Kentucky seeks follow to Florida win against Murray State

GARY B. GRAVES - Associated Press
Kentucky players celebrate on the field after defeating Florida 27-16, last Saturday, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) -

LEXINGTON — Buoyed by one of its biggest recent victories, Kentucky looks to continue the momentum against Murray State.

The Wildcats (2-0) insist they won’t look past the FCS Racers (0-2) after last week’s 27-16 upset at No. 25 Florida ended a 31-game losing streak against the Gators. Emotionally lifting as it was to finally quash “The Streak” in The Swamp, Kentucky made mistakes that showed it still has room to improve.

Now the last thing Kentucky wants is a letdown against an opponent desperate for its first victory.

“We did some very good things but there is so much more that this team can do,” said coach Mark Stoops, who has stressed moving on from the win. “We can play better than we did and that is our goal.”

Murray State faces a huge hurdle in its first series meeting against Kentucky since losing 37-6 in Lexington in 2003. This in-state challenge comes after Southern Illinois and No. 17 (FCS) Central Arkansas outscored the Racers by a 75-23 combined margin.

Ball protection is the priority for the Ohio Valley Conference school after yielding eight turnovers through two games. Last week’s 26-13 loss at UCA included a fumble and interception in the end zone that coach Mitch Stewart believed could have changed the outcome in a competitive game.

The Racers’ goal this week is being stingy against a Kentucky team seeking a strong tuneup before resuming Southeastern Conference play next week.

“Our offense has to stop beating our offense,” Stewart said. “The second week was a lot better than the first week, but we still have to make improvements with ball security moving forward or the results are going to be the same.”

Other things to watch as Kentucky hosts Murray State:

RESILIENT WILSON

Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson overcame a fumble and end-zone interception on consecutive second-quarter possessions to rush for a 24-yard TD and throw a 54-yard scoring pass for a third-quarter cushion the Wildcats rode to victory over Florida. He accounted for three scores against the Gators but is focusing on protecting the football after combining for five turnovers thus far.

RACERS’ OFFENSE

Murray State quarterback Drew Anderson, a transfer from Buffalo, has completed nearly 55 percent of his attempts for 335 yards and a TD, including 209 yards last week. The Racers rank fifth in OVC passing at 197.5 yards per contest but seek improvement from a ground game averaging just 71.5 yards.

BALL CONTROL

The Wildcats dominated the line of scrimmage at Florida, outrushing the Gators 303-128 and outgaining them 454-360 overall. Kentucky’s 301-yard rushing average is one fewer than SEC-leading Mississippi State and has not allowed a sack. Junior running back Benny Snell Jr. ranks third in SEC rushing at 150 yards per contest.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Murray State leads the OVC in net punting at 39.73 yards per kick and ranks 18th nationally. The Racers have posted seven fair catches and allowed just two return yards. Kentucky ranks second in SEC punting with a 41.4-yard net average. Sophomore Max Duffy’s 44.6-yard average ranks fourth.

Kentucky players celebrate on the field after defeating Florida 27-16, last Saturday, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
https://maysville-online.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_UK-Florida.jpgKentucky players celebrate on the field after defeating Florida 27-16, last Saturday, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

GARY B. GRAVES

Associated Press