November 1, 2008

Special teams costs MSU against Kentucky

STARKVILLE, Miss., - Sometimes the things that a team takes for granted can make the difference in a close ballgame.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs had an extra point blocked and missed a chip shot field goal both in the fourth quarter and wound up on the losing end of a 14-13 score to Kentucky.

"When we look at the film in games likes these you can always find eight or 10 plays in which we could have made the play to win the ballgame," said MSU head coach Sylvester Croom. "We can name a couple right now. We make the field goal, we win the game. We make the extra point, things change. We get off the field on the opening drive of the second half, things are different. That is what close games are all about, making plays in critical moments and we did not do that and they did."

Adam Carlson had the game-tying extra point blocked early in the fourth quarter then clanked a 27-yard field off the left upright the ultimately made the difference between a win and a loss for the Bulldogs.

Kentucky rallied back with all of their points in the second half and finished the afternoon with 274 total yards. The Wildcats accumulated 146 yards passing and another 128 yards on the ground en route to the win.

"It wasn't too much of what Kentucky did, it was what we did to beat ourselves," said MSU linebacker Dominic Douglas. "I give Kentucky a lot of credit because they are a good football team but on the other hand we just had a lot of miscues and a lot of penalties."

Dual threat quarterback/ wide receiver Randall Cobb accounted for 200 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns for Kentucky. Cobb completed 7-of-13 passing for 56 yards, a score and an interception, ran 12 times for 31 yards and a touchdown, caught three passes for 33 yards and added 80 return yards.

"I thought he handled everything better but what made it easier is that we ran the ball better," said Kentucky head coach Rich Brooks. "He got on the edge himself and the backs were able to get yards off of that read play which was huge for us."

Mike Hartline came off the bench to complete 9-of-17 passing for 90 yards to lead the Wildcats.

Tony Dixon paced the rushing attack with 66 yards on 12 carries.

It was Mississippi State that got things started on their second drive. The Bulldogs converted three first downs on the drive, two on screen passes to Arnil Stallworth and another on a option by Arceto Clark. MSU finished off the series when Tyson Lee hit Brandon McRae on a 29-yard touchdown pass over the middle. Carlson converted the extra point for the early 7-0 lead.

Kentucky missed an opportunity to cut into the lead just before the half. The Wildcats drove down to the MSU 18-yard line but Lones Seiber 34-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right with 17-seconds remaining before halftime.

Kentucky wasted little time scoring on their opening possession of the second half. Dixon took the opening kickoff back to midfield and the Wildcats took advantage of the good field position. Kentucky drove 53-yards in eight plays and scored on a 5-yard option keeper by Cobb. Seiber added the point after tying the score 7-7.

The Wildcats took the lead on their next drive of the third quarter marching 82 yards in 12-plays picking up six first downs along the way. Cobb lobbed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Grinter for the go-ahead score. Siber's PAT was true giving the Wildcats a 14-7 advantage with 2:42 on the clock.

The Mississippi State defense set it's offense up in fine field position just before the start of the fourth quarter. Cortez McCraney forced and recovered a fumble at the UK 31-yard line.

"Coach told me before that play that we need some seniors to step up and make a play," McCraney said. "I put in my mind that I was going to step up and make a big play. It worked well for me and gave us a little momentum."

The Bulldogs took advantage scoring in three plays when Lee hit Stallworth out of the backfield and he juked out a defender en route for a 10-yard touchdown. However, Carlson's extra point was blocked by Matt Roark.

The MSU defense stepped up once more on the ensuing possession when Douglas picked off Cobb at the MSU 36-yard line.

The offense took over and the drive stalled after one first down. The Bulldogs lined up in punt formation and McAdams kick was blocked. But Kentucky was flagged for lining up offsides negating the block as well as giving State new life with a first down.

The Bulldogs attempted to cash in their second chance but Carlson's 27-yard field goal attempt clanked off the left upright with 6:56 remaining.

State had more possessions on the day but managed only 43 yards with the last drive ending when a desperation pass from Lee on fourth down was picked off by Robbie McAtee.

The Bulldogs totaled 304 yards on offense with 261 yards through the air but only 43 yards rushing on the day.

"They had a good defensive plan and they executed very well," McRae said. "They stopped us and I guess we didn't do enough on offense and get enough points on the board."

Lee played the entire way under center hitting on 26-of-42 passing for 261 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. He was also sacked four times by Kentucky.

Stallworth led in the receiving department with eight catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.

Anthony Dixon paced the Bulldog backs with 48 yards on 15 carries.

Douglas headed the defensive unit for MSU with 15 tackles and an interception followed by seven stops each by Jasper O'Quinn, K.J. Wright and Derek Pegues.

O'Quinn and Kyle Love added sacks for the Bulldogs.

Kentucky was led on defense by Micah Johnson with nine tackles including three for loss.

The win puts the Wildcats at 6-3 and bowl eligible. Kentucky is also 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference.

The Bulldogs fall to 3-6 overall and drop to 1-4 in league play.

"This is probably the worst loss I've ever had," Pegues said. "We had plenty of opportunities to win the game, we just didn't make plays on offense, defense or special teams. That came back to hurt us. They came out and made plays in the second half and wanted to win the game."

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