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MISSISSIPPI STATE ROLLS; UK'S LOSS STREAK HITS SEVEN

Date story was published: Sunday, October 30, 1994

Both had big, physical offensive lines knocking blue-clad defenders into the dirt. Both had backs ripping through gaping holes on the way to the record book. Both even had similar uniforms, white jerseys with red headgear and pants, though last night's hue was more maroon than crimson.

Still, were it not for the MSU on the helmets, the estimated 49,500 at Commonwealth Stadium last night might have easily thought they were seeing Indiana perform an encore of its 30-point drubbing of the Cats earlier this ill-begotten season.

Instead it was Mississippi State putting a physical 40-point whipping on Kentucky, jerking the Cats from their improvement of the last two weeks back to the blowouts of September with a 47-7 romp.

Jackie Sherrill's Bulldogs (6-2) rolled up 309 yards on the ground and 501 total yards in handing Kentucky (1-7) its seventh straight loss. It was the worst Homecoming defeat in UK history, topping a 56-18 loss to Houston in 1966.

"Anybody in this room could make the opening remarks," UK Coach Bill Curry told the media afterward. "We were overpowered and manhandled and knocked off the ball on both sides of the ball. We were physically whipped all night long."

Kevin Bowie, State's second-string tailback, rushed for a school-record 217 yards. It was the best performance by a back against the Cats since, well, Alex Smith's 221-yard explosion against the Cats earlier this year.

Smith, of course, plays for Indiana. And it was the Hoosiers who first used a physical offensive line and punishing running backs to run right at the UK defense back on Sept. 17. The Cats proved far too soft for the challenge, allowing a school-record 564 yards on the ground in losing 59-29.

It was nearly the same last night. State came in with a thick offensive wall averaging 323 pounds per man, to go with a stable of hard-driving backs.

"Yeah, it was somewhat similar to the Indiana game," Curry said. "We had played so much harder since then, but how can you say it wasn't similar?"

The difference was that, instead of coming off a 73-7 loss to Florida, this time UK was fresh from two weeks of supposed improvement born out by close losses to LSU (17-13) and Georgia (34-30).

Perhaps buoyed by that, Curry rolled the dice on his team's first possession, going for it on fourth-and-one at its 41 just two minutes into the game. Or did the coach know his undersized defense was overmatched by State's beef?

"We knew they were going to score points," said Curry later. "We needed touchdowns."

Trouble was, the Cats came up busted. Fullback Michael Woodfork being stuffed for no gain. And it took State just six plays to turn the lost gamble into six points. Tailback Kevin Bowie ripped off a 14-yard run on the first play of the drive. His 12-yard run took it to the 1, and the senior scored from there, making it 7-0.

"That was an emotional letdown," said UK quarterback Jeff Speedy, whose offense produced just 241 yards. "You've got to convert when you're in those situations."

It got no better from there. Brian Sivinski's 41-yard field goal attempt on the next drive was blocked. Early in the second quarter, Curry gambled again, trying a fake field goal from the MSU 8-yard line. But holder Dan Ariza was tackled for an 11-yard loss.

"The fake field goal was there," Curry said. "But the rush man was bumped and turned his back and we ran right into him. It was just one of those things. It had no bearing on the outcome of the game."

Not hardly. A 13-yard Michael Davis run made it 14-0. A 10-yard run by fullback Nakita Greer made it 21-0. A 34-yard pass from quarterback Derrick Taite to wideout Eric Moulds made it 28-0 at the half.

State opened the second half with a four-play, 59-yard drive to score again. Taite hit Keefer McGee for a 31-yard catch-and-score to put the Bulldogs in front 34-0.

It was 47-0 Mississippi State before UK finally got on the scoreboard, reserve quarterback Matt Hobbie scrambling into the end zone from 22 yards out with 3:02 remaining.

Still, Sherrill's club picked up its sixth win, qualifying for a possible bowl berth. At 6-2 and 3-2 in the SEC, the Bulldogs have Arkansas, Alabama and Ole Miss left on the schedule.

"The seniors are about to do something no other group has done -- have a winning season in three out of their four years," said Sherrill, in his fourth year in Starkville. "That's a plus for our program."

UK, meanwhile, suffered another huge minus. Only the 66-point loss to Florida in Game Two topped last night's 40-point margin.

Consider this: so dominant was Indiana on Sept. 17, the Hoosiers threw just 12 passes. Last night, Mississippi State threw 10.

"It's very disappointing," Curry said. "What I had thought about our team was that by this time we could match up with a bigger, stronger team and hold our own."

He thought wrong.

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