Mississippi State

Mississippi State’s postseason hopes on the line against Kentucky

Mississippi State defensive lineman Marquiss Spencer (42) pushes BYU running back Jamaal Williams (21) out of bounds last week. The Bulldogs travel to Kentucky on Saturday night.
Mississippi State defensive lineman Marquiss Spencer (42) pushes BYU running back Jamaal Williams (21) out of bounds last week. The Bulldogs travel to Kentucky on Saturday night. Associated Press

When Mississippi State’s fourth down pass fell incomplete in the end zone last Friday night at Brigham Young University, the look on the players’ and coach’s faces was dejection.

The Bulldogs (2-4, 1-2) felt they let the BYU contest slip away. There’s no way of knowing how MSU’s second-straight loss will affect the Bulldogs at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday against Kentucky (3-3, 2-2) in Lexington.

“I am excited to get back out there,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said. “When you face a little bit of adversity, it tests your character, but it can really pull a team closer together. Stuff like that can actually help pull the team closer together at times.”

For the Bulldogs to improve the rest of the season, the Kentucky game feels like a must win. Bowl eligibility is quickly slipping out of MSU’s hands, but any kind of positive movement matters.

MSU goes for its eight-straight win over the Wildcats as Mullen has yet to lose to the team’s permanent eastern counterpart. The Wildcats have seen mediocre results under head Mark Stoops, but Mullen always expects a good game.

“There is a lot of familiarity, and it is always a tough, close game with them that seems to come down to the wire,” Mullen said. “You can see the improvements they have made, and what Mark (Stoops) has done in building the program right there.”

MSU has had some solid results in the rushing game at times. Even if the numbers say so, the running backs haven’t been a force in the offense for the last two seasons and MSU is looking to change that at midseason. They took a big step in the right direction last Friday when Aeris Williams had a career day with 82 yards on 21 carries. The redshirt freshman had been averaging around three carries, but an injury for Brandon Holloway opened the door.

Mullen believes Williams understands what’s expected of him outside of just running the football.

The college game is more than here’s the ball, go run with it. It’s reading the blocks, understanding the schemes, and understanding what’s going on,” Mullen said. “I think he’s going to gain more and more confidence in doing that. I think his experience is helping him take those steps forward.”

Williams is hoping to produce another big game against the Wildcats.

“I think I get better and better as the game goes on. The more carries I get, the more I get used to the game and get used to the defense and stuff like that,” Williams said. “I've been hungry since I got here. I am just going to keep going on the field and keep on working hard like I always do.”

Mississippi State at Kentucky

Where: Lexington

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday

Radio: 1490-AM, 1640-AM

TV: SEC Network

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