College Sports

How Kentucky and Murray State match up — with a game prediction

Kentucky wide receiver David Bouvier, the former walk-on from Lexington Catholic, has caught a touchdown pass in each of UK’s first two games.
Kentucky wide receiver David Bouvier, the former walk-on from Lexington Catholic, has caught a touchdown pass in each of UK’s first two games. aslitz@herald-leader.com

How Kentucky (2-0, 1-0 SEC) and Murray State (0-2, 0-0 OVC) match up at each position — with a game prediction:

Quarterbacks

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.

Advantage: Kentucky

Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson threw for 151 yards and two scores and rushed for another touchdown in his team’s 27-16 win at Florida on Sept. 8, 2018.



Running backs

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.

Advantage: Kentucky

After rushing for 175 yards I. 27 carries, Kentucky running back Benny Snell talks about the feeling of beating Florida 27-16 on Sept. 8, 2018.

Wide receivers

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.

Advantage: Kentucky

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Kentucky sophomore wide receiver Lynn Bowden (1) scored his first college touchdown last week in Kentucky’s 27-16 upset of No. 25 Florida on a 54-yard pass from Terry Wilson. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Tight ends

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.

Advantage: Kentucky

Offensive line

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.

Advantage: Kentucky

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Defensive line

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).

Advantage: Kentucky

Adrian Middleton at Florida.JPG
Kentucky defensive tackle Adrian Middleton (99) tackled Florida running back Malik Davis (20) during UK’s 27-16 victory at The Swamp last week. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Linebackers

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).

Advantage: Kentucky

Allen new
Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen (41) was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week after recording five tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a quarterback sack, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry in UK’s 27-16 win over No. 25 Florida. Monica Herndon TNS

Defensive backs

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.

Advantage: Kentucky

Darius West.JPG
Kentucky senior safety Darius West (25) had eight tackles and a pass interception in last week’s 27-16 win over No. 25 Florida. Sean Rayford Associated Press

Special teams

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.

Advantage: Kentucky

duffy
In his first college road game, Kentucky’s Max Duffy twice pinned Florida near its goal line with punts in UK’s 27-16 win over the No. 25 Gators. Mark Mahan

Prediction

Kentucky 52, Murray State 10

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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