The Mississippi State Bulldogs and Kentucky Wildcats took the field in Lexington Saturday night for what many expected to be one of the games of the weekend. This looked to be the case until Benny Snell Jr. had his true (nationwide) coming out party in the second half.
The Cats ended the night with a dominating 28-7 win thanks to a four TD, 165 yard game by Snell and what could go down as the best defensive performance during Mark Stoops’ tenure in the bluegrass when it’s all said and done.
The first half was a back and forth slug fest. Kentucky punted on its first three drives, while Mississippi state did the same on their first two. The Cats’ fourth drive ended in a Miles Butler missed field goal and this led to the Bulldogs going on a methodical, service academy-esque drive that lasted 8:47 and covered 80 yards.
This drive started with 1:50 left in the first quarter and ended with a sort of anti-climactic one-yard touchdown run by Nick Fitzgerald with just under 9 minutes left in the second.
The next four drives proceeded with a UK punt, a State punt, a UK punt and another State punt.
Finally, Kentucky scored very late in the second quarter after an impressive 23 yard catch by Dorian Baker set up Snell’s first TD of the night, a two yard carry.
The Wildcats managed to score on their opening drive in the third quarter. In a funky coincidence, another huge 23 yard catch, this time time by C.J. Conrad, set UK up inside the ten yard line. Snell punched in a one yard TD to put the Cats up 14-7 with 6:03 left in the third quarter.
From this point on, Benny Snell and the Kentucky defense took over. Sophomore Tyrell Ajian grabbed his first career interception and returned it 35 yards to the Bulldog 36 yard line with 8:09 left in the fourth quarter. Directly following the pick, Benny Snell broke a 36 yard touchdown run. 21-7, Kentucky.
The game was effectively over at this point as it was obvious that the trenches on both sides of the ball for Mississippi State were straight up worn out. Mississippi State was held to 201 total yards for the game and to everyone’s surprise, 56 yards on the ground.
Kentucky has real players now and it showed tonight. Even with this being the case for the Cats, it has to be mentioned that Mississippi State couldn’t have had a sloppier performance. The Bulldogs false started and held their way to SIXTEEN penalties for 139 yards. It’s incredibly difficult to survive this against any decent opponent. The players and staff absolutely must get these mental errors cleaned up or else it could be a long game against the Gators in Dan Mullen’s return to Starkville as well.