I believe that the main reason Kentucky won their matchup versus Mississippi State on Saturday night was from one thing: the offense. Now, correctly understand what I just said. I didn't say the only reason Kentucky won was because of the offense, I said it was the main reason why they did. Let me explain myself.
Not to discredit the defense, but we all knew what we were going to get from them - essentially nothing short of excellence. What has desperately been requested for weeks now has been to see the offensive line play a solid game, to get our passing game back with a returning Will Levis and to finally win a game with Chris Rodriguez back in the lineup. Kentucky did all three of those things this weekend. Not all of them were perfect, but they each received passing grades in their respective duties.
Mark Stoops said in his postgame press conference that he believes his offensive line played their best game of the season against the Bulldogs. "I think it's pretty fair to say at this point, yeah. Because that's a really good defense. You know, they're really disruptive and they do a really good job in creating pressure. And I thought they did some good things."
Chris Rodriguez finished the night with 197 rushing yards on just 30 rushes, resulting in two touchdowns. He entered the 3,000 yard club in the all-time record books in the program's history, becoming just the fourth back to do so at Kentucky. Saturday's win against Mississippi State was a career-best 30 carries, which was the most by a UK running back since Benny Snell had 31 against Vanderbilt in 2018. His performance was the second-most in his career (rushing yards) and his two touchdowns are tied for the second most in a game for his career.
This now makes seventeen 100-yard rushing games as a Wildcat, which became the third-most in program history. After the game, Mark Stoops said he gave Chris the game ball and he immediately turned around and gave it to the offensive line. What an absolute class act and a great connector, so to speak, between two forces of the win.
After listing two of the three, we can't forget the last one, the face of the program in quarterback Will Levis. He gutted out a 17-for-23 passing performance, amid just one interception, totaling 230 passing yards and one passing touchdown. Most notably, Will returned to the game on the following drive, after a short trip to the locker room, once he got up from taking a brutal hit in the third quarter.
This was one of the few plays that the offensive line got beat on and Will took all the destruction on.
With him being the warrior that he is, Levis was spotted on the sideline just minutes later after he returned from getting looked at by the staff, and 'willed' this team into their fifth win in only 7 games, taking down a top-twenty conference opponent.
Will Levis said he went back to the locker room and "got the magic shot" to help him finish out the game. On the hurt left shoulder, he told SEC Network reporter Cole Cubelic, "It's my left shoulder, who cares?" He continued with, "It's the SEC. You're never going to play at a hundred percent when you're midway through the season in the SEC. There's a lot of guys on the team who are exactly like this (hurt), not every team, and you just got to fight through. We're very fortunate to have our bye week this week, get our bodies right, and it's so great to get win like this heading into the bye week."
On his offensive line playing so well, he complimented them following the win. "I was so proud of them... They played their asses off."
Will now has 37 total passing touchdowns in his Kentucky career, which leaves him just one away from moving into fifth all-time in program history. Doubling down on that, he also has 4,462 passing yards in his starting role for the Wildcats, which ranks eighth all-time, leaving him only 52 yards away from moving into seventh place in the record books.
Although it was a slow start to the game, which was tied 3-3 at halftime, it eventually turned itself around. It became a decent second half for Kentucky, which led them to getting the victory, as a result of the three things I listed off, as well as being paired with Brad White's juggernaut scheme of a defensive effort.
Now, the team heads into their bye week, which couldn't have came at a better time. Their next outing will be down in Knoxville, to take on the Volunteers, the team that just beat No. 3 Alabama, on October 29th.