Tyler Russell’s 2 TD Passes Lead Bulldogs Past Kentucky, 27-14
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WCBI/AP) – Tyler Russell passed for two touchdowns and Mississippi State held Kentucky to just 228 yards on offense, leading the No. 20 Bulldogs to a 27-14 victory Saturday.
LaDarius Perkins carried 25 times for 110 yards, including a 31-yard score, and Devon Bell kicked field goals of 20 and 37 yards as Mississippi State moved to 5-0 for the first time since 1999. The Bulldogs are 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play.
Russell was 23 of 39 for 269 yards, hitting Adrian Marcus and Chad Bumphis for touchdowns of 10 and 27 yards, respectively.
Freshmen quarterbacks Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow both led scoring drives for Kentucky (1-5, 0-3), which lost its fourth straight. Whitlow played the second half after Towles sprained his ankle just before halftime.
Whitlow finished 10-of-21 passing for 73 yards, adding 26 rushing yards on eight carries. Towles was 5 of 6 for 71 yards.
But it was all about the Bulldogs, who showed no rust coming off a bye week. The defense posted its second-fewest yards this season, just 12 more than it allowed in a 28-10 victory over Auburn last month.
The offense, which gained 427 yards overall, started deliberately in taking the opening kickoff and driving 85 yards in 13 plays. Russell’s mix of quick slants and short out patterns accounted for 57 yards on 6-of-8 passing, including a screen pass to Marcus for the first score.
Marcus was helped by a collision between Kentucky defensive end Taylor Wyndham and safety Martavius Neloms as they appeared to have him hemmed up in the backfield. That cleared his path to the end zone.
The Bulldogs had an easier time taking a 14-0 lead, moving 61 yards in six plays with little resistance from the Wildcats, especially on the final two snaps. After Russell’s fourth-down run for 4 yards to Kentucky’s 31, Perkins broke through the right side virtually untouched for his sixth touchdown this season.
Kentucky stumbled to consecutive 3-and-outs totaling 3 yards with Whitlow starting at quarterback. The Wildcats had suggested alternating him and Towles from play to play, but the switch didn’t happen until the third possession.
Towles entered the game to cheers, and he drew even more in leading a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
The highly touted freshman was 5 of 5 for 71 yards, completing it with a 32-yard TD pass to wide-open La’Rod King. But the Wildcats couldn’t sustain anything else, and Towles sprained his ankle on a second-quarter sack and did not return.
Neloms left the game with a hamstring injury.
Bell’s field goals made it 20-7 for Mississippi State, which outgained Kentucky 172-17 in the first quarter and 278-90 for the half. The Bulldogs’ first two plays of the second half culminated in a 27-7 lead as Russell found Bumphis for his second TD pass, a 40-yard drive helped by defensive holding on Wildcats cornerback Cartier Rice.
Whitlow returned to help lead Kentucky back within 27-14, finishing a 46-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run in the third quarter.
That score resulted from one of Mississippi State’s two lost fumbles, its only mistakes on an otherwise complete day. The Bulldogs rarely allowed the Wildcats inside the 40 in the second half and ran out the clock after taking over on downs at Kentucky’s 33.