Quick Hits: No. 20 Mississippi State 27, Kentucky 14
The Bulldogs didn't do anything flashy, spectacular, or even all that interesting. But they did get the road win they needed to move to 5-0.
MISSISSIPPI STATE WON. In a victory that could double as a filmed definition of the words "workmanlike" or "methodical," the Bulldogs went up 14-0 before the end of the first quarter and never let the homestanding Wildcats really get back in the game, holding the injury-ravaged Kentucky offense -- which saw promising freshman quarterback Patrick Towles miss the second half with a sprained ankle, just two drives after burning his redshirt on a surprise touchdown drive -- to just 228 yards. State tailback LaDarius Perkins rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown.
WHY MISSISSIPPI STATE WON. Because without Max Smith, there's just no there there when it comes to the Wildcats offense. Towles and fellow true freshman Jalen Whitlow have proven themselves to be game competitors -- and judging by Towles' 5-for-5-for-70-yards-and-a-score performance on the Wildcats' lone first-half scoring drive, he might have proven to be even more than that if he hadn't hurt his ankle. But the bottom line is that neither was close to capable of consistently completing passes downfield against Johnthan Banks, Nickoe Whitley, and the rest of the Bulldogs' outstanding secondary. Result: five three-and-outs on the Wildcats' first six possessions ,and a 27-7 deficit before things turned around to a small degree in the second half.
Give credit to the Bulldogs for managing the game and locking the Wildcats down the way most would expect, given Kentucky's issues. But next week against Tennessee will be just a little sterner test.
WHEN MISSISSIPPI STATE WON. Joker Phillips made the right call after the Wildcats' lone second-half scoring drive, surprising the Bulldogs with an onsides kick. Down 27-14 and with the ball at its own 45, Kentucky would never get a better chance to seriously threaten the Bulldogs lead. But after one Whitlow run for first down, the drive stalled on a 10-yard third-down sack by Josh Boyd. Even with the entire fourth quarter still to play, any momentum was gone, and the odds of the Wildcats scoring the necessary two touchdowns for the win nonexistent.
WHAT MISSISSIPPI STATE WON. A rare 5-0 start, and even if none of those five wins has come over especially stiff competition -- the "highlight" is a home victory over freshly 1-4 Auburn -- Dan Mullen will no doubt take it. As long as the defense remains as stout as it appeared to be Saturday, the Bulldogs still appear to be on track for the biggest season of Mullen's tenure.
WHAT KENTUCKY LOST. Another opportunity for Phillips to turn the season -- and maybe even his troubled job status -- around. State entered as a double-digit favorite, but the number of chances for Phillips at home, against teams that won't enjoy a major talent advantage, is dwindling.
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