LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Braylon Heard's first-half touchdown runs of 73 and 43 yards spurred Kentucky to a season-opening, 59-14 rout of Tennessee-Martin on Saturday.
Quarterback Patrick Towles added a TD passing and running in his first career start for Kentucky, which outgained the Skyhawks 656-398. The Wildcats' sophomore threw for 377 yards, but Kentucky's tailbacks set the tone by flying through huge holes and scoring virtually untouched.
Especially Heard, the junior transfer whose yardage came on those two carries. The scores propelled Kentucky to a 35-0 halftime lead and the Wildcats never looked back.
Mikel Horton also scored twice and Jojo Kemp added a TD run for Kentucky. Khalil Henderson returned a third-quarter fumble 89 yards for a score.
The game's final 4 minutes were hushed after a Kentucky cheerleader was injured in a fall. She gave a thumbs-up while being carted off the field, but no further details were immediately available.
UT Martin's consolation was spoiling Kentucky's bid for its first shutout since September 2009 as Najee Ray and Caylo Weathers scored fourth-quarter TDs on 1-yard run and 15-yard reception respectively.
By then the Wildcats had already overwhelmed the Skyhawks on both sides of the ball. The Wildcats' 656 yards were their fourth-highest total in a game. Besides the lopsided yardage margin, interceptions by Fred Tiller and A.J. Stamps brought Kentucky within one pickoff of its entire 2013 total.
While Kentucky was expected to win big over the FCS-level Skyhawks, its offensive path to the dominating victory wasn't.
The Wildcats' improved grasp of the Air Raid offense was supposed to be displayed through the air behind Towles, who won a three-man competition for the starting job. He definitely did his part in completing 20 of 29 attempts without an interception, but the backfield rushed for 234 yards and ended up showing the scheme's big-play potential.
Heard demonstrated that on both TDs, blazing through big holes on consecutive drives to put Kentucky up 21-0 and keep the air raid sirens blaring.
Towles wasn't fazed about his tailbacks stealing the spotlight because of how well he managed the offense. The Kentucky native made good reads, avoided sacks by getting rid of the ball quickly and most importantly, showed that he could quickly hit short and long throws.
In between completions that moved the ball downfield, Towles hit several long ones to set up Kentucky scores. The first, a 44-yarder down the middle to Javess Blue, resulted in Kemp's 2-yard touchdown run soon after.
Towles followed with a 56-yard completion to Ryan Timmons to UTM's 39, a play that led to his 29-yard TD pass to freshman Blake Bone, who found a hole in the flat and then space en route to the end zone and a 28-0 lead.
Horton's 18-yard TD run came two plays after Towles' 36-yarder to Bone on the left sideline.
It was that easy for the Wildcats, who had a lot to feel good about defensively as well in forcing three turnovers and keeping the Skyhawks in check before UT-Martin scored late against the reserves.