LEXINGTON, Ky. • Mike Leach’s popular “Air Raid” offense was turned upside down in Saturday night’s clash between Mississippi State and Kentucky, as the host Wildcats handed MSU a convincing 24-2 defeat at Kroger Field.
It’s the first time in Mike Leach’s coaching history that he was held without an offensive touchdown in a game. Quarterbacks K.J. Costello and Will Rogers combined for six interceptions, which doomed any chances of MSU picking up its second win of the season.
“I have a lot of ideas, the biggest one is the University of Kentucky,” MSU head coach Mike Leach said of his offense’s struggles. “The second biggest one is we didn’t play together at all.”
Mississippi State’s six interceptions were tied for the most in school history in a modern game. MSU also turned the ball over twice on downs in the second half, and Kentucky was able to turn MSU’s blunders into 14 of its 24 points.
MSU’s first turnover of the game – an interception from Costello – resulted in a near pick six from Josh Paschal, as he was pushed out of bounds at the two-yard-line. Chris Rodriguez would score for Kentucky two plays later from two yards out, which gave Kentucky a 14-0 lead with just under four minutes until halftime.
Following Costello’s interceptions, MSU’s next three drives all ended with turnovers under Costello’s guidance. After a three-and-out on the next series, true freshman Will Rogers came into the game to replace him.
Rogers completed his first four passes but struggled afterwards, throwing two interceptions himself and only throwing for 43 yards on 15 attempts.
“We turned the ball over, which was a byproduct of the quarterbacks’ eyes not being in the right place,” Leach said. “He had some contributions too between dropped balls or somebody not being in the right place, but his eyes were not in the right place consistently.
Costello replaced Rogers in the fourth quarter, only to throw another interception that resulted in a Kentucky pick-6 with 6:25 remaining. The score pushed the Wildcats’ lead to 19 at the time, which proved to be out of reach for MSU.
Mississippi State’s lone score of the game came in the third quarter off a safety.
A bad snap while punting on fourth down led to Kentucky punter Max Duffy kicking the ball out of the back of the end zone, which awarded the Bulldogs their only two points of the evening.
Mississippi State’s defense held firm for most of the game, holding Kentucky’s offense to only 157 yards. That’s the lowest yardage output from an MSU opponent all season.
“Even through the highs and lows on defense or offense, it’s still a team game,” Erroll Thompson, who recorded five tackles in the loss, said after the game “There’s no moral victories for one side, either we win the game or we don’t.”