UK Football Has Homecoming Date with #1 Mississippi State
When the University of Kentucky scheduled its homecoming festivities for the week of the Mississippi State game, it probably didn’t expect the Bulldogs to be the No. 1 ranked team in America.
That is the case, though, and the Wildcats will face their greatest challenge of the year when Heisman favorite Dak Prescott and his red-hot Mississippi State team come to Lexington Saturday afternoon.
Prescott is fifth in the Southeastern Conference in passing yardage, while also ranking fourth in rushing.
“I think that he’s making better decisions and he’s getting rid of the ball quicker than he did last year,” said Kentucky defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot of Prescott. “He’s always been a great runner and they’ve always had a great quarterback run game plan, but now he’s added that dimension of being able to throw the ball and make great decisions as well.”
Prescott’s star power has skyrocketed in recent weeks, as he’s led the Bulldogs to three straight victories against SEC opponents (LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn). He’s averaging 246.3 yards per game through the air and 96 on the ground. His name has blown up on social media, and he’s shot himself into the national conversation for the Heisman Trophy.
Stopping him? Now, that would shoot the Kentucky defense into the national spotlight. But it will be a difficult task for a team that has traditionally struggled against mobile quarterbacks, and that has specifically struggled against the run this year.
The bad news for Kentucky, though, is that Prescott is not a one-man team. Bulldogs’ running back Josh Robinson is also first in the conference for rushing yardage (114.83 yards per game).
And Mississippi State is eerily balanced on offense, averaging 265.86 yards a game on the ground, and 265.3 in the air.
The focus for the Wildcats will be on eliminating the big plays, which they struggled with against LSU.
“Our biggest problem in that (LSU) game defensively was what’s called explosive runs,” Eliot said. “They had 51 runs and for the most part we met our run efficiencies, but on the ones we did not meet our efficiencies, they were explosive. They were 10, they were 20, they were 30. And so, we did have something that we can say, ‘Hey guys, you did some good things, but we can’t let these long runs get out.’”
Unfortunately for Kentucky, two of Mississippi State’s most prolific athletes on offense are just that – explosive.
In plays of 10 yards or more, Robinson ranks third in the conference and Prescott is fourth. Robinson also ranks third in plays of 20 yards or more, fourth in plays of 30 yards or more, eighth (tied with Prescott) in plays of 40 yards or more and tenth (also tied with Prescott) in plays of 50 yards or more.
It’s a tough task for the young Wildcats, and one where they will need to move past a disappointing result from the weekend (a 41-3 loss to LSU) to have any success.
“I felt like that obviously they were upset and disappointed and discouraged Saturday night,” Eliot said. “And then Sunday, some of that started to wear off, but for the most part by the time we came over here on Monday and watched the game and pointed out the corrections and moved onto the next opponent, I thought they were ready to play, and they came out and had a good practice.”
This article originally appeared at KY Forward and is written by Ashley Scoby, a senior journalism major at the University of Kentucky. She has reported on the Wildcats for wildcathoops.com, vaughtsviews.com and kysportsreport.com as well as for newspapers in Danville and Glasgow.