October 25, 2013 11:15:22 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State sophomore defensive tackle Quay Evans was suspended for Thursday night's game for a violation of team rules.
MSU coach Dan Mullen confirmed after a 28-22 victory against Kentucky that the former five-star recruit would be re-evaluated in the following weeks, but he didn't say if Evans would be in the lineup in 10 days when MSU travels to No. 20 South Carolina.
MSU coaches hoped Evans and Nick James could become a solid defensive tackle duo after they both were four-star prospects from the state of Mississippi in the Class of 2012, but both still are adjusting to the level of play, preparation, and mental strength needed to play in the Southeastern Conference.
Evans, who is from Morton, was the top prospect in the state of Mississippi among all positions in the 2012 recruiting class by various recruiting services. MSU coaches opted not to redshirt the 310-pounder as a freshman, which is something many first-year players in Mullen's system do. He has three tackles this season, one of which for a loss, and no sacks.
The MSU coaches chose not to have Evans travel with the team for its season-opening game against Oklahoma State in the Texas Kickoff Classic in Houston.
Evans chose MSU over Auburn, Southern California, Florida State, LSU, Alabama, and Ole Miss. He played with the third-string defense when he arrived in Starkville. He saw action in 10 games and recorded seven tackles, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He had three tackles, a forced fumble, and a quarterback hurry against Jackson State University in his college debut. After his first game in 2013, Evans was used as a situational player on the defensive line.
Whitley ejected for two personal foul penalties
MSU senior defensive back Nickoe Whitley was ejected in the second quarter after being assessed two personal foul penalties in a four-play sequence.
Whitley was flagged for the personal foul for hitting after the whistle. Three plays later, he was penalized for throwing punches in a pile of bodies near the tackle.
"It's not anything I condone, and it's something that is extremely disappointing that hurt the team as well," said Mullen, who claimed he didn't see either penalty. "That was very disappointing on many levels from a fifth-year player."
SEC Director of Officiating Steve Shaw was in attendance Thursday night at Davis Wade Stadium with league commissioner Mike Slive. It is unknown if the league will hand out additional punishment to Whitley.
Whitley had three tackles before being ejected with less than a minute remaining in the second quarter. Among all active Football Bowl subdivision players, he is tied for first in career interceptions with 13. Of those 13 interceptions, eight of them have come against SEC opponents.
MSU's not-so special teams in victory over Kentucky's
Mullen, who is responsible for the special teams unit, didn't give that unit a glowing report.
"I think our kicking game was a little bit off tonight," Mullen said. "We didn't punt the ball well, our return game wasn't good, and our coverage game wasn't great."
MSU sophomore kicker Devon Bell missed a 47-yard field goal at the end of the first half. He also dropped a snap when he was lined up to attempt a punt in the end zone. The ball rolled out of the end zone for a safety that cost the Bulldogs two points. The mistake cut MSU's lead to 21-12. Kentucky capitalized on the free kick and scored on the ensuing drive to make it 21-19.
"I think Devon was 27 of 28 on field goals during the bye week (practices)," Mullen said. "He did drop that snap and had a lot of little learning pains tonight."
Bell was in on three punts for a 41.7-yard average after he outplayed senior punter Baker Swedenburg in practice.
Kentucky also almost broke the game open with an onside kick it easily recovered in front of Mullen near the home sideline. Fortunately for MSU, Kentucky was penalized for being offsides on the recovery and was forced to re-kick.
"Somebody on the backside that had absolutely nothing to do with the play was evidently four or six inches offsides," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "I thought we had the momentum at that moment."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.