Sidelines with John Clay

Podcast: Mississippi State scouting report for Kentucky game

Is Kentucky using last year’s blowout loss to Mississippi State as motivation?

Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen talks about whether his team is using last year’s 45-7 loss at Mississippi State as motivation for Saturday’s game against the Bulldogs. The two teams play at 7 p.m. at Kroger Field. ESPN2 has the telecast.
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Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen talks about whether his team is using last year’s 45-7 loss at Mississippi State as motivation for Saturday’s game against the Bulldogs. The two teams play at 7 p.m. at Kroger Field. ESPN2 has the telecast.

For a scouting report on the 14th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs heading into Saturday night’s game against Kentucky, I talked with Tyler Horka, MSU beat writer for the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson.

Tyler talked about Mississippi State’s offense under new coach Joe Moorhead, its stout defense led by Jeff Simmons and Montez Sweat, and how the Bulldogs have played in their first three games. A graduate of the University of Texas, Tyler also talked about living in Mississippi and his impressions of Starkville.

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Both teams are 3-0. Kentucky opened with a 35-20 win over Central Michigan. The Cats then snapped a 31-year losing streak to Florida by beating the Gators 27-16 in Gainesville. Last Saturday, the Cats took care of business against Murray State, winning 48-10.

As for Mississippi State, the Bulldogs romped 63-6 over Stephen F. Austin in their opener. They won 31-10 at Kansas State on Sept. 8, then handled Louisiana 56-10 last Saturday in Starkville. Saturday night will be their SEC opener.

Kentucky trailed 17-7 at the half in last year’s game in Starkville, but the Cats were outscored 28-0 in the second half in what was a 45-7 MSU rout. State scored 10 points in the final 3:14 of the first half, including a 40-yard touchdown run by quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, and carried the momentum from there.

Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran talks about the Mississippi State defense, which features a pair of star defensive linemen in Jeffrey Simmons and Montez Sweat. UK plays Mississippi State on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, at Kroger Field.

Fitzgerald suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the Bulldogs’ loss to Ole Miss in the traditional Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving weekend last year. He was suspended for the first game this season, but has returned to play well the past two weeks. He’s rushed for 266 yards on 34 carries for a 7.8-yards-per-carry average. He’s completed 25 of 48 passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns with one interception.

Moorhead has an excellent backup in Keytaon Thompson, who has completed 15 of 34 passes for 397 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. Thompson rushed for 147 yards on 27 carries in Mississippi State’s 31-27 win over Louisville in last season’s TaxSlayer Bowl.

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Another interesting twist, which Tyler addressed on the podcast, is Moorhead’s handling of Aeris Williams, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season. The new coach did not like Williams’ practice habits, so declined to use him against Kansas State. Meanwhile, Kylin Hill filled in and rushed for 211 yards on 17 carries.

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SEC football standings

EASTSEC

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TeamWLWL
Georgia1030
Kentucky1030
Missouri0030
Tennessee0021
Vanderbilt0021
Florida0121
South Carolina1011
WESTSEC

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TeamWLWL
Alabama1030
LSU1030
Miss State0030
Texas A&M0021
Arkansas0012
Auburn0121
Ole Miss0121
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