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CATS Win in Starkville

CATS Bowl Eligible with 6th win, First in Starkville since 2008

STARKVILLE – November 4, 2023

Devin Leary passed for 156 yards and two touchdowns and the Kentucky defense had a huge game as the Cats beat Mississippi State 24-3 on Saturday night at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi.

D’Eryk Jackson had a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown and the UK defense had five sacks and eight tackles for loss in the game. UK held MSU to just 218 yards of total offense.

Kentucky (6-3, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) got 80 yards on the ground from Ray Davis. Both Dane Key and Demie Sumo-Karngbaye had touchdown receptions for UK.

Mississippi State (4-5, 1-5) had the game’s opening possession and the UK defense immediately forced a three and out. MSU would punt and the Cats would take over at their own 38 yard line.

Kentucky was able to get a first down on a Tayvion Robinson reception from Leary. Then on the following play, those two connected again, this time for 37 yards, getting the Cats to the MSU 14. UK would get another first down on an eight-yard reception by Key, getting the Cats to the MSU four yard line. On first and goal from the four, Leary hit Sumo-Karngbaye for a touchdown. Alex Raynor added the point after and Kentucky led 7-0 with 10:11 left in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs went three and out again on their next possession and MSU would punt it to the Cats, who took over at their own 32 with 8:42 still to play in the first period.

On the first play of the ensuing possession, Leary hit Barion Brown for 16 yards. But the Cats would not cross midfield and would be forced to punt. MSU took over at their own five yard line with 6:20 to play in the first.

The Bulldogs got first downs on the first two plays of the ensuing drive. MSU would keep the ball on the ground to get into UK territory as the first quarter ended with UK holding a 7-0 lead.

The Mississippi State drive would continue with the Bulldogs going to the air to get inside the red zone. But the UK defense held and forced the Bulldogs into a 25-yard field goal by Kyle Ferrie, which was good, cutting the Kentucky lead to 7-3 with 8:51 left in the half. The MSU drive was 20 plays long and took 12:29 off the clock.

Kentucky would get a first down on its next drive on a completion from Leary to Key. But as the Cats got near midfield, the drive stalled and UK punted it away. MSU took over at its own 23 with 6:43 left in the half.

But on the first play of the ensuing drive, Jackson intercepted a Mike Wright pass and took it 28 yards untouched into the end zone for a touchdown. Raynor added the PAT and the Cats led 14-3 with 6:35 left in the first half.

The Kentucky defense forced another three and out on its next drive and MSU was forced to punt. The Cats took over at their own 37 yard line with 4:46 left in the half.

Kentucky went to the ground with Davis on the next drive. The senior carried the ball on five consecutive plays to get the Cats into MSU territory. Then a reverse to Brown picked up 22 yards to get the Cats to the MSU eight yard line. Two plays later, Leary connected with Key on a four-yard touchdown pass. Raynor added another point after and the Cats led 21-3 with 52 seconds left in the half. That would be the halftime score.

The teams would exchange punts to start the second half before Kentucky got the offense moving on its second drive of the third quarter. The Cats got a 14-yard run from Davis, then a long completion to Robinson on a scramble for 28 yards. Another Leary to Robinson connection, this one for 19 yards, got the Cats into the red zone. But the drive stalled and UK settled for a 32-yard field goal from Raynor to take a 24-3 lead with 5:51 to play in the third.

The UK defense forced another three and out on the next possession and the Cats got the ball on the Mississippi State 44 yard line after an MSU punt.

Kentucky was not able to take advantage of the good field position and was forced to punt near the end of the third quarter. Kentucky would close the period with a 24-3 lead.

As the fourth quarter began, the Kentucky defense forced yet another three and out. The MSU punt gave Kentucky the ball at their own 49 with 14:47 left in the game.

After Kentucky failed on a fourth down conversion, MSU got the ball back and got into UK territory on a 34-yard completion from Chris Parson to Lideatrick Griffin. Later in the drive, Parson scrambled for a first down, getting the Bulldogs into the red zone. MSU would get to the UK five before a penalty set them back 15 yards. MSU would get back inside the UK five but the Cats would hold and would take over after a failed fourth down attempt.

Kentucky returns to action next week, facing Alabama at Kroger Field for Senior Day. Kickoff is set for noon ET and the game can be seen on ESPN.

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