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No. 20 Bulldogs roll past Kentucky 27-14

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No. 20 Bulldogs roll past Kentucky 27-14

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was slightly concerned about his team's focus against Kentucky coming off a bye week.

Not only did the No. 20 Bulldogs ease his mind on that issue, they did it effectively.

Tyler Russell passed for two touchdowns and Mississippi State held Kentucky to just 228 yards on offense, leading to a 27-14 victory Saturday.

``We lost our focus a couple of times with a couple of people, but overall I'm real pleased,'' Mullen said. ``I think our defense played very well over the course of the game.

``I would've liked a couple more scores.''

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 the Southeastern Conference.

Russell was 23 of 39 for 269 yards, hitting Adrian Marcus and Chad Bumphis for touchdowns of 10 and 27 yards, respectively.

Bumphis, who finished with 9 receptions for 104 yards, also broke the school record with his 17th career TD.

``It's a big deal to get it (the record) out of the way, finally,'' Bumphis said.

Mississippi State finished with 158 yards rushing and 427 overall, splitting its season-high 78 plays evenly running and passing.

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 10of-21 passing for 73 yards, adding 26 rushing yards on eight carries. Towles was 5 of 6 for 71 yards.

``I thought both of them competed hard,'' Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said.

But it was all about the Bulldogs, who showed no rust from a week off. The defense allowed its second-fewest yards this season, 12 more than it allowed in a 28-10 victory over Auburn last month.

``It's good to get a win even though we didn't cause any turnovers,'' cornerback Darius Slay said. ``We at least had about seven or eight 3-and-outs, so it put the offense in good field position a lot.''

Offensively, Mississippi State converted 10 of 18 third downs and one fourth down.

The offense 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.

``We wanted that kind of fast start, playing on the road against a team with freshman quarterbacks,'' Mullen said.

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 Kentucky back into the game by making it 27-14, finishing a 46-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run in the third quarter.

That score resulted from a shanked Mississippi State punt. The Bulldogs also lost two fumbles.

Those were the 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.

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Ahead of NFL Draft, Ravens add to wide receiver corps with Willie Snead

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USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of NFL Draft, Ravens add to wide receiver corps with Willie Snead

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Receiver Willie Snead has bid farewell to the Saints, which means New Orleans apparently won't match the contract the Baltimore Ravens offered the restricted free agent.

Eager to add a target for quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens on Friday offered Snead a two-year, $10.4 million contract. The Saints had five days to match the deal. Snead indicated Monday on Twitter that he's headed out of New Orleans.

Snead tweeted: "What I'm going to miss most is the men in the locker room & the coaches."

He added: "Even though I'm sad to go, I'm even more excited for the next chapter in my life. I can't wait to strap it on as a Baltimore Raven."

Hampered by a three-game suspension and a hamstring injury, Snead was limited to eight catches for 92 yards last year.

In 2015, he had 69 receptions for 984 yards. He caught 72 passes for 895 yards in 2016.

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Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Whenever a playoff series ends, the analysis begins soon after. Why did this team win? Why did this team lose? Why did this player perform while this one did not?  This is an exercise performed by media, players and coaches alike, especially for teams that walk away from a series believing they let an opportunity slip away.

The Columbus Blue Jackets fell to the Washington Capitals in six games despite taking a 2-0 series lead by winning both opening games in Washington. Head coach John Tortorella will have all summer to think about what he could have done differently and what went wrong for his team, but it sounds like he already has at least one theory as to why they lost.

In a series that featured four overtime games, Game 4 stands out as being far more one-sided than the others. Washington turned in the most dominant performance of the series in a 4-1 win that knotted the teams at two wins apiece.

That game stood out to Tortorella too and he thinks he knows why the Blue jackets laid an egg that night: Travel.

"I think we should’ve stayed in Washington after that second overtime game, the second game there," Tortorella said. "I think that comes back and gets you later on in the series. We should’ve stayed in Washington and let them get a good night sleep. They got in here so late. I don’t think it affected us in Game 3. It comes the next days, so that falls on me."

When analyzing why the Caps won the series, chances are travel is not going to be a reason many people consider. Perhaps there is some merit to this. After all, as the father of an infant, I can certainly vouch for how much of a difference one good night of sleep can make.

But perhaps there is another message being sent here by Tortorella.

Tortorella is a master at using the media to his advantage. He uses the media to send messages to his team or draw attention on himself and away from the players.

Tortorella just saw his young team give up a 2-0 series lead and lose four straight games. Those are the kind of losses that can stick with a player and create doubt in the mind of a team the next time they reach a tough spot in the postseason.

So what did Tortorella do? He came out and put the worst loss of the series on his own shoulders. Why was it his fault? Uh...travel? Yeah, let's go with travel.

The Blue Jackets are not the first team to play overtime on the road or the first team to deal with travel concerns. To hear a coach say it was a reason they lost a game and not even the next game after the travel? Well, that's a first.

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