LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — After putting up just 14 points against rival Louisville in the season opener, Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith had a lofty challenge for his offense before taking on Kent State.
"I told the guys, 'Let's get 50.' I texted them, 'Let's get 50,'" Smith said. "I thought we went out and got pretty close."
Pretty close, indeed. Smith had a career-best 354 yards passing and threw four touchdowns en route to a 47-14 win, Kentucky's seventh straight victory in home openers.
The Wildcats would have met Smith's goal if not for Craig McIntosh's 45-yard missed field goal in the first quarter.
Smith wasn't the only Wildcat with a career night. Raymond Sanders got the start at tailback for an injured CoShik Williams and added a career-high 115 yards rushing, including a 67-yard touchdown up the middle.
Aaron Boyd caught 11 passes for 100 yards. The senior, making his first start since his freshman season, eclipsed his career totals in receptions (nine) and yards (87) in this game alone.
"It's a dream come true, really," the younger brother of former Kentucky quarterback Shane Boyd said. "I'm really grateful for this opportunity that I've gotten."
The Wildcats (1-1) started slow, punting and turning the ball over on downs in their first two positions. They trailed 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, but racked up 539 yards to wear down the Golden Flashes.
Trayion 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.
"It's always a big confidence boost, knowing that you can come out on the field and do something for your team," Boyd said.
Six minutes later, Sanders rushed 67 yards for a score, then McIntosh booted a 47-yard field goal to give Kentucky a 17-7 halftime lead.
After Durham's 26-yard touchdown run pulled the Golden Flashes within 17-14, the Wildcats scored 30 unanswered points in the last 22:06.
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.