3-0 Kentucky wants even more perfection against Northern Illinois | Sport

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Mark Stoops liked a lot of what he witnessed during last weekend’s 31-0 win over Youngstown State, but the Kentucky coach was still far from thrilled.

The eighth-ranked Wildcats (3-0) will look to create a more balanced overall game on Saturday when Northern Illinois (1-2) visits Lexington, Ky.

“After watching the film (I was) very disappointed and a little unhappy with the undisciplined game we had last week,” Stoops said. “Not to select so many players who have done a great job. Defensively it was a very good effort once again. Offensively, there are some things we need to iron out. It just felt like there was a person here, a person there.”

Perhaps the perceived sloppiness of the Wildcats wouldn’t be such a big deal if the team wasn’t facing extremely high expectations this season.

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“Undisciplined game,” said Stoops, who broke Paul “The Bear” Bryant’s previous school record of 60 wins a week earlier at then-No. 12 Florida. “Any time you have 10 penalties, three turnovers, four fumbles and you do it at home, it shows that attention to detail wasn’t there.”

Kentucky’s offense only really shined in one quarter against Youngstown State. In the first quarter, the team was crippled, and in the second half scored 10 points. A 21-point second quarter alone provided a steady stream of highlights for the Wildcats offense.

Will Lewis threw for 377 yards and two touchdowns (also two interceptions) and another score. Dane Key (six catches, 90 yards, TD) also had a strong offensive game, while on the other side of the ball, Carrington Valentine registered two passes defensed and an interception.

“Great effort by our defense,” said Stoops, whose team has scored 29 points in three games (9.7 per game, 12th nationally).

The Huskies could be a challenge for Kentucky’s defense, as they have allowed 32.3 points per game in their first three contests. They lost against Vanderbilt in the final timeout, dropping a 38-28 decision in which quarterback Rocky Lombardi exited in the second quarter with a leg injury.

Northern Illinois coach Thomas Hammack gave an update Tuesday on his senior signal-caller, who completed all seven of his pass attempts before the injury.

“We got better news than we expected,” Hammack said. “We feel good about where he’s at and the progress he’s going to be able to make (it). We’ve got the rest of the week to figure it out.”

If Lombardi is unable to play this weekend, the Huskies will again turn to freshman Ethan Hampton, who completed 12 of 19 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns (one interception) last week in relief of Lombardi.

“I thought (Hampton) handled it well,” Hammack said. “I thought he was prepared and took a lot of shots. Obviously, he only played one game of football for us, but he came in and was able to execute the offense. But when your backup quarterback comes in, everyone else around him has to play better.”

This is the first match between the teams. Kentucky is 34-7-1 against Mid-American Conference teams and hasn’t lost to a MAC team since falling to Ohio in 2004.

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