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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly from Kentucky’s 24-2 Win over Mississippi State

Kentucky secured is first win of the unusual 2020 football season in the most unpredictable manner possible.

A week after Kentucky’s pass defense was picked apart by Ole Miss, the Wildcats completely owned the Air Raid. For the first time in Mike Leach’s career, his offense did not record a point. The Wildcats won 24-2, the fewest points ever scored by a Mike Leach team.

This victory had a little bit of everything — good, bad and ugly (of the evil step-sister variety).

The Good

Turnovers

Kentucky had not forced a turnover through two games. “Make plays” was a point of emphasis from Mark Stoops and Brad White during this week’s practice. A few pass-break-ups, tackles for loss and a turnover might’ve been enough. Instead, these Wildcats went overboard.

Kentucky picked off SIX Mississippi State passes. The six interceptions tied for the second-most in school history and it’s the most since UK picked off Florida seven times in the infamous 1993 loss at the wire to Chris Doering and the Gators. One interception turned into a Jordan Wright touchdown and another was returned 76 yards by Josh Paschal to the two yard-line, setting up a Chris Rodriguez touchdown on the following play. Two of the UK interceptions were in the end zone and three were in the red zone.

Red Zone Defense

The red zone had not been kind to Kentucky on either side of the ball entering Saturday night’s game. The offense struggled to put up points and the defense was letting opponents score touchdowns 80 percent of the time. Thanks to a timely interception before halftime by Jamin Davis, Paschal’s big play and Boogie Watson’s strip-pick at the goal line, Mississippi State was 0-for-3 in the red zone and 0-for-4 on scoring opportunities inside the UK 40 yard-line.

Kentucky’s defense made big plays when the Wildcats needed it most and that’s why Kentucky was victorious.

**However, Kentucky’s offense wasn’t great at capitalizing on mistakes. Eddie Gran’s offense only scored 17 points on six trips inside the Miss. State 40 yard-line. We can focus more on the bad later, but a win is a win, right? Now, more good…

Linebackers

Most coaches would have told their edge rushers to sit this one out. The secret to success against the Air Raid is to drop seven or eight into zone coverage and force the opponent to dink and dunk down the field. To effectively implement this strategy, defensive backs are probably best suited for this role.

Instead of sitting in nickel and dime all night with extra defensive backs, Mark Stoops trusted Boogie Watson, Jordan Wright and J.J. Weaver to make plays in pass coverage, and boy did they. Boogie stopped a touchdown by ripping the ball from a defender’s hands, his sack ended the Bulldogs’ final drive and Wright’s pick six all but ended the game. Those big plays jumped off the stat sheet. The plays taken for granted were the tackles five yards down the field that prevented Miss. State from turning short gains into chunk plays. The stat lines from the inside and outside backers are impressive:

  • Jamin Davis: 11 tackles, 1 INT, 1 PBU
  • DeAndre Square: 9 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 QBH
  • Jared Casey: 6 tackles
  • Jordan Wright: 6 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFLs, 1 INT, 1 PBU
  • J.J. Weaver: 4 tackles, 1 PBU
  • Marquez Bembry: 4 tackles
  • Boogie Watson: 2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 TFL, 2 QBH

Tight Ends

There weren’t many plays made by the UK offense that went for more than 10 yards. Almost all of them were made by Kentucky’s tight ends. Brenden Bates’ first career reception went for 14 yards, Justin Rigg had a 12-yard reception and Keaton Upshaw caught a 12-yard touchdown pass in traffic. In total, UK’s tight ends were targeted seven times, a number that will bring music to the ears of many UK fans.

Third Down Defense

Mississippi State couldn’t do anything on third down, converting just 3-of-17 third downs on the night. Much of that success can be attributed to exceptional early down defense. Kentucky forced Miss. State into third and longs all night, facing on average of third and 8.7 in those 17 attempts.

Redemption for Kelvin Joseph

The cornerback known as Bossman Fat was the target of much ridicule after the LSU transfer talked a big game, yet failed to execute in the first two weeks of the season. Was he that bad? Probably not, but his mistakes were far from mundane.

Even though many fans share disdain for his cockiness, that’s what helped him bounce back against Miss. State. No. 1’s confidence was unswayed after the slow start to the season. He responded by recording his first career interception, the only interception by the UK secondary,

UK Athletics

The Bad

Rose Fumbles

The UK defense gave the Wildcats an opportunity to deliver a dagger early in the third quarter. Leach inexplicably went for it on fourth down deep in his own territory on he first series of the second half, giving Kentucky the ball 34 yards away from the end zone. Two plays later, A.J. Rose put the ball on the turf, coughing up a scoring opportunity for the second straight week. Even though it was a questionable call overturned on replay, it’s still unacceptable for a fifth-year senior.

Wide Receiver Play

Kentucky’s wide receivers caught four passes, two of which were “pop” passes to Josh Ali that essentially acted as a jet sweep. Kentucky’s linebackers caught four passes by themselves, and that doesn’t include the 76-yard scamper by a former linebacker, Josh Paschal. The big man made the most explosive play of the day.

Of course, it wasn’t all on the wide receivers. Terry Wilson played poorly, the worst Kentucky fans have seen since he struggled against Vanderbilt almost two years ago. Even so, there were drops that disrupted the offense from finding any sort of rhythm whatsoever. Many fans loathe the screen game and those never had a chance because receivers weren’t blocking defenders. The UK passing game was abhorrent for most of the game. The more I type, the more I regret not pushing this down into “The Ugly.”

The Ugly

More Special Teams Snafus 

Josh Ali did not make an obvious mistake, but he gave up countless hidden yards by failing to catch the punt, letting it roll deep into Kentucky territory. Those hidden yards don’t compare to the 48 yards lost by Kentucky on one snap that skied high over the punter’s head. Luckily, Max Duffy had the wherewithal to boot the ball out of the end zone for a safety, the only two points the Bulldogs scored all day.

Third Quarter Offense 

Kentucky ran 14 plays in the third quarter for -12 yards. You can’t play offensive football any worse than that.

The first three games of the 2020 season feel like a lifetime of football. Kentucky fans have seen a different version of the Wildcats every week. Against one Egg Bowl opponent, the offense could not be stopped while the defense appeared hapless. A week later against the other Mississippi school, UK’s offense went nowhere fast while the defense dominated.

How good is this Kentucky football team? Nobody knows.

Article written by Nick Roush

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

15 Comments for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly from Kentucky’s 24-2 Win over Mississippi State



  1. CatfaninCinci
    5:31 am October 11, 2020 Permalink

    Roush said on Twitter “it must suck to be a Terry Wilson hater” after his big play…

    No, not really, he was bad most of the rest of the night. His indecision against the rush kills us when we play good teams.



    • RackEmWillie
      1:08 pm October 12, 2020 Permalink

      The lack of ability to execute really simple throws have always been the biggest issue with TW. And it has been since day 1. The fact that he isn’t fresh out of high school, means that it concerning. His lack of progress from 2018 to now is alarming, and I don’t know who to blame. There is no way that he isn’t getting coached up on those throws that he seemingly can’t make, but it’s shocking to see a senior QB just not be able to make throws that have been taught to him since he was in middle school.



  2. 2andToodleLoo
    5:55 am October 11, 2020 Permalink

    Please stick with calling him Kelvin Joseph. One interception does not earn back his first two games whiffs. Congrats to the defense. Looked excellent against the Pirate Mike Leech.



  3. JohnnyCat
    7:32 am October 11, 2020 Permalink

    It is unfair to put it all on Terry and the play-calling for the offensive struggles. The line play sucked. I think they’ve been sort of overrated all year. Time and again the pressure up the middle from their front 4-5 caused big problems. They are very good maulers for run blocking, but their pass protection leaves some things to be desired. All in all a great win since we made an entire fan base who cares more about football then we do…and one we play every year…we made them basically want to completely write off their season because they are so embarrassed and pissed this morning. That is a very good feeling..lol. Go Cats!



    • W F Reserve
      8:15 am October 11, 2020 Permalink

      MSU had 7 to 9 guys in the box all night. Can’t block them all and we didn’t make them pay for this by throwing slants, middle screen plays, etc. just kept running right into it. 3rd quarter offensive stats tells most of the story.



    • CatfaninCinci
      9:35 am October 11, 2020 Permalink

      The thing about Terry is, he requires others to carry him to victory. He can’t put his team on his back like the star he’s supposed to be. Terry is a very average QB. And certainly not as good as people make him out to be.



  4. kjd
    8:27 am October 11, 2020 Permalink

    The ugly: Offense as a whole, in particular, O line & TW.



  5. largoky
    9:01 am October 11, 2020 Permalink

    Sit Rose! Way better players behind him that don’t fall down when they get touched or fumble.



    • tdub
      9:39 am October 11, 2020 Permalink

      I agree they should at least give some rb and wr some chances. Hopefully the ol gets the pass protection figured out.



  6. Pensacola_Cat_Fan
    9:52 am October 11, 2020 Permalink

    Stoops refuses to put a guy in like Gatewood or the freshman RB even for one series because he’s so scared they will make a mistake. He coaches like the boogie man is outside his door which is why he pisses away so many games.



  7. millertim
    10:37 am October 11, 2020 Permalink

    O-Line was AWFUL!!! No QB is going to succeed if the O-Line continues this ineptitude. They are simply not making their blocks and keeping them engaged. On a postive note, Gatewood looked good. He stood firm in the pocket and delivered a strike that was MISSED by our poor receivers— start throwing more passes to TE’s like Keaton. Big Targets that don’t drop the ball b/c they are running before catching the ball. When Gatewood runs, its with authority and size— Wilson is looking for a soft place to fall… We need both sides of football working next week against UT. O-Line PROVE you’re worth all the preseason hype next week!!



  8. Daddyof3Ballers
    12:24 pm October 11, 2020 Permalink

    Terry seems like a good guy but we have to get Joey in early next week. He’s bigger, stronger, better arm and I would like to see if he can make pre snap reads better too. Guys, the o-line can only do so much, but they’re not blameless. Having Gatewood gives them a QB that can see over the heads of the line and deliver quick balls. You spread a team out and give him RPO’s with Smoke…watch out!!



  9. ziplock
    1:38 pm October 11, 2020 Permalink

    In the eyes of the coaching staff Wilson is a can’t miss NFL quarterback so lets rest him so he won’t get injured again and play Gatewood!



  10. eyebleedblue
    2:41 pm October 11, 2020 Permalink

    Great win, strange season. AJ Rose shouldn’t play a meaningful down again until he succeeds on special teams or garbage time.



  11. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
    5:02 pm October 11, 2020 Permalink

    At this point I’d rather see Paschal at FB then Rose at RB. Rodriguez has proved he won’t go down with out a fight, Smoke can come out of nowhere, even McClain showed he has a burst. Rose is now TJ Rose…Turnover Junior.