football Edit

Starkville Blues: Bulldogs feast on UK turnovers in 31-17 win

Mississippi State running back Jo'quavious Marks (7) tried to escape the grasp of Kentucky defensive end Josh Paschal.
Mississippi State running back Jo'quavious Marks (7) tried to escape the grasp of Kentucky defensive end Josh Paschal. (Matt Bush/USA Today Sports)

Davis Wade Stadium remains a house of horrors for Kentucky.

The No. 12 Wildcats committed four turnovers on Saturday in a 31-17 loss to unranked Mississippi State in Starkville, a cowbell-clanging hellscape in which UK has never won under head coach Mark Stoops.

The Bulldogs' offense racked up 438 total yards while holding Kentucky to only 216 in thoroughly dominating both sides of the ball. MSU held the ball for 41:10 to just 18:50 for the Cats.

"It's been a while since we've played a game like that," Stoops said. "Not a very good feeling. They beat us in all phases. I thought, physically, they played extremely hard and we didn't match the intensity. I felt like we got pushed around.

"Overall, just very deflating defeat. They kicked our butts."

Mississippi State (5-3, 3-2 SEC) avenged a similarly lopsided 24-2 loss to the Cats last season in Lexington and turned the tables on some of the key statistics from the previous matchup. Kentucky intercepted six passes in that game but did not benefit from a Bulldog turnover on this night.

Sophomore quarterback Will Rogers led the Bulldogs with 344 yards passing, connecting on 36 of 39 attempts to set a new SEC single-game record for completion percentage. He threw a touchdown pass to Rara Thomas while setting up MSU running backs Dillon Johnson and Jo'Quavious Marks for three other short TD runs.

"It's a credit to the guys around me," Rogers said. "The offensive line, they were awesome tonight. It was the best game they've had this year by far."

After struggling to run the ball for most of the season, Mississippi State got 58 yards and a score from Marks, who also had nine receptions for 57 yards. Johnson added 41 yards and two scores while catching four passes for 30 yards.

Kentucky (6-2, 4-2 SEC) saw its chances for a potentially historic season put in serious jeopardy with a second straight blowout loss.

The Cats could not get anything going offensively. UK's high-powered rushing attack was held to just 66 yards on the night. The SEC's leading rusher, Chris Rodriguez, was held to just 34 yards on eight carries a week after being held to seven yards by Georgia's elite defense.

Stoops acknowledged that Rodriguez had been "dealing with something" during practice this week, "but no excuses."

Kentucky scored on a 74-yard punt return by Josh Ali to open the game and extended the lead to 10-0 on a 41-yard field goal by Matt Ruffolo early in the second quarter, but saw MSU score 31 unanswered points before a 17-yard touchdown pass from Will Levis to DeMarcus Harris early in the fourth quarter.

The last score was a lone highlight for Levis, who was held to 150 passing yards, missed a couple of open receivers with a chance to score, and threw three interceptions.


In this Rapid Recap feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the UK loss ...


Will Rogers, Mississippi State - The Bulldogs' quarterback looked like a classic "Air Raid" pilot under head coach Mike Leach, shredding the UK defense for 344 yards and a touchdown on 36 of 39 attempts. No SEC signal caller has ever matched that accuracy (92.3%) in a single game.


1st - Kentucky punt return for a touchdown since Lynn Bowden recorded one against Penn State in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2019.

7 - Straight games in the UK-MSU series in which the home team has won.

35 - Rushing attempts for the Bulldogs, which UK head coach Mark Stoops surmised may have been a new personal record for pass-happy MSU head coach Mike Leach.

74-48 - Plays run from scrimmage in advantage of the Bulldogs.

2013 - Kentucky's last victory in Starkville.


"We have to address it. We just did (in the locker room) It's not a good feeling. I don't want to have a football team like this, and I don't think these guys want to play that way. That's not who we're going to be, that's not our identity. We'll get back to work and get it fixed and make sure that we get the right guys out on the field that want to continue to play like we play." - UK head coach Mark Stoops


Kentucky returns home for a matchup with Tennessee next Saturday. The Volunteers (4-4, 2-3 SEC) had an open date on the schedule this week coming off a 52-24 loss to Alabama on Oct. 23. The Cats and Vols will be a 7 p.m. ET kickoff on espn2.