Win the takeaway battle
Mississippi State feasts on forcing turnovers. Entering the game, Missippi State lead in the nation in turnover margin at +15 and were 20-1 in their last 21 games when they won the turnover battle and just 4-8 in their last 12 when they lost it. Add in that UK knew they would be playing two true freshman and this gets even more important.
Despite everything being stack against them, UK won the takeaway battle, 2-0. Neither of the freshmen turned it over and the ‘Cats recovered two fumbles from the Dawgs. The second of which came at a crucial point when MSU was driving and looking to put Kentucky three scores behind. The ‘Cats also had a huge onside kick recovery.
But, winning the turnover battle is just half the story. You have to take advantage and covert turnovers into points. Kentucky was unable to turn the onside kick or the big late fumble into scores.
Contain the ground game
LaDarius Perkins is good and carried the ball 25 times for 110 yards and a touchdown. Overall, MSU did average just 4.1 per carry, but they couldn’t get stops when they needed them.
Maintain the intensity on defense
This game was kind of the complete opposite from the last two games. UK’s defense came out and struggled early, but then settled in and played much better the rest of the way. With 13 minutes gone in the first half, Mississippi State led Kentucky in yardage at 172 to 4, in time of possession at 11 to 2 and points at 14-0. The bad start was just too much for them to overcome.
I loved the play of Avery Williamson. Kid was everywhere.
Avoid the slow start and maintain it
See above. The 14-0 hole they dug was just too much to overcome. Yeah, Kentucky remained within distance, but you never felt like they had a chance to win the game.
Get production from the freshman quarterbacks
Jalen Whitlow showed signs, but for the most part struggled on Saturday. He completed just 10-of-21 passes for 73 yards and rushed for 26 yards and a touchdown. Look at yards per pass attempts and he averaged just 3.1. That is nearly as bad as Morgan Newton af Florida. But, you have to credit Whitlow for not competing turnovers against a Mississippi State defense that is one of the best in the country at doing so.
Patrick Towles came out and strait impressed, going 5-for-6 for 71 yards and a touchdown. The first time he touched the football, he marched the ‘Cats strait down the field and hit La’Rod King for a 32-yard touchdown. This got Kentucky within 14-7 in the second quarter. The positive is that Towles really looked like he belonged. He was composed and made throws even with pressure in his face. The most impressive part of his touchdown throw was that he knew he was going to get hit. But, he just stood in there, made the throw, and took the hit. Despite how impressive he was, you still have to put into account that the Bulldogs were stacking eight in the box and daring Kentucky to throw it. That opens up the pass game a bit, but Towles still deserves a ton of credit.
Sucks that he got hurt. It’s just UK football’s luck. He is day-to-day, but expect to see Whitlow go the entire way next week at Arkansas.
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