Sidelines with John Clay

Three takeaways from Kentucky football’s win over Murray State

In addition to my column, three takeaways from Kentucky’s 48-10 win over Murray State:

1. Terry Wilson continues to be dynamic

The sophomore quarterback and junior college transfer followed up on his performance at Florida where he rushed for 105 yards on 10 carries and threw for two touchdowns, a 29-yarder and a 54-yarder.

Saturday, Wilson got the ball rolling early, going 42 yards for a touchdown off a scramble just 3:51 into the game to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead. Remember, the Oklahoma native had a 24-yard touchdown run and a 31-yard run against the Gators.

Through the air against Murray, Wilson completed 19 of 25 passes for 163 yards. Accuracy was supposed to be the question mark concerning Terry Touchdown, but through three games he has completed 41 of 59 passes for 69.5 percent. Not bad.

He ended up leading the Cats in rushing against the Racers, gaining 80 yards on his 13 carries. Through three games, he has gained 223 yards on the ground in 32 attempts. And he’s shown a natural instinct about when to stick with the pass play – a la the 54-yard strike to Bowden at Florida – and when to take off running.

2. Lynn Bowden is getting nothing but better

A year ago, the heralded recruit from Ohio was struggling to learn his new position, wide receiver. Bowden was a quarterback in high school. He was also struggling to master Eddie Gran’s offense. “I was just going through the moitions,” he said Saturday.

New year, different story. Bowden caught a career-high eight passes for 89 yards on Saturday. That follows his three catches for 79 yards and a score last week at Florida Field. Through three games this season, Bowden has made 17 catches for 185 yards and a touchdown.

“I’m just playing,” he said when asked about the difference between his freshman and sophomore seasons. “I’m not thinking.”

He has also become Wilson’s go-to guy. An example came in the second quarter with UK facing a third-and-26 at its own 20-yard line. The quarterback hit Bowden with a 25-yard completion, setting up a fourth-and-one at the 46. Mark Stoops elected to roll the dice. Wilson gained the first down on a quarterback sneak and UK continued on to a 14-play, 64-yard touchdown drive with Benny Snell scoring from seven yards out for a 17-0 lead.

3. Kentucky’s defense will face is toughest test (so far) next week

As Mark Story points out in his column, Mississippi State boasts a dual-threat quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald and those types of quarterbacks have given the UK defense fits in the past. Plus, Fitzgerald is very good.

But then the Bulldogs are very good. Offensively, they boast a host of returnees, including 1,000-yard rusher Aeris Williams. To make things tougher, sophomore running back Kylin Hill rushed for 211 yards on 17 carries in MSU’s 31-10 win at Kansas State last Saturday.

The wild card in the equation is the new Mississippi State coach. After Dan Mullen departed for Florida, MSU AD John Cohen, the former UK baseball, hired Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead as head coach. Thus the Kentucky staff no doubt has been and will be pouring over old Nittany Lions’ film to get a grasp of what Moorhead likes to do.

Is the UK defense up to the challenge? It’s been so far, so good. After holding Central Michigan and Florida each under 300 yards, the defense allowed 302 to Murray. That’s misleading, however. Murray’s final drive, a 75-yard touchdown march in nine plays, was accomplished against a field full of rookies. Stoops reported that 10 of the 11 UK defenders on the field were either freshmen or redshirt freshmen.

“I took my headsets off,” said Stoops with a grin. “I wanted to enjoy it.”

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader