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Kentucky has Experience in Close Games, Miss. State Does Not


Kentucky is going on the road as ten-point underdogs to face one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC.  The Cats’ backs are against the wall, but they still have one advantage over Mississippi State: experience in close games.

Last week Mississippi State beat BYU by 25 points and it was the closest game they’ve played all year.  They’ve won games by 49, but also lost by 39 and 28 points.  Each Miss. State game has been decided by an average of 34.5 points.

On the other hand, Kentucky’s games have all been close.  An average of only 6.5 points have separated UK from each opponent.  The widest margin of victory was only 11 over EKU.  If Saturday’s game is close, Kentucky can say something State can’t, “play like you’ve been there before.”

What decides those close games?  Offensive lineman Nick Haynes says it all comes down to details.

“The details of certain things in close games are all that matters,” Haynes said. “It can literally be a step, it can be an extra step on a route, it can be anything that causes you to lose a game.  One play.  We don’t know which play it is, so every play you gotta be detailed and focused and know what you’re doing, especially in close games because not many yards separate us, not many points separate us.”

Against Florida, it came down to one point and one slip of the hand that resulted in a holding call on Haynes that pushed Kentucky out of field goal range (a hold Haynes still insists is BS).  Even though it looked like the game was over, Stephen Johnson did not panic.  He completed one more pass to give Austin MacGinnis a shot to win the game.  When the pressure is on, Johnson always remains clam.

“He calms himself down first and then does have that confidence around him that we feel like we’ll be alright,” Haynes said.  “It doesn’t really matter what just happened.  We do it a lot.  We overcome adversity all the time.”

Being in those situations frequently has grayed the hair of many Kentucky fans, but it’s beneficial for the players and play-callers.  Familiarity in high-pressured situations takes the pressure off, according to offensive coordinator Eddie Gran.

“At the end of the day, it’s about what we do out here every single Wednesday [in practice].  It’s live,” he said. “We’re trying to put them in those pressure situations so when you do get to that moment, it’s not so much pressure.  Now you let your fundamentals take over, your technique and you can do your job.”

The pressure increases in hostile road environments, but that’s not necessarily the case with this Kentucky team.  They’ve won five of their last six on the road since they traveled to Tuscaloosa last year.  For a lack of a better term, the team brings an “F U” mentality on the road that starts at the top.

“That stems from the head coach,” Gran said.  “It’s really all you’ve got.  You go, you get on that bus, you get on that plane, it’s going down there, it’s a hostile environment and that’s why you play in this league.  That’s why you play football, for the opportunities to go on the road and come out with a victory.”

If the Cats keep it close in Starkville, they can seize another opportunity and stake their claim as one of the best teams in the SEC.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

13 responses to “Kentucky has Experience in Close Games, Miss. State Does Not”

  1. jimmer

    I’d take their blowout wins (especially against the likes of LSU) over UK close wins against EKU,EMU and Missouri.

    1. krautdog

      Amen-the only ranked team we’ve played, we lost to and they’re no longer ranked! What makes some fans think that we should be ranked?

    2. bailey000

      Memphis is 25 check out the schedule and record

  2. RackEmWillie

    How many games have the MSU starters played the entire game? If they aren’t playing a full game regularly, then if it’s close, the advantage has to go to UK.

    Everybody wants to win by the largest margin possible, but, there are some advantages to having played close games, both winning and losing. Aside from any mental advantage that is had by players and coaches, if an opposing team hasn’t played a full game at full speed, that’s physically different. If it’s a close game in the 4th, and one team has never had a close 4th quarter, my money is on the other team.

  3. ClutchCargo

    Not to go all negative, but we have created our own close games where there should have been comfortable wins. Having said that, I think we’re easily good enough to keep this game close, assuming MSU is as good as we think they are, and I can see that being a good thing. Especially with MacGinnis on our sideline.

  4. Angelo

    the single best predictor of the March Madness winner is average margin of victory. UK in 96 was like 22 points. I assume this applies to football as well. Winning close games is not a sign of strength… So don’t use that in betting decisions.

    1. krautdog

      Says we’re in trouble!

    2. J-Dub421

      Then explain our deep tournament runs in 2011 and 2014.

    3. bailey000

      This is false in terms of football look at the difference in the Bama championship teams versus ALL of their opponents in the final games

  5. CPACAT

    I guess the opposite could be said as well. If MSU goes up by 28 early, we won’t know how to react and they will. If we go up 28 early, we will take the foot off the pedal and squander the lead, and it will be a close game in the fourth quarter.

  6. UKfanman01

    To all the haters: when the Cats go 10-2 don’t cheer or be happy because most wins were close. You’d rather be 6-6 as long as your wins were blowouts. UK fans are garbage. A win is a win. I’ll take it if it’s by one or fifty.

    1. ClutchCargo

      Did you even read the article? It was about experience in close games and UK has a lot. Pointing out the obvious reasons why that is the case doesn’t make someone a hater.

    2. bailey000

      These reasons are not credible, because we do have more experience in class games. If the game is close we have more experience with that. What do u not understand. People are using march madness as an argument. These people do not know football. Usually teams with a lot of blowout victories aren’t scrappy enough to know how to fight. i.e. Old Oregon, Ohio State, the Big 12. They win a bunch of games until they get in a dog fight!!!