Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops wasn't worried about his team overlooking Murray State following a 27-16 win at Florida last week.
Despite a slow start, the Wildcats (3-0) outscored the Racers 31-7 in the second half and rolled to a 48-10 victory Saturday. Murray had trouble stopping Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson, who threw for 163 yards and rushed for 80 more to keep the Wildcats perfect on the season.
Coming off an 11-point victory over the Gators that ended a 31-game losing streak in their Southeastern Conference opener, the Wildcats (3-0) showed no signs of a letdown and overwhelmed the Racers from start to finish. Leading 17-3 at the break, Kentucky pulled way in the second half.
"There are things that we could have done better to start, but it does show the strength of the team," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "One play at a time. You can't make it happen with one play, take it one step at a time. I always caution that in games where you want to go out there and put it away in that first drive and that doesn't happen. There's always things to learn from."
Traditionally the Wildcats have struggled against FCS opponents and needed overtime to fend off Ohio Valley Conference member Eastern Kentucky in a 34-27 win in 2015. The task was much easier this time for Kentucky.
Paced by Wilson, the Wildcats used a balanced offense to defeat the Racers, amassing 528 yards of offense, including 245 on the ground. Wilson targeted nine different receivers, mainly Lynn Bowden, who caught eight passes for 89 yards. Wilson and backup Gunnar Hoak threw for 240 yards and one touchdown.
Stoops said Wilson's biggest weapon was his ability to scramble in the pocket and elude Murray State's defense for most of the contest.
"He made some big plays again with his legs," Stoops said. "You can see he was very dynamic when he pulled the ball down. I've been there. As a defensive coach, it'll break your back, it's frustrating, and I'm glad he's doing that for us."
Benny Snell collected 75 yards on 15 carries and added a score. In limited action in the second half, Snell had just four carries as A.J. Rose and Sihiem King collected a bulk of the carries in the second half.
Like Stoops, Snell said the Wildcats took a "step forward" but added there's more room for improvement.
"The score could have been a little bit higher by halftime, the offense could have been a little bit better," he said. "In those red-zone (opportunities) we were just kicking field goals, we weren't scoring (touchdowns). As an offense, we've got to work on that.
In a surprise trick play, Snell completed a shovel pass to Wilson, who then handed the ball off to Zy'Aire Hughes for a 49-yard score to end the third quarter. Snell's block downfield created a wide-open path to the end zone for Hughes in his first career touchdown.
Murray avoided the shutout on Gabrie Vicente's 29-yard field goal at the end of the first half. Racers quarterback Drew Anderson competed 15-of-32 passes for 118 yards. Backup signal caller Preston Rice scored Murray's lone touchdown with a 21-yard run with 30 seconds remaining.
Although a big underdog, Murray State coach Mitch Stewart said the Racers were prepared for the task at hand.
"Obviously, we came up here for one purpose, and that was to win," he said. "The boys came up here with that purpose. I thought that they fought tremendously well. We came up short from our goal . but there were a lot of positives to take from the game . I really do think the guys played with tremendous effort today. We just wore down."
Overall, Stoops was pleased with the win and likes the where his team stands following the first three weeks of the regular season.
"We're pleased with where we're at, and we're excited to get back to work after this week," he said. "It's going to be a great opportunity (against Mississippi State)."
Murray State: In its first two games, Murray ranked No. 12 in the country after forcing five turnovers and scooping up three turnovers, but didn't have as much luck against the Wildcats, who committed six miscues in their first two contests. Kentucky had two fumbles against the Racers, but both were recovered by the Wildcats.
Kentucky: The Wildcats won their first three games for the second-straight season and the third time in the past eight years. The next three conference games are crucial for the Wildcats, who will host Mississippi State and South Carolina respectively during the next two weeks, before a road contest at Texas A&M on Oct. 6.