Cats Fall to Mississippi State 24-17

Oct. 30, 2010

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Vick Ballard rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown, and No. 23 Mississippi State relied on its running game and defense to beat Kentucky 24-17 on Saturday.

The Wildcats threatened to tie the game in the final minute, but quarterback Mike Hartline's pass was intercepted by Johnthan Banks at the goal line to seal a sixth straight victory for Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) - its longest streak since 1999.

The Bulldogs offense certainly won't win any style points, but it continues to produce results. Chris Relf completed just 7 of 16 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown, but he also ran for 79 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Kentucky (4-5, 1-5) hasn't beaten a ranked team on the road since 1998. Randall Cobb caught 12 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown.

The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 10-0 lead after Ballard's 54-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound running back missed last week's game against Alabama-Birmingham because of an ankle injury, but looked healthy as he continually gashed Kentucky's defense.

The Wildcats fought their way back, tying the game at 17 late in the third quarter on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Hartline to Moncell Allen. Kentucky came into Saturday's game averaging 34.8 points per game - good for second in the SEC - but struggled to gain traction against Mississippi State's stingy defense.

The Wildcats' only consistent success came when Hartline threw the ball to Cobb, who again showed why he's considered one of the conference's most dynamic playmakers.

On the final drive, Hartline and Cobb looked as though they might win the game by themselves, connecting for two completions on third-and-6 to keep their hopes alive. But Hartline's final throw on fourth-and-10 at the Bulldogs 20 was well off the mark, and Banks snagged the easy interception.

Hartline completed 23 of 41 passes for 258 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Kentucky lost despite having a big advantage in time of possession, running 85 plays to Mississippi State's 58, and outgaining the Bulldogs 347-325.

Mississippi State's defense forced four turnovers, though the offense couldn't convert any of them into points. Linebacker Chris White led the Bulldogs with 15 tackles.