There have been some repetitive scores in Kentucky football history that conjure up a wide array of memories every time they’re spoken about. What exactly am I talking about?
Take 40-34, for example. This is the 20th anniversary of Kentucky’s 40-34 win (first victory over the Tide since 1922) over Alabama in 1997 that led to the field being stormed and goal posts being walked out of Commonwealth Stadium.
Ten years later in 2007, Kentucky upset Louisville in the famous “Stevie Got Loose” game by a 40-34 margin. This year Kentucky defeated Missouri 40-34 to keep the trend going and pretty much guarantee that they will have a 40-34 win at some point during the 2027 season.
On the flip side, look at Kentucky’s 45-7 loss at Mississippi State. The last time Kentucky lost 45-7 was at Florida on Nov. 10, 2016 which was the thud into 0-2 and rock bottom that led to the turnaround and bowl game appearance that we have just witnessed over the course of the last 13 months.
Kentucky had an opportunity yesterday to assert itself in the SEC and legitimize the teetering perceptions about them that persisted around the conference and around the nation. They weren’t able to do so. In their last game before their bye, Kentucky looked like a team in desperate need of a bye and Missouri looked like a team that just had a week off. After the bye Kentucky appeared more rusted than rested and refreshed and were never able to get in sync. It was a puzzling and frustrating performance to say the least.
Against Mississippi State, Kentucky’s offense couldn’t stay on the field and their defense wasn’t able to stay off of it. That’s about as bad of a combination as a team can have and will usually always get you beaten pretty badly. In building their 5-1 record it’s safe to say that Kentucky hadn’t had a game where they played lights out. They had played a lot of close games that they had found a way to win.
Had they found a way to win in Starkville, they would have taken a big step in cementing the positive things that they had done thus far and would have kept their SEC East destiny in their control. Beating Mississippi State would have forced analysts, pundits and talking heads to take Kentucky more seriously. The next step required to take “that next step as a program” is a big step and it continues to elude Kentucky at the moment.
Granted, Kentucky had not played lights out in any game this season. They hadn’t had a burn the film clunker of a game either. Now they’ve had one and the big question will be how they respond going forward. They did a good job of not allowing the excruciating loss to Florida morph into multiple losses. Now they have to do the same thing after the beatdown at the hands Mississippi State. The Cats are 5-2 now, which doesn’t mean that everyone should act like they are 2-5. The loss to Mississippi State was definitely very disappointing but they can still bounce back and have a good second half of the season and a good season overall.
Their next opportunity to keep one loss from becoming two will be this Saturday at Kroger Field against Tennessee (3-4, 0-4 SEC).
That will be the case as the Volunteers will come to Lexington looking for their first SEC win of the season and their first offensive touchdown in 14 quarters.
Kentucky should come out bound and determined to keep them searching for both elsewhere.