How Kentucky (2-0, 1-0 SEC) and Murray State (0-2, 0-0 OVC) match up at each position — with a game prediction:
With two touchdown passes and a TD run, Kentucky’s Terry Wilson was one of the heroes of UK’s streak-busting, 27-16 win at Florida last week. In Gainesville, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound sophomore flashed the dual-threat dynamism (105 yards rushing; 11-of-16 passing for 151 yards) that had been his reputation coming from Garden City Community College. With five turnovers (three interceptions and two lost fumbles) in his first two UK games, Wilson could stand to tighten up on the ball security. Murray State’s Drew Anderson, a graduate transfer from Buffalo, unseated incumbent starter Shuler Bentley in a preseason QB battle. Anderson, a 6-4, 221-pound pocket passer, has completed 54.5 percent of his passes for 335 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown. Bentley is the brother of South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley.
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Benny Snell is coming off one of the best games of his stellar Kentucky career. The 5-11, 223-pound junior amassed 175 yards on 27 carries in UK’s win at Florida and repeatedly ran through tackles. Sophomore A.J. Rose ran for 23 yards on only four attempts at Florida. The 6-1, 208-pound sophomore is averaging a robust 10.6 yards a carry on the season. Murray State sophomore D.J. Penick led the Racers in rushing in 2017 (431 yards) but has averaged only 3 yards a carry (65 yards on 22 carries) this season. Sophomore Rodney Castille, a converted wide receiver, leads MSU in rushing with 72 yards on 13 attempts.
Senior slot receiver David Bouvier, a former walk-on from Lexington Catholic, has caught touchdown passes in UK’s first two games. Sophomore slot receiver Lynn Bowden had a big game at Florida with four catches for 79 yards, including a 54-yard TD. Kentucky has completed 18 passes to wide-outs this season and all but three have been to slot receivers. Murray State entered 2018 seeking a replacement for star Jordon Gandy. So far, no one has emerged as a go-to wide receiver for the Racers. Redshirt sophomore Sylvaughn Turner (four catches, 69 yards) has flashed promise.
Kentucky senior C.J. Conrad has caught five passes for 12 yards and has been praised by UK coaches for his blocking. Murray State’s James Sappington, a 6-4, 229-pound junior, is the Racers’ leading receiver (six catches, 68 yards, one TD). Sappington spent his first two seasons as Murray’s kickoff specialist, but went to Coach Mitch Stewart during the off-season to ask for a chance to play a larger role.
Kentucky senior right guard Bunchy Stallings was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week after grading out at 91 percent with nine knockdown blocks in UK’s win at Florida. UK Coach Mark Stoops credited the interior of the Cats offensive line — Stallings, center Drake Jackson and left guard Logan Stenberg — for setting the physical tone that allowed the Wildcats to run for 303 yards at Florida. Murray center Levi Nesler, a 6-1, 291-pound redshirt freshman from Graves County, is a former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship before this season. Left guard Jacob Vance, a 6-4, 294-pound sophomore, is a North Oldham product.
Kentucky senior defensive tackle Adrian Middleton had a tackle for loss at Florida, while his backup, junior Phil Hoskins, recorded a quarterback sack. Nose guard Quinton Bohanna is “day to day” after aggravating an ankle injury at Florida. Murray State will be without starting nose guard Rashad Johnson, who is out with an injury. Redshirt senior end Tyler Stepney is undersized (6-foot, 225 pounds) but active (11 tackles, 1.5 TFL, one sack, one QB hurry, one fumble recovery).
Kentucky senior OLB Josh Allen was chosen SEC Defensive Player of the Week for a stellar showing (five tackles, 1.5 TFL, one QB hurry, a forced fumble, a pass break up) at Florida. Junior MLB Kash Daniel has had 11 tackles in each of UK’s first two games. Murray State SLB Quincy Williams, a redshirt senior, leads the Racers in tackles (21, 2.5 TFL). Senior OLB/rush end Kenney Wooten is smallish at 6-foot, 240-pounds, but disruptive (12 tackles, one sack).
UK free safety Darius West made Kentucky’s first interception of the season last week. The 6-foot, 210-pound senior is tied for second on the Cats in tackles with 15. MSU senior cornerback Marquez Sanford has 15 tackles. He had three interceptions in 2017. Sophomore strong safety Don Parker (five tackles) is a product of Hopkinsville High School.
Kentucky punter Max Duffy, a sophomore from Perth, Australia, stopped two punts near the Florida goal line last week. Senior place-kicker Miles Butler has yet to try a field goal in 2018 but is 8-of-8 on PATs. Murray State punter Steve Dawson, a freshman from Wagga Wagga, Australia, has averaged 39.9 yards on 15 kicks with four inside the 20. Place-kicker Gabriel Vicente is a former college soccer player at NCAA Division III Oglethorpe who transitioned to football. He’s 3-for-3 this year on field goals with a long of 39. Last year, Vicente made a 52-yard field goal vs. Southeast Missouri and hit a game-winner vs. No. 25 Tennessee-Martin.
Kentucky 52, Murray State 10
Mark Story: (859) 231-3230; Twitter: @markcstory