The Garrett Shrader era in Starkville began with a bang Saturday, as Mississippi State rode Kylin Hill’s 3 TDs and a solid effort from its signal-caller to an impressive 28-13 victory over Kentucky.

State opened the day’s scoring with a 52-yard pick-6 from linebacker Willie Gay Jr., in his first game back from suspension, just 1:25 after opening kickoff. Kentucky got a 40-yard field goal from freshman kicker Chance Poore late in the 1st quarter, but that was a close as Kentucky got.

Meanwhile, Shrader, the freshman starter due to injury to Tommy Stevens, was efficient, rarely misfiring, except for a late 1st-half interception. He also challenged Kentucky’s defense on the ground. He finished with 125 yards rushing, including a 36-yard carry. Hill, the SEC’s leading rusher, did the rest.

Hill cracked the 100-yard mark by the 3rd quarter, and he added a pair of 2nd-quarter touchdowns as State stretched its advantage to 21-3 at intermission. He capped the scoring with a short TD run in the final minutes and finished with 120 yards.

Kentucky struggled with turnovers and pass protection, as Sawyer Smith struggled in his 2nd career start, throwing numerous passes that were deflected and nearly intercepted. Kentucky receiver Lynn Bowden missed a couple of potential touchdown catches, but also eclipsed 100 yards receiving early in the 4th quarter. Kentucky’s most consistent offensive threat was junior running back A.J. Rose, who registered a 100-yard game himself, marking the first player to rush for over 100 yards for the Wildcats since Benny Snell last season.

Kentucky trimmed the State advantage to 21-10, but a lengthy 4th quarter drive ended without scoring when Poore missed 26-yard field goal attempt, making him 3-for-7 on the season. State’s defense sacked Smith 3 times and forced numerous hurries as well, which contributed significantly to State’s defensive stands late. Matt Ruffolo made a 29-yard field goal for Kentucky to pull within 21-13 with 4:39 to play before Hill’s final TD.

State will travel to Auburn next week, looking to move to 4-1 on the season before a bye week the following weekend. Similarly, Kentucky will travel to South Carolina, with both teams finding their season potential at a crossroads before the Wildcats will also take a bye week the following weekend.