Kentucky took a disappointing loss at the hands of Ole Miss in their home opener on Saturday, giving up 21 unanswered points in the second half and ultimately losing 42-41 in overtime.
UK Head Coach Mark Stoops did not mince words when discussing the home loss in his press conference on Monday, calling it a “miserable defeat and feeling.”
The Cats had 18-consecutive games of holding their opponent to 30 points or less, and 28-consecutive matchups of keeping an opponent from putting up 34 or more points before Ole Miss hung 42 on them at Kroger Field on Saturday. A lot of the damage was done through the passing game for the Rebels, as quarterback Matt Corral went 24/29 for 320 passing yards and four touchdowns on the game.
“We had been good at not giving up explosive plays, and gave up way too many explosive plays in that game to be successful,” Stoops said.
To make matters worse, the Cats have now given up seven passing touchdowns through two games this season, only two behind their season total from a year ago, and their next opponent is a Mississippi State team led by air-raid coach Mike Leach. The Bulldogs put up crazy numbers at LSU, scoring 44 points as quarterback KJ Costello went 36/60 for 623 passing yards and five touchdowns.
“He’s as good as you get, very creative. And puts a lot of pressure on you as well,” Stoops said of Mississippi State coach Mike Leach.
If you are a Kentucky fan looking for good news, those monstrous numbers were not repeated for the Bulldogs in their next matchup, as they lost to Arkansas 21-14. Quarterback KJ Costello went 43/59 for 313 passing yards in the game, but only threw one touchdown and surrendered three interceptions in the game.
Plus, for more positivity, the UK offense has been pretty consistent so far this season. Terry Wilson showed great poise against Ole Miss, leading the team to answer the Rebels on many drives and finishing 14/18 for 151 passing yards while rushing for 129 yards and three touchdowns. Plus, both Chris Rodriguez (133 rushing yards) and AJ Rose (117 rushing yards) had career highs in the category. Overall, the offense is first in the nation in third down conversion rate (60%).
Also, UK Head Coach Mark Stoops feels confident that the team will once again respond to early season adversity, saying on Monday that he anticipates they will even though each year is different.
With how hot Mississippi State’s passing game has shown it can get and Mike Leach’s coaching history, the Cats might need to be ready for another shootout on Saturday if the secondary keeps on giving up big numbers. With that said, as Stoops tries different mixtures in the secondary and we sit early in the season, changes might be made this week that would decrease the amount of explosive plays given up.
The Cats have been through adversity before, and in a 10-game conference-only schedule, it is only more critical that they do not hang their heads and are ready to go when game time comes around.