coach, the British defense completely wiped out the Air Raid offense. In a 24-2 UK win, the Wildcats had six assists and maintained a Leach-led attack down to the fewest points they had ever scored.
Saturday night in Starkville, Mississippi, Leach was largely reimbursed.
After a scoreless first quarter, Leach’s dink-and-dunk offense picked up pace and dominated Kentucky.
A season after watching his QBs pitch six picks, Leach saw his current starter, Will Rogers, play “Air Raid quarterback” about as well as he can be played.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound second from Brandon, Mississippi, completed an incredible 36 of 39 passes for 344 yards and a touchdown.
This year, the state of Mississippi did not launch any interceptions.
Seeing that the UK was deploying a smaller and faster defensive front, Leach even put his running game to good use. Mississippi State ran the ball 35 times for 94 yards.
The Bulldogs controlled the ball more than twice as long – 41:10 to 6:50 p.m. – than Kentucky had the ball.
2. Mississippi State “D” closed Kentucky again.
It didn’t get much attention last year due to the outcome of the game, but Mississippi State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett led a unit that kept the Wildcats at 157 attacking yards. total in 2020.
On Saturday evening, things were not much better for the United Kingdom. Arnett’s defense held Kentucky to 216 total yards and forced four turnovers.
Despite all the praise the Mississippi state offense gets with Leach as head coach, it’s Arnett’s unorthodox 3-3-5 defense that Kentucky had better understand going forward.
3. A difficult night for Will Levis.
The Kentucky quarterback had played pretty well in the UK’s 42-21 win over LSU and the Wildcats’ 30-13 loss to No.1 Georgia two weeks ago.
However, on Saturday night, the Penn State transfer returned to some of its early season issues.
Due to stray shots, Levis missed some potential big plays early in the game.
On the first Kentucky ride, Levis had Wan’Dale Robinson behind the Mississippi State high school for what likely would have been a TD. However, the British QB reversed the road and he left for an interception.
In Kentucky’s last first-half practice, Levis knocked down a wide-open Josh Ali for what would have been a safe touchdown just before half-time.
Two games later, Levis threw a double cover attempting to hit Izayah Cummings on Mississippi State 14’s first and goal. The ball was knocked down and recovered with nine seconds left in the first half.
Levis’ third pick, intercepted by Mississippi State nose guard Cameron Young, on a deflected pass in the third quarter, allowed Mississippi State’s final touchdown.
Add in another lost fumble from Christopher Rodriguez, and Kentucky’s four turnovers have given themselves out of any chance of winning.
4. Starkville hex lives.
Kentucky has yet to win at Davis Wade Stadium since Randall Cobb led the Wildcats to a 14-13 victory in 2008.
Under Mark Stoops, Kentucky hasn’t even come close to winning at Starkville since 2013. After the Wildcats lost by six, 28-22, in 2013, the Cats have since fallen by scores of 42-16, 45-7 , 28-13 and 31-17.
Against the SEC teams that the UK plays every season – that is, enemies in the East Division and enduring inter-division rival Mississippi State – the Wildcats have spent the most time without registering a victory over the road to Mississippi State.
Kentucky’s latest away wins against their other annual SEC opponents: Florida (2018), Georgia (2009), Missouri (2018), South Carolina (2021), Tennessee (2020) and Vanderbilt (2019).
5. Mark Stoops ties up Bill Curry for an unwanted note.
With the loss, Mark Stoops is now 55-52 (since 2013) as UK head coach. He tied Bill Curry (26-52 from 1990 to 1996) for the most coaching losses in Kentucky football history.
Stoops is now 5-15 against opponents SEC West.
The Kentucky boss is now 5-7 in the opening games immediately after open dates.
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