LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Mississippi State football team (1-1) looks to bounce back Saturday evening when it faces the 0-2 Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT and will be televised by SEC Network.
The earliest implementation of the Air Raid offense in the Southeastern Conference dates back to 1997 when MSU head coach Mike Leach was the offensive coordinator at Kentucky. This will be his first time back to Kentucky as a head coach.
Mississippi State leads the series 24-23, but the Wildcats hold a 14-9 advantage in games played in Lexington. The Bulldogs won six in a row to tie the series in 2014, but the teams have traded victories since, with the home team winning each of the last three games. The Bulldogs won 28-13 in 2019.
State comes into the contest after falling to Arkansas, 21-14, last week. MSU has attempted 60 passes in each of its first two games of the season. Entering the season, the school record was 54 attempts set on Sept. 12, 2015, against LSU. Since that game, State had attempted more than 40 passes just seven times, all in 2015. Quarterback K.J. Costello set a school record for completions with 43 against Arkansas. He finished with 313 yards passing and one touchdown, but he was also picked off three times. That performance came one week after Costello passed for an SEC record 623 yards and five touchdowns in a 44-34 win over the LSU Tigers.
Senior wide receiver Osirus Mitchell leads the Bulldogs with 244 yards receiving and two touchdowns on 12 catches. Senior running back Kylin Hill, who was knocked out after one rush last week, is second on the team with 158 yards receiving and one TD on eight catches. Leach says he should be available for Saturday’s contest. Senior wide receiver JaVonta Payton is No. 3 on the team in receiving as he has recorded 145 yards receiving and one TD on eight receptions.
The defense of the Bulldogs is led by senior linebacker Erroll Thompson, who has compiled 23 tackles and a sack. Sophomore safety Shawn Preston Jr. and sophomore linebacker Aaron Brule have added 16 tackles and 15 tackles, receptively.
The Wildcats come in after a tough 42-41 overtime loss to Ole Miss where the offense was explosive in piling up 408 yards rushing. Three Wildcats — senior running back Asim Rose, senior quarterback Terry Wilson and redshirt sophomore running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. — eclipsed the century mark in rushing.
Senior wide receiver Josh Ali leads the Kentucky passing attack with 186 yards receiving on 16 catches.
The Kentucky defense, which is expected to drop eight into coverage often, is led by a pair of junior linebackers, Jamin Davis and DeAndre Square, who have each compiled 12 tackles apiece. Redshirt junior defensive end Josh Paschal and senior defensive back Brandin Echols have chipped in with 11 tackles apiece.
Saturday’s game will be called by Tom Hart (play-by-play), Jordan Rodgers (analyst) and sideline reporter Cole Cubelic.