The University of Kentucky Wildcat football team had a lot to prove on Saturday against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Wildcats were 3-0 on the season and even with their first win over Florida since 1986, a lot of people within and without of the Big Blue Nation remained skeptical about these Wildcats. With the 14th ranked Bulldogs coming to Lexington, Kentucky had a chance to prove to that this 2018 team, isn’t the “same ol’ Wildcats” that we’re used to seeing. On Saturday morning, the Wildcat football team had a lot of questions. By the time night fell, Kentucky, the BBN and college football had some answers. This team is different. In front a soaking wet crowd at Kroger Field, the Cats defeated the Dogs 28-7, led by junior RB Benny Snell, Jr.
There was a fracas on the field between the two teams prior to the game. When asked what happened, Snell responded at his postgame press conference by stating that there were a few MSU defenders that were vocal about wanting a piece of him. Snell said he told his lineman that come game time, they’d give the Bulldogs a lot. And Kentucky did. Snell had 25 rushes for 165 yards and four (4) touchdowns. He’s now scored more total touchdowns than any player in UK history, passing former Wildcat great and current Green Bay Packer, Randall Cobb. As a team, Kentucky rushed 47 times for 229 yards, nearly 5 yards per attempt. Simply put, the Wildcats out-toughed the Bulldogs.
The top-15 ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs entered the game with their own 3-0 record. The Bulldogs averaged nearly 310 yards a game rushing. On Saturday, they amassed 56. Taking a cue from Benny Snell and the offensive line, the UK defense was also stout against MSU. The Bulldogs rushed 28 times to get those 56 yards, a paltry 2 yards per attempt. As a result of the physically tough run defense (and UK’s own flourishing offense), MSU QB Nick Fitzgerald had 32 pass attempts for only 145 yards. On both sides of the ball, the Wildcats were more physical than the Bulldogs and the boys from Starkville wilted under the pressure.
When the Mississippi State coaches look at the tape of the game, they will see how their squad was simply overmatched from start to finish. Make no mistake, this was not a fluke of a game. Kentucky punched the Bulldogs in the mouth and MSU didn’t have an answer. Instead, MSU had 16 penalties for 139 yards (UK had 5 for 42). There were multiple personal foul calls on Mississippi State for activity after the whistle. Postgame, UK head coach Mark Stoops said that he and his coaches stressed to his team to keep their cool and to not engage in anything extra. The Bulldogs were also flagged for multiple false start penalties, which Stoops stated the the crowd, and their noise, played a big part in. Another reason: UK’s Josh Allen.
When Josh Allen decided to return to Kentucky this season, the BBN rejoiced. While the expectations for his play was high, 4 games in, he’s surpassed them. On Saturday, Allen totaled 6 tackles (3 solo), a sack, another tackle for a loss, one pass defensed and somehow only one QB hurry – I’m sure MSU’s Fitzgerald could attest that it certainly looked like a lot more. Allen was a beast, but he wasn’t alone on defense. Kash Daniel, the pride of Eastern KY, continued his stellar play with 7 tackles, 4 of which were solo. Free safety Darius West, who Stoops referred to glowingly as a “maniac, had 8 tackles (4 solo) and two passes defensed. Long story short, the defense provided one of the best displays of defense the Cats have had against an SEC opponent in a long time.
For the first time since the 1977 season, the Cats are 2-0 in the SEC. UK should crack the top 25 for the first time in nearly 11 years. Mark Stoops has taken a lot of grief for style of play and other things as he’s gotten to this point, some of it deserved, some of it unwarranted. What is clear is that the 2018 Wildcats have depth and talent. The Wildcats have star players on both sides of the ball that allows the team to reflect it’s coach. These Wildcats are physical and will run on you and at you and through you. These Wildcats are just as physical on the defensive side as well. Stoops quickly sidestepped a question about the SEC championship game. But if the Cats continue to play like they played in the Kentucky rain against Mississippi State, he might have to pull a Benny Snell and face that question head on.