LEXINGTON, Ky. – – Chris Rodriguez Jr. dashed to 196 yards and two points in the fourth quarter, Will Levis returned from an absentee game to throw a touchdown pass to go on and No. 22 Kentucky topped No. 16 Mississippi State 27-17 on Saturday night to stop a two-game slip.
Rodriguez had a career high with 30 executions and a top-flight season in his third game back from suspension. He rushes for touchdowns at 16 and 7 yards. Wildcats (5-2, 2-2 Southeast Conference) desperately need his second score for coverage, coming shortly after Emmanuel Forbes Returned a 59-yard intercept for a touchdown that knocked the Bulldogs (5-2, 2-2) in 20-17.
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said of Rodriguez: “That backtracking smashed us. “We didn’t handle it well. Attacking was penalized in turn. All of this is my fault because I call foul.”
Levis started after going missing last week 24-14 lose arrived in South Carolina with a left foot injury and started promising, although Kentucky only had one goal to show in the first half 3-3 destroyed by 16 combined penalties in the 124 yards. Complete his 33 yards to Barion Brown led to a goal in the third half, but he landed hard on his shoulder after being hit during a throw and went into the dressing room to get checked.
Levis came back for the next possession and finally made a 3-yard touchdown pass for Rahsaan Lewis down fourth to put Kentucky up to 13-10 with 4:10 left in third. Rodriguez took the lead to make it 20-10 with 11:43 left, and Kentucky had a chance to widen the gap before Levis hit a block that kept the Bulldogs close.
Forbes read it right away and started an easy route. It was the second hit in three games and the fifth game of his career, setting an SEC record.
Levis quickly gathered to fight Dekel Crowdus with a shot from 50 yards, and Rodriguez dragged several defenders after him in the 7-yard TD run that was maintained during review.
This match is notable for the number and number of yards lost on penalties by both teams. MSU was flagged 13 times in 109 yards, with errors shared on both sides of the line. Kentucky was whistled 11 times for 81 yards.
The state of Mississippi will still be ranked, albeit a few places lower after its winning streak ends. Kentucky will remain ranked after redeeming points.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs entered the game by clicking in all phases and averaging over 40 points in their three-win streak. Everything stopped when they reached the final zone only once, and that was the middle of the third phase. The ground match only managed 22 yards.
Kentucky: The Wildcats look more overall with Levis back and Rodriguez adding another solid performance. Their defense bounced back strongly from last week’s bad second half, putting pressure on Rogers and limiting receiver space after catching the ball. Matt Ruffolo missed the target at 51 yards, but converted from 28 and 37 yards into the number of points his team needed.
“I don’t know the outcome of this game, but I know we’re going to play like that, as if we were playing,” coach Mark Stoops said. “Strong, resilient, get together and play hard like we did. And that we will reciprocate.”
Mississippi State visits number 3 Alabama on Saturday.
Kentucky goodbye before visiting 6 Tennessee on October 29.