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Keith Taylor: Stoops confident Cats can duplicate road success at Mississippi State


 Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott escapes Kentucky’s A.J. Stamps during the Bulldogs’ 45-31 win over the Wildcats last year at Commonwealth Stadium. The two teams meet in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday in Starkville (Glenn Morris Photo)

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott escapes Kentucky’s A.J. Stamps during the Bulldogs’ 45-31 win over the Wildcats last year at Commonwealth Stadium. The two teams meet in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday in Starkville (Glenn Morris Photo)

 
Kentucky has yet to lose a road game this season. They will try to keep that streak going while attempting to end another one Saturday at Mississippi State.
 
The Wildcats (4-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) played five of their first six games at Commonwealth Stadium and split a four-game homestand, closing the stretch with a 30-27 loss to Auburn last week.

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Kentucky, which edged South Carolina 26-22 in a thriller on Sept. 12 in Columbia, has lost six straight to the Bulldogs, including a 45-31 setback a year ago in Lexington. Although the half dozen setbacks to the Bulldogs have been relatively close, Kentucky hasn’t defeated Mississippi State since a 14-13 triumph during the 2008 season in Starkville.
 
Stoops hopes the win over the Gamecocks earlier this year is a confidence boost the Cats need to be successful in their second road game of the year.
 
“It’s another experience that we had, another obstacle,” Stoops said. “That’s what I talked to the team about (Thursday). It will be fun in a way. We’ve played a lot of home games. It’s a real challenge and something hopefully (the players) are excited about. I am and the coaches are.”
 
Stoops said the Bulldogs have the right recipe in place to succeed and credits Mullen’s recruiting success behind the team’a ability to compete in the conference and beyond. Under Mullen’s guidance, Mississippi State has won 27 straight games over unranked teams at Davis Wade Stadium.
 
“Coach Mullen has just done a great job of just building a program,” Stoops said, “It’s no mystery, they’re winning a bunch of football games.”
 
Kentucky’s toughest task will be containing Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, who has been perfect on all 148 completions this season. Prescott has thrown for 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns.
 
“He knows what he is doing,” Stoops said. “They are really big at wide receiver too. They are talented and experienced and bigger guys. We have to rise to the occasion and challenge these guys and make competitive plays. That is part of the difference in last week’s game is they made some competitive plays on us.”

imgres
Kentucky
at Mississippi State
When: Saturday,
7:30 p.m.
Records: Kentucky 4-2; Miss. St. 5-2
TV/Radio: SEC Network; 98.1 WBUL

 
Stoops added his team can’t duplicate last week’s first-quarter showing on defense, in which the Wildcats gave up two early touchdowns, creating an early deficit for the offense to overcome the remainder of the contest.
 
“Defensively, we need to get off to a better start,” Stoops said. “We need to get lined up more efficiently with a better sense of urgency. When we did (get lined up better) when we settled in we did some very good things.”
 
On the flip side, Mullen is wary of Patrick Towles. The junior Kentucky signal caller has thrown for 1,512 yards and eight touchdowns through six games. Towles threw for 390 yards and a pair of scores in last year’s contest against the Bulldogs.
 
“He is going to step up in big games,” Mullen said. “They know this is a big game. He tried to put the team on his shoulders last year, running and throwing. He had a huge game at their place.”
 
The two foes aren’t division rivals, but are permanent crossover opponents in the SEC, giving both teams an equalized opponent in the league.
 
“It has come down to the wire every single year,” Mullen said. “I think that speaks to the nature of how both teams view the rivalry.”
 
In addition, Stoops expects a close game and welcomes the challenge. Stoops said the Wildcats have had a good week of practice coming off a loss to the Tigers and “excited about the opportunity.”
 
“We will all respond better and the players will bounce back,” he said. “They are resilient. We’ve got a great opportunity this weekend and a great challenge. I believe it will be the greatest challenge we’ve had all year. It is going to be a fight.”
 


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