Mississippi State emerged victorious in a battle of two of the three bottom teams in the SEC, defeating the visiting Kentucky Wildcats by a margin of 28-22 in Starkville.
The Bulldogs took an early lead on an impressive play by Dak Prescott. He evaded the grasp of a Kentucky defender before rolling out and finding a wide open Malcolm Johnson for a 60-yard score to put Mississippi State on the board first.
The Wildcats answered right back with Maxwell Smith's 51-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Timmons, but the Bulldogs took a commanding lead with two consecutive touchdowns.
Kentucky came back and made a fight of it, with a field goal, a safety and Jojo Kemp's 14-yard touchdown to pull with two points at 21-19. The Bulldogs then pulled out the trickeration, however, and Jameon Lewis found Prescott for a 17-yard touchdown to make it 28-19. Kentucky would hit another field goal, but 28-22 would be the final margin of victory for Mississippi State.
Glenn Logan of A Sea of Blue said that while it was encouraging to see Kentucky stay in a game, this was one they could have won.
This was an effort that we can be proud of in some ways, but we have to be honest with ourselves - it was rife with errors that are not really excusable in a football team. There were way too many breakdowns on both sides of the ball, and even though I want to call this a quality loss, I really can't. MSU invited us to win this football game, and we were unable to do so not because of them, but because of us. They made enough errors for us to break through, but we simply didn't have the class (in the horseracing sense) to do so.
The defense played well early but began to falter as the game wore on. Kentucky, limited at the quarterback position, ran a very conservative offense, running the ball up the middle and dumping the ball on screens all night. In the Wildcats' game plan, the Mississippi State secondary was clearly the point of attack all night. The young Bulldogs' defensive backs held their own for most of the game not giving up too many big plays. The Wildcats had a chance to take the lead in the waning seconds of the game, but were turned away on a great stand by the defense.
Brandon Larrabee of Team Speed Kills said the game came down to Kentucky's inability to execute, and it showed how far the Wildcats still have to go.
And by stopping them, Mississippi State managed to preserve its faint hopes of a bowl game and go above .500 for the first time this season. And the Bulldogs, who essentially outplayed Kentucky on both sides of the ball for most of the night, certainly deserved the win.
But the game seemed mostly to indicate that Kentucky is a few small things away from being able to beat even a team like Mississippi State. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, those small things can make all the difference in the world.