Kentucky's Stanley "Boom" Williams leads Wildcat rushers

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Stanley ''Boom'' Williams opened Kentucky's season with a 75-yard touchdown run and hasn't looked back since.

More promising for the Wildcats is Williams' growing workload that allows more chances to show off his speed. Though Florida snapped Williams' three-game streak of 100-yard efforts dating back to last season, he still gained 80 yards on a season-high 16 carries.

Williams ranks fifth in the Southeastern Conference in rushing with 107.3 yards per game, and his 322 yards entering Saturday night's game against No. 25 Missouri (3-0, 0-0 SEC) is the most through three games by a Kentucky player since Derrick Locke had 372 yards in 2010.

''I feel like I'm at the best that I've been in my career,'' said the 5-foot-9, 196-pound Williams, who's averaging 8.1 yards per attempt. ''Those other 10 guys make it possible for me and I give a shout-out to them because all the credit goes to them.''

Kentucky's other running backs have benefited as well as the ground game seeks to balance the pass-oriented Air Raid scheme now run by offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson.

Sophomore Mikel Horton's game-winning 12-yard touchdown in the final minute earned the 40-33 season-opening victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. Hard-charging junior Jojo Kemp had 78 yards rushing and a TD against South Carolina to complement Williams' 107-yard performance that earned the Wildcats' first SEC road win since 2009.

Kentucky's running back trio is averaging 6.5 yards per carry, production that has taken some of the burden off mobile junior quarterback Patrick Towles. And with the Wildcats' passing game sputtering right now, their backs will have to contribute more to help Towles bounce back from an 8-of-24 performance for 126 yards and two interceptions against Florida.

Williams has no problems sharing the ball.

''I believe in all of my teammates and they can make plays as well as I do. It's not just about me,'' he said.''

Perhaps, but Williams is important in helping Kentucky (2-1, 1-1) set the tone.

''He's a really consistent player,'' Dawson said of Williams. ''He has shown up every game, he has a great attitude, he makes chunk plays. I don't know what else to say.''

Williams led Kentucky with 486 yards rushing last season and made his presence felt in a 36-30, three-overtime loss at Florida by taking a short pass and cutting back across the field past several tacklers for a 25-yard TD.

He returned this season expecting more carries and his attempts have increased each game. Williams went from 10 attempts for a career-high 135 yards in the opener to 14 the next week to his second-highest total since an 18-carry, 126-yard performance in last year's season finale against Louisville.

Next up is a Missouri defense allowing just 217 yards per game. How many carries Williams gets remains to be seen, but he's showing he can run the ball fast and often.

''He is growing and growing and needs to continue to do that,'' coach Mark Stoops said this week. ''What makes him effective? It's hard to put my finger on it exactly, except he is extremely talented and explosive.

''Those things are between him and God, some of those moves. We can't teach him those things. You have to have great instincts and he has shown that.''

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Follow Gary B. Graves on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GaryBGraves

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AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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