Mark Story

First scouting report: Can Kentucky bounce back at Mississippi State?

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Game day: Kentucky vs. Florida

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An early look ahead to the Kentucky Wildcats’ next football game:

The opponent

Kentucky (2-1, 0-1 SEC after a crushing 29-21 loss to No. 9 Florida) will travel to Starkville, Miss., to face Mississippi State (2-1, 0-0 SEC) Saturday, Sept. 21, at 4 p.m. (EDT) at Davis Wade Stadium.

The game will either be telecast on the SEC Network or the SEC Network alternate channel.

Coach Joe Moorhead’s Bulldogs lost to Kansas State 31-24 Saturday at home.

Most recent meeting

Kentucky star running back Benny Snell ran for 165 yards and four touchdowns and a Josh Allen-led UK defense limited Mississippi State to 56 net yards rushing as the Wildcats throttled the No. 14 Bulldogs 28-7 before a Kroger Field crowd of 60,037 on Sept. 22, 2018.

Series history

The series is tied 23-23. Kentucky has won two of the past three, but the Wildcats have not won in Starkville since Randall Cobb quarterbacked UK to a 14-13 victory at Davis Wade Stadium on Nov. 1, 2008.

Now a wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys, Cobb went 1-3 as UK’s starting QB late in the 2008 season.

Randall Cobb vs MSU.JPG
In his first career start as Kentucky quarterback, Randall Cobb scored UK’s first touchdown with this stretch over the goal in the Wildcats’ 14-13 victory at Mississippi State in 2008. David Perry Herald-Leader file photo

Know your foe

1. In the Mark Stoops coaching era, Davis Wade Stadium has been a haunted house for Kentucky. Under Stoops UK is 0-3 in Starkville and has been outscored a combined 115-45. The worst of those three defeats came on Kentucky’s most recent visit, a 45-7 pasting in 2017.

2. Mississippi State Coach Joe Moorhead, the former Penn State offensive coordinator, chose PSU graduate transfer Tommy Stevens over Keytaon Thompson as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback. Stevens, however, has been battling a shoulder injury suffered in State’s game two win over Southern Mississippi and has been replaced by true freshman Garrett Shrader in each of the past two games.

Tommy Stevens
Mississippi State quarterback Tommy Stevens was off to a hot start in 2019 before suffering a shoulder injury in MSU’s 38-15 victory over Southern Mississippi in week two. Rogelio V. Solis AP

On Saturday against Kansas State, Stevens (7-of-15 passing for 100 yards with one touchdown pass and two interceptions) got the start at QB but was pulled early in the third quarter. In relief, Shrader (4-of-12 passing for 51 yards) was not especially effective through the air, either.

3. Mississippi State is in transition defensively after having four starters, three defensive linemen, selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. As a result, going into the Kansas State game, MSU was giving up well over 100 yards more a game in 2019 (387 yards) than it did last season (269). In falling to Kansas State, Mississippi State played well, holding the Wildcats to 263 total yards.

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.
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