Cats’ Starkville Blues Continue
Every year it seems the Kentucky football team has that one game where they simply don’t play well. More often than not in recent years, that place has been Starkville, Mississippi. On Saturday night it happened again among the sea of cowbells. It wasn’t pretty but let’s take a look as Kentucky falls to Mississippi State 31-17.
The Turnover Bug Returned
During the early part of the season, the Cats were winning but their turnover margin was one of the worst in the nation. However, in the last couple of games, they’ve done much better. That was until Saturday night. If you read our game preview we said in order to win they had to limit turnovers. Unfortunately, for the Big Blue Nation that wasn’t the case. When it was all said and done the Cats had four miscues to none by the Bulldogs. You’re not winning many games, especially on the road. As a result, it’s a major reason why Kentucky falls to Mississippi State 31-17.
Bad Night For The Offense
The contest actually started pretty well for Mark Stoops‘ Cats. After playing really good defense on their first drive the Bulldogs punted. Josh Ali, who was back after missing a couple of games with an injury, took the punt 73 yards to the house.
— CFB Pylon (@TheCFBPylon) October 30, 2021
A Matt Ruffolo 41 yard field goal gave UK a 10-0 lead and things were looking good. Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there. Mike Leach’s club rolled off 31 unanswered points to go up by 21 late in the third quarter. Again the big issue for the Cats was turnovers.
After having five touchdowns and no interceptions over the last two games Will Levis struggled against MSU. For the game, he completed 17 of 28 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown. However, he had three interceptions, a couple on under-thrown balls. Kentucky’s fourth turnover was a fumble by Chris Rodriguez who’s had problems all year holding onto the ball. For a second straight game, the Big Blue Wall struggled as UK only had 66 yards rushing. Mississippi State’s stout run defense proved to be no joke. Furthermore, the Bulldogs got the ball two straight times inside the UK 20 yard line making it easy to score.
The Defense Wasn’t Great Either
Coming into the game you knew what Mississippi State was going to do, dink and dunk the ball down the field and control the clock. Even with two weeks to prepare that’s exactly what they did as they ran up 438 yards and total offense and held the ball for 41 minutes. Quarterback Will Rogers had a record-setting day completing 36 of 39 passes for 348 yards.
Will Rogers completed 36 of his 39 passes tonight, an SEC single-game completion percentage record.
Asked about it on field by SEC Network, Rogers says: “It’s just a credit to the guys around me. the offensive line, they were great. Best game they had all year by far.”
— Andy Kostka (@afkostka) October 31, 2021
In addition, Rogers broke Dak Prescott‘s Mississippi State single-season record of 316 pass completions, and he still has four games left. Pretty much the entire game the Cats got no pressure on the quarterback, played too far off the ball, and couldn’t make tackles. Add to it the fact they were on the field seemingly the entire game and that’s a sure-fire recipe for a loss. Especially when you had two weeks to prepare.
Mississippi State lives in the dink and dunk. This isn't new. The film has shown that all season long.
Yet the Kentucky defense gives up 8-plus-yard cushions on every down. This is embarrassing.
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) October 31, 2021
With the loss, Kentucky drops to 6-2 on the season but still remains in control of a major bowl bid. Although, they have to win out. Currently, Last Word has the Wildcats playing in the Peach Bowl. The UK headman misses out on a chance to check off another box for finally winning in Starkville. Instead, he goes to 0-5 and the Cats haven’t won down there since 2008.
As for the Bulldogs they improve to 5-3 in 2021. While we currently have them playing East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl, we might bump them up a game or two this week. Next Saturday they hit the road for a game against slumping Arkansas. For Leach, Saturday’s game was sweet revenge. If you remember a year ago Kentucky held the Bulldogs without an offensive point for the first time in his coaching history. There were no such issues this time around.
Again Kentucky falls to Mississippi State 31-17 as Starkville remains a “House Of Horrors” for Stoops and the Wildcats. Up next the Cats host Tennessee at 7:00 pm at Kroger Field. We’ll preview that game for you and have our updated bowl projections here at Last Word On College Football.