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At the whistle: Kentucky football defeats Mississippi State 24-3

Kentucky Wildcats wide receivers Barion Brown (7) and Dane Key (6) celebrate a touchdown during the Kentucky vs. Mississippi State football game on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. Photo by Isaiah Pinto | Staff

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Kentucky football defeated Mississippi State 24-3 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi, on Saturday. The win snapped a three-game losing skid for the Cats.

The win was the first in Starkville under head coach Mark Stoops and the first for the program since 2008. It also marked the first SEC West road win since that same 2008 result.

With the victory the Cats now lead the all-time series 26-25.

The game marked only the third road competition of the year for the Wildcats.

With the sun already setting by the time kickoff arrived, both teams desperately needed a win in SEC play.

Kentucky won the opening coin toss and opted to defer until the second half, giving the home team the ball to start the game.

Things got off to a chippy start with no love lost between either team.

Taking over on offense, Kentucky made the most of its first opportunity.

Another fight took place following Kentucky’s subsequent kickoff, but this time the penalty flags would fly as Wildcat Khamari Anderson picked up the unsportsmanlike conduct foul.

The UK defense then proved that the first drive was no fluke as it forced another three-and-out on the Bulldogs.

A punt by the Cats saw the Bulldogs pick up some momentum on offense, but neither side would add more points before the end of the first quarter.

Mississippi State would continue its drive into the second quarter, but even an apparent injury to Andru Phillips wasn’t enough to break the Wildcats, who held the home side to just three points.

Unfortunately for the Cats, the offense couldn’t quite keep up with the defense and another punt ensued.

Seeing this, the defense opted to just score itself on the next drive.

The Bulldog offense would dry up on its next attempt and, after the punt, it was the home side’s turn to draw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

With the defensive touchdown fresh in the mind, Kentucky’s offense found the motivation it needed to extend its lead just prior to halftime.

The Bulldogs attempted a Hail-Mary prior to the break, but the 21-3 score line would be maintained into halftime, with Kentucky getting the ball to start the second half.

Both teams would have dud drives to start the second half before the Wildcats extended their lead over halfway into the third quarter.

The score would remain unchanged for the remainder of the third, with the 24-3 score line being carried into the fourth-and-final quarter of the night.

With things seemingly put away, Stoops opted to let backup quarterback Kaiya Sheron take the field, ending Leary’s night with 156 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

After a turnover on downs by Sheron, Mississippi State refused to give up hope on a comeback before J.J. Weaver gave the Wildcats their dagger on a pivotal fourth down play.

While both sides had more drives following the turnover on downs, the outcome had already been decided and neither squad added points to the score sheet before the final whistle.

The Wildcats will return to action from their home venue, Kroger Field, on Saturday, Nov. 11, to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide. The matchup against the Tide is scheduled for noon ET and will air on ESPN.

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Cole Parke, Sports Editor

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