Since a home loss to the Ohio Bobcats in 2004, the Kentucky Wildcats have reeled off five straight wins over opponents from the MAC. During that winning streak, Kentucky has outscored MAC opponents 217-79. Tonight, the Kent State Golden Flashes visit the 0-1 Kentucky Wildcats. Following Kentucky’s 32-14 loss to the Louisville Cardinals and Kent State’s convincing 41-21 victory over the Towson Tigers, the Golden Flashes find themselves a 7-point underdog heading into tonight’s game at Commonwealth Stadium.
Kentucky struggled in its season-opening loss to in-state rival Louisville. The Wildcats, however, enjoyed some bright spots in the opener. The play of first-year starting quarterback Maxwell Smith pleased Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips and many members of the Big Blue Nation. Smith fared well in his starting debut, completing 35-of-50 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. The play of senior tailback CoShik Williams was also a plus. Williams led all players with 168 all-purpose yards. Wide receiver La’Rod King and tight end Tyler Robinson each hauled in a scoring catch for the Wildcats.
Kent State turned in a stellar defensive effort in its opener, forcing Towson to commit six turnovers, four of which were fumbles. At +6, the Kent State defense is currently first in the nation in turnover margin. Offensively, Kent State rushed for three touchdowns. The Golden Flashes also scored via special teams, returning a kickoff for a touchdown. Kent State racked up 267 yards of total offense, including 166 yards through the air, during its win over Towson. Starting quarterback Spencer Keith completed 10-of-19 passes for 82 yards for the Golden Flashes in the winning effort. But Dri Archer proved to be the most productive, rushing eight times for 54 yards and three touchdowns and returning a kickoff 98 yards for a score.
Kentucky’s current 5-0 winning streak over the MAC includes two victories over the Central Michigan Chippewas and one win apiece over Akron Zips, Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, and Kent State. The Wildcats and Kent State last met in 2007. Kentucky rolled past Kent State 56-20 in the last meeting, eventually ending the 2007 season with an 8-5 record.
Phillips entered the season on the hotseat after finishing 2011 at 5-7. He’ll need to keep Kentucky’s winning streak over MAC opponents alive to keep his seat cool, or at least lukewarm.