If you were at the game or happened to see the crowd at Commonwealth Stadium right before kickoff, you would have to wonder if Kentucky was actually playing a football game today. The abysmal attendance continued, and perhaps today was even worse. Hopefully the SEC network didn’t zoom out too much, because the majority of seats were empty and cold. The Mississippi State Bulldogs marched into town on Family Day for Kentucky, but the start of the game was nothing to tell your family about. Morgan Newton wasn’t even on the field at the start of the game. He was taking his LSAT.
Freshman QB Jalen Whitlow came out to orchestrate the first series of the game for the ‘Cats, and after three plays they punt it away to Mississippi State. MSU drives down the field with a nice mix of pass and run plays to march down the field on the ‘Cats. Seemingly with ease, the Bulldogs continued the gutting of the UK defense and walked down the field for their first touchdown of the game.
Whitlow comes out again for the Wildcats, and another four and out. The most valuable player of the first two drives for UK was the punter Landon Foster. Foster booted two punts over 50 yards to make things a little difficult for the Bulldogs. He was doing more for the field position battle than the offense was. Mississippi State. For the first time in the game, the UK defense held the Bulldogs back on a 3rd down play. Before that play, MSU was 4-4 on 3rd downs. MSU goes for it on 4th down & 3, and gets the first down. After that 4th down run, MSU runs one more play for a 35-yard sprint to the endzone. Just like that, it’s 14-0 MSU and we’re not even close to the midway point in the first quarter.
On the 3rd drive of the game, the redshirt was officially burned off the back of QB Patrick Towles. Patrick’s first play of his collegian career was a two yard run. Next, Towles gains 14-yards on a pass play and UK’s first 1st down of the game. Before Towles, UK had gained a grand total of 4 yards of offense. After hitting a couple of passes of 9 yards a piece, Towles had his first shining moment. With a defender in his face, Towles floats a 35-yard pass to La’Rod King for the touchdown. UK now only down 7. On his first drive, Towles went 5-5, for 71 yards, and a touchdown. Not a bad start, young fella. After the defense allowed MSU to convert on another 3rd down, MSU was in position to add to their lead. However, the defense stood up MSU back-up QB Dak Prescott on a wildcat formation run. UK gets the ball back only down 7.
For some reason, the coaching staff seemingly wanted to cool off their own quarterback. After three straight run plays, the UK offense was forced to punt back to the Bulldogs. Landon Foster’s punt was not as impressive as the last couple. MSU controlled the kick at their on 45-yard line to start their drive. After allowing another set of 3rd down conversions to MSU, the UK defense stood tall against a 3rd & Goal, forcing MSU into a field goal. 17-7 MSU. Another UK drive, and another quick 4 & Out. Patrick Towles tried to run on 1st down, and just ran into a lot of trouble. The freshman QB ran around for a loss of 12 yards before being stopped, mercifully. Now near their own endzone, and a failed attempt, UK is faced with 3rd down and more than 20 to go. Towles hands it off to RB Jonathan George for 13 yards, and another punt. Landon Foster booms another 50 yard punt. Foster for MVP?
The next MSU drive saw them attack the wounded secondary of the UK defense. A pass for 26 yards, plus a 15-yard facemask penalty brought Mississippi State into field goal range before the end of the 2nd quarter. Two more passes gets the MSU offense to the UK 20-yard line to set up a field goal with :02 secs. left. MSU knocked in the field goal and walked into the locker room leading the ‘Cats 20-7. The Bulldogs racked up 278 yards of total offense against the ‘Cats in the first half, UK had 90. MSU held the ball for over 20 minutes, UK had it just over 9 minutes. Most frustrating stat of the 1st half? MSU was 7 of 11 on 3rd down plays. Except for the first drive by Towles, it was all Bulldogs in the 1st half.
Before the 2nd half even started, there was more bad news for Kentucky. QB Patrick Towles has an injured ankle and may not be able to play the 2nd half. As halftime was winding down, there was no sign of Patrick Towles. Jalen Whitlow and Morgan Newton was seeing warming up their arms as the 3rd quarter began. Towles was later reported to no longer be available for the 2nd half. The first drive of the 2nd half started exactly the same as the 1st drive of the 1st half, a very quick 4th & Out. Then, Landon Foster shanks a punt 27-yards from deep in his own endzone and gives MSU field position on the UK 45 yard line.
On MSU’s first drive of the 2nd half, the UK defense looked to just give in and let the Bulldogs have their way. QB Tyler Russell throws a 27-yard dart into the endzone for the MSU touchdown. Now the score is 27-7, and everything is going wrong for Kentucky. Minutes later, Patrick Towles returns to the sidelines on crutches with his foot in a boot. Jalen Whitlow seemed to be eaten alive at times by this MSU defense. Tipped passes and pressure in the face of the young freshman all game long. UK fails to answer the touchdown by MSU and is forced into another punt with 10:22 left in the 3rd.
After MSU gets the ball back, the Wildcat defense laid the hammer on Bulldog QB Tyler Russell and forces the MSU special teams to punt the ball away. Catching their first break of the 2nd half, the MSU punter shanks a kick that only goes 16-yards and allows the offense to start in Bulldog territory. For the first time all game, Jalen Whitlow was able to use his feet and scamper for a first down and lead the offense down to the 32 yard line. After a run by Sanders, Whitlow throws another long pass that is caught by tight end Demarco Robinson to move the chains once again. After a couple of runs from Raymond Sanders, Kentucky looked at a 1st down and goal situation. On 3rd down, Whitlow runs a quarterback keeper that runs him into the endzone for the UK touchdown. UK now down 27-14. As much as Kentucky has been outplayed at this point in the game, you have to give them a little credit. There is no quit in this team, on this day anyway.
The kicking team lines up to boot the ball back to Mississippi State, and the ball is barely kicked. The top of the ball is end over end and goes exactly 10 yards before kicker Joe Mansour puts a hand on the ball and taps it backwards towards his teammates. A huge scrum for the ball ensues, and UK recovers the onside kick. A little momentum shift in place as Kentucky now gets the ball back right after scoring. Jalen Whitlow then makes his first rookie mistake of the day. On third down, Whitlow concedes to taking a 10-yard sack and pushes the ball back farther for another UK punt. Just when the momentum was starting to form, the wind in the sails is ripped away.
MSU begins their drive just outside of UK territory near midfield. The defense steps up once again for UK, and bails out Jalen Whitlow’s bad decision. The ‘Cats stand up the MSU offense again and force them into another punt. The punt sails to the 23-yard line where freshman sensation Demarcus Sweat was dropped immediately. With the end of the 3rd quarter looming, Whitlow rolls out and finds tight end Demarco Robinson again for a nice run that moves the chains. The clock runs out and the ‘Cats will start the 4th quarter with the ball, down 27-14. At the beginning of the 4th quarter, Miss. St. lead in total yardage 330-167.
At the beginning of the 4th quarter, an offensive pass interference call kills the UK drive and leads to another Wildcat punt. MSU tries a couple of passes, one deep that falls incomplete after the UK defense stripped it out of the receiver’s hands. On 3rd down, Russell hits a receiver for another Bulldog 1st down. The very next play, Russell gets smacked again by the UK defensive line. The Bulldogs continued to drive the ball down the field, and eventually into UK territory. On another 3rd down, the UK defense fails yet again to stop the Bulldogs from moving the chains. On the next 3rd down play, the young cornerbacks smack into a Bulldog receiver and force the ball to roll out of his hands and into the clutches of a Wildcat. The ‘Cats force the turnover with less than 9 min. to go in the game, down by 13.
Jalen Whitlow proves again why he’s such a great athlete. Whitlow runs on 1st down to move the chains and get his team across midfield. The stage has not yet been too big for Whitlow as he continues to impress. Everyone seems to be waiting for Kentucky to throw something deep to a streaking Demarcus Sweat or some kind of big play so they could get a quick score. On 3rd and 11, Whitlow drops back and short hops a pass that lands in the dirt. Now going for it on 4th down, Whitlow throws another pass that sails behind La’Rod King. The ‘Cats turn the ball over on downs with time getting thin in the 4th quarter.
After a strong defensive stand, the defense allows the offense to get back onto the field and make things interesting. With time ticking away, and less than 4 minutes to go, UK needs to get something big and in a big hurry. After a couple of hurried passes and being sacked, Whitlow faced 3rd & 12 and the coaching staff dials up a run play. Sanders goes absolutely nowhere. UK tries another short pass on 4th down, which is caught but is nowhere near the 1st down marker. The ‘Cats turn the ball over on downs (again), and MSU looks to ice this game.
At this point in the game, we would like to call his “garbage time”. The Bulldogs began to run the ball, and the clock on a depleted Wildcat defensive line. With less than a minute to go before the end of the game, MSU pushes the pile down close to the endzone. Going in for the kill, the salt in the wound play is just a kneel down as Mississippi State takes the win and keeps Kentucky win-less in the SEC.
Every week that goes by in this football season, it seems that more questions need to be answered by this football team. With the ridiculous amount of injuries, the inexperience, the lack of defensive ability, how will it all be answered? As if anything else could go wrong, the one guy that was showing some promise is knocked out for the rest of the game. How will this team keep responding to all the negativity week in and week out? It must be the hardest thing in the world to work your butt off all week, and then go into a seemingly empty football stadium. To work in the weight room, the film room, the study sessions, and the practices. To have all the mental aspects of your game as ready as possible, and week in and week out you still cannot overcome what the other team is firing at you. Will the Kentucky Wildcats have enough in the tank to make it the rest of the year? Maybe a more important question is, will we have enough players left to play?
Filed Under: Football
About the Author: Writer for StraitCats.com, lifelong UK fan, college sports enthusiast. Twitter: BrianLewis_SP