UK Football

John Clay: Cats' performance vs. Mississippi State leaves plenty to be pleased with

Mississippi State's Matthew Wells (22) was called four unsportsmanlike conduct after he pushed Patrick Towles after a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Mississippi State at Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 25, 2014. Miss. St. won 45-31. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff
Mississippi State's Matthew Wells (22) was called four unsportsmanlike conduct after he pushed Patrick Towles after a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Mississippi State at Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 25, 2014. Miss. St. won 45-31. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff Lexington Herald-Leader

Dark clouds and silver linings from Kentucky's 45-31 loss to No. 1-ranked Mississippi State on Saturday:

Dark cloud: After giving up 303 rushing yards at LSU, the Kentucky defense gave up 326 rushing yards to the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs. The last time UK gave up 300-or-more rushing yards was in 1994 when Florida rushed for 304 and Indiana 564 in back-to-back weeks. That 1994 team went 1-10.

Silver lining: This Kentucky team is 5-3.

Dark cloud: All season long, Kentucky has searched for improved play at linebacker, especially against the run.

Silver lining: Mississippi State is the No. 1 offense in the SEC and No. 9 in the nation. Plus, you know that on the recruiting trail, Mark Stoops is searching feverishly for linebacker help.

Dark cloud: Kentucky has not won a road game on an opponent's home field since a 23-16 win at Louisville on September 4, 2010. That's not counting the 14-3 win over Western Kentucky in 2011 at LP Field in Nashville. Kentucky has lost 20 straight games on an opponent's home field.

Silver lining: This Saturday's opponent, Missouri, has lost at home 31-27 to Indiana and 34-0 to Georgia.

Dark cloud: The UK defense did little to derail Dak Prescott's Heisman Trophy hopes. The Mississippi State quarterback rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 216 yards and another score on Saturday.

Silver lining: UK quarterback Patrick Towles played his best college game. Towles completed 24 of 43 passes for 390 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 76 yards and two more. Towles' passing yards were the most by a Kentucky quarterback since Andre Woodson threw for 430 yards in an overtime 2007 loss to Tennessee.

Dark cloud: Saturday was the first time since 2007 that UK gained 500 yards in a game and lost. The Cats had won seven straight in which they reached the 500-yard mark in total offense.

Silver lining: From 2008 through 2013, Kentucky gained 500-or-more yards just five times. The Cats have now done it twice this season — 656 vs. UT-Martin and 504 vs. Mississippi State.

Dark cloud: In the first half Saturday, Mississippi State gained 148 yards on 15 second-down plays for a 9.87-yard average. Prescott was six-of-seven passing for 76 yards on second down in the first half.

Silver lining: Second half, UK was much better defending second down. Mississippi State gained just 43 yards on 12 plays for a 3.6 yards per play average.

Dark cloud: Kentucky has lost two straight games in its search for the one more win needed for bowl eligibility.

Silver lining: The Cats have four more chances — at Missouri, at home against Georgia, at Tennessee and at Louisville.

Dark cloud: Mississippi State had a three-play, 81-yard drive for a touchdown and a three-play, 82-yard drive for a touchdown Saturday. The first took 65 seconds. The second took 64.

Silver lining: The Kentucky offense answered that MSU three-play, 81-yard TD drive with a four-play, 75-yard TD drive of its own.

Dark cloud: Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk threw for five touchdowns without an interception in Mizzou's 48-17 win at Kentucky last season.

Silver lining: Kentucky has intercepted a pass in six straight games this season. The Cats have 13 interceptions on the season, tied for fifth best in the country.

Dark cloud: LSU had runs of 23, 31, 35 and 38 yards against the UK defense last week. Mississippi State had runs of 22, 23, 38 and 73 yards on Saturday.

Silver lining: Mississippi State is 12th nationally in rushing offense. LSU is 24th. Missouri is 67th nationally in rushing offense.

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