LEXINGTON, Ky. – Derrick Locke ran for a career-high 166 yards and two touchdowns to lead Kentucky past Akron 47-10 on Saturday night.
Mike Hartline passed for 250 yards and two scores for the Wildcats (3-0), who won their 18th straight regular season nonconference game. Kentucky opens Southeastern Conference play next week at No. 10 Florida.
The Wildcats took their time getting going against the Zips (0-3) before scoring touchdowns on six straight possessions to break it open.
Kentucky star Randall Cobb caught five passes for 43 yards and a touchdown but spent the second half on the sidelines with heartburn symptoms.
Locke made sure the Wildcats didn't need Cobb, darting through Akron's overmatched defense to become the seventh running back in school history to top 2,000 career yards.
The Wildcats outgained Akron 544-172 and collected five sacks while failing to turn the ball over for the third straight game.
Joker Phillips became the first Kentucky coach to win his first three games on the job since Bear Bryant in 1946. Phillips took a page out of the irascible Bryant's book in the first half after a false start penalty pushed the team to the edge of field goal range.
Phillips gathered the players in a massive huddle and spent a good 45 seconds clearing his mind.
It took awhile, but the pep talk worked.
Kentucky ripped off 17 points in the final 7:49 of the half as Hartline got hot. He hit Cobb for a 13-yard touchdown pass — thanks in part to a nifty move by Cobb at the Akron 5 — then found Chris Matthews in the corner of the end zone on Kentucky's next drive to put the Wildcats up 20-3 at the break.
Locke did the rest. He opened the second half with a 5-yard scoring run, then zipped through the Zips on a 56-yard touchdown burst, eluding a handful of arm tackles along the way. Locke's rushing total was the highest by a Kentucky back since Rafael Little rushed for 198 yards against Vanderbilt in 2005.
Locke's backups were nearly as good, as Ray Sanders and CoShik Williams added late touchdown runs of their own. The SEC's highest scoring offense had little resistance from the Zips, who were coming off an embarrassing loss to Football Championship Subdivision opponent Gardner-Webb last week.
Kentucky's defense limited Akron quarterbacks Patrick Nicely and Matt Rodgers to 6-of-24 passing for 105 yards, the majority of which came on a late scoring drive in garbage time.
Phillips had stressed his team needed to learn to play a complete game if it wants to compete in the SEC. The Wildcats still have a bit of growing up to do.
Akron hung around early thanks to the kind of lethargic play Kentucky had been able to avoid during wins over Louisville and Western Kentucky.
Penalties and an uncharacteristic case of the drops kept the SEC's highest scoring offense in check for most of the first half. Even the sure-handed Cobb allowed a couple of passes to bounce off his hands.
No matter. The Wildcats, thanks to some energetic urging by their coach, improved to 3-0 for the second time in three seasons.
The road will get significantly tougher next week. Kentucky hasn't beaten the Gators in 23 tries.