The streak is over after 31 long years! Now, Kentucky is up against an FCS opponent and in-state football team, the Murray State Racers.
The Racers come into Saturday’s game without a win thus far, and Kentucky is heavily favored after their upset win at Florida. Kentucky is currently favored at 25.5-points over Murray State according to Oddshark.com. ESPN also has Kentucky holding a 99.7% chance to start their season 3-0.
Kentucky finally has a possible Heisman candidate in Benny Snell and, from the looks of it, have a potential star quarterback in Terry Wilson, too.
While Murray State lacks talent when being compared to Kentucky, this is their biggest game of the year while possibly the easiest for the Wildcats. Kentucky will need to avoid looking ahead to their tough home matchup with the Mississippi State Bulldogs next weekend.
If Kentucky is going to avoid another letdown vs. and FCS team, here are five things they need to do:
1. Score Fast & Early
With Benny Snell carrying the ball 27 times last weekend against Florida, I think the coaching staff is going to want to get Terry Wilson into a rhythm and set a tone quick.
Against the Gators, Wilson ran the ball 10 times for 105 yards while also completing 11-16 passes for 161 yards & two touchdowns. Still, the one downfall to Terry’s game is turnovers. If he only has one a game, that can be managed. But, to keep winning games in the SEC, he’ll have to limit his turnovers.
Wilson showed he has an arm and can make plays with his feet, which could help Kentucky get out in front early against the Racers.
2. Put Pressure on Drew Anderson
The senior & Buffalo transfer is a good, consistent quarterback. In 2017, Anderson only played in four games at Buffalo but managed to complete over 60% of his passes.
Specifically, he went 66-106 for 1,039 yards with 10 touchdowns and just one interception. Last weekend, Anderson threw for 209 yards & one touchdown against Central Arkansas.
Anderson’s mechanics mirror a pro-style quarterback. He’s 6’4, 220-pounds but is gifted at making plays in and out of the pocket. Last weekend the UK defense was able to put a lot of pressure on Feleipe Franks and they’ll need to get to Anderson as well.
3. Pound the Rock
Benny Snell is having quite the season and seems to be receiving national attention. While it’s important for Snell to have his shine, Stoops said during Thursday’s presser that he’d like to get his younger guys snaps.
Snell has already carried the football more than 40 times in just two games, so this is a nice spot in the season for Kentucky to rest him for their game with the Bulldogs.
Redshirt freshman AJ Rose is finally showing fans what they expected. In two games this season, he’s carried the ball 12 times for 127 yards & two touchdowns. Rose has shown he’s a quick, strong running back.
Sihiem King is also listed as an OR on the Week 3 depth chart with AJ Rose as the second string behind Snell. King’s been shadowed by the heavy workload handed to Rose and Snell, as he’s only rushed six times for 32 yards. As the second stringer last season, he rushed 79 times for 364 yards & 2 touchdowns.
This week, expect King & Rose’s snaps to increase.
4. Win in the Trenches
Against Florida, Kentucky proved that they have one of the best offensive lines in the SEC, even without Landon Young.
Following a strong outing, it wouldn’t be surprising for Kentucky to ease off on the intensity against a lesser opponent. Murray is a lot smaller up front as their biggest starter is 285 pounds.
One counter the Racers present, though, is their athleticism. The Cats are going to have to be quick out of their stance and get engaged with that quick defensive line as fast as possible.
5. Play to Win
This one is pretty cut and dry. Kentucky has had it’s fair share of games when they should’ve blown out their opponent, but instead played down to their competition for a negative result.
In the past, Kentucky has let teams like Eastern Kentucky (who is in same conference as Murray State), Eastern Michigan and Kent State find a way to stay in the game.
Two years ago, the Wildcats had a 20+ point lead against Southern Miss and let them come back in the second half, losing the game. Staying up-tempo will be key in Saturday’s game.
Kentucky wins big, with it potentially being the biggest blowout of the Mark Stoops era. Snell will likely have a well-earned rest in the second half with Gunnar Hoak potentially taking snaps after halftime. Josh Allen will continue a strong start to his senior year, posting two or more sacks. Dorian Baker will also present problems to the Racers with his height advantage in the red zone.
SCORE: Kentucky 49 Murray State 10