LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky was coming off the biggest win of the Mark Stoops era and could have easily overlooked Murray State on Saturday. It didn’t happen.
The Wildcats took the Racers seriously and showed no signs of a letdown following last week’s 27-16 win over Southeastern Conference foe Florida, the team’s first victory over the Gators in more than three decades. Kentucky outscored the Racers 31-7 in the second half and rolled to a 48-10 victory, giving the Wildcats a 3-0 start for the second straight season and the third time in the last eight years.
In the aftermath of the takedown in the Swamp, the Wildcats celebrated all last week and celebrated some more. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops relived the moment all week. The players did, too, but at the same time, never lost sight of Murray State and that’s the sign of mature football team.
“I was pleased with our effort today,” Stoops said. “You could see the strength of our football tea and our depth. … I just thought with our strength and experience and depth it wore them down.”
Although the first half was pretty much a yawner, with the Wildcats controlling a 17-3 lead at the break, Kentucky simply overwhelmed the Racers in the second half and used a balanced attack to open with a 3-0 record for the third straight season.
As evidenced through the first three games, the Wildcats are a strong second-half team and outscored their first three opponents 65-13 in the final two quarters this season. Despite a late score, Murray State had trouble advancing against Kentucky’s defense and was forced to punt five times.
“The defense got stops,” Snell said. “They almost stopped them (entirely). They almost didn’t score at all.”
Terry Wilson, who rushed for 105 yards and scored a touchdown in the win over the Gators, picked up where he left off and threw for 163 yards while rushing for 80 more against the overmatched Racers. In the past two weeks, Wilson has shown why he emerged as Kentucky’s starting quarterback following an intense battle with backup Gunnar Hoak during the preseason.
Wilson is dangerous with his feet and has been equally effective in the passing game. Wilson just missed his deep target throws against the Racers but is becoming effective in hitting his short targets and connected with nine different receivers, including Lynn Bowden, who hauled in eight passes for 89 yards.
Bowden was confident prior to kickoff and promised to do his part to make things happen for the Kentucky offense.
“I just told Terry … trust me, give me a chance and I will make you look good,” he said.
In addition to Bowden, the other players looked good, too, including the backups.
Hoak made an appearance against the Racers and threw for 77 yards, including a 23-yard scoring strike to Allen Dailey in the fourth quarter. Danny Clark, the third-string signal caller, completed Kentucky’s scoring with a 2-yard score with less than four minutes remaining.
Sure Kentucky had more talent than Murray, but a roster stocked with playmakers was the biggest difference-maker in the contest. The blowout also gave Stoops a chance to clear his bench.
“We have some good, young players that when they get (in the game), they want to play, so they run the ball hard, they block and catch it and so on,” Stoops said. “I don’t know how many guys we played, but quite a few and that’s good because we don’t those opportunities a lot.”
In what could have been a trap game for the Wildcats, Kentucky kept its foot on the gas and never let up going into three straight crucial Southeastern Conference encounters, starting with Mississippi State on Saturday, followed by another home game against South Carolina. The Wildcats take on Texas A&M on Oct. 6 before an open date.
For now, the Wildcats are going to enjoy reaching the halfway point of becoming bowl eligible for the third straight season.
“It felt great,” Wilson said. “It starts off another week of preparation and I think we had a good attitude going into this game. We weren’t trying to play down to their level and continued to play how we play. I think we did a good job out there.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.