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September 7, 2012

Cats look for win against Kent State in home opener

Coach: Joker Phillips
Record: 11-15 in three seasons at UK, overall
Last game:Louisville 32, Kentucky 14, Sept. 2.
Next game: vs. WKU, Sept. 15.
Roster | Depth chart
Coach: Darrell Hazell
Record: 6-7 in two seasons at Kent State, overall
Last game: Kent State 41, Towson 21, Aug. 30.
Next game: at Buffalo, Sept. 19.
Roster | Depth chart
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Commonwealth Stadium (67,606)
TV: Comcast Sports South (Matt Stewart play-by-play, Cole Cubelic analysis, Angela Mallen sideline)
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Jeff Piecoro analysis; Dick Gabriel sideline); No satellite radio.
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: Kentucky by 7

Series Information:
Series record: UK leads 6-0
At Lexington: UK leads 6-0
Coaches' records: First meeting

Last meeting
Kentucky 56, Kent State 20 (Sept. 8, 2007, in Lexington)
The Golden Flashes went into halftime tied at 14 with the Wildcats, but Kentucky scored touchdowns on its first six possessions of the second half to shut the door. Five different Wildcats rushed for a touchdown to overcome Kent State's Julian Edelman, who threw for 129 yards while rushing for 135.

Keys to the Game
1. Mismatch maker: There are some major advantages to be found for the Kentucky offense. Kent State defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix, a starter, is listed at 245 pounds. He's a likely target for runs up the middle. Starting corner Norman Wolfe is listed at 5-foot-7. Placing wide receiver La'Rod King, who's 6-foot-4, across from him could lead to some, excuse the pun, sizeable gains.

2. Protecting valuables: Turnover margin, always a key for Kentucky, could be even more important this week. Kent State finished +12 in turnovers for 2011, tied for seventh in the country, and forced six turnovers against Towson. The Wildcats didn't have an interception last week, but had two fumbles inside the Louisville 25 yard line and failed to force any turnovers. UK is 8-1 under Phillips when winning the turnover battle and 1-10 when losing the turnover battle.

3. Youth movement: The Kentucky coaches would like to play several true freshmen this weekend that didn't get in against Louisville. Those that did get in against Louisville, like Khalid Henderson should see even more time. If the game is close, though, Phillips and his staff will have to decide how much they're willing to gamble on their young players. And if they're not willing to gamble against Kent State, will they be willing to do so later in the year?

Staff Predictions
Ben Jones, Staff Writer: Kentucky 28, Kent State 20
Don't expect all the problems of the defense to be fixed in just six days. Kent State's offense has its own problems, though, and Kentucky should find its first win of the season. Winning the home opener is imperative to retain the fan base, but growth is critical to retain hope for the rest of the season.

T.J. Walker, Staff Writer: Kentucky 45 Kent State 13
UK's offense had no trouble moving the ball against Louisville, but costly turnovers stalled drives. Expect the same efficiency on offense, minus the turnovers, and a much-improved defense. Joker Phillips made it clear he's going to mix and match players, even freshman, until he gets it right. The Cats might not figure it all out Saturday, but it will be a step in the right direction.

Aaron Smith, Staff Writer: Kentucky 34, Kent State 24 Kent State quickly received attention when one of its players returned a muffed punt 58 yards the wrong way in its opener, but the Golden Flashes (returning 17 starters) aren't a bumbling team incapable of giving Kentucky a game. Still, the Wildcats must pick up this win - and they will, as Maxwell Smith turns in another good performance and the defense isn't quite so porous.

Brett Dawson, Publisher: Kentucky 35, Kent State 27
It's dangerous to heap too much praise on the Wildcats' offense after a 14-point performance against Louisville. But the no-huddle looks like a smart choice, and Maxwell Smith appears adept at managing it. The Cats should click on that side of the ball, but the defense remains a concern, and Kent State should move the ball.



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