Three quick things from Kentucky's 42-16 loss at Mississippi State:
1. This was a whipping
"Not a good night," said Kentucky coach Mark Stoops upon opening in his post-game news conference. That was a bit of an understatement. Mississippi State rolled up 586 total yards on the way to a 42-16 win over Stoops' troops. MSU quarterback Dak Prescott completed 25 of 35 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran the ball 13 times for 117 yards and three scores.
Never miss a local story.
"We got beat by a better football team," said UK quarterback Patrick Towles, which pretty much summed it up. State was bigger, stronger, more experienced. There's a reason the Bulldogs opened as an 11-point favorite. The spread was up to 13 by game time.
"We wanted to play more of a complete game, and tonight I think we accomplished that," said MSU coach Dan Mullen, his team now bowl-eligible at 6-2. "I think we have been playing much better than the start of the season, and you want to get better as the season goes on."
2. No pass rush
For the second straight game, UK failed to get a pass rush and paid the price. Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot lamented the lack of a pass rush against Auburn last week, and Prescott had all night to throw in Starkville.
The loss of Melvin Lewis to a broken leg certainly hurts UK up the middle of the defense. His replacement, Matt Elam, is trying to mold his body and learn the college game. Plus, UK was without defensive end Jason Hatcher, who suffered an ankle injury in practice. Stoops thought Hatcher would be able to play. Turned out that wasn't the case.
Prescott averaged nearly 10 yards per pass attempt. A blown coverage killed UK late in the first half in a key situation. After two straight incompletions, Towles hit Garrett Johnson for a first down at the 42 with about a minute remaining. Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson decided to take a shot with a vertical throw. Mississippi State intercepted.
No biggie. Same as a punt. State took over at its own 20. But on the first play, Prescott hit Brandon Holloway in the right flat. Holloway was wide open. He made the first guy miss and scooted 63 yards to the UK 17. That set up a 20-yard touchdown run by Prescott to extend the MSU lead to 28-10 with 34 seconds remaining.
3. Bouncing back
Go back to work. That was the mantra. In post-game interviews, Towles said he didn't think the Cats would have trouble bouncing back from the 26-point loss because Tennessee is next on the schedule. Towles said the team didn't give UT its best shot in a 50-16 loss last season. The Cats want to make up for that.
There are other legitimate reasons why UK can toss this race out, to use a horse racing term. (It is Breeders' Cup time.) All of Kentucky's games before Saturday were close games. This was the Cats' first real clunker.
Plus, the environment at Davis-Wade is different than everywhere else. I tweeted kudos to Scott Stricklin for the good game atmosphere and was immediately attacked by UK fans who were upset that the SEC allows State fans to use the "artificial noisemakers." I think it's more than that. Still, love them or loathe them, the cowbells make this a tougher place to play.
Of course, history tells us that a similar thing happened last season. UK was 5-1 when it opened the second half of the year at LSU and was rocked 41-3 by the Tigers. UK didn't win another game the rest of the season.
Is history repeating? I don't think so. But time will tell.