MSU scored the first points of the game on a 12-play, 74-yard drive that culminated in a 22-yard field goal by Brent Smith, his 6th field goal in 7 attempts this season.
State scored again on their 4th drive of the game when Jerious Norwood, behind excellent blocking by fullback Darnell Jones, tight end Aaron Lumpkin and offensive linemen Will Rogers and Richard Burch, ran for a 58-yard touchdown to put MSU up 10-0.
After MSU linebacker Marvin Byrdsong recovered a fumble by Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen on the Kentucky 26-yard line, MSU quarterback Kevin Fant, on a 3rd down and 9 play, passed to Ray Ray Bivines for a 11-yard touchdown to put MSU ahead 17-0.
With the MSU defense playing as well as it has all season long, it looked like MSU was in total control of the game, then the wheels seem to fall off.
Late in the 2nd quarter, the Kentucky offense, after playing with 2 backs in the backfield for most of the first half, went to a 1-back set.
"You don't ever want to get desperate, but we were trying hard to get things going in the first half," said Lorenzen. "Coach (Ron) Hudson told me we were going to try the four-receiver set and I was open to anything at that point to get us going."
Starting at their own 11-yard line, Lorenzen went to work. On a 2nd and 9, he threw to Derek Abney for 11 yards and a first down on the UK 23. Then, after throwing an incomplete pass, Lorenzen completed a 35-yard pass to Chris Bernard to the MSU 42. Later in the drive, Lorenzen threw to Shane Boyd over for the middle for a 20-yard pass play that took Kentucky down to the MSU 7 with less than a minute on the clock. After no gain on the next play, Kentucky ran up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown.
Despite the 17-7 score in favor of MSU, the momentum seemed to shift to Kentucky.
The MSU offense, after looking sharp early on, was sputtering due in part to first half injuries suffered by starting guard Will Rogers, starting tailback Jerious Norwood, starting wide receiver Justin Jenkins, and starting tight end Aaron Lumpkin.
After the 58-yard run by Norwood and generating 177 total yards and 6 first downs in their first 5 possessions of the first half, the MSU offense generated just 18 yards and no first downs during their last three possessions.
"We had a lot of problems because we lost a lot of players today that were very, very big for us," said MSU head coach Jackie Sherrill. "One of them took us out of all of our game that we ran earlier, and that was the biggest problem, losing our tight end. That got us out of running the three or four plays that were successful for us."
The Kentucky Wildcats started the second half like they ended the first half, with a touchdown, this one on a 9-play, 80 yard drive, to make the score 17-14, MSU.
MSU went three and out on their next possession and punted the ball to Kentucky's Derek Abney. Derek, who returned two punts for touchdowns last year in Starkville, did the same thing on this punt, putting Kentucky ahead 21-17. Coming into the game, Kentucky's punt return unit was last in the SEC.
"I think that is a huge monkey off of everybody's back," said Kentucky head coach Rich Brooks. "That was a huge play in the game and it pumped life into our football team as well. It really picked up everybody, offensively and defensively... everyone seemed to get better."
Meanwhile, the MSU offense was shut down by the Kentucky D, going three and out on their first two possessions of the third quarter.
"Defensively, we dominated the second half, more like the defense we played last week," said Brooks.
Then, once Kentucky jumped out to a 28-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, MSU dropped its running game for an all out passing attack. The results were three interceptions, two by Kevin Fant and one by backup Kyle York, and two short touchdown drive of 21 and 31 yards by Kentucky to make the final score 42-17.
MSU now takes a week off before facing Alabama in Starkville. Kentucky stays home to face the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Mississippi State Head Coach Jackie Sherrill
On his team's performance...
"We did good things in the first half. We played hard, but right before the end of the first half, we lost our concentration on both sides of the ball. We did a good job of keeping them away from the football on our punt coverage. We were kicking the ball out of bounds and we miskicked the one he ran back. We did that last year, as well. When you don't defend near the boundaries, you have a problem. Offensively, I thought we got out of sync after we took the lead. We never got back in sync offensively. We gave up too much pressure and we couldn't get things going again. We put our defense in tough situations."
On Lorenzen's fumble recovery in the third quarter...
"It was a big play for Kentucky. It kept the ball in their hands. It kept the momentum going for them, but it wasn't the biggest play of the game. There were other plays that were bigger."
On what Kentucky did to allow it to pull away in the second half...
"They didn't do anything differently. They ran the same plays they did in the first half. We just didn't make any plays on either side of the ball. They were able to put pressure on us by just running four guys and then they came with two blitzes and we didn't pick them up."
Mississippi State Players
On the game...
"In the first half, we came out and played well defensively. We had them confused which is what we wanted to do. Their touchdown right before the end of the half kind of threw us off. In the second half it seemed like we just started breaking down mentally. We were still playing hard and running to the ball but we just broke down on some key plays."
On UK's second-half adjustments...
"They tried to pass the ball more and get their playmakers involved. They moved #7 (Shane Boyd) around a lot and tried to get #12 (Derek Abney) the ball which we knew they were going to do. It seemed like they were trying to establish the running game in the first half and we shut that down, so in the second half they went to the passing game."
On Kentucky's defense in the second half...
"They really didn't do anything different. We were really successful running the ball in the first quarter then Will Rogers went down which made us change our personnel. I think we just lost our tenacity and they kept the momentum the rest of the game."
UK Head Coach Rich Brooks
On coming out flat against Mississippi State...
"This is an interesting football team. It looked like we were a little flat, and that is my responsibility to get them ready to play. We challenged them at halftime and they obviously came out and took control of the football game. We answered with 35 points (after halftime)... (and) we got seven right before the half, which was a key drive."
On coming back from 17-0...
"I think this team showed a lot of character coming back from the deficit. We responded in resounding fashion."
On the win...
"Obviously, this is a huge win for us. I would've liked to have started out well and played the whole 60 minutes. We have that message across (that we need to finish games), now we want to get the rest of it across. We have to be more effective the entire game."
On the fumble recovery by Jared Lorenzen...
"That was huge play by Jared Lorenzen. Most quarterbacks wouldn't have been around that ball, but Jared followed the play and made a great recovery. If we lose that football right there, who knows what would have happened."
JARED LORENZEN, QB
On the comeback victory...
"It was so much fun having our team click like that and play together the way we did in the second half. We have a tough time getting started, but today we really finished strong."
On the first SEC win...
"It was a long time coming. There were a couple of games in there we wanted, but it was good to finally douse Coach Brooks (with water)."
On being 4-4...
"That gives us so much confidence, especially with two wins in a row. We finally got the SEC win to get over the hump, but with Arkansas coming in we know it will be a tough game (next week)."
ARLISS BEACH, TB
On Coach Brooks' halftime speech...
"Coach challenged us at halftime and just told us we had better get ready to play. He told us to be ready for a dog fight. They (Mississippi State) already had 17 points on us and Coach just told us we had no fire."
DEREK ABNEY, WR
On his punt return for a touchdown...
"It was me, Earven (Flowers), and the defender. I wasn't about to cut inside because I knew it was just me and Earven to the end zone. One guy touched me - that's it."
On the second half touchdown pass from Lorenzen...
"It was one of the prettiest passes Jared (Lorenzen) has ever thrown to me. The first guy was on me and the ball hit me right in stride."
On the game...
"The game was incredible. We put up 42 unanswered points. Coach Brooks challenged us at halftime, and we really took it to heart and it was a momentum builder. To finish well offensively and defensively is incredible. Now we just have to put it all together for four complete quarters."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.