Lexington, Ky.- If Kent State was supposed to be intimidated playing at Kentucky Saturday night someone forgot to tell head coach Doug Martin and the Golden Flashes. For two quarters Kent State moved the ball up and down the field and controlled the tempo of the game, but self-inflicted wounds turned a 14-14 halftime score into a 56-20 rout for the home team in front of 67,380 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky.
The close score allowed Kentucky to stick to its running game in the second half, despite rushing for just 21 yards before the break.
"Their running game was the difference tonight," said Martin. "If we could have made them one-dimensional and take their running game away, when they have balance it's going to be a long day. They ran the ball on us better than maybe anyone else."
The Golden Flashes held a 268-96 advantage in total offense after the first two quarters, but committed two red zone turnovers and another in Kentucky territory, something they couldn't afford to do against a dangerous offense. The second half was a different story as the Wildcats (2-0) racked up 384 yards of offense, including 245 on the ground.
"Hats off to Kentucky, they have a really good football team," Martin said. "They have some excellent weapons especially on the offensive side of the ball that we had trouble coming up with answers for."
Kent State (1-1) took the opening kickoff and drove to the Kentucky 6-yard line where redshirt freshman Leneric Muldrow scored on a fake field goal. Martin said they set that play up after watching film of last season's game between Kentucky and Central Michigan.
"That fake field goal was last year, Central Michigan lines up the same way we do on field goals and Kentucky was a bit unsound on how they line up," Martin said. "It was a check with me to make sure it was (there) and if it wasn't we were just going to kick it. Leneric did a really good job of getting that run for us."
Kentucky quickly responded with a seven play, 70-yard drive capped by a 5-yard run by John Conner and the Wildcats took a 14-7 lead on a 32-yard pass from Andre' Woodson to Steve Johnson with 13 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Eugene Jarvis tied the game with a 10-yard scoring run with 3:15 left in the first half but the Golden Flashes missed an opportunity to take a lead into the locker room when they couldn't spike the ball to stop the clock in the red zone. Eight seconds ran off the clock without the official spotting the ball.
"It seemed like it took forever for him to spot the ball," Martin said. "I don't think that would have been the difference in this game. We talked all week that ewe had to get Kentucky into the fourth quarter and we'd have a chance to win it."
That chance never came as the Wildcats scored three times in the third quarter before the Golden Flashes found the end zone again. Conner opened the quarter with a 16-yard scoring run and Tony Dixon followed that with an 18-yard score and Woodson found Keenan Burton, who raced down the right sideline for a 51-yard score.
Jarvis, who rushed for 131 yards on 20 carries, cut Kentucky's lead to 35-20 when he took a screen pass from quarterback Julian Edelman and broke a tackle on his way to a 22-yard score. This was Jarvis' fifth game that he eclipsed the 100-yard mark and on Kent State's second possession, he went over 1,000 yards for his career.
Edelman completed 12 of 28 passes for 129 yards and led all rushers with 135 yards on 24 carries.
Kentucky closed out the scoring with three fourth quarter touchdowns to seal the win.
The Golden Flashes make their home debut next Saturday when they host Delaware State.
Kent State finished with 324 yards rushing, its first 300-yard rushing game since posting 322 at Buffalo on Nov. 6, 2004
The 56 points surrendered by Kent State are the most since a 63-21 loss at Connecticut on Nov. 9, 2002
The Flashes had 453 total yards, the first time they topped the 400-yard mark since Oct. 7, 2006 at Temple (415)
Kent State is 0-6 all-time against Kentucky and 0-9 against the SEC; all nine games have been on the road
Kent State dominated the first half everywhere but on the scoreboard. At the break, the Flashes had run 30 more plays (54-24), while out gaining the Wildcats, 268-96, including 215 yards on the ground
Kentucky turned the table in the third quarter as they out-gained Kent State, 249-114