Turnovers doom Kentucky in second straight loss
Mississippi State scored 14 points off of four Kentucky turnovers to beat the No. 12 Wildcats 31-17 on Saturday night. The Bulldogs came up big with three interceptions of Will Levis and a fumble recovery. They turned a third-quarter fumble and pickoff into consecutive touchdowns to put the game out of reach. Will Rogers set an SEC record by completing 92% of his passes — 36 of 39 — for 344 yards and a touchdown.
From UK Athletics:
Kentucky (6-2, 4-2 SEC) had just 66 yards rushing on Saturday, well below the Cats' season average. Chris Rodriguez Jr. led UK with eight carries for 34 yards.
Wan'Dale Robinson caught nine passes for 79 yards to lead the Cats in that department. No other Wildcat had more than two catches.
The UK defense spent a lot of time on the field in the game and the tackling numbers reflected that. UK had four players with double-figure tackles on Saturday. Linebacker Jacquez Jones led the way with 18 tackles, while DeAndre Square and Trevin Wallace each had 12. Yusuf Corker had 11 stops for the Cats in the game.
Kentucky took the opening kickoff and made a pair of first downs before Levis was intercepted by MSU's Shawn Preston at the MSU six yard line.
Mississippi State (5-3, 3-2) would make a pair of first downs on its first drive before the UK defense forced a punt. Josh Ali fielded the punt at the UK 26 and took it to the left, turned the corner and went 74 yards for the special teams touchdown. Matt Ruffolo added the point after and Kentucky grabbed a 7-0 lead with 7:14 left in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs took the ensuing drive and marched into UK territory. But the drive stalled when Vito Tisdale made consecutive big plays. First, he sacked MSU quarterback Will Rogers. Then, Tisdale broke up a Rogers pass intended for Makai Polk on third down, forcing a 47-yard field goal from Brandon Ruiz that missed wide right.
On the next possession, Kentucky would take the ball into MSU territory as the first quarter ended. That drive would consume 13 plays and 48 yards before ending with a 41-yard field goal from Ruffolo, giving the Cats a 10-0 advantage with 12:14 remaining in the first half.
Mississippi State would answer on its next drive. The Bulldogs went 75 yards in eight plays, capped by a seven-yard touchdown run from Jo'Quavious Marks. Ruiz added the PAT and Kentucky's lead was cut to 10-7 with 7:45 left in the half.
Kentucky would punt on its next possession and MSU would take advantage. The Bulldogs put together a nine-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a nine-yard touchdown rush by Dillon Johnson. Ruiz added the PAT and Mississippi State led 14-10 with 1:40 left in the half.
The teams would exchange punts before Kentucky mounted one final drive in the first half. The Cats got into the MSU red zone but Levis was picked off by MSU's Jalen Green at the goal line with nine seconds left in the half. The teams would go to the half with MSU leading 14-10.
Mississippi State got the ball to open the second half and the Bulldogs would use a mix of running and passing to march down the field. The Bulldogs would get into the UK red zone. However, consecutive penalties pushed the Bulldogs back and MSU was eventually forced to try a field goal. Ruiz would convert from 27 yards out and Mississippi State took a 17-10 lead with 6:34 remaining in the third quarter.
The tide would turn on Kentucky's next possession. Kentucky took over on its own 25 yard line. Rodriguez ran for one yard on the first play of the drive. Then, on the next play, Rodriguez fumbled and MSU recovered at the UK 24.
The Bulldogs needed just three plays to make the Cats pay. Johnson scored his second rushing touchdown of the night on a one-yard plunge. Ruiz made the point after and MSU led 24-10 with 4:44 remaining in the third quarter.
On the first play of the next drive, Levis was picked off for a third time and MSU took over at the UK 24. It took the Bulldogs just three plays to hit pay dirt again, as Rogers connected with Rara Thomas on a 25-yard touchdown pass. Ruiz added the extra point and MSU led 31-10 late in the third quarter. That would be the score after three periods.
Early in the fourth quarter, Kentucky cut into the MSU lead. The Cats went 75 yards in 10 plays, with Levis connecting with Demarcus Harris on a 17-yard touchdown pass. Ruffolo added the PAT and it was 31-17 MSU with 13:37 to play.
Kentucky returns to action on Saturday, hosting Tennessee at Kroger Field. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.