Sidelines with John Clay

Liveblog: No. 17 Kentucky 34, Middle Tennessee State 23

It should be an emotional day as Kentucky’s seniors play their final home Saturday when the Wildcats take on Middle Tennessee. Kickoff is scheduled for noon on the SEC Network alternate channel.

Check here for live updates from Kroger Field. Follow us on Twitter at @jenheraldleader, @markcstory, @johnclayiv and @kentuckysports.

Final: Kentucky 34, Middle Tennessee State 23

Final box

Kentucky improves to 8-3 overall. Middle Tennessee falls to 7-4. UK finishes out the regular season next Saturday at Louisville.

Kentucky stretches lead to 11

After Allen’s sack, UK moves 47 yards in 10 plays for a Miles Butler 32-yard field goal and a 34-23 lead with 4:01 left. UKtook 5:31 off the clock on the scoring drive. Benny Snell now has 116 yards on 26 carries.

Failed fourth downs

Kentucky failed on a fourth-and-one from its own 41. Then Middle failed on a fourth-and-one from the UK 38 when Stockstill was sacked by Josh Allen. That sack by Allen broke UK’s career record for sacks. Allen has 26.5 for his career, a half-sack better than Oliver Barnett.

Blue Raiders make it a one-score game

Kentucky defense can’t stop Tony Franklin’s offense. Middle Tennessee goes 80 yards in 11 plays to cut the Kentucky lead to 31-23 with 13:18 remaining. Stockill hit Patrick Smith with a five-yard touchdown pass. Stockstill now 22-of-25 for 242 yards and three TDs with one interception. Middle has outgained Kentucky 361-273 on the day.

Middle Tennessee answers right back

We’re still here, say the Blue Raiders, who go 75 yards in 11 plays on their first possession of the second. Quarterback Brent Stocksill hit Ty Lee for the 10-yard TD pass with 4:32 left in the third quarter. Davontte Roinson was one-on-one coverage for UK but couldn’t get turned around quick enough on the back-shoulder throw. Stockstill is now 15-of-17 for 165 yards with two TDs and one interception. The extra point was missed so UK’s lead is 31-16.

Kentucky offense makes a statement to start second half

The Cats marched 83 yards on nine plays with Benny Snell scoring from six yards out for a 31-10 lead with 10:30 left in the third quarter. Quarterback Terry Wilson was four-of-four for 66 yards on the drive, including a 14-yards pass to Isaiah Epps on a third-and-five from the Middle Tennessee 49-yard line. Wilson is now 8-of-11 for 97 yards through the air. That was Snell’s second TD of the afternoon.

Halftime: Kentucky 24, Middle Tennessee 10

If not for a couple of Middle Tennessee turnovers to start the afternoon, this would be an even game. UK’s Mike Edwards returned an interception 66 yards for a score. Edwards then forced a MTSU fumble that set up Kentucky’s second score for a 14-0 lead. Since then, each team has a touchdown and a field goal.

Middle Tennessee has actually outgained UK 198-183. Quarterback Brent Stockstill is 10-of-12 for 127 yards with a TD and an interception. UK has rushed for 152 yards, the first time in four games the Cats have topped the century mark running the ball. Benny Snell has 83 yards on 15 carries. A.J. Rose gained 37 yards on just three carries. Quarterback Terry Wilson has 32 yards net rushing on three attempts.

The brightest spot of the first half was the return of defensive lineman Josh Paschal. Diagnosed with a malignant melanoma on his foot before the start of training camp, Paschal made his first appearance of the season and started on the first series. When his name was announced for a tackle, the crowd at Kroger Field gave a nice cheer.

One more note, at one point the referee told the UK band to stop blowing a whistle during the Middle Tennessee quarterback’s cadence.

Halftime box

Poor Kentucky punt sets up Middle Tennessee field goal

Max Duffy had to scramble for his life, then got off a 20-yard punt that set the visitors up at the UK 35-yard line. Kentucky’s defense held and Crews Holt kicked a 33-yard field goal to pull the Blue Raiders to within 24-10 with 1:04 left in the first half.

Explosive plays make a return

One of the problems with the struggling Kentucky offense has been the lack of explosive plays. Well, against a non-SEC defense, the explosive plays are back. Terry Wilson takes a quarterback draw 36 yards. Running back AJ Rose follows that with a 31-yard run to the MTSU 1-yard line. A holding penalty moved the ball back, but on second-and-goal, Wilson hit C.J. Conrad in the back of the end zone — after the ball went through the hands of a Blue Raiders defender — for an 11-yard score. Kentucky now leads 24-7 with 8:40 remaining in the first half.

Middle Tennessee gets on the board

The MTSU offense, directed by former UK offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, drives 75 yards in 11 plays with Brent Stockstill finding Chaton Mobley for a six-yard TD pass on a fourth-and-one play. Key plays: Stockstill to Zack Dobson for 34 yards to the UK 49; on a third-and-seven, Stockstill hit Patrick Smith for a 16-yard gain. UK’s lead 17-7 with 11:20 left in first half.

End of 1Q: Kentucky 17, Middle Tennessee 0

First quarter stats

The return of Miles Butler

After losing his job to true freshman Chance Poore, Miles Butler returns as UK’s field goal kicker and boots a 38-yarder to put Kentucky up 17-0 with 1:35 left in the first quarter. Butler was three-of-seven on field goals before being replaced by Poore, who was two-of-four. The staff may also be trying to preserve Poore’s redshirt year. If he plays in no more than four games, he will be a redshirt freshman next season.

Kentucky capitalizes on second turnover for 14-0 lead

After Davonte Robinson recovered fumble forced by Mike Edwards, UK goes 50 yards on eight plays. Benny Snell did most of the work, gaining 42 yards on six carries, including the seven-yard TD with 8:36 left in the first quarter. Miles Butler’s extra points makes it 14-0 Kentucky.

It’s the Mike Edwards Show at Kroger Field

On Middle’s second possession, Edwards causes a fumble by the Blue Raiders’ Zack Dobson on a jet sweep. UK safety Davnote Robinson recovers at midfield. Already up 7-0, the Cats take over at midfiled with 12:09 left in the first quarter.

Mike Edwards interception return gives Kentucky quick lead

Fourth snap of the game, UK senior safety Mike Edwards picked off a tipped pass by Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill and returned it 66 yards for a Kentucky touchdown. It was Edwards’ 10th career interception. UK leads 7-0 with 13:33 left in the first quarter.

Josh Paschal may play today

During his media opportunity on Thursday, UK coach Mark Stoops hinted that defensive lineman Josh Paschal could see his first action of the season. The sophomore was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma on his foot before the start of training camp. As Jennifer Smith tweets during pre-game, “Josh Paschal is in full uniform warming up with the outside linebackers. Looks like he might play today.” And Paschal could play in the final two regular season game plus the bowl game and still preserve his redshirt year.

Pre-game notes

Kentucky is 1-4 in home finales under coach Mark Stoops. In 2013, the Cats lost to Tennessee 27-14. In 2014, UK lost to Georgia 63-31. In 2015, Louisville beat the Cats 38-24. In 2016, UK trounced Austin Peay 49-13. Last year, Louisville and Lamar Jackson dusted the Cats 44-17 on Senior Day.

Middle Tennessee (7-3) has won four straight games with wins over Charlotte 21-13, Old Dominion 51-17, Western Kentucky 29-10 and UTEP 48-32.

The Blue Raiders are 0-2 against SEC teams this season, losing 35-7 at Vanderbilt in the season opener and 49-7 at Georgia two weeks later.

The Kentucky offense wants to run the football, but the Cats have failed to rush for 100 yards in four of their last five games. UK managed just 77 yards rushing on 35 carries in last Saturday’s 24-7 loss at Tennessee.

UK’s star running back Benny Snell has gone three straight games without rushing for 100 yards. The junior gained 81 rushing yards on 20 carries last week.

Middle Tennessee senior quarterback Brent Stockstill has completed 220 of 320 passes for 2,298 yards and 21 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Stockstill is completing 68.8 percent of his passes. He is 35th nationally in pass efficiency with a rating of 147.60.

UK quarterback Terry Wilson ranks 86th nationally in pass efficiency with a rating of 124.79. In his last three games, Wilson has completed 66 of 95 passes for 665 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Middle Tennessee has forced 12 turnovers over its last three games. Meanwhile, UK turned the ball over on its last three possessions at Tennessee last week. UK has lost eight fumbles on the season. Four of those belong to Wilson.

Wilson has been sacked nine times in his last two games. He was sacked five times at Tennessee after being sacked four times in the 34-17 home loss to Georgia.

UK wide receiver Lynn Bowden has caught 25 passes for 275 yards over his last three games. Bowden had six catches for 57 yards at Tennessee.

After catching just two passes in his first seven games, Tavin Richardson has eight receptions for 71 yards in his last three games.

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