Grading the Bulldogs: MSU grabs first SEC win in dominating fashion over Kentucky
Mississippi State jumped out to a 21-3 lead on Kentucky midway through the second quarter behind the running of Kylin Hill, and it never relinquished it. The Bulldogs defeated the Wildcats 28-13 at Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday and stretched its record to 3-1 (1-1 SEC) before traveling to Auburn next weekend.
MSU head coach Joe Moorhead saw his club outmanned, outhustled and outcoached last week in its loss to Kansas State.
Against the Wildcats, the Bulldogs were laser-focused on their SEC foe from the East Division.
If someone told you the Bulldogs would be 3-1 heading into the Auburn game, yet quarterbacks Tommy Stevens and Keytaon Thompson were both on the sideline, would you believe him?
Enter Garrett Shrader. The freshman quarterback was masterful at running Moorhead’s offense with pinpoint accuracy, going 17-of-22 for 180 yards.
More eye-opening than his arm was his feet. Shrader led all rushers with 125 yards on 11 carries and kept the Wildcats’ defense guessing all day.
He wasn’t alone. While the MSU offensive line struggled against the Kansas State defensive front, Kentucky had no answers for the Bulldogs’ rushing attack. Hill was on fire, as usual. It was another 100-yard rushing performance, as he finished with 120 on 26 carries with three touchdowns.
Another big day, another highlight-reel video for NFL teams for Hill.
Shrader was successful through the air, mainly to Osirus Mitchell and Farrod Green. The two combined for seven catches for 56 yards. Similar to Stevens, Shrader throws it around to a number of different receivers. Saturday was no different, as he targeted seven Bulldogs.
Moorhead has to be pleased when he looks at the stats. Of a total of 421 yards, 241 came on the ground. The MSU calling card is the rushing attack, and Shrader did exactly what Moorhead wanted him to do: Don’t worry about winning the game, just don’t lose it.
Mississippi State allowed 386 yards to the Wildcats, with 232 through the air. While the yards might be a little high for defensive coordinator Bob Shoop’s liking, Kentucky quarterback Sawyer Smith was only 15-of-41 for 232 yards and no touchdowns.
Mississippi State’s first points come by way of a Willie Gay interception that was returned for a 7-0 lead.
There’s no question that MSU has the most questions in the back half of that defense. The front side played well against UK, holding the Wildcats to 154 rushing yards. Asim Rose led all rushers for the ‘Cats with 105 yards on just nine carries.
As it has been for MSU, the secondary has been the most problematic, with youth scattered throughout. It was a nice day for free safety C.J. Morgan, who led all tacklers with nine. DBs Jaquarius Landrews and Cam Dantzler combined for 12 tackles on the day, with Landrews breaking up four passes.
The most impressive stat was that the Bulldogs held Kentucky to only 1-of-12 on third down, though the Wildcats were 3-of-4 on fourth down.
Special teams: B
It wasn’t a busy day for the MSU special teams, as the Bulldogs did not attempt a field goal. When he had to punt, Tucker Day was very good, averaging 49.0 yards per kick.
He has become quite the weapon for the Bulldogs.
The bottom line
This was a must-win for Moorhead to get the fan base off his back. Following the loss to Kansas State, it was an unhappy bunch, with more questions than answers. They had beaten Kansas State handily a year ago only to have the favor returned.
After Saturday’s domination of Kentucky, Bulldogs fans can exhale and understand that the season is just fine. With a record of 3-1, the future is still incredibly bright in Starkville, with winnable games left on the schedule.
“Very proud of our guys. We said heading into the game it was going to take poise, passion and precision. We certainly saw a lot of it.” — Moorhead
“Without them (the offensive line) pushing, there would be no 100-yard game for me or four straight 100-yard games for me, so I give all the credit them.” — Hill
“We just have to come together, all 11 of us. We talked about our style of play: hard and aggressive — we just made plays today.” — Dantzler