UK Continues Tough Stretch vs. No. 19/20 Mississippi State
Oct. 4, 2012
After a hard-fought loss last Saturday to No. 6 South Carolina in its Southeastern Conference home opener, Kentucky continues a difficult stretch of playing three ranked and undefeated foes in as many weeks when it plays host to No. 19/20 Mississippi State on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.
The Wildcats put together arguably their best half of football this season last Saturday against South Carolina, leading the sixth-ranked Gamecocks 17-7 at halftime. In the first half, UK blocked a USC punt, recovered a fumble and stopped USC on downs at the goal line. Quarterback Maxwell Smith started the game and played two plays before sustaining an ankle injury and not returning. True freshman Jalen Whitlow came off the bench to fill in nicely, leading UK to 17 points -- the most allowed by USC this season -- including his first career touchdown. Whitlow finished the game 12-of-23 for 114 yards.
Individually, Smith still leads the UK offense completing 68.7 (103-of-150) percent of his passes for 975 yards and eight touchdowns. Raymond Sanders leads the team in rushing with 40 carries for 260 yards and two TDs, while Jonathan George isn't too far behind with 35 carries for 182 yards and three scores. La'Rod King leads the team in receiving with 28 catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns.
Linebacker Avery Williamson has 51 tackles and is tied for second in the SEC in tackles per game. Linebacker Bud Dupree has 41 stops and is among the SEC's top five in quarterback sacks and tackles for loss.
Cat Scratches: Quarterback questions to be answered on Saturday
The loss of Maxwell Smith to a torn ankle ligament was quite a blow for the Kentucky football team. Through the first quarter of the season, the sophomore quarterback had been at the center of an offensive revitalization. He had efficiently run UK's brand-new fast-paced attack, ranking among the nation's leaders in passing yards and spreading the ball to a bevy of receivers.
Without question, his absence will be felt, particularly since his replacement will be a freshman duo with about one game's worth of experience combined and a week of practice with the first team.
The UK coaches have little idea what they will get out of Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles this weekend, which is terrifying. But at the same time, that mystery makes things quite interesting ... read the full preview
Scouting Mississippi State
Mississippi State enters Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday with a 4-0 record, including a Southeastern Conference win over Auburn. The Bulldogs are the third-straight undefeated and ranked for the Wildcats.
Mississippi State has had a very balanced effort both offensively and defensively this season, ranking top 50 nationally in most categories on both sides. Defensively, MSU has held opponents to 10 points or less in three of four games. The Bulldogs rank 13th nationally in scoring defense, 15th in pass efficiency defense, 40th in total defense and 48th in pass defense. One of the strongest parts of the defense has been the ability to create turnovers as the Bulldogs lead the nation in turnover margin, averaging 3.25 turnovers a game. MSU has nine interceptions and six recovered fumbles in four games.
Individually on defense, Cameron Lawrence leads the Bulldogs with 28 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss and one sack. Darius Slay has been a terror for offenses in the secondary with four interceptions and one pass breakup, while Denico Autry has three tackles-for-loss.
Offensively, the MSU offensive line has been solid this season, allowing only half a sack a game to rank fifth nationally. The Bulldogs rank 35th nationally in scoring offense, 46th in rushing offense and 78th in passing offense. Quarterback Tyler Russell leads the team offensively completing more than 55 percent of his passes for 822 yards and eight touchdowns. LaDarius Perkins leads the team in rushing with 389 yards and five touchdowns on 57 carries, while wide receiver Chad Bumphis has 12 catches for 271 yards and five touchdowns.