How about last weekend? It’s an understatement to say that Saturday’s game against #16 Mississippi State was an absolute must-win for the Cats. Mike Leach’s Bulldogs came to Lexington as one of the hottest teams in the country – coming off two straight dominant performances against Texas A&M (42-24) and Arkansas (40-17). State QB Will Rogers was the nation’s leader in passing yards per game, and a near 72% completion rate (absolutely unheard of). Kentucky, on the other hand, was coming off two losses in which they knew they were the better team and failed to capitalize.
And did they ever respond! Kentucky’s defense absolutely answered the call against this high-octane passing attack, leaving with a 27-17 victory. Brad White drew up an excellent scheme of dropping eight and only rushing three defenders:
Dis a work… pic.twitter.com/2W6bbbetPe
— Van Hiles (@vstyles17) October 17, 2022
The Cats defense held State to just 225 total yards – 203 passing, 22 rushing – and a measly 4.8 yards per play. They stopped MSU on third down nine times in 13 tries, and bolstered a 34.8% successful play rate. For the third straight time in Kroger Field, Kentucky dominated Mississippi State defensively – something that is not easy to do.
The Return of Levis
On the offensive side, it was all about Chris Rodriguez. CRod finished with 31 carries, 197 yards, and two TDs – it would have been three touchdowns if Stoops wanted to run up the score and let him punch it in the end zone at the end of the game rather than taking a knee. After missing last week’s game against South Carolina, Will Levis made his return in spectacular fashion, finishing with 230 yards on 17-23 passing. Even more impressive was Levis on third down – he finished 9-9 with a total of 194 yards. You can see why he’s being projected as the potential #1 pick in the NFL Draft.
But more importantly is the resilience and leadership of Levis. After he suffered an injury in the second half – during crucial moments of the game – he could have remained in the locker room and sat out. Instead, he came back out and led the charge.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 16, 2022
Tough, Hard-Nosed, Blue-Collar Kentucky Football
With their backs against the wall, our guys fought and played tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar Kentucky football – a style that has become a staple of the Stoops era. They saved the season, and the East is still within reach. After the bye week, the Cats will travel to Knoxville and face the hottest team in the country – a matchup with the undefeated, #3 ranked Tennessee Volunteers – who are riding high after taking down Nick Saban and Alabama. As Kentucky fans, we know all of our opinions on our arch-rivals to the south, so we don’t need to discuss that. But we can emphasize just how big of a win it would be for Stoops and our boys to walk into Neyland and come out victorious. The statement it would send to the college football world would live on for years.
If Kentucky were to win out, then all it would take for us to claim the East would be for the winner of the Tennessee-Georgia game to lose one more SEC game. That would put the three of us at 6-2 in the conference, with Kentucky taking both tie-breakers. For Tennessee, that loss would need to come at the hands of either Missouri, South Carolina, or Vanderbilt – and for Georgia, to either Florida or Mississippi State. But don’t celebrate just yet. It’s unlikely that either of those teams will lose any of those games.
However, even if Kentucky wins out and does not make the SEC Championship Game, it’s highly unlikely that the College Football Playoff Committee could keep a 10-2 team with wins over a #1 Georgia and a #3 Tennessee out of the playoff – especially when one of their losses came with their starting QB out, and the other just a penalty away from a tough road victory.
Bottom line, Kentucky’s season is far from over. We may have slipped up, but Stoops has us back on track and better than ever. The best has yet to come! Cats by 90.