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The Big Blueprint

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defense_uk_miss_st.jpgMissed the game? Watched it but can't get enough or can't believe what you saw? Cat Scratches will break down the nuts and bolts from each and every game, including some postgame reaction and comments from the players who made the difference.

The essentials: The Kentucky football team talked all week about the opportunity to accomplish bigger and better goals with the current stretch it's on, but the Mississippi State Bulldogs might have ran all over those with a punishing ground game. Led by tailback Anthony Dixon, the Bulldogs ran for 348 yards, defeating UK 31-24 in front of 67,953 fans at Commonwealth Stadium. The teams exchanged blows for much of the game, but Mississippi State dealt the final one on Dixon's 3-yard touchdown scamper with 59 seconds left in the third quarter. The Cats had multiple opportunities to tie the game, but a quarterback sack of Morgan Newton on fourth-and-5 late in the fourth quarter squashed UK's chances. Tailback Derrick Locke rushed 17 times for 103 yards and a score, and Newton amassed 158 yards of total offense
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"It's extremely disappointing," head coach Rich Brooks said. "You've got to give Mississippi State credit. They outcoached us, they outplayed us. We were in position at halftime to take care of business and immediately turned it over and allowed them to go right through us."

Play of the game:
Dixon had his share of big plays in this game, but none might have been more deflating than the 47-yard rumble through the left side of the line late in the third quarter, which ultimately set up the game-winning score.

"Mississippi State did a really good job of blocking and Dixon does happen to be a pretty good back," Brooks said. "It's not like we're the first team he's run on. It's extremely disappointing that we allowed as much of that to go on as we did and the big chunks of it. That's what's the most disappointing, is that we gave up big plays instead of small doses."

Turning point: UK was knocking on the door early in the fourth quarter, poised to tie the game at 31. The Cats had first-and-goal from the Mississippi State 4-yard line, but failed to punch it in. Newton rushed it twice in a row up the middle to no avail and then threw an interception to Jamar Chaney on third down.

Brooks touched on the lack of the Wildcat package inside the 5-yard line after the game.

"It wasn't successful all the time tonight," Brooks said. "We decided not to do it, obviously, and when it doesn't work we open ourselves up to be second guessed on a lot of things. I can sit here and second guess myself on it as well. We just thought we had some plays that were working and they took them away. We had a young mistake on the interception. They did a good job. Maybe I should have gone Wildcat. There you go."

Player of the game: Win or lose, there was no questioning who the best player on the field was Saturday night. Dixon, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound running back, ran through, around and over UK's rush defense. The senior tailback amassed a career-high 252 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries, easily the most rushing yards by a Bulldog this season. Dixon didn't do it with any spectacularly shifty runs. He simply overpowered UK's tacklers, often times pushing piles forward for an additional two or three yards. It was like watching a semi truck crash into a Kia.

"The disappointing thing even though there were some holes and he was making a lot of progress into our UK secondary is we didn't tackle and we weren't as physical as we were in the Auburn game or in most of our games," Brooks said. "They were more physical up front on both sides of the ball. I guess I didn't get my message to the team. We knew and we talked about how physical this game was going to be. They came in and took care of it and we didn't."

Unsung heroes: Let's not forget about the big boys on the offensive line that were opening those holes up for Dixon to run through. As great as Dixon was, the MSU O-line was opening up some gaping holes for the burly back to run through.

Linebacker Micah Johnson, who played through a knee injury, said it was frustrating to see them run the same play - a counter - through UK's defense over and over again.

"They just killed us with one play," Johnson said. "They ran the same play over and over and over again and it worked over and over again. We just got out-executed."

He said what? Other notable quotes:

Brooks on the play of Newton ...
"We thought the young kid was doing some good things. We tried to get a little rhythm going. We had talked about (putting Will Fidler) in on several occasions but decided to stay with him. It's a damned if you do and damned if you don't (type of thing). He did make some really good throws and did some good things, as well as some mistakes."

Brooks on the team being beat up ...
"We're all beat up. I'm beat up now and I'm going to get beat up a lot more now."

Cobb on not having the ball in the Wildcat in the second-to-last possession ...
"I trust this coaching staff. I know they're going to put us in position to win. They call plays and we have to execute them. Would I like to have the ball? Yes, I would have, but I didn't have it, so we have to execute the play that was called."

Injury report: Tailback Derrick Locke tore some scar tissue on his injured knee but remained in the game. Senior center Jorge Gonzalez played through neck and back spasms.   

Hidden stat: If there is a silver lining for Kentucky, it's that its return game, led by do-it-all Randall Cobb, continues to impress. The Cats returned six kicks for 163 yards and two punts for 61 yards. Cobb had most of that yardage, returning five kicks for 142 yards and one punt for 46 yards.

What this one means: Kentucky's chances to go to a bigger and better bowl game took a serious hit Saturday night. The players preached all season long about beating the teams you're supposed to beat to take the next step in the Southeastern Conference, but they failed to come through against Mississippi State, a team that is desperately fighting to get back to a bowl game.

"This was a big game for us as far as pecking order in the bowl games," Cobb said. "For us to come out and not show up and play with no emotion ... This was a big night. It was Halloween, we've got so many alumni (here), we had a 'blackout.' It was just so many things and we didn't play off that emotion."

Now if UK wants to accomplish some of those bigger and better things, it's going to have to really take care of business with a 4-4 record. It means taking care of business against Eastern Kentucky and Vanderbilt and either going on the road and stealing one at Georgia or finally ending the streak to Tennessee.

"The season isn't lost, but it certainly isn't going to be the type of season that we thought it could be if we would have won this game," Brooks said. "The key thing is to bounce back and get a win before we go on the road for two straight games and try to steal one on the road so we can get bowl eligible, but there's no question this is a very disappointing loss."

 

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