The bubble has burst somewhat on Kentucky’s season, but the Wildcats have found an offensive weapon with bowl eligibility just a win away.
Having dropped three straight games after a 5-0 start, coach Mark Stoops will take his squad to play Mississippi State on Saturday night in a Southeastern Conference matchup at Starkville, Miss.
A victory by Kentucky (5-3, 2-3 SEC) would give the school the six wins necessary for a bowl game plus snap the pesky skid that started against top-ranked Georgia a month ago.
Despite the dark, winless October, the Wildcats saw their offense re-emerge last week in a 33-27 loss to then-No. 21 Tennessee, their longtime rival.
Kentucky’s Devin Leary enjoyed a big game in defeat, as the former North Carolina State quarterback went 28 of 39 for a season-high 372 yards and two touchdowns. It was his second 300-yard game for the Wildcats.
Leary’s top target was Dane Key, who had a season-high 113 yards and a touchdown on seven catches.
“It’s very encouraging because they’ve worked really hard,” Stoops said of the players who are part of his aerial attack. “You’re starting to see some growth, and that I’m happy with. … Our guys just have to have that same approach and we’ll get better.”
Not surprisingly, the offense of Mississippi State (4-4, 1-4) has sputtered since record-setting quarterback Will Rogers went down with a shoulder injury against Western Michigan on Oct. 7 in a 41-28 win.
The slide continued last week in a 27-13 loss at Auburn, where the Bulldogs allowed 24 points in the first half before outscoring the host Tigers 10-3 in the second half.
“You ain’t winning a football game playing a half of football,” Bulldogs coach Zach Arnett said. “I appreciate the guys’ efforts in the second half, but I’m not particularly interested in moral victories. … We’ve struggled to put a full game together all year, which is my fault. You ain’t gonna beat a good football team playing half football.”
Mike Wright continues to run the offense in Rogers’ absence. Running backs Jeffery Pittman and Seth Davis produced 113 rushing yards between them against the Tigers, while Zavion Thomas caught nine passes for 112 yards and a score.
The all-time series between the schools is level at 25-25. The home team has won the past eight meetings.