Sometimes things don’t always go as you planned.
Such was the case for Dan Mullen and Mississippi against Kentucky back in October. Nickoe Whitley had probably his worst game as a Bulldog that night. In a three play span, he committed two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties which resulted in his ejection from the game. If he doesn’t get ejected, he is playing the final drive of the game. Instead, Kendrick Market is back at safety, and he hasn’t always had things go the way he planned either.
When Market committed to Mississippi State as part of the 2011 class, his recruitment was celebrated by Bulldog fans, but only because his commitment was coupled with his 4 star teammate at South Panola, Nicholas Brassell. Market drew a lot of attention because many believed that Market and Brassell were going to be a package deal, and most believed that package was being delivered to Ole Miss. Market was a 2 star recruit, the one that most scouts ignored. So when Market and Brassell committed to Mississippi State, a lot of people were surprised. People were so surprised, that Lance Pogue, the head coach at South Panola when asked how committed the pair were, went on to talk about how the word commitment meant something to South Panola, and he didn’t want anyone from his program to commit to a school unless they were 100% sure. Despite that pledge from Pogue, only Market ended up in Starkville and Brassell was in Oxford at the start of the 2011 football season.
Just as things didn’t go as planned on signing day that year, things haven’t gone as planned for Brassell or Market. If you had asked any scout which player would still be playing for their school three years after they entered, most would have bet on Brassell, not Market. Brassell, for whatever reason, hasn’t been able to get his act together in the classroom to stay enrolled at Ole Miss. He was dismissed from the team after his freshman season because of academics, and again entering this year for the same reason. Kendrick Market has worked his way up to being the starter at strong safety in this redshirt sophomore season.
The game against Kentucky didn’t go as planned either. In a game that Mississippi State was supposed to dominate, they found themselves needing a stop on the last drive of the game to seal the victory. That set the stage for one of the biggest plays of the year that many of us may have forgotten about.
Kentucky was facing a 4th and 2 and trailed 28-22, and needed to convert to have any chance at winning the game. Being a short yardage situation, the Bulldogs loaded the box anticipating a run from Jojo Kemp who was having a pretty solid night running the ball. Kentucky did exactly as the Bulldogs had expected, but Kemp was able to break through the line and had open field in front of him. The only thing standing in his way of scoring the potential game winning touchdown was Kendrick Market. Market did exactly as defensive backs are taught when trying to tackle a larger player: go low and take out their feet. In doing so, Market brought Kemp to the ground, and the drive would stall out on the next series of downs.
Who knows what would have happened if Market doesn’t make the tackle. I don’t know if State qualifies for a bowl still (probably not) or if Mullen keeps his job (also probably not). I do know that Market hadn’t planned to make such a significant play this year, but he answered the call when given the opportunity.