The Kentucky Wildcats picked up their first win of the 2020 season Saturday as they grabbed six interceptions in a 24-2 route of the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Kroger Field.
Here’s a recap of all the action:
UK won the opening toss and elected to put their offense on the field first. The Wildcats started the drive with three straight runs as Terry Wilson and A.J. Rose combined for 10 yards and a first down, which was followed by a 17-yard Wilson pass to Josh Ali that moved the Wildcats into Bulldogs territory. They wouldn’t go much further, however, as the Bulldogs forced a punt from their own 47-yard-line.
The Bulldogs started their first drive of the evening at their own 5-yard line after a 42-yard Max Duffy punt. Stuck deep in their own territory, Mississippi State struggled to move the ball after a false start penalty on first down as the UK defense forced them three and out.
Kentucky’s ensuing possession would start at the Bulldog 46-yard line. UK would pick up a first down and move inside the Mississippi State 35-yard line after a nine-yard run from Wilson was followed by a two-yard Rose run. However, the drive would stall as Wilson was stopped for a two-yard loss on second down and then threw incomplete on third, forcing another Duffy punt.
Mississippi State’s ensuing possession would begin at their own 10-yard line. The Bulldogs promptly picked up their first, first down of the game as K.J. Costello connected with Tyrell Shavers for six-yards and Javonta Payton for four-yards to open the drive. That would be the only first down of the drive as Costello’s third-down pass was broken up by Kentucky’s Cedrick Dort, forcing a Bulldog punt
After another Kentucky three and out, the Bulldogs regained possession at their own 38-yard line after a 12-yard punt return by Austin Williams. The Bulldogs would move into UK territory after Costello found Payton for a 10-yard gain and later moved to the UK 30-yard line as Costello connected with Kylin Hill for 12-yards. The quarter would come to an end with the Bulldogs facing a 3rd and 18 from the Kentucky 38-yard line after Jordan Wright stopped Jo’quavious Marks for a 5-yard loss and after gaining two-yards on second down, the Bulldogs were called for a false start.
Score After First Quarter: Kentucky 0, Mississippi State, 0
Costello would throw incomplete on third and long to open the second quarter. Instead of punting, Mike Leach elected to send Brandon Ruiz out for a 56-yard field goal attempt which would miss short keeping the game scoreless.
Set up at their own 38, UK appeared as if they were about to waste stellar field position after Tyrus Wheat sacked Wilson on second down but on 3rd and 13, Wilson would get revenge as he escaped the pocket for a 51-yard field goal to move the Cats to the Bulldogs 14-yard line. Two plays later, UK would find the end zone as Wilson connected with Keaton Upshaw for a 12-yard touchdown to put the Cats in-front 7-0.
Mississippi State would begin to find a rhythm on their ensuing possession as Costello completed three straight passes to move the Bulldogs across midfield. They’d quickly be backed up however, as Kentucky’s Davonte Robinson stopped Malik Heath for a two-yard loss and Bulldogs offensive lineman Kwatrivous Johnson was called for illegal hands to the face, which would soon lead to another Bulldogs punt.
UK would again go three and out on their ensuing possession as Mississippi State reclaimed possession at their own 33 yard-line after Duffy’s punt. The Bulldogs drive got off to another solid start as they moved across midfield after three straight Costello completions. Later in the drive, Mississippi State would move inside the UK 25 after Brandin Echols was called for a personal foul. There, UK’s defense would finally force their first turnover of the season as Josh Paschal picked off Costello and returned it 76-yards to the Bulldogs’ two-yard line.
Kentucky would capitalize on the outstanding field position immediately as Chris Rodriguez scored a two-yard touchdown to extend the Wildcats lead to 14-0.
The Bulldogs would again build momentum on their ensuing possession as Costello completed three straight passes while Hill ran for a 3-yard gain moving Mississippi State to the UK 47-yard line. Facing a 4th down and 1 later in the drive, the Bulldogs were able to keep the drive alive with a three-yard run from Marks. They’d move inside the 5-yard line two plays later as Costello connected with Heath for 23-yards to the Kentucky 4-yard line. However, the Bulldogs would come up empty-handed as Jamin Davis picked off Costello in the end zone to end the half.
Halftime Score: Kentucky 14, Mississippi State, 0
The Bulldogs started the second half from their own 25 after Chance Poore‘s kickoff sailed into the back of the end zone for a touchback. After gaining nine yards on three plays, Leach kept his offense on the field on 4th down and 1 from his own 34-yard line. The decision would not pay off as Costello threw incomplete, turning the ball over on downs.
Kentucky would make a blunder of their own on their ensuing possession as Mississippi State’s Fred Peters forced and recovered a Rose fumble giving the Bulldogs defense their first turnover of the night.
Mississippi State would move the ball to their own 42-yard line, but Kentucky’s defense again made a big-play as Kelvin Joseph picked off Costello at the UK 32-yard line.
The Wildcats would not do much of anything with the interception as the offense went three and out and punted the ball back to the Mississippi State 35-yard line.
Mississippi State’s ensuing possession would also be a three and out as Costello was called for an illegal forward pass on third down.
Kentucky’s offense began to show signs of life on their next possession as Wilson connected with Brenden Bates for 14-yards and Rodriguez ran for 12 to give UK back-to-back first downs to open the drive. The drive would fizzle out however as UK would be forced to punt from their own 48-yard line.
The Bulldogs would catch a break on the punt as Kentucky’s Cade Degraw’s snap sailed over Duffy’s head. Duffy would kick the ball into the back of his own end zone for a safety to prevent giving the Bulldogs a chance at recovering for a touchdown as the Bulldogs cut the lead to 14-2.
Down 14-2, Mississippi State turned to backup quarterback Will Rogers after the safety punt. Rogers completed each of his first four passes but threw incomplete on third down from his own 32-yard line forcing a punt.
After Tucker Day‘s punt traveled 66-yards, the Wildcats offense took over from their own two-yard line. The Wildcats moved the ball just one-yard on the drive forcing yet another punt.
The quarter came to an end after Rogers connected with Williams on a fourth-down play to give the Bulldogs a first down at the UK 23-yard line.
Score After Third Quarter: Kentucky 14, Mississippi State, 2
On just the second play of the quarter, Kentucky’s defense again came up big as Jamar “Boogie” Watson picked off Rogers in the end zone after ripping the ball away from Bulldogs receiver Osirus Mitchell.
On their next drive, Mississippi State would go back to Costello after Rogers was nearly picked off by Kentucky’s J.J. Weaver on first down. The quarterback change would not make a difference as Costello threw back-to-back incomplete passes, forcing yet another punt.
Kentucky would pick up a pair of first downs on their ensuing drive as Wilson connected with Justin Rigg for a 12-yard gain and Rodriguez ran for 10-yards but were later forced to punt after being stopped on third down at the Mississippi State 40-yard line.
Mississippi State’s ensuing drive would start at their own two-yard line after a 38-yard Duffy punt. The Duffy punt would prove massive as on third down, Jordan Wright picked off Costello and returned it eight yards for a touchdown to put the Cats on top 21-2.
Looking to chip away late, Mississippi State’s offense continued to struggle as Wright and Watson recorded sacks on back-to-back plays to turn the Bulldogs over on downs.
With just over three minutes to play, Kentucky sent backup quarterback Joey Gatewood and true freshman running back JuTahn McClain onto the field to make their UK debuts. McClain would run for a 17-yard gain on his first collegiate rushing attempt while Gatewood went 0-1 throwing and ran twice for five total yards. With 54 seconds to play, Matt Ruffolo knocked through a 35-yard field goal extending Kentucky’s lead to 24-2.
The Bulldogs would go back to Will Rogers at quarterback who, on the last play of the game, was picked off by Kentucky true freshman D’Eryk Jackson as the Cats capped off a victory with their sixth interception of the game.
Final Score: Kentucky 24, Mississippi State 2
MVP: Jamin Davis
Honoring his teammate Chris Oats’ by wearing No. 22, UK middle linebacker Jamin Davis had the best game of his college career. The junior led the Wildcats with 11 total tackles and grabbed an interception to help lead UK to their first win of the 2020 season.
HONORABLE MENTION: Max Duffy
Kentucky’s Ray Guy Award winning punter put together yet another remarkable performance Saturday. Max Duffy punted eight times, pinning the Bulldogs inside the 20-yard line three times while booting three punts for more than 50-yards.
Photo: UK Athletics