When one hears the words “Kentucky” and “buzzer beater” in the same sentence, the mind instantly thinks of basketball. Tonight, it was the football team and Austin MacGinnis who pulled out a victory as time expired.
In a game that fit the definition of “must-win,” (for both the Wildcats’ bowl hopes and thus Mark Stoops’ job security) Kentucky fought Mississippi State on every snap, culminating in a 51-yard game-winning field goal that was expertly executed. The game wasn’t always pretty, but it sure did provide some quality entertainment.
3 Things We Learned
1. Two separate, bizarre halves: Who would have ever thought that this game would turn into a shootout in the second half? Watching the first half was an absolute chore, as both teams’ offenses could not have looked more anemic. Neither team could muster anything, and Mississippi State only had 9 passing yards to their name going into halftime.
In the second half, however, both teams looked vibrant, putting together numerous scoring drives by both land and air. Kentucky’s ground game was the force it has always been, with Boom Williams and Benny Snell leading the charge, and Mississippi State’s versatile quarterback, Nick Fitzgerald, was also able to showcase his running abilities. He wound up rushing for over 100 yards, notching 3 total touchdowns. It was an interesting turn of events, but that second half made the game a lot more watchable.
2. Kentucky had this game won—until they didn’t—and then they did: With about 10 minutes left in this ballgame, it seemed as if Kentucky was going to roll to its fourth win of the season. The Cats were up 10 points and driving, all before Stephen Johnson fumbled in the red zone, leading to a Bulldogs scoop-and-score. In an instant, Kentucky went from possibly going up by 17—effectively ending the game—to nursing a 3-point lead. It was the most Kentucky thing imaginable.
Eventually, Kentucky allowed the Bulldogs to drive down the field and take the lead with about a minute to go. After putting together a drive of their own, Kentucky’s Austin MacGinnis shook off the nerves and drilled a 51-yard field goal to send the Cats to 4-3 on the season.
3. This is just a game: In the third quarter of tonight’s ballgame, we were reminded in the scariest, most sobering way possible of this game’s dangerous nature. Mississippi State’s Darryl Williams went down after being knocked backwards on a field goal attempt. Initially, the hit seemed innocuous. After a few moments, it was clear that Williams was not alright after the play. At roughly 10 pm, Mississippi State sent the following tweet:
Darryl Williams is being transported to UK Chandler Hospital for further evaluation. He has movement in all of his extremities.— MSU Football (@HailStateFB) October 23, 2016
I know I speak for everyone in saying that thoughts and prayers are with Williams. Us—the fans—have a tendency to get caught up in the game and forget about the human aspect of it all. Moments like the one we saw tonight are the terrifying reminders of the darkest aspects of this game. That being said, I was touched by the sight of Mississippi State players huddled around Dan Mullen while their teammate was down, praying for Darryl Williams. It was truly indicative of the camaraderie and compassion that football players share for one another.
After all, these are guys who spend countless hours with each other week after week, year after year. It was clear when Williams was hurt that the entire team took it hard, knowing that what happened tonight went far beyond the realm of the game they all play.