WKU at Kentucky: Keys to Saturday's game

mstory@herald-leader.comSeptember 14, 2012 

Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Maxwell Smith (11) threw downfield in the first quarter as UK played Kent State on Saturday September 8, 2012 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

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  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

THE GAME

Western Kentucky (1-1) at Kentucky (1-1)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Commonwealth Stadium

TV: ESPNU

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, Sirius Channel 94

Series: Kentucky leads 3-0

Last meeting: Kentucky won 14-3 on Sept. 1, 2011, at Nashville's LP Field.

Line: Kentucky is favored by 7 points.

THE KEYS

1. Keep Maxwell Smith standing

Through two games, Kentucky's no-huddle, short-passing attack has hit on all cylinders. UK sophomore quarterback Smith is 12th in the nation in passing yards per game (317) and is completing 73 percent of his throws. With Smith getting rid of the ball in a hurry, UK has allowed only three sacks through two games. That will be tested by a Western Kentucky defensive front that sacked Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron six times, three times by senior defensive end Quanterus Smith.

2. Slow down the run

To put it mildly, Kentucky's run defense through two games has left room for improvement. Louisville had not one, but two backs go over 100 yards against UK, and Kent State ran for 182 yards against the Cats. WKU no longer has do-it-all back Bobby Rainey, but a backfield combination of Antonio Andrews and Leon Allen is plenty good enough to test the Wildcats.

3. Take Western seriously

Coming off a 5-7 season in 2011, there's no reason for Kentucky to be overconfident against anyone. Still, sometimes college kids sleep on "directional schools." That would be a mistake for UK with Western Kentucky. Willie Taggart's Hilltoppers have won eight of their last 10 games, with the only two losses on the road to No. 1 LSU (2011) and No. 1 Alabama (2012). After holding UK to 190 yards of total offense last season, WKU is coming to Lexington with the belief it can win.

THE MOOD

Brightened a bit after Kentucky's 47-14 victory over Kent State — but it will be toxic again for Joker Phillips and crew if UK does not take care of business against WKU. Will Western's having sold all 2,000 of its allotted tickets and sent hundreds more inquiries to the UK ticket office help lift Commonwealth attendance above last week's paltry (by historical Kentucky standards) crowd of 48,346?

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