Kentucky’s third game of the season is against Murray State. The foe from the Ohio Valley Conference is the third game against an in-state FCS opponent since Mark Stoops became Kentucky’s head coach.
An FCS opponent has been on the schedule in every year of Stoops’ tenure, aside from Alabama State in the SWAC. Kentucky has won all five games by an average of 26.6 points, but some of those games have been too close for comfort.
2017: UK 27, EKU 16
The in-state foe came ready to play against UK. Kentucky kicked a field goal in the first quarter, only to fall behind and take a 13-10 deficit into the halftime locker room. Benny Snell’s 25-yard touchdown run gave the Cats a one-point lead in the third quarter before they put the game out of reach with two scores in the fourth quarter.
2016: UK 49, Austin Peay 13
A victory over Austin Peay would make Kentucky bowl eligible for the first time in six years, but it did not come easy. UK’s defense surrendered a touchdown on the opening drive. On the following play Luke Wright, starting for the injured Stephen Johnson, threw a Pick Six to put Kentucky in a 13-0 hole. Johnson entered the game on the next drive to give the Cats a shot of energy. They never looked back, scoring 49 unanswered points to become bowl eligible.
2015: UK 34, EKU 27
Unlike most games against FCS opponents, this had plenty of off-the-field storylines leading into the game. Just a few months before, former UK defensive linemen Patrick Grafree knocked out Drew Barker at an EKU dorm. Dean Hood’s program was dealing with a tremendous amount of adversity, playing shortly after defensive lineman Joey Kraemer died in an auto accident.
EKU rallied around their fallen teammate to take a 27-13 lead with eight minutes to play. After a Jojo Kemp touchdown, Dorian Baker saved the day by scoring on a fade with under a minute to play to tie the game. Baker did it one more time in overtime to seal the win and give the Cats a 4-1 record, keeping hopes alive for a bowl berth.
2014: UK 59, UT-Martin 14
Kentucky’s offense exploded in the first game of the 2014 season. Braylon Heard scored a pair of touchdowns to help UK sprint out to a 52-0 lead before the SkyHawks scored two fourth quarter touchdowns.
2013: UK 48, Alabama State 14
Alabama State is technically Division I as a member of the SWAC, but for the sake of the post we’ll consider them an FCS opponent. It was one of only two wins for Kentucky in Mark Stoops’ first season, the other against Miami, Ohio. The play of the day was Jalen Whitlow’s 88-yard touchdown run.