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Keith Taylor: Stoops says Cats not pouting after poor outing in loss to Mississippi State


Kentucky's C.J. Conrad makes a first down in Kentucky's 42-17 loss to Mississippi State Saturday (Vicky Graff Photo)

Kentucky’s C.J. Conrad makes a first down in Kentucky’s 42-17 loss to Mississippi State Saturday (Photo by Vicky Graff)

 
Kentucky won’t spend much time dwelling on its performance at Mississippi State. It was that bad.
 
During the first half of the season, the Wildcats had lost their only two games by a combined margin of eight points, including a 30-27 decision to Auburn last week. The second half didn’t open well, as Kentucky suffered its worst defeat of the season with a 42-16 setback to Bulldogs. It was the team’s poorest outing in the last seven tries against Mississippi State, which hasn’t fallen to the Wildcats since a 14-13 loss in Starkville in 2008.

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It was an effort that left Kentucky coach Mark Stoops disappointed, but he quickly added the Wildcats can’t sit around and feel sorry for themselves with five more games remaining in the regular season.
 
“That’s one football game that we’re not very proud of, but there is nobody that is going to sulk or pout or any of that,” he said. “We’re going to go back to work — we’re going to get better and get ready for our next opportunity.”
 
The Wildcats (4-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) led 10-7 at the end of the first quarter, but an all systems failure during the final three quarters leading to the team’s first double-digit setback of the season. Mississippi State scored 21 points in the second quarter, putting Kentucky in a hole in from which it never recovered.
 
The Wildcats managed just two field goals in the final three quarters, adding more insult to injury.
 
“(It was) obviously not a very good night,” Stoops said. “We did not play very good; we did not coach very good — obviously that was not the result we were looking for.”
 
Although the offense managed 423 yards, including 260 yards through the air, the defense failed to contain Mississippi State, which rode the shoulders of its multi-purpose quarterback Dak Prescott. The senior signal caller threw his first interception of the season, a Chris Westry pick in the second quarter, but it proved to be his only mistake of the night.
 
Prescott, who accounted for all of the Bulldogs’ six touchdowns, had very little trouble finding open receivers, throwing for 348 yards and three touchdowns. He added 117 yards on 13 carries on the ground, and crossing the goal line three times himself.
 
“We knew that going into it that it was going to be very difficult with Dak (Prescott) and the way he handles a game, and with the matchups outside at receiver,” Stoops said. “That definitely held true. They kept us off balance tonight and did a heck of a job. Like I said, they were a lot better football team and a lot better coached. We’ll get back to work.”
 
Kentucky senior linebacker Josh Forrest saw the Bulldogs’ 21-point outburst in the second quarter the turning point in the game.
 
“Their momentum really helped them a lot,” he said. “It kind of had us tired. The tempo, they had a really good tempo. Every time they got a first down, they were running to the ball. That was a really big factor.”
 
The Bulldogs scored twice in the final six minutes of the first half, which proved too much for the Kentucky offense to overcome. Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles threw for 218 yards and had a rushing touchdown, but threw a pair of costly interceptions.
 
Things got so bad in the second half, Stoops decided to pull Towles for the first time this season and inserted backup signal caller Drew Barker into the lineup in the fourth quarter. Barker completed seven passes for 42 yards and threw an interception.
 
Stoops said the Kentucky offense, which generated 423 yards against the Bulldogs, “did some good things” but placed most of the blame on the defense.
 
“We’ve got to stop them,” Stoops said. “We’ve got to be able to run the ball, whether we have it first and 10 at the 30 or at least move the clock a little bit and try to get some yards — try to get some points.”
 
Kentucky now sets its sights on a Halloween night encounter against SEC East rival Tennessee, which lost to No. 8 Alabama 19-14 Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
 
“We just have to go back to work Monday,” Forrest said. “There is nothing we can do about it now. That is the only thing we can do is just go back to work. That is how everyone is looking at it.”
 


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