First Scouting Report: At Mississippi State, can UK throw off its ‘Starkville hex?’

·3 min read

An early look ahead to the Kentucky Wildcats’ next football game:

The opponent

After an open date (Oct. 23), No. 11 Kentucky (6-1, 4-1 SEC) will face Mississippi State (3-3, 1-2 SEC) Saturday, Oct. 30, at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville.

Game time and television information for UK vs. MSU will be announced by the SEC office on Monday, Oct. 18.

Coach Mike Leach’s Bulldogs hosted and lost to No. 5 Alabama, 49-9, on Saturday.

Before facing Kentucky, MSU will also play at Vanderbilt on Oct. 23 at 4 p.m. (EDT).

Series history

Is tied, as Kentucky and Mississippi State have played 48 times with each team winning 24 times.

After State won seven in a row over UK from 2009 through 2015, the Wildcats have taken three of the last five.

Most recent meeting

Kentucky intercepted a whopping six passes and held Mike Leach’s version of the Air Raid offense without a touchdown for the first time in the coach’s then-19-plus years as a head man in a 24-2 win over Mississippi State on Oct. 10, 2020, at Kroger Field.

Interestingly, five of the six UK picks came from linebackers or defensive linemen — Jamin Davis, D’Eryk Jackson, Josh Paschal, Boogie Watson and Jordan Wright (a pick-six). Cornerback Kelvin Joseph had the only interception by a Kentucky defensive back.

Thanks to its ball-hawking defense, UK won going away in spite of the Wildcats gaining only 157 yards of total offense, a measly 84 on the ground, against a stout MSU defense.

Kentucky linebacker Jordan Wright (15) scored a touchdown after intercepting a pass during UK’s 24-2 victory over Mississippi State last season at Kroger Field. Wright’s pick-six was one of six Wildcats interceptions in the game.
Kentucky linebacker Jordan Wright (15) scored a touchdown after intercepting a pass during UK’s 24-2 victory over Mississippi State last season at Kroger Field. Wright’s pick-six was one of six Wildcats interceptions in the game.

Know your foe

1. In the Mark Stoops coaching era, Starkville has consistently been one of UK’s most challenging road trips.

Stoops is 0-4 in Davis Wade Stadium. His first Kentucky team in 2013 played MSU tough in Starkville on a Thursday night before falling 28-22.

Since then, Stoops has never come close to winning at Mississippi State, falling 42-16 (2015), 45-7 (2017) and 28-13 (2019).

UK has not won at MSU since a 14-13 Cats victory in 2008 — the first game current Green Bay Packers wideout Randall Cobb started at quarterback for Kentucky and the only one (out of four career starts) he would win as a Wildcats QB.

Kentucky has not beaten Mississippi State in Starkville since 2008, when then-UK freshman Randall Cobb (18) made his first career start at quarterback and threw for one touchdown and ran for one to help the Wildcats to a 14-13 win at Davis Wade Stadium.
Kentucky has not beaten Mississippi State in Starkville since 2008, when then-UK freshman Randall Cobb (18) made his first career start at quarterback and threw for one touchdown and ran for one to help the Wildcats to a 14-13 win at Davis Wade Stadium.

2. As UK head coach, Stoops is 5-6 in games that immediately follow open dates. After starting 2-5 in such contests, the Kentucky head man has won three of the past four such games.

3. In Mike Leach’s second season as MSU head man, the Bulldogs’ offense version of “The Air Raid” offense has been so-so.

Entering the games of Oct. 16, Mississippi State — as one would expect — led the SEC in passing, averaging 372.4 yards a game.

However, MSU was last in the league in rushing, producing a paltry 56.2 yards a game. Going into the Alabama contest, Mississippi State was ninth in the SEC in total offense (428.6 yards a game) and 11th in points a game (27.8).

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