Football in control heading into Mississippi State game


Kentucky wide receiver Jeff Badet runs the ball down the field at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky. on Saturday, October 8, 2016. Kentucky defeats Vanderbilt 20-13. Photo by Lexi Baskin | Staff.

Anthony Crawford

For however hard it is to believe, things are starting to break right for UK Football. The upcoming game is a great chance to prove that this isn’t just a fluke as the Cats can not only get their first win over Mississippi State in the Mark Stoops era but also stay in the race for the SEC East.

The Cats withstood one of the worst starts to the season that you could imagine as they lost to a Conference-USA opponent in Southern Miss and then followed it up with an embarrassing showing on the road against Florida. But the team has bounced back and are 3-1 since, with the one loss being an admiral showing in Tuscaloosa against No. 1 Alabama.

The difference has largely come on the defensive end, but the improvement of the run game has also played a big part in the transition to backup quarterback Stephen Johnson being thrown into action after Drew Barker went down in the first series of the New Mexico State game, the start of this current positive stretch for UK.

The strides made by the team also show that the team responded to what Stoops said he told the team after the loss to Southern Miss. Stoops said after the Vanderbilt win that things had gotten “toxic and negative” for the team but every bit of criticism was taken in and what is left is a team that remains in the hunt for the SEC East.

“But just seeing how we are bouncing back and guys just fully believing now, just knowing we can go out there and win these games. There’s a lot of winnable games on our schedule,” wide receiver Jeff Badet said following Tuesday’s practice. “We got a huge opportunity to go out here and win the east.”

With Florida and Tennessee both heading into a bye week, UK has a chance to take sole possession of second place in the standings with a win over Mississippi State. And then if Florida somehow loses to Georgia, which is likely with how unpredictable and underwhelming the SEC East has been this season, UK can then enter in a tie for first place. 

The Cats are at a point where they control their own destiny and it happens as they enter the more favorable part of their schedule. The following three games are winnable for UK. 

Mississippi State has had UK’s number since Stoops took over but this year the Bulldogs won’t have Dak Prescott to save the day. Mississippi State enters the game coming off a loss to BYU and with a 2-4 record. It’s defense has been able to do some good things but the matchup still should favor UK.

“You know, Mississippi State, they do a great job. They mix it up, a lot of multiple coverages, but this is about us,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said.

The last thing UK needs to do is look ahead to their road matchup with Missouri or home matchup with struggling Georgia, but the team should be aware of the fact that a win over Mississippi State puts them back in the driver’s seat for the season and reaching a bowl almost becomes expected instead of unlikely.