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Tough start, dropped passes, missed tackles doomed Cats in 28-13 loss at Mississippi State

Mississippi State fans got to ring their cowbells a lot Saturday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Doesn’t matter if the talent level at Kentucky has improved because to win games players still have to make plays — and Kentucky didn’t do enough of that at Mississippi State Saturday.

It started when quarterback Sawyer Smith, making his first SEC road start, threw an interception that was returned for a score.

“You just can’t start that way. We were off to a good start and felt comfortable,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said after his team’s 28-13 loss. “It just never felt the same from that moment on. It was a tough way to start.”

It continued when Lynn Bowden dropped two likely touchdown passes and Ahmad Wagner dropped one. Then redshirt freshman kicker Chance Poore — who missed a potential game-winning field goal last week against Florida — missed two more.

Throw in missed tackles, key penalties and pressure on Sawyer Smith too often and UK just couldn’t overcome its own poor start.

“I didn’t feel like we were very physical to start the game. The inexperience in the secondary is hurting us. Just have to play better. Bottom line. We have got to improve,” Stoops said. “We have to tidy it up across the board with everybody.”

The most disappointing part was the way UK played — or didn’t play — the first half. After the interception return for a score, the Cats got pushed around and just did not look focused. It was a point I thought Stoops had been able to move UK football past but I was wrong.

“We have to find our leaders, find what is right and get this thing going,” running back A.J. Rose, who had 105 yards on only nine carries, said. “We have to play hard, compete. We didn’t play at the level we are supposed to in the first half. Then we didn’t have time in the second half to come back.”

Kentucky was behind 21-3 at halftime, cut the lead to 21-10 and had a first down inside the Mississippi State 10. Not only could UK not get the touchdown, it blew the chip shot field goal.

Down 28-13 with just under five minutes to go, UK couldn’t stop true freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader from breaking a 49-yard run on third and four to set up the game-clinching touchdown. He ran 11 times for 125 yards and completed 17 of 22 passes for 180 yards with just one interception in his first start.
Stoops didn’t want any part of hearing that last week’s loss to Florida took a toll on his team.

“I just didn’t like the way we played as a team in the first half. Defensively we were off balance. Offensively we were driving and not finish. Dropping passes. Just didn’t play very good and on the road against a good team you can’t do that,” Stoops said.

“No excuses. No hangover. We just didn’t play good.You just have to come in and play well and we didn’t do that. It just wasn’t clean. We didn’t play our best and you can’t do that against this team.”

Well, you can but then you lose despite having the defense eventually make some key stops and force turnovers, Smith playing through the pain of a banged up shoulder the second half, Bowden making some sensational plays when he didn’t drop the ball and Rose gashing the State defense.

Kentucky just dug a huge hole with its uninspired play the first half and it cost the Cats a chance to win a game again.

7 comments

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  1. Disappointed yes, it’s pretty obvious that we are missing Terry Wilson leadership. It show today just got too suck it up and prepare for next week. Stil got l games left to go the right direction not end of the world.

  2. You have to admit…..nobody prepares their team to start a game better than Stoops….talk about a trademark. Did Brad White ever make the trip? The defense was pathetic. Why does UK always have to make backup quarterbacks “All World”? We were supposed to have the better team on both OL and DL.. Hill is a great back and Shrader is a very decent quarterback but they both made us look totally inept in our ability to tackle either one and we were up to the task. The play calling is still very predictable and uninspiring. I do feel that Sawyer is a better quarterback than what he showed today. He does have a lot of heart and toughness but brought most of the hits on himself with slow decision making. I also feel we could have done better sticking with shorter passing game because he accuracy was not on. It would also be nice if he had a little more mobility. Bowden giveth and Bowden takeith, but he did way too much giving today. Was this just a bad game or season defining loss…..both. So much for turning the corner. We have turned but this week it was back only.

  3. Its still possible to have an 8 win season, but given that we will lose to Georgia, where are any quality wins? Florida and Miss. St. were our only real shots at quality wins and that didn’t happen. We could very easily end up with a 5 win season. S. Carolina, Arkansas, UT Martin, and Lousyville are must wins for us to go bowling. Missouri, Tenn, and Vandy will determine the quality of that bowl game. This season will not look anything like last year and we still must be content with being also rans in the SEC for a while longer. This season can still be useful in getting better and having a better season in 2020. I can’t imagine us having as easy a schedule for next year, but hopefully we will gain experience, learn from our mistakes, and be ready to make a better showing next year.

    1. Am a little surprised that the “duped by pup” and other Rah Rahers have been a little quiet on the carryover 4th qtr from UF and 1st half of State game. Why did it take until halftime for staff and players to wake-up? We have some talkers on the team but lacking true emotional leaders. Was starting to climb back aboard the USS Stoops/Gran after first 2 games then traditional UK football had to return. Not looking forward to match-up with frustrated, wounded Gamecocks.

  4. Hope this team picks it up, however must be honest and say I have been disappointed.

  5. Mike if we had won the last two games you still be whining about. something that’s the nature of how you are. Geeze sick of the attitude of people attacking our coaches and players. Go back to your cave please.

    1. Just trying to stir the pot a little….nobody complains with 4-0 but they will with 2-3. You don’t have to take things so seriously.

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