Kentucky Defense Leads Cats Past Bulldogs on Saturday

Kentucky Defense Leads Cats Past Bulldogs on Saturday

by Tim Letcher

The Kentucky defense heard it all week. After giving up an average of more than 40 points per game over the last three contests, all losses, the UK defenders knew they needed to show improvement.

On Saturday night against Mississippi State, the Cats’ defensive unit, under the direction of defensive coordinator Brad White, stepped up. And in a very big way. As Kentucky won 24-3 at Davis Wade Stadium amidst a chorus of cow bells, it was the UK defense leading the way.

Kentucky held MSU to 218 yards of total offense, including just 73 yards on the ground. UK forced MSU into six series of three and outs. The Cats had eight tackles for loss, five sacks and two pass breakups. Outside of an 88-yard drive that resulted in a field goal, the Cats allowed just 130 yards on 11 drives. The Cats held the Bulldogs to an average of just 3.3 yards per play in the game. Kentucky allowed the fewest points in an SEC road game since 1979 when the Cats beat Florida 31-3.

UK head coach Mark Stoops was happy to get a win. And the former defensive coordinator in him liked how the Kentucky defense played.

“We did what we had to do to get a road win,” Stoops told the SEC Network’s Alyssa Lang following the game. “We needed a victory. We talked all week about get the victory by any means necessary. This was far from pretty but the defense did a heck of a job.”

The Cats also got another defensive score, the fourth so far this season, in the game. It came when senior linebacker D’Eryk Jackson picked off Mississippi State’s Mike Wright and scampered 28 yards untouched for a touchdown. That marked the 10th time that the Cats have had an interception return for a touchdown in the last four seasons. The touchdown made it 14-3 in the second quarter and the Cats never looked back on their way to winning in Starkville.

“It’s a team game. A week ago, we didn’t play very good,” Stoops told Lang after the game. “They bounced back tonight and I figured they would.”

Kentucky allowed the fewest points to a Southeastern Conference opponent since beating these same Bulldogs 24-2 at Kroger Field in 2020. Stoops won for the first time in Starkville and UK won at Mississippi State for the first time since 2008. More importantly, the Cats snapped a three-game losing streak and, in the process, became bowl eligible for the eighth consecutive season.

“We needed this win,” Stoops said. “We had lost three straight. We went on the road, a place we hadn’t played very good. I’m proud of this team. It wasn’t pretty but it’s a victory and we’ll take it.”

On this night, it was the Kentucky defense leading the Cats to a much needed win in Starkville. And in the process, White’s unit got a bit of redemption for the past three weeks.

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