Although it is a tall order, Kentucky’s trip to Mississippi State on Thursday night represents the Cats’ best chance at an SEC win to date. Will the Cats be able to pull off the upset?
In order to get a more unbiased answer to this question, I turned to the all-knowing and never-judging Playstation 3.
I shoved in the latest copy of NCAA Football 14, downloaded the latest rosters, adjusted the depth charts to accurately reflect each team’s current situation and let the computer control both teams. Following is a recap of what took place in virtual Davis Wade Stadium.
The game got off to a fast start as Kentucky took its opening possession and marched down the field for a touchdown. The drive was highlighted by a 35-yard run by Raymond Sanders. Sanders was taken down just past the line of scrimmage, but rolled over a couple of defenders without ever touching the ground, regained his balance and scampered off for an additional 30 yards before being caught from behind.
Kentucky’s defense then answered the call and made the score 14-0 when cornerback Nate Willis picked off a pass from Dak Prescott and took it 62 yards back to the house.
Not to be out-done, the Mississippi State defense responded when defensive back Jamerson Love intercepted Maxwell Smith and returned it 67 yards for a pick six of his own.
The score was Kentucky 14 – Mississippi State 7 after one quarter.
Mississippi State grabbed the momentum early in the second quarter with back-to-back touchdown drives. The first capped off with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Johnson and the second with a five-yard quarterback keeper by Prescott.
The Kentucky defense had a tough time containing the running ability of Prescott early on, which allowed the Bulldogs to keep hanging around.
Fortunately for Kentucky, Prescott’s passing ability left quite a bit to be desired. The Cats picked off a redzone pass late in the second quarter and turned it into a 20-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Alex Montgomery.
Montgomery, who apparently changed his number to 27 before the game, became Smith’s favorite target after Ryan Timmons was carted off the field early during the second quarter. Timmons did not return.
The game was tied at halftime, 21-21.
The defenses of both teams started to buckle in after halftime.
The Cats and Bulldogs each managed one touchdown drive during the third quarter. Jojo Kemp put the Cats on the board with a 16-yard run into the endzone.
Mississippi State’s LaDarius Perkins then responded with a five-yard scoring scamper of his own.
After the initial two touchdowns, the teams traded a few three-and-outs and Mississippi State’s Prescott lobbed up another interception. Nothing too exciting.
After all was said and done, Kentucky and Mississippi State were again tied after the third quarter, 28-28.
Defense was the name of the game in the fourth quarter.
The Cats were threatening in the redzone early before Maxwell Smith threw an interception in the endzone — his second of the contest.
Both teams traded punts before Mississippi State’s Prescott fumbled the ball and Kentucky’s Avery Williamson recovered it on the Bulldogs’ 17-yard line with just over four minutes to go.
The Kentucky offense didn’t do the team any favors with a rush for negative yards followed by a sack, but Joe Mansour was still able to bang home a 43-yard field goal to give Kentucky a 31-28 lead with just over three minutes to go.
On the first play of Mississippi State’s next drive, Prescott threw his fourth interception of the day — this one a deep pass stolen by Blake McClain.
Could it have been the nail in the coffin?
The answer was no.
Par for the game, Kentucky responded on offense by going three-and-out and was forced to punt the ball with just over two minutes to go. The punt landed in the endzone and Mississippi State had the ball at their own 20-yard line with 2:02 on the clock.
Having already thrown four interceptions, Prescott decided to march the Bulldogs down the field via his legs. He went for five yards on the first play of the drive before breaking off a 19-yard run on the very next play. He then decided to mix things up by taking it to the air with three straight completions for 10, 5 and 9 yards respectively.
The Bulldogs were well past midfield now and threatening into field goal range.
Prescott returned to the ground with an 11-yard rush, followed by another 8-yard rush.
With the Bulldogs on 19-yard line with under a minute to go, the game seemed destined for at least a trip to overtime. That was until Mississippi State bewilderingly called a passing play and defensive end Za’Darius Smith sacked Prescott for a six-yard loss.
With no time-outs left and the clock ticking under a minute, the Bulldogs scrambled back to the line. Prescott quickly took the snap and threw an out route to the sideline near the 10-yard mark. Unfortunately for Prescott, seldom-used junior cornerback Eric Simmons had jumped the route and sealed the Kentucky upset with yet another interception.
Final score: Kentucky 31 – Mississippi State 28
Safety Ashely Lowery was named MVP of the game after accumulating 14 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and an interception.
What have we learned? Well, obviously Kentucky is destined for an upset in Starkville on Thursday night, and it will only require five interceptions to get there. The PS3 don’t lie.
Following are the final stats from the game.
Notable Defensive Performances
- Ashely Lowery: 14 solo tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 1 pass deflection
- Za’Darius Smith: 5 solo tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks
- Nate Willis: 5 solo tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 62-yard interception return for touchdown, 1 pass deflection
- Avery Williamson: 5 solo tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery
- Bud Dupree: 4 solo tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack
- Blake McClain: 2 solo tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass deflection
- Mike Douglas: 2 solo tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks,
- Eric Simmons: 1 game-winning interception