Big Blue Preview: Kentucky vs. Northern Illinois

Big Blue Preview: Kentucky vs. Northern Illinois

Info to Know

Northern Illinois at Kentucky | When: Sat., Sept. 24, 7 p.m. ET | Where: Kroger Field | TV: ESPN2 | Radio: UK Sports Network


No. 8/9 Kentucky will end its two-game homestretch by playing host to Northern Illinois on Saturday for Family Weekend in Kroger Field, when the Wildcats look to defend its nation-leading streak of 18 straight nonconference wins. Similar to last weekend, it will mark the first all-time meeting between the Wildcats and the Huskies. Meanwhile, it is Kentucky’s last non-Power Five opponent of the regular season and its last nonconference matchup before embarking on seven straight Southeastern Conference appointments, beginning with a road trip to ranked Ole Miss.

The Wildcat defense, which has limited its opponents to zero points over the last six quarters, will continue to play a large role if Kentucky is going to outlast Northern Illinois. A 4-0 record on the season would mark just the third time in the head coach Mark Stoops era that Kentucky has gotten off to as good of a start.

Cat Scratches: White Knows UK Defense Still Has Room to Improve

From the outside, it appears that the Kentucky defense is at the top of its game. The Cats seem to be doing many, if not all, of the right things.

Kentucky shut out Youngstown State 31-0 on Saturday, the first time UK has blanked an opponent since 2009 (Miami University). It was the Cats’ first home shutout since blanking Vanderbilt in 1996.

Going back to the Florida game, Kentucky has not allowed a point in more than six quarters. In fact, it has been 95 minutes and 49 seconds of game time since anyone has scored on the UK defense.

The Cats are currently 12th in the nation in scoring defense through three games, allowing just 9.67 points per contest. UK is 14th in the country in total defense, surrendering just 253.7 yards per game.

All of this is fantastic, but UK defensive coordinator Brad White knows that it’s still early and there are still plenty of things that his unit can do better…Read More

A UK Win Would…

• Be its first against Northern Illinois, in its first all-time meeting with the Huskies.
• Improve UK to 35-7-1 (2-0 this season) vs NIU’s Mid-American Conference. The Cats have not lost to a MAC team since falling to Ohio, 28-16, on Oct. 2, 2004 in Lexington. UK defeated Miami earlier this season, 37-13.
• Be the third timme in the head coach Mark Stoops era that Kentucky has gotten off to a 4-0 start to the season, also 2018 and 2021.
• Extend Stoops’ all-time winning record at Kentucky to 63 and his all-time winning record at home to 44.
• Extend UK’s nonconference win streak to 19 games, longest active streak in the nation.
• Be UK’s fourth straight win at Kroger Field, dating back to 2021

Great Dane

• Through week three, freshman wide receiver Dane Key has caught 13 passes for a team-leading 226 yards and three touchdowns.
• Key’s three touchdown catches already ties the program’s freshman single-season record, joining Derek Abney in 2000 and Tommy Cook in 2001.
• The last Wildcat with a touchdown catch in the first three games of a season was La’Rod King in 2011.
• Key also became the only true freshman at UK, since freshmen were granted eligibility in 1972, to record receiving touchdowns in each of his first two collegiate games and the first freshman since Derek Abney (2000) to catch at least two scores through his first two games (Abney had a pair of TD catches vs. South Florida in his debut).
• The rookie is fifth in the Southeastern Conference in yards per reception with 17.38.
• Key snagged a 55-yard touchdown at Florida, with a highly contested leaping catch, to earn SEC Freshman of the Week honors for his impressive performance in The Swamp

By the Numbers

Points allowed by Kentucky in last week’s 31-0 win over Youngstown State. It was UK’s first shutout since 2009 and the first home shutout since 1996

Touchdowns allowed by the UK defense through three games

Consecutive non-conference wins for Kentucky, the longest streak in the nation

Interceptions by Kentucky since 2020, ranking second in the SEC

Points scored by UK kicker Matt Ruffolo, which ranks sixth in school history



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