Kylin Hill is a human highlight reel. The most impressive aspect of his run game is the consistency with which he makes defenders look silly, be it with a stiff arm, a juke move, a hurtle or a dive for the goal line like the one that resulted in his first touchdown of the day against the University of Kentucky on Saturday.
Hill, a junior running back from Columbus, has been the most consistent player for a Bulldog team that has already seen a change in quarterback, along with other personnel issues revolving around injuries and suspensions, in just their first four games of the season. The Bulldogs would run away to victory, 28-13.
Hill has accounted for at least 100 yards on the ground in each of those first four matchups, the first Bulldog to do so in 29 years. He was quick to credit his success to the performance of the offensive line.
“At the end of the day, I gotta give big credit to those guys. Without them pushing, it ain't no hundred yard game for me, or four straight hundred yard games for me,” Hill said.
A Kentucky defense led by linebacker Kash Daniel would give up 120 yards and three touchdowns to the star running back. Hill’s production opened up the floor for freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader to get involved on the ground game, adding 125 more rushing yards, over half of which came in the final five minutes of the game. Shrader, at the helm for his first full game, threw for 17-22 for 180 yards through the air.
Hill’s increased production has been at least, in part, due to an uptick in carries. He is currently on pace to surpass his total from last year in just two more games. Hill said he will run the ball as many times as his team needs him to.
“It can be eight carries, it can be 20, 30, 40. Whatever I gotta do to get the win. I just do my job,” Hill said.
With 91 carries for 551 yards and five touchdowns through four games, he’s right on the fringe of a few Heisman watchlists. At his current pace, he will break former MSU running back Anthony Dixon’s school record for rushing yards in a season. With more stiff arms and hurtles likely on the way, he might just do it in style.
“I watch tooooo many Saquan highlights,” Hill tweeted on Saturday night.
He’s not the first one to make the reference, as Joe Moorhead had previously compared the MSU athlete to his former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, who is now a New York Giant.
Another huge boost for the Bulldogs came from a few key players back, temporarily at least, off of suspensions. Their impact was felt immediately, as junior linebacker and Starkville native Wilie Gay was able to pick off a Sawyer Smith pass and take it 52 yards to the house.
The defensive score quickly swung the momentum over to the home side. Head coach Joe Moorhead said the return of those suspended players was a “big morale boost,” specifically mentioning Gay and his immediate effect on the game.
“I think Willie is one of the top linebackers in the conferences and in the country,” Moorhead said. “He’s big, he’s fast, he’s strong, he’s athletic, he plays with great passion. Sometimes misguided, but we’ll get him going in the right direction.”
While Bulldog fans were certainly excited to see the playmaker back on the field, they were disappointed to see him exit again shortly thereafter, when he was ejected late in the first half after his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
According to junior cornerback Cameron Dantzler from Hammond, Louisiana, other players like Lee Autry were also a huge help to the Bulldogs.
“Oh you know we miss those guys. They came back with a chip on their shoulder, ready to play. All of us were amped to play,” Dantzler said.
Dantzler was given the challenge of taking on Kentucky wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. Bowden Jr. would accumulate 129 yards on seven catches, but it would not be enough for Kentucky.
“He’s a very good player,” Dantzler said. “We tried our best to keep him contained, and we did what we had to do to come out on top.”