LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Terry Wilson threw a second-quarter touchdown, and Chris Rodriguez rushed for another after the first of six interceptions that helped Kentucky beat Mississippi State 24-2 on Saturday night.
Jordan Wright sealed the hard-earned victory by scoring on an 8-yard interception return with 6:25 remaining for the Wildcats (1-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference). Kentucky gained just 157 yards but that held up thanks to an aggressive defense that shut out the Bulldogs’ Air Raid offense. Kentucky picked off K.J. Costello four times, the first of which linebacker Josh Paschal jumped perfectly to return 76 yards and set up Rodriguez’s 2-yard TD run that made it 14-0.
Jamin Davis and Jamar “Boogie” Watson picked off Costello in the end zone and Will Rogers at the goal line respectively, and Kelvin Joseph also intercepted Costello. D’Eryk Jackson’s pick of Rogers in the final seconds closed the Wildcats’ win.
The interceptions tied for second most in program history, the last coming against Xavier on Sept. 25, 1948.
Wilson’s 12-yard TD pass to Keaton Upshaw followed a 51-yard run down the left sideline, the most explosive play in a game where yards were hard to come by.
Mississippi State (1-2, 1-2) got its lone points on a third-quarter safety after a bad snap past Kentucky punter Max Duffy that he kicked back through the end zone. It spoiled the Lexington return of Bulldogs first-year coach Mike Leach, who was Kentucky’s offensive coordinator from 1997-98 running the pass-heavy scheme.
Mississippi State: Costello was 36 of 55 for 232 yards passing, but has now thrown nine interceptions in three games. The big question is whether Leach will stick with him or seek a new look in the Air Raid with Rogers.
Kentucky: The Wildcats’ defense posted its best performance this season, not only slowing down a high-powered offense but forcing much-needed turnovers to boot. The offense struggled but made the most of its one good opportunity.
Mississippi State hosts No. 21 Texas A&M on Saturday, fresh off its 41-38 upset of No. 4 Florida.
Kentucky visits No. 14 and border rival Tennessee on Saturday, seeking just its third series win in the past 10 meetings.