No. 20 MISSISSIPPI STATE 27; KENTUCKY 14
Oct. 6, 2012
Commonwealth Stadium; Lexington, Ky.
Patrick Towles led an 80-yard scoring drive before being injured (Photo by Mark Zerof/TCP)
Another week, another quarterback down, another defeat.
Kentucky fell to No. 20 Mississippi State 27-14 on a brisk October afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium but the punch to the gut may have been the ankle injury suffered by freshman quarterback Patrick Towles on just his third series of the game. The Ft. Thomas Highlands product and high school All-American had been impressive on his debut drive, leading the Cats to a score.
Towles completed the first five passes of his collegiate career, the last of which was a 32-yard scoring strike to La'Rod King despite being buried by a Mississippi State defender as he let go of the pass. The freshman also converted a pair of third downs through the air on that initial drive. He finished 5-of-6 for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Jalen Whitlow started and finished the game for Kentucky mixing in some flashes of his dual-threat talent with typical freshman mistakes. The Cats had several opportunities to scratch within a single score in the second half but couldn't sustain a drive long enough to reach the end zone.
on the Cats' injury situation:
“Injuries continue to mount and we continue to get younger and younger. It's not an excuse, it's just facts and we've got to get these guys better. Our saying is next man up...but we're about to run out of next man (up).”
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, on his respect for Kentucky's effort:
“Give (Kentucky) credit, their kids played hard all day long. That team, records don't always show everything that's out there. They played hard, especially facing some adversity. You can see their kids play hard for four quarters and made plays. It's a good thing we started fast because it was 7-7 in the second half.”
FROM THE LOCKER ROOM
UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, on having to re-invent offense:
“Obviously, we're having to play much different than we planned to play and we wanted to play. We talked about, you know, we worked all spring and camp and the first three or four weeks in one way. Now we've been thrust into playing a completely different way, relying on the running game as much as we're forced to right now is not what our linemen have practiced, not what anybody has practiced. In some ways it's kind of like starting over and it looked like we started over today.”
200 – How important was Maxwell Smith to the Kentucky offense? In the three games Smith started and played throughout the Cats averaged 428.3 yards per game of total offense, including 322 passing yards per game. In the last three games, I which Smith took two snaps, the Cats are averaging 230 yards of total offense per game, a difference on almost 200 total yards per game from the offense with him. The Cats are managing just 109 passing yards per game without Smith, a difference of 213 yards per game.
Mississippi State controlled this game from the opening kickoff so there wasn't a moment that really seemed to change Kentucky's fortunes or the potential outcome of the game, but you could argue the injury to Patrick Towles may be the straw that broke the coaching staff's back in terms of their future with the program. The severity of the freshman's sprained ankle was unknown after the game he was the one thing frustrated and angry fans were still looking forward to this season, especially after his first drive ended in a touchdown. If he's out for ay significant period of time it looks as if the Cats may be hard-pressed to avoid a 2-10 season.
Just when you think things can't get any worse for Kentucky it had to watch Patrick Towles come back onto the field for the second half on crutches with his right ankle in a walking boot. The promising freshman suffered a sprained ankle while being sacked for a 12-yard loss just before halftime, making him the second quarterback to go down for the Cats this season. The Cats also lost starting senior safety Martavius Neloms to a hamstring injury that also had him watching from the sideline on crutches.
Mississippi State dominated the first quarter about as thoroughly as a team possibly could, pouring on 172 yards to just 17 for Kentucky with 14 of the Cats' yards coming on the final snap of the quarter. The Bulldogs averaged 6.1 yards per snap and possessed the football for 11:15 to just 3:45 for the Cats. Jalen Whitlow played the first two offensive possessions and did not manage a play over two yards before Patrick Towles entered and completed a 14-yard pass to La'Rod King. Total Yards: Kentucky 17; Miss. State 172
Hey, Kentucky outscored Mississippi State in the quarter so that counts for something right? Patrick Towles sent a jolt of energy through a pretty dismal crowd with an 80-yard scoring drive on his first possession, highlighted by a 32-yard scoring pass to La'Rod King. That was all the Cats could muster though as the Bulldogs continued to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football and eat up large chunks of clock. A 26-yard pass and face mask penalty by UK also allowed the Bulldogs to tack on a field goal at the gun. Total Yards: Kentucky 73; Miss. State 106
The Cats got more bad news at the half when Towles was deemed out of the game with a sprained right ankle, leaving him to stand on the sideline on crutches the rest of the game. Jalen Whitlow returned to the quarterback spot and was a mixed bag, but did lead the Cats to a touchdown. UK had another chance to cut into the State lead after recovering an onside kick but Whitlow was sacked on third down to force a punt and eliminate the momentum of that play. Total Yards: Kentucky 77; Miss. State 52
There were some signs of life ion the fourth quarter for Kentucky, mostly as it went ahead and threw a bushel of youngsters onto the field and still managed to keep Mississippi State scoreless and mostly under wraps. The biggest issue for the Cats as the game clock ticked away is they still seem to follow up a few productive plays with enough detrimental ones to undermine any opportunity at really making a run at an upset. Much of that is to be expected with a young team but it doesn't make frustrated fans feel any better about the product they are seeing on the field each Saturday. Total Yards: Kentucky 61; Miss. State 97
Say one thing for this Kentucky team, it doesn't fold when the chips are stacked against it. Unfortunately, that wall is becoming higher and higher with every passing week and it now appears as if it will be a monumental task for Kentucky to win a Southeastern Conference game this season. Will this group finally become beaten down by the daunting reality of the situation? That's the most pressing thing worth watching as the season moves into its second half starting next week at Arkansas.
Kentucky (1-5, 0-3) goes back on the road to face a disappointing Arkansas squad in Fayetteville. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13.
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