UK’s defense proves powerhouse status against Miss St.


Kash Daniels attempts to sack the quarterback during the game against Mississippi State on Saturday, September 22, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

Against high-powered offenses, UK football has been known to struggle. Even against medium-powered offenses, the Cats have been a question mark in previous years, like the 35 first-half points they gave up to New Mexico State in 2016. Many of the Cats’ defenders were on the team at that point and remember the struggles the defense had.

“Not to put things on guys past, but we really got better. We’ve got a lot of depth now at the D-line spot,” senior safety Mike Edwards said. “We harp on stopping the run, that’s our main focus, stopping the run. So they have to pass the ball, and we can make interceptions and make plays on the ball.”

And stop the run they do. Against No. 14 Mississippi State on Saturday, the Cats’ defense held a three-headed rushing attack that averages over 300 yards on the ground per game this season to just 56 yards in a 28-7 win, so the Bulldogs’ offense certainly qualifies as “high-powered”.

UK also played their best defense this year, holding the visitors to a mere seven points (scored in the first quarter) with 201 yards of total offense.

The Cats have done a better job stopping scores than just about anybody this season, as they’ve now allowed 23 less points to be scored against them in conference play than division-leading No. 2 Georgia, and a very large part of this has been due to the play of Josh Allen.

Against Mississippi State, Allen was in the backfield constantly. It felt as if every play was a sack waiting to happen, as Bulldog quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was always only a hand’s length away from being brought down by the senior defensive end.

“I don’t know what they [Mississippi State] was trying to do, I just know whoever, I don’t care who it was, they could’ve put, I don’t know, the head coach, they could’ve put anybody out there” Allen said. “I’m trying to get it. Whoever’s in my way, I don’t see you. I see the ball or the quarterback.”

Allen finished the game with six total tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.

Allen certainly wasn’t the only one to pitch in on the defensive end. Linebacker Kash Daniel plugged up the middle of the field and took a lot of pride in the way the Cats defended. He said it felt “good” to hit Mississippi State back Kylin Hill, who finished the game rushing for 14 yards.

During the week before the game, Hill shared a video of UK running back Benny Snell Jr. saying that his offense could “run through anyone”. Along with the video, Hill commented with several “laughing face” emojis, and the tweet can’t be included in this article because Hill deleted it.

Then Snell ran for 165 yards and four touchdowns. Hill totaled 14.

“[Hitting Hill] felt good knowing he ran his mouth so much and only ran 14 yards on us and the total offense only ran 56, so you know, it’s whatever,” Daniel said.

Then Daniel was asked if he felt sorry for the blockers that had to keep Allen out of the backfield and, this is a very real quote, he said that he “hopes they’re crying, slobbering all over themselves, I hope their girlfriends all broke up with them.”

Along with an interception from Tyrell Aijan and general confidence and competitive fire from safety Darius West, who head coach Mark Stoops said wanted to “rip people’s faces off on the sideline”, the Cats held one of the most respected and powerful offenses to a very, very poor performance. The Cats, now 4-0 and 2-0 in the SEC, are starting to look like a real terror.