Mark Story

Blue Preview: Your guide to Kentucky’s football game with Murray State

Kentucky safety Darius West (25) celebrated UK’s 27-16 victory over Florida earlier this season with a hug from Cats Coach Mark Stoops.   “We all just want to do something special,” West said of his final season. “I imagined myself making big plays in big games.”
Kentucky safety Darius West (25) celebrated UK’s 27-16 victory over Florida earlier this season with a hug from Cats Coach Mark Stoops. “We all just want to do something special,” West said of his final season. “I imagined myself making big plays in big games.” aslitz@herald-leader.com

Murray State at Kentucky

When: Noon, Saturday

Where: Kroger Field

TV: SEC Network alternate channel (play-by-play, Mike Morgan; analyst, John Congemi; sideline, Taylor Davis)

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, XM Channel 191, Sirius Channel 103

Records: Kentucky (2-0, 1-0 SEC); Murray State (0-2, 0-0 OVC)

Series: Kentucky leads 1-0

Last meeting: Kentucky defeated Murray State 37-6 on Sept. 6, 2003, at the venue formerly known as Commonwealth Stadium, in what was Rich Brooks’ first victory as UK head coach.

Favorite: No line

Where to find the SEC Network alternate channel:

Spectrum Cable: Channel 518

DISH Network: Channels 596-599; with the Hopper digital box, channels 404.1, 404.2 or 404.3

DirecTV: Channel 611-1*

Ellery Moore vs. Murray State.JPG
Kentucky’s Ellery Moore (No. 99) tackled Murray State’s Ron Lane in UK’s 37-6 victory over Murray State in 2003. That is the only prior meeting between the Wildcats and the Racers. Lexington Herald-Leader file photo

The story line

Coming off one of the sweetest victories in Kentucky football history, a 27-16 win over Florida that snapped a 31-game losing streak against the Gators, Coach Mark Stoops and the Wildcats will seek to avoid an emotional letdown against intrastate foe Murray State. UK is billing the game as its annual “Heroes Day” and active and reserve members of the military as well as first responders can get two complimentary tickets (while supplies last) by presenting a valid service ID.

The big threat

Is complacency. UK’s victory over Florida in The Swamp was one of the most emotional wins the Wildcats have ever registered. It will be a test for Kentucky to move past celebrating and “come to play” against Coach Mitch Stewart’s winless Racers. Murray State, a Football Championship Subdivision program, has allowed 55, 52, 57, 52, 66, 58, 48 and 69 points in its eight most recent games against FBS foes.

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Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson (3) celebrated after he threw for two touchdowns and ran for one to spark Kentucky’s 27-16 victory over Florida last week. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

On the spot

Mark Stoops. Having secured the victory over Florida that UK fans fervently craved, it falls on Stoops to “get his team’s attention” and see that the Wildcats take Murray State seriously. The goal for Kentucky is to play well enough to keep the positive feelings going into the crucial two-game stretch against Mississippi State and South Carolina that follows Murray on the Cats schedule. For motivational fodder vs. Murray State, Stoops can call to the attention of his team that UK has trailed by double digits the past three times it has faced an Ohio Valley Conference team (Eastern Kentucky in 2015; Austin Peay in 2016; EKU last season) and had to rally to win each.

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talks to the media after his team’s 27-16 win over Florida on Sept. 8, 2018. The win snapped a 31-game losing streak to Florida.

The mood

Is beyond giddy. Kentucky’s long-awaited breaking free of the Florida streak should energize a UK fan base that previously seemed to have a tepid investment in the 2018 Wildcats’ football season. UK announced a meager crowd of 49,138 for its season opener against Central Michigan. Will Cats fans turn out in greater numbers this week as a gesture of appreciation to UK football for finally throwing off the yoke of Florida domination?

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230; Twitter: @markcstory

UK running back Benny Snell Jr. is featured on the cover of the Herald-Leader's 2018 college football preview section. See how photographers Alex Slitz and Mark Mahan put it all together.



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