STARKVILLE • Mississippi State and Kentucky share something in common.
Neither the Bulldogs nor the Wildcats were able to sustain fourth-quarter leads last week and suffered their first losses of the season. Florida scored 19 unanswered points in the final quarter to defeat Kentucky 29-21 while MSU surrendered two late touchdowns to Kansas State in a 31-24 loss.
Both 2-1 teams will be searching for better showings today when they clash at 3 p.m. on the SEC Network.
“I’m not saying that any of us are pleased that we had a close game against a Power 5 opponent that’s undefeated,” said MSU coach Joe Moorhead. “We’re not happy about it. In terms of motivation, I don’t think you’ll see desperation. I think you’ll see two teams who played close games that are a little upset and a little angry about the outcome that are going to come loaded for bear and get this thing back on track.”
Today will mark the Wildcats’ first road game in 2019 and will also be the Southeastern Conference opener for the Bulldogs.
Although Kentucky has not won at Davis Wade Stadium since 2008, the Wildcats have claimed victory in two of their last three games against Mississippi State.
UK rushed for 229 yards – including 165 and four touchdowns by Benny Snell – in a 28-7 win in Lexington last year while limiting the Bulldogs to just 56 yards on the ground.
Kylin Hill, who currently leads the SEC with 431 rushing yards, was held to four carries for 14 yards in last season’s encounter with the Wildcats. MSU also committed 16 penalties and accumulated nearly as much penalty yardage (139) as it did total yardage (201).
“It was a humbling experience,” said MSU safety Jaquarius Landrews. “We thought we had them. We were cocky all during the week and I guess we weren’t prepared.”
Each team has endured injuries to their starting quarterbacks early in the year. Kentucky lost Terry Wilson for the season to a knee injury in the second half during its Week 2 win over Eastern Michigan and have since turned to junior Sawyer Smith, who went 5-2 as a starter at Troy last season.
Through his first two games as a Wildcat, Smith has completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 343 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
“Smith is more of a passer who can run than a runner who can pass and I think the play-calling has reflected that,” Moorhead said.
Mississippi State’s signal caller Tommy Stevens has had to leave the last two games due to a right shoulder injury but is eager to return the field for his first SEC action after committing three turnovers last week.
“I’m excited but I don’t want to make it an overwhelming topic,” Stevens said. “I still have to do the things I would do for every other opponent but I’m excited to start SEC play and excited for this weekend.”