LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kent State pulled within a field goal of Kentucky early in the third quarter, but the Wildcats' big plays and Southeastern Conference speed proved to be too much in the second half of a 47-14 win over the Golden Flashes.
After Trayion Durham's 26-yard touchdown run off right tackle made it 17-14 with 10:34 left in the third quarter, Kentucky rattled off 30 unanswered points.
"When we made it 14-17 coming out of the half, I felt we had a good chance of some momentum," Kent State coach Darrell Hazell said. "But they came and responded right back with a big play. Those things got away from us pretty quickly."
Kent State defensive end Jake Dooley said Kentucky's speed caught up with the Golden Flashes.
"The tempo was really fast," he said. "We tried to drill in practice, but we just could not do it at the tempo that they did it."
Kentucky's Maxwell Smith had a career-best 354 yards passing and four touchdowns and Raymond Sanders added a career-high 115 yards rushing filling in at tailback for an injured CoShik Williams.
The Wildcats, who trailed 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, racked up 539 yards to wear down the Golden Flashes. Aaron Boyd caught 11 passes for 100 yards for Kentucky (1-1).
Durham and Dri Archer each rushed for a touchdown for Kent State (1-1).
Boyd caught his first career touchdown in the back of the end zone with 14:04 remaining in the first half. Six minutes later, Sanders rushed 67 yards for a score, then Craig McIntosh booted a 47-yard field goal to give Kentucky a 17-7 halftime lead.
Smith's 18-yard touchdown pass to a diving Gene McCaskill capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive with 7:06 left in the third quarter. Kentucky forced its first turnover of the season on the first play of the ensuing Kent State drive. Quarterback Spencer Keith optioned left, pitching to Archer. Wildcats cornerback Martavius Neloms launched into Archer's chest, jarring the ball loose, and Miles Simpson recovered, returning the ball 10 yards to the Kent State 7-yard line.
On first-and-goal Sanders rushed 6 yards to the 1-yard line but the Wildcats couldn't finish off the Golden Flashes, failing to score on three straight rushes. Pinned by his own end zone, Keith snuck for a yard behind center for breathing room before handing off to Archer on second down. Archer tripped on the play, giving Kentucky a safety and a 26-14 lead with 4:20 left in the third quarter.
"He just fell," Hazell said of the safety. "We probably would have gotten the ball out there to the 3- or 4-yard line but he stumbled and fell in the end zone."
Kentucky scored touchdowns on its next three possessions. Four plays after the safety, Jonathan George scurried up the middle for a 38-yard touchdown run. Smith threw his third touchdown with 13:28 left, an 11-yard fade to La'Rod King, to make it 40-14. Kent State pushed into Wildcats' territory on its next possession, but Simpson sacked Keith on fourth-and-10 from the Kentucky 32 for a 12-yard loss and a turnover on downs.
Smith's final pass of the game found DeMarcus Sweat along the right sideline and the freshman broke the bubble screen for 56-yard touchdown and the game's final 47-14 margin. It was his first career reception.
Kentucky's 539 yards marked its best offensive performance since recording 580 yards against Vanderbilt on Nov. 13, 2010. Smith finished 30 of 39 and his 354 yards were the most for a Wildcats quarterback since 2007.
Boyd, a senior making his first start since his freshman season, eclipsed his previous career totals in receptions (nine) and yards (87) in this game alone.