Miss-cues, Missed Kicks Hand Wildcats Win

Kentucky won the toss and deferred. After three games of lengthy opening drives it would take Mississippi State while to warm the offense up this time, after the foes matched three-and-throughs. The exchange of punts had the Bulldogs beginning their first scoring drive at the 22-yard line. It nearly did not begin though as QB Tyson Lee was sacked to set up 3rd-and-13.

But FB Arnil Stallworth put it in forward gear, taking a short toss in-traffic and bouncing off two hits for 14 yards. Two snaps later Stallworth caught a ‘hot' pass as Lee unloaded under double-pressure, hurdled OG Craig Jenkins—no mean feat itself--and picked up 16 more yards to cross midfield. And with the Wildcats seeing a passing formation, Lee had no problems option-pitching to WR Arceto Clark that netted 18 yards around the open left end to the 30-yard line.

On the series' ninth play, and a second down, Lee had plenty time in the pocket to lead WR Brandon McRae on a post-route. McRae pulled it in at the goal line for a 7-0 lead at 7:10. That would prove all the points either side could muster in the whole half.

A well-kicked and covered Kentucky punt pinned the Bulldogs on their 10-yard line and shortly Blake McAdams had to kick from his goal line. He loosed a bomb and UK fielder DeMoreo Ford let it go just over his head. A poor choice as the roll died at Kentucky's 21-yard line for a 72-yard punt. The Wildcats did manage their initial first down as Cobb hit T.C. Drake for 13 yards. The series stalled as DT Kyle Love sacked Cobb on third down, and a low punt gave State possession on their 39-yard line. A crossing-route catch by WR Aubrey Bell netted 14 yards to change sides of the 50-line at the end of the quarter.

McAdams' next punt was caught on the fly by CB Jasper O'Quinn at the Wildcat five-yard line. Kentucky changed quarterbacks and Mike Hartline was able to manufacture a couple of first downs, one on a hot-screen catch-and-run by Alfonso Smith for 22 yards. A false-start flag helped halt the first real UKat drive as Hartline was dropped short on a keeper.

Starting from their 18-yard line, the Bulldogs made good ground again as TE Brandon Henderson caught a 24-yard gainer and a shovel-pass to Stallworth produced 13 more, to the Wildcat 41-yard line. Stallworth made six yards on a draw, only to have Lee lose eight on a sack. The quarterback came back to hit a wide-open Smith for 11-plus yards and State didn't hesitate going for it. Only, HB Brandon Hart couldn't block three Wildcats and HB Anthony Dixon was swarmed at the 33-yard line at 4:32.

CB Marcus Washington interfered with UK wideout Eric Adeyem for a free first down, and back Tony Dixon turned the corner for three yards and another move of the chains to the MSU 47-yard line. Kentucky caught a huge break when S Derek Pegues did not catch a tipped pass with nobody between him and the goal line 60-something yards away. Then the punt bounced out at State's two-yard line.

With 2:45 left the Bulldogs would have been expected to play it safe; instead Lee came out throwing all three plays. His first-down unload could have, and likely should have, been flagged for a safety. The third was a short completion to McRae that had McAdams punting from behind the painted part of the end zone. The senior let go another beauty that cleared midfield, and Washington was downfield for an instant tackle at Kentucky's 46-yard line at 2:15.

Kentucky used almost a minute going back-and-forth. Hartline ran for a first down at the Bulldog 41, before a holding flag sent the Wildcats back across the 50. Then consecutive completions had first down on the MSU 21, with Cobb gaining 18 yards when the Dogs were caught blitzing. Kyrus Lankster was open at the five-yard line and had both hands on the ball until S Zach Smith—who had taken the place of a shaken De'Mon Glanton this series—separated the wideout and pigskin. Lones Sieber tried, and failed, to get his team on the scoreboard before halftime by pulling his 34-yard field goal try to the left at 0:17.

It took less than four minutes of the third period for Kentucky to even the tally with Cobb back at quarterback. Their Dixon took the re-opening kickoff at his five and had to be run-out at the 47-yard line by kicker Adam Carlson. Smith dove two yards on 3rd-and-short, and again the Wildcats used a screen—this time to Dixon—for a dozen yards and first down. Cobb went out of bounds two yards short on third down but was hit late for first-and-goal at the nine-yard line.

Dixon got four yards on a counter, then Cobb kept around left end. He was able to stretch out of LB K.J. Wright's grasp and hold the ball across the plane before it came loose. The PAT tied it up 7-7 at 11:08.

After MSU's Dixon burst for 13 yards, wideout Clark was an ankle-away from going the distance on a swing-out throw from Lee. As it was he netted just ten yards, and a holding penalty on second down left too much ground for Lee to make up on two short completions. A first-down hold while Cobb scrambled dug the Wildcats deep, too, and they ended up punting from their 28.

Only they didn't, lining up quickly for a direct snap to A.J. Nance. He squirmed forward for just enough gain to keep possession at the 30-yard line. Cobb got away with grounding the ball on first down; Pegues didn't on a rather shaky interference call as Cobb overthrew E.J. Adams at the MSU 35-yard line. Pegues wasn't pleased, and instead of tackling Smith he tried to strip the ball, allowing a 13-yard gainer and first down on the Bulldog 39.

State called time at 4:38 to settle everyone down, but Cobb hit Lankster for ten yards on first down anyway. Dixon followed the blocking surge for another move of the chains, and Cobb faked the flow one way while running left down to State's three-yard line. Play-action drew everyone, including cornerback Washington, into coming up while tight end Maurice Ginter jogged into the end zone for the easy touchdown catch at 2:42 for the 14-7 lead.

Pegues checked-up in the kickoff return and was swarmed at the 14-yard line. McRae got open for a dozen yards on one third down, but on the next his throw was batted at the line and Cobb returned McAdams' punt 11 yards to the Wildcat 33-yard line. Then the Wildcats made an uncharacteristic error, as Smith was separated from the ball by DT Cortez McCraney who fell on the fumble at the 31.

McRae began the fourth quarter with an amazing leaping catch for 20 yards. On 2nd-and-9 Stallworth took a flare-out flip, dodged lone defender Robbie McAtee, and got into the end zone at 13:57. A few Dogs celebrated too long and a sportsmanship foul was called; but what hurt much worse was Kentucky's Matt Roark coming through the middle to block the (somewhat low) point-after, keeping the Wildcats up a priceless point 14-13. And the rest of the action would hinge on that margin.

The aforementioned flag meant a kickoff from the 15-yard line, and State did well to keep Kentucky starting from their 37-yard line. Then the Wildcats gave State another gift as Cobb's forced throw was picked by LB Dominic Douglas. The Bulldogs weren't able to use this break at first, even after a roughing call gave another first down at the UK 44; and then when State had a 4th-and-6 punt block negated by off-sides. Lee threw to McRae on 4th-and-1 to keep the drive going.

And after sacking Lee, the Wildcat defense again caused themselves needless trouble by interfering with McRae at the 10-yard line. Now at the UK 26, the Bulldogs got a quick 15 from Dixon. That's when things went awry, because on 3rd-and-3 Lee—faking the handoff before rolling-right—cut his angle too wide and tripped on Dixon's foot. That brought Carlson out to kick from the 20-yard line. He got this one way-high enough, but too far left and hit that upright at 6:56.

The Bulldogs wouldn't get another such chance in two other possessions. Though, had Lee led McRae or even put the ball even with him on a hard 3rd-and-6 slant, the wideout would have been gone. As it was the throw was too far behind and on fourth down Bell couldn't come up with a throw that would have brought a measurement anyway.

State's last series ended on 4th-and-6, too, as rolling for his life Lee forced a try towards the middle for Stallworth that was intercepted with 1:01 left for the Wildcats to run off.

The stat sheet only fanned frustrations, as State held a 304-274 edge in yardage. In fact Lee threw for almost as much gain as UK's whole offense, completing 26-of-42 tries for 261 yards. Stallworth and McRae had 144 of those yards between them. But State's Dixon was held in-check on 15 carries, netting just 48 yards with only two double-digit gainers.

Cobb was 7-of-13 for 56 yards and Hartline had 90 more air yards. UK's Dixon had 66 yards on 12 rushes and Cobb 31 more on 12 keepers. The quarterback also caught three balls from Hartline for 33 yards.

McAdams had a big day with a 46.0 averge on six punts, but that was not State's special-teams issue for this day.


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