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Mississippi St. Defense Stuffed Kentucky; Saturday TV times set – Auburn at Aggies on CBS

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Kentucky’s offense was averaging 388 yards a game with 110.7 a game by SEC leading rusher Christopher Rodriguez and 189 passing by quarterback Will Levis along with 28.4 points a game.

That all changed when the No. 12 Wildcats hit Starkville, Mississippi, Saturday night and fell, 31-17, to Mississippi State (5-3, 3-2 SEC).

State quarterback Will Rogers set a SEC completion percentage record at .923 on 36-of-39 passing for 344 yards and a touchdown, but the Bulldogs’ defense did the dirty work.

Rodriguez managed just 34 yards on eight carries, while Levis had one of his worst games, tossing a season-high three interceptions and throwing for just 150 yards on 17-of-28 passing with one touchdown. Kentucky (6-2, 4-2 SEC) was averaging 191 rushing yards a game, but gained just 66 on 20 carries.

“I felt like we got pushed around,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “They out-coached us. Overall, a deflating defeat. We were not able to run the ball, They ran the ball.”

State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett’s unit allowed just 10 points as the Wildcats took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 74-yard punt return by Josh Ali. After Mark Ruffolo’s 41-yard field goal early in the second quarter for a 10-0 Wildcats’ lead, Kentucky was shut out until Levis threw a 17-yard touchdown pass early in the fourt quarter to DeMarcus Harris cut the deficit to 31-17.

“It was the play calling and coach Arnett,” said State defensive back Emmanuel Forbes, who had six tackles and a pass defensed. “We watched a lot of film and knew what they were going to do. He (Rodriguez) is a very good player, but we held him in check.”

Kentucky had four turnovers in all and held the ball for just 18:50 of the game to 41:10 by State. Defensive tackle Cameron Young and safeties Shawn Preston and Jalen Green claimed the interceptions.

“They were really huge,” Forbes said. “Kentucky is the kind of team that is about control. They like to hog the clock. Maintaining control has been tricky for us a little bit, and that (the interceptions) let us get it back.”

Mississippi State plays at Arkansas (5-3, 1-3 SEC) at 3 p.m. Saturday on the SEC Network. The Razorbacks were open Saturday after beating Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 45-3, last week.

“Hopefully, this will be a momentum booster going into next week,” said linebacker Jett Johnson, who led State with nine tackles. “Our goal is to make a team as one dimensional as best we can, and if that means taking away the runs, that what’s we do. Hopefully, we can continue to do it.”

Head coach Mike Leach was directing Rogers and the offense, but he noticed the defense’s impact right off.

“Defense was real active up front, and we felt like it was important to affect the line of scrimmage because you have to wreck the running lanes and make them run straight ahead,” he said. “It turned out pretty good.”

OLE MISS OFFENSE STYMIED AT AUBURN

Meanwhile, No. 10 Ole Miss had as much trouble with Auburn’s defense in a 31-20 loss at Auburn. It was the fewest points scored by coach Lane Kiffin’s Rebels since he took over before the 2020 season. Ole Miss (6-2, 3-2 SEC) was averaging 42 points a game coming in along with 541 yards a game. No. 18 Auburn (6-2, 3-1 SEC) held Ole Miss to 464 yards.

“When it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work,” said Kiffin, whose attack did suffer from nagging injuries to quarterback Matt Corral and various wide receivers.

The Rebels had their chances after trailing 28-17 at the half and 28-20 in the third quarter, but they went 0-for-3 in the red zone on fourth down. And Corral was intercepted deep in Auburn territory.

“I thought our defense, after struggling early, played exceptionally well,” Kiffin said. “They gave us a bunch of chances offensively to win. Four times in the red zone with no points. That’s going to be hard to win. To be in an 11-point game with that says you must be doing something right on the other side of the ball, which we did on defense.”

The Rebels host Liberty at 11 a.m. Saturday on the SEC Network as former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze returns to Oxford, Mississippi as the coach of the Flames (7-2).

SATURDAY TV TIMES SET

Auburn and Texas A&M will be the CBS game Saturday at 2:30 p.m. central time, the SEC announced on Sunday morning. And LSU at No. 3 Alabama will kick off at 6 p.m. on ESPN.

The decision on the third game delayed until Sunday was also set. Missouri will play at No. 1 Georgia at 11 a.m. on ESPN.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

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