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By LARRY VAUGHT
Junior Raymond Sanders rushed for a career-high 115 yards on 13 carries for Kentucky and had a career-best 67-yard touchdown run in Saturday’s 47-14 victory over Kent State. His previous best rushing total had been 77 yards gainst Georgia in 2010. After the game, Sanders shared these thoughts on his play and the team’s performance.
Question: How important was it to have a big response after losing to Louisville?
Sanders: “We didn’t want to dwell on it. We didn’t want Louisville to beat us twice, so we just came out of practice and (keeping the ball high) was stressed a lot.”
Question: Was there a big emphasis on limiting turnovers after both you and Coshik Williams fumbled in scoring territory at Louisville?
Sanders: “That definitely was the emphasis. We felt like it hurt us last week. We left points on the field with those turnovers, so we wanted to make sure we held onto the ball, got the ball back to the ref. When we do that, we feel like we can get the ball in the end zone.”
Question: How nice was it to show off that speed on your 67-yard touchdown run?
Sanders: “It was pretty fun. Great blocks by my linemen and the wideouts got down the field and got a couple of blocks also. The fullback did a great job. Everyone just did a great job getting their blocks. They just did a perfect job and I happen to hit it right and was grateful for it.”
Question: Is that an example of what you can do when healthy that you couldn’t last year when you were injured so much?
Sanders: “Yes it is. I can never get satisfied though. I just want to keep improving and getting better, but that is a start and I want to keep building on that.”
Question: How much does it help everyone’s confidence to have a one-sided win?
Sanders: “It gives us a ton of confidence. It helps the defense realize that if they give us the ball back, we can punch it in the end zone and get points. It shows the offense we can move the ball, get in the end zone and give our defense rest and keep them off the field and get points on the board.”
Question: How big was the 80-yard scoring drive in the third quarter after Kent State cut the lead to 17-14?
Sanders: “It was very important. It gave us back momentum and also gave our defense a chance to rest. We just wanted to make sure we answered them and let the defense know we had their back. We were able to pick those guys up. Just give us the ball back and now you get a stop. It was a big momentum boost and confidence boost for our team.”
Question: Is it fair to expect the offense to be as explosive and productive as it was this game?
Sanders: “That’s what we want. That is our goal. We want to score on every possession. That is what we are pushing for. We didn’t tonight, but that is the goal. We are going to make sure we keep improving. We wanted more than we had. We wanted to score every possession, so we have to keep working toward that. We are grateful for how tonight went but we have to keep working to reach our goal of scoring every possession.”
Question: How good is quarterback Maxwell Smith playing?
Sanders: “He’s wonderful, great. We keep protecting him and he keeps doing a great job seeing the blitzes and seeing the field. He is improving each week and pushing us.”
Question: Why does this team have more playmakers this year?
Sanders: “This offseason a lot of guys put in a lot of extra work. A lot of guys came in and watched a lot of film and we were out doing a lot of drills and Max had us out there almost every day throwing, catching and going through things. Everyone just wanted to get better and improve. Last year we knew we were better than that and we just wanted to let everyone know we could be a pretty good offense and that is what we are still pushing towards.”
Question: Did you also know you were better than what the team played at Louisville?
Sanders: “We definitely knew that. We left points on the field there and wanted to get off the field as a defense. We just wanted to show we are a better team and have a lot to build on and we can be a pretty good team.”
Question: Was it nice to see so many veteran players have big games against Kent State after losing the opener?
Sanders: “We put in the work. A lot of guys put in the extra work this offseason. Those young guys are still talented and we feel like they can get the job done. We feel like they can help us keep improving.”