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September 22nd, 2019

UK Offering $22 Off Tickets For Arkansas Game to Honor Jared Lorenzen

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

UK Athletics is honoring #22 with $22 off football tickets for the upcoming game against Arkansas at Kroger Field on Saturday, Oct. 12.

In remembrance of Kentucky legend Jared Lorenzen, you can now purchase 200-level sideline tickets for only $23 when the Razorbacks come to Lexington in a couple of weeks.

Click the link here to cash in on the deal while you still can. You’ll need to enter your phone number and then ReplyBuy will send you the code for the deal. Or, you can text “KENTUCKY” to 20123. Once you receive the text, follow the instructions provided. You’ll be able to purchase the tickets by replying with “BUY KENTUCKY” and the number of tickets you would like to purchase (ex. BUY KENTUCKY 2). A direct link to the offer can be found here.

The game will kickoff at 7:30 p.m.


September 21st, 2019

Takeaways From An Ugly Showing In Starkville

(Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports)

Well that didn’t go as expected.

Kentucky went down to Starkville with that post-Florida motivation on its side, to face a team that lost to Kansas State one week earlier on the same field, but the final score did not go in UK’s favor. Mississippi State fought off a late fight to win, 28-13; a fifth straight loss for the Cats in Davis Wade Stadium.

Ugh.

Here’s all I have to say about it:

Starting the game with a Pick 6 is no way to go through life.

First things first, the game got off to a HORRIBLE start with the Pick 6 on the first drive. When you’re a touchdown underdog playing on the road, you can’t give away seven points in the beginning of the game like that, especially to your opponent’s defense. You just can’t get in that hole when you’re already needing your best football to earn a road win in the SEC. Once Sawyer Smith hit the DB in the numbers and watched him take it the other way for a score, it set the tone for the game.

And Smith stared down his receiver before turning it over for the score. I think Bryan The Intern would’ve intercepted that ball.

I don’t know what to make of Lynn Bowden.

Lynn Bowden is a special talent. The University of Kentucky has a better football program because Lynn Bowden walked through that door three years ago. He’s as dynamic as they come, maybe the most dynamic since Randall Cobb. When Lynn Bowden has the ball, you sit up in your seat because you know he can break loose at any moment.

BUT…

Lynn Bowden has made more than one mistake this season. Drops, quitting on routes, fumbles — he’s made mistakes that Lynn Bowden can’t make. For Lynn Bowden to be the Lynn Bowden he wants to be, a first-round pick and All-SEC talent, he can’t make the backbreaking mistakes he’s made on more than one occasion so far this year. He is still an otherworldly talent with the ball in his hands and I wouldn’t trade Lynn Bowden for anyone, but when you’re Lynn Bowden, you’re held to a different standard, and he has to clean up the mistakes. He knows it more than anyone and I’d bet he’s kicking himself over it right now because Lynn Bowden is too good at football to drop catchable balls.

Chance Poore.

Kicking is a problem. A big problem. So what does Mark Stoops do? Do you quit on Poore, the redshirt freshman kicker you recruited to be your guy? He is supposed to be your kicker for the next four years, but he missed a chip shot to potentially beat Florida and he was bad again in Starkville. 75 percent (I made that number up) of kicking field goals is mental, between the ears, and right now Poore’s confidence is shot. I don’t know what you do if you’re the UK coaching staff, but the current situation ain’t good.

A.J. Rose played well, so there’s that.

Rose heard everyone demanding he be benched and he responded with a 100-yard game on only nine touches. Kavosiey Smoke got more carries, like so many people demanded, and only rushed for 25 yards, but did get a score.

I’m not going to tell you what to do with your life, but instead of pitting them against each other in a running back competition, let’s just appreciate a deep stable of backs. One Saturday we’ll see Rose shine; other Saturdays it’ll be Smoke or maybe even Chris Rodriguez if he ever gets out of the doghouse for fumbling.

Mississippi State had two 100-yard rushers.

It’s hard to beat any team in America when that team has 250+ rushing yards from two guys. I don’t care what team it is; you’re having a bad day if two players combine for 265, like Mississippi State’s Kylin Hill and THIRD-STRING QUARTERBACK Garrett Shrader did.

UK’s front seven is strong this year. Not today, though.

I don’t care what anyone says… there is a backup QB curse.

For awhile I blamed the staff for not being ready or making adjustments for a new QB whenever there would be an unexpected change, but eventually you accept the curse and Kentucky is cursed by a higher being right now.

Who is Garrett Shrader and how in the world did he go 17-of-22 for 180 yards and another 125 on the ground? How???

Kentucky beat itself for a second week in a row.

You. Can. Not. Beat. Your. Self. In. The. S. E. C.

But that’s where we are right now. Last week, Kentucky was better than Florida. There is no debating that. Kentucky was the more talented football team, yet the final scoreboard said otherwise.

This week it was an even fight and Kentucky could’ve easily won that football game. The Pick 6, the missed field goals, dropped passes…. Kentucky made the mistakes you can’t make. Again. And there is another L because of it.

Let’s bounce back at South Carolina next week.

Clean it up and make it six straight against the Gamecocks. Let’s go.

 

 


Sawyer Smith shoulders blame for Kentucky’s poor start

Photo: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

While there were numerous crucial moments that proved to be detrimental in Kentucky’s 28-13 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday night, it’s tough to argue that any single mishap was more costly than quarterback Sawyer Smith’s opening-drive interception returned for a touchdown.

While Kentucky turned things around in the second half and put itself in position to win late in the fourth quarter, it was evident that starting from behind killed any and all momentum the team had going into the game. A 7-0 start quickly snowballed into a 21-3 deficit with just over five minutes to go in the second quarter.

After the game, Smith took full responsibility for his early mistake and was quick to admit that it proved to make things difficult for his team moving forward.

“I threw the ball a little behind Justin Rigg,” the junior quarterback said. “You cannot start a football game off like that. And that kind of swung the momentum of the whole game. I have to work on that, take better care of the ball, and take the blame for what happened there.”

And while some felt the slow start was nothing more than a hangover from Kentucky’s disappointing loss to Florida last week, Smith said he didn’t believe that to be the case in the slightest. Take out his interception, and the 6-foot-3 quarterback believes the outcome of the game is different.

“No, I don’t think [there was a Florida hangover],” he said. “I think we had short memory with that. I think if I didn’t throw the pick-six at the start of the game, it’s a different game.”

But it wasn’t just the early interception that made life difficult for the Troy graduate transfer.

After tweaking his wrist a bit last week, Smith, who finished the day with 232 yards and an interception on 15-41 passing, also came up favoring his right shoulder after taking a hit near the end of the second quarter. After halftime came to a close and the Kentucky defense took the field, Smith returned to the locker room to have x-rays done, leaving third-string quarterback Walker Wood as the likely option to take over the offense.

Once the Kentucky offense returned to the field, though, so did Smith, with the junior quarterback sprinting out of the locker room and into the UK huddle to resume his duties under center.

After the game, Smith said his injury didn’t affect his performance in the second half and that he was ready to roll against South Carolina next week.

“No, I went back in, didn’t miss a snap,” he said. “I was good. I was good. I thought we passed the ball pretty well in the second half. I’m 100% [for next week].”

In terms of any other factors that could have potentially played into his his underwhelming performance against the Bulldogs, Smith was quick to dismiss them all.

Miscommunication with the wide receivers or offensive line struggles? Nope.

“They were bringing some good blitzes today and they just got to me a few times,” he said. “We made some plays, they made some plays. That’s nothing on the o-line, that’s probably just me needing to get rid of the ball. We were good communication wise, there were no missed assignments or anything.”

The hostile environment in Kentucky’s first true road game of the season? The obnoxious cowbells? Not that, either.

“No, I played at Clemson in Death Valley when I was a freshman,” he said. “They had a good environment here, but Clemson was a little more loud.”

At the end of the day, it simply came down to a few throws he’d like to get back.

“I mean, I think we left some points out there, especially late in the game,” Smith said. “You’ve got to convert there. I had about two or three throws that I wish I could have back right now. I just wish I had better throws.”

While Smith was hard on himself, Kentucky running back AJ Rose added that in the first half, no one on the team played with the fire necessary to win in a tough road environment like the one they saw in Starkville.

“I mean the pick on the opening drive, that was a killer,” he said. “But we just played flat the whole first half. We’ve got to change that and get better, go watch some film.”

While it was difficult to play from behind right out of the gates, Rose said no one on the team converted on the opportunities handed to them late in the second half.

“It’s definitely frustrating. We can’t play catch-up in this league,” the junior running back said. “We had all the chances in the world to come back at the end of the game, but unfortunately we didn’t.”

Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran also came to Sawyer’s defense, saying there were inconsistencies all over the field, including on the sideline with him as a coach. While he said the pick-six was a major gut punch, the offensive play-caller feels he deserves the most criticism out of everyone.

“I obviously didn’t get them ready to play today, and that’s totally on me,” Gran said. “I’ll go back and look. I really felt that a week ago we went into that game and gave them a chance to win. I’ll go back and watch this film, but with the first pass [thrown by Smith that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown], there was inconsistency with a lot of things. Not just catching balls, not just throwing on time. With picking up protections, we weren’t as good there. We came out and I just didn’t have them ready to play, that’s on me, and that just can’t happen.”

While he wasn’t happy with the total offensive product, Gran was impressed with how the Wildcats responded in the second half and feels they will be ready to compete on the road at South Carolina next week.

“I did think that after being challenged, they came out and competed in the second half,” he said. “On the road, that’s a tough climb, and we still had chances. Convert on a couple of those redzone plays, and that’s a different football game, in my opinion. But woulda, shoulda, coulda, those don’t get it done. That’s on me, and we’ll go back as an offensive staff and they’ve got to be ready on the road in a hostile environment again.”

At the end of the day, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops still has confidence in his starting quarterback to find success moving forward.

“He’s just got to play. We all still have a lot of confidence in him,” Stoops said. “The kid is banged up already. He’s got a wrist and a shoulder [injury]. He’s banged up, but he’s going to lay it on the line and everyone can relate to that, respect that. He’s going to make mistakes. It was his second start and he’s going to learn from it.”


LIVE: Mark Stoops after the Mississippi State loss

Mark Stoops is about to address reporters following Kentucky’s 28-13 loss to Mississippi State. Follow along via KSR’s YouTube live stream:

 


HALFTIME: Yikes

Well, that was…something.

On the fourth play of the game Willie Gay Jr. jumped Sawyer Smith’s pass to Justin Rigg for an interception. The pick six set the tone for the rest of UK’s abysmal first half. At least Quandre Mosely picked off a pass right before the end of the half, but the Cats could not cut into State’s 21-3 lead.


UK vs. Mississippi State LIVE BLOG

Want to see your ad here? KSR has live blog sponsorship opportunities available for the 2019 football season. If interested, contact [email protected] 


5 Things You Need to Know About Mississippi State

 

Photo: Matt Bush, USA Today Sports

It’s GAMEDAY!!! Kentucky suffered a heartbreaking loss last week at Kroger Field, but the great thing about college football is that we have a new week in front of us now. The ‘Cats are in Starkville wearing their all whites and ready to bounce back with a big SEC East road win!

1)  Who is Playing Quarterback?

  • Terry Wilson may be gone, but at least Kentucky fans know who will be under center this afternoon. Bulldog fans, however, are still waiting to see who will be available to lead their offense. Penn State grad transfer Tommy Stevens has had to leave the last two games due to a shoulder injury and is certainly banged up. True freshman Garrett Shrader stepped in and has only completed 47.8% of his passes during his time at quarterback. Shrader is able to make some plays with his legs, but if Mississippi State is forced to turn to him they may be limited in terms of passing the ball.

(Photo: © Kelly Price | Mississippi State Athletics)

2)  Great Rushing Attack

  • Especially with the uncertainly at QB, the Bulldogs will turn to star Running Back Kylin Hill to lead the offense. Hill is the SEC’s leading rusher and is currently ranked third in the FBS with 431 rushing yards. The workhorse rusher did his part during last week’s loss to Kansas State running for 116 yards on 24 carries. Regardless of which Quarterback gets the nod this afternoon they will look to run a bit as well, Stevens and Shrader combined for 17 runs for over 100 yards last week. Still, it will be Hill who will be looked upon to do the majority of the ground work and Kentucky’s defense will need to be up to the task to keep the talented Junior from running wild.

3)  Defensive Question Marks

  • Mississippi State lost 3 first-round picks to the NFL last year on the defensive side of the ball and the talent gap has shown through the first 3 weeks of the season. Sawyer Smith should be given plenty of time in the pocket as the Bulldog pass rush has only gotten 1 sack in 3 games this year. Linebacker Erroll Thompson, Safeties Brian Cole II and Jaquarius Landrews, and Corner Cameron Dantzler are the names to know on the Bulldog defense. Kentucky should have opportunities to move the ball and will simply need to limit turnovers in order to put points on the board.

4)  Shaky Special Teams-Lynn Bowden Touchdown?  

Oct 21, 2017; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (6) breaks up a pass intended for Kentucky Wildcats tight end Greg Hart (85) during the first half at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

  • I’m going to go ahead and call it, today is the day we get a Lynn Bowden Kick Return/Punt Return for a touchdown. The Bulldogs surrendered a kick return touchdown last week and Kicker Scott Goodman has not been good at getting touchbacks so Bowden should have the opportunities to make plays on special teams.

5)  Unimpressive Start to the Season

  • The Bulldogs struggled Week 1 against Louisiana, not LSU, not just Louisiana, coming away with a 38-28 victory. Mississippi State took care of Southern Miss in Week 2 despite giving up a few big plays through the air. Last week Kansas State came into Starkville and beat the Bulldogs 31-24. K-State got outgained 352 to 269 but took advantage of 3 turnovers to secure the win.

Scouting Report: Mississippi State Bulldogs

(Photo: © Kelly Price | Mississippi State Athletics)

The crushing loss to Florida is still fresh on everyone’s mind, but the season rolls on like a freight train coming downhill. Mark Stoops and his squad make the trip to Starkville for the fourth time and the hope is that he can finally get a victory in Davis Wade Stadium.

Nuts and Bolts

Before Dan Mullen arrived in Starkville, the Mississippi State Bulldogs were the kings of mediocrity in the SEC West. Former Washington State, Pittsburgh, and Texas A&M head coach Jackie Sherrill took over the program in 1991 and he followed six coaches who all had career losing records at the school. Despite an SEC West title and four AP Top 25 finishes, Sherrill would finish with just a .5oo record after 13 seasons.

Sylvester Croom stepped in the following year to become the first African-American head football coach in SEC history. The NFL assistant and former Alabama center went just 21-38 in five seasons with just one bowl appearance. After 2008, State convinced Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen to make the move to Starkville.

The Urban Meyer disciple quickly became the best coach in program history by recording 69 wins in nine seasons with three AP Top 25 finishes. Mullen had the Bulldogs in the national title hunt in 2014 and appeared to have another contender returning in 2018 before he left after the 2017 season. His presence still looms large in Starkville.

Newly appointed athletic director John Cohen quickly hired Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead once the job opened despite no ties to the south. Moorhead has surprised some on the recruiting trail, but his offenses have not been what they were cracked up to be through 16 games.

At Penn State, Moorhead had the No. 6 scoring offense in FBS in 2017 thanks to the work done by Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley. The heavy RPO scheme took the Big Ten by storm his two seasons in State College and Moorhead quickly became a huge hit.

With a roster loaded with legit NFL defensive talent at each level and an experienced quarterback, many thought Mississippi State could challenge Alabama for the SEC West last season. That was not the case.

On their way to an 8-5 season, the Bulldogs were upset three separate times and most notably lost to Dan Mullen in his return trip to Starkville. State put up a combined three points against Alabama and LSU on their way to finishing unranked after being upset by Iowa in the Outback Bowl. Despite a contract extension, there is some pressure on the former Fordham head coach this season.

This will be the 47th meeting in the series with the teams tied up at 23 games apiece. Kentucky has won two of the last three, but before that lost seven in a row. UK hasn’t won in Starkville since 2008.

Out in the desert, Mississippi State is a 6-point favorite with a total of 48.5. That’s a projected final score of around 27-21. UK is 3-0 against the spread this season with the over hitting each time. Mississippi State is 1-2 against the number with the over hitting each outing. The Bulldogs have been the betting favorite in the series every year since Mark Stoops arrived. The last time UK was favored was in Dan Mullen’s first season a decade ago.

Offensive Breakdown

It was clear that Joe Moorhead’s offense just didn’t work for Nick Fitzgerald last season. Despite dual-threat quarterback Keytaon Thompson having a bunch of talent blended with experience, the second-year head coach decided to go with something more reliable.

Tommy Stevens decided to grad transfer from Penn State after it became clear that Sean Clifford was going to win the QB1 job. It did not take long for him to pledge to Mississippi State. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound righty got off to a fast start throwing for two scores and averaging 7.9 yards per attempt in the season opening win over Louisiana. However, Stevens injured his shoulder the next week against Southern Miss and did not look like himself against Kansas State.

The Indianapolis native has been pulled in consecutive games and only completed 7 of his 15 passes last week. The grad transfer is clearly dealing with a shoulder issue and we’re not sure if he’ll be ready to play a full 60 minutes despite being listed as day-to-day. A true freshman has been used off the bench.

Garrett Shrader was a top-250 prospect and Moorhead’s first quarterback recruit. The plan was to redshirt the 6-foot-4, 220-pound freshman but an injury to Stevens and Keytaon Thompson’s unknown status has forced him into early action. Through two halves of football, Shrader has been the SEC’s least accurate passer.

The dual-threat is completing just 47.8 percent of his passes with a woeful 5.3 yards per attempt average. State could be in trouble if they have to turn to him, but he can do damage on the ground and isn’t afraid to put his body on the line.

This offense wants to toss the ball around the yard, but it is clear that State is dealing with some significant quarterback issues at the moment. The Bulldogs likely need to lean on the run, but that is not a bad thing when you have Kylin Hill to ride.

The Mississippi native was a huge recruiting win for Dan Mullen and he currently leads the SEC in rushing. Hill ranks third in the FBS in rush yards (431) and his 21.7 carries per game rank sixth. He has been a workhorse despite suffering an ankle injury against Southern Miss. Expect a heavy workload from No. 8 on Saturday because the other two backs on the depth chart have a combined 17 carries through three games.

The Mississippi State receivers really struggled last season and they might have had the worst receiving corps in the SEC in 2018. Most of those guys return, but this group still has a long way to go. Osirus Mitchell is turning into the go-to option.

The former low three-star prospect leads the team in receptions (13) and is putting up 16 yards per grab with three touchdowns. He has a next level frame (6-foot-5, 210 pounds) and will be a tough cover.

Outside of Mitchell, the Dogs are really scrambling. Junior college transfer Stephen Guidry was a big time recruit who just hasn’t panned out. Redshirt senior Deddrick Thomas operates out of the slot, but the long-time reserve has been inefficient. Farrod Green is more of a blocker than pass catcher at tight end. Big things were expected from Kansas State grad transfer Isaiah Zuber, but he has been a disappointment through three games.

Joe Moorhead is 16 games in and he’s still desperately searching for good, consistent wide receiver play.

In the trenches, redshirt senior Darryl Williams returns and slides down to center after starting at left guard. He figures to be one of the top centers taken in the upcoming NFL Draft. He wasn’t the only one who shifted around this offseason. Stewart Reese move from right tackle to right guard while Greg Eiland went from left tackle to right tackle. State has a lot of experience in this group.

Defensive Breakdown

Bob Shoop got his first FBS defensive coordinator gig when James Franklin was hired at Vanderbilt and since then he’s been running defenses. Shoop has worked at Vandy, Penn State, Tennessee and Mississippi State with only one of his defenses finishing outside the top-50. Four of his units have finished in the top-20 with last year’s group taking home the crown as the top defense in FBS. Despite all that, Eddie Gran has had a ton of success against him.

In three meetings with Gran calling plays, Kentucky is putting up 31 points per game and 6.6 yards per play. Despite never passing for more than 200 yards in a single game, UK is still averaging seven yards per rush attempt. For some reason, Gran has had Shoop’s number.

Lost off last year’s defense were three first-round picks and they’ve been dearly missed. Most notably Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat on the line. Those two were unblockable and this year State is really missing the havoc they created. So far the defensive line has only produced 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack despite having a two-deep littered with former blue-chip recruits. This is the biggest reason Bob Shoop’s defense ranks 11th or worse in the SEC in yards per play, yards per pass, scoring, and rushing.

At the second level, Erroll Thompson was a preseason All-SEC selection and is one of the finer Mike linebackers in college football. He’s second on the team in tackles and this will likely be the redshirt junior’s final season in college football. Kentucky better get him blocked when they run inside zone.

Former Kentucky target Brian Cole II made a pitstop at East Mississippi Community College after transferring from Michigan before landing in the Starkville. The senior plays the Star position (nickel) for the Bulldogs and has been very good this season. He leads the team in sacks and causes the most havoc of any individual player.

Leading tackler Jaquarius Landrews lines up at strong safety, but corner Cameron Dantzler is the name to know.

The junior missed last week’s game against Kansas State, but will be back this week. The Louisiana native was a second-team All-SEC member last season and look for him to be the guy State puts on Ahmad Wagner more often than not.

Special Teams Breakdown

Currently the Bulldogs rank 108th in the SP+ rankings thanks to some iffy play all around the board.

Kansas State recorded a kickoff return touchdown and gained 44 yards on punt returns last week. Kickoff specialist Scott Goodman has a touchback rate of just 42 percent. The Bulldogs have hit just 3-of-5 field goals and are averaging just 17.9 yards per kick return.

Malik Dear has been a highlight in the punt return department and that’s about the only good thing going for their special teams.

Keys to Victory

  • Despite Kylin Hill doing his thing on the ground, State has struggled to protect the passer. The offense currently has a sack rate of nine percent and that is no bueno. UK’s defense has a sack rate of 6.5 percent and that has a chance to bump up on Saturday.
  • It’s going to be a hot afternoon in Starkville and depth will be a question mark for both teams. Due to last week’s targeting penalty, T.J. Carter will miss the first half and Phil Hoskins is currently listed as questionable. That means Kordell Looney will be getting his first career start. UK could be calling on youngsters Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald,  Davoan Hawkins, and Qua Mahone to play early. They need to be up to the challenge to slow down the run.
  • In just about every statistical category, Mississippi State’s defense ranks towards the bottom of the SEC except one. The Bulldogs have been excellent in forcing takeaways having created 10 turnovers in just three games. That leads the SEC and ranks second nationally. Ball security has been an issue for Kentucky and if they don’t get it fixed it could cost them another close game.

Unexpected Suspensions

Just a week before Mississippi State kicked off the season, the school reached an agreement on a punishment with the NCAA due to a tutor taking exams and doing assignments for student-athletes. However, due to a government law, the names of the players are not allowed to be identified. After three games, we have a good idea who those players are.

Starting defensive tackle Lee Autry played against Southern Miss, but missed the two other games. Starting Will linebacker Willie Gay Jr. has missed all three games. These are the most prominent players that seemed to be tied to the suspensions, but there are others such as backup safety Marcus Murphy and former blue-chip receiver Devonta Jason.

The school is allowed to stagger these suspensions so it’s not a guarantee that these players will miss Saturday’s game. Add this in with the starting placekicker being suspended the first game for a DUI arrest and it has been quite the roster balancing act.