JOE COX: Murray State Could Be Another Statement Game — If The Statement Is Consistency
Make no mistake, last Saturday, Kentucky went into Gainesville, Fla., and absolutely chopped the head off of a long-lived demon of a 31-game losing streak against the Gators. This week the question is whether the Wildcats, having turned in a brilliant effort in a pivotal game, can sustain a focused attack and avoid a predictable letdown.
Last week, Kentucky was a two-score underdog fighting 31 years of history. This week, Kentucky plays an opponent which is severely outmanned and will doubtlessly be playing for pride. Several times in recent history, Kentucky overlooked a weaker foe and had to struggle to escape with the forecasted victory.
Meanwhile, another week brings another chance to see the maturation of UK quarterback Terry Wilson. After a morbidly poor first week showing, Wilson did still have some turnover issues (a fumble and an interception), but he accounted for over 250 total yards and burned Florida with his rushing and passing skills. If Wilson makes the kind of progress from week two to week three as he did the previous week, it will be something to behold.
Two Kentucky position units which are traditionally questioned—the defense and the offensive line—both played major roles in last week’s victory. Can both groups keep up that level of production when the motivational fires will need a little more work? If so, it should be a very happy week three.
About Murray State
Murray is 0-2 with losses to Southern Illinois (49-10) and to Central Arkansas (26-13) on their season. Murray managed just 289 yards and 11.5 points per game in those losses. They have converted just 22 percent of their third down opportunities and have been dominated in time of possession, holding the ball for just 23 minutes per game so far.
Murray is led by QB Drew Anderson, who passed for 359 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions so far this season. Anderson does not seem to be a threat to run, and neither are many other Murray players, as the team averages just 2.9 yards per carry and is led by back Rodney Castille, who has 88 yards rushing on the season.
Murray’s top receiver is James Sappington, who has six catches for 92 yards and the team’s lone passing touchdown. Kicker Gabriel Vicente is 3-for-3 on field goals, but has struggled on kickoffs.
Defensively, Murray has struggled, allowing almost three times as many yards per game on the ground as they have gained. The team’s top tackler is linebacker Quincy Williams, with 21 stops. Three Murray players each have one sack and two each have an interception.
After rushing for 299 yards in week one against Central Michigan, UK proved it was no fluke by running for 303 on the Gators. All-SEC back Benny Snell had 175 yards rushing in the game, and Terry Wilson added another 105 yards on the ground, as well as 151 yards and two scores in the passing game. Lynn Bowden paced the Kentucky receivers with 79 yards, including a 54 yard touchdown bomb from Wilson.
Defensively, Kentucky got a monster game from Josh Allen, who had five tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a pass broken up, and a quarterback hurry. Linebacker Kash Daniel, who leads the SEC in tackles, had eleven stops, and safety Darius West had eight tackles and a crucial interception.
This game should absolutely be a walk in the park. In past seasons, Kentucky has struggled to put teams like this away. But as last week showed, this isn’t a past season. It’s a new day.
UK 45, Murray State 7.
Time for a weekly run around the rest of the league…
Georgia 42, MTSU 0
Tennessee 49, UTEP 7
Notre Dame 24, Vanderbilt 13
Auburn 27, LSU 13
Arkansas 34, North Texas 28
Florida 42, Colorado State 17
Alabama 63, Ole Miss 20
Mississippi State 42, Louisiana 7
Missouri 45, Purdue 21
Texas A&M 52, UL-Monroe 10
Joe Cox is contributing editor for KySportsStyle.com Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County, and has written seven books, with the eighth to come in 2019. His most recent, "The Immaculate Inning," was released in February 2018 and can be ordered on Amazon or at many local bookstores. Joe is an attorney and lives in Logan County with his wife and children. You can reach him at email@example.com.