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September 24th, 2017

You all did your part, Big Blue Nation.

If you attended the game last night, you know the feeling you had.

It was just… different.

Media members, analysts, and fans all said it was the most electric atmosphere we have ever had at a Kentucky football game, because it absolutely was.

But it wasn’t just the excitement during the game, it was everything leading up to it. The week-long coverage, the campus signs, the radio callers, the tailgating, etc. Everything about it was just special.

There was this confidence around the bluegrass that September 23, 2017 was the night. It was going to be the night the streak died.

UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart put Saturday night’s heartbreak best: above all else, the BBN deserved it.

And you all did.

The game was announced as a sellout on Tuesday afternoon, the first since 2015. Several fans I talked to leading up to the game said they honestly couldn’t afford the tickets, but bought them anyway because they just had a “feeling.”

We set up 7 1/2 hours of pregame radio coverage for the game, and the phone lines were absolutely packed from start to finish. Fans called in with some of the most passionate speeches we have ever heard, reasons why the Wildcats were destined to defeat the Gators. You all told us how special this team was and how the stars aligned for the streak to end.

The tailgating scene was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Fans lined the streets throughout campus and every flat surface near the stadium. Kids, teenagers, college students, adults, and senior citizens, the sea of blue was neverending. The fanbase is always friendly with one another, but there was a sense of focus yesterday. There were no strangers, they were all friends with one goal in mind. They just knew, and celebrated accordingly.

The CatWalk was the largest it has been in my entire fandom, with chants and cheers louder than I’ve ever heard. Fans were ten-deep from the front of the Nutter Field House to the Joe Craft Training Facility, anxiously waiting for their coaches and players to get off those busses and see their support. Each individual in attendance wanted those in the program to know they went out of their way to witness history. Because it was going to happen.

An hour before kickoff, the lower-bowl student section was full, with the leftovers heading up to the typically-empty right corner of the upper level, and eventually filling that up too. The energy they brought to the table is exactly why the athletic department put the recruiting room right in the middle of the action. The recruits want to see how passionate the fanbase is, and the students gave them all they had.

During the game, the stadium was absolutely rocking from start to finish. Not one fan in the crowd sat during game action, a complete flip from past games.

During Grove St. Party, fans were even crazier.

And it wasn’t the artificial sounds stemmed from “stand on your feet” displays on the video board and coal whistles on third down. The fans produced piercing sound on every down, for both good and bad. If a ref made a bad call, you guys let them hear it. If the players made an impressive play, you let them know you were damn proud of them. If a Gator was left wide open on multiple occasions… Well, you voiced your displeasure, but said “go get them on the next one.”

In every possible way, the fanbase did their part.

The players are devastated they couldn’t finish the job for you guys. The coaching staff took ownership of several mistakes they made throughout the game. The administration is hurting.

Because they know you all deserved it. All 61,000 of you.

The Big Blue Nation set the scene for one of the most special nights in UK Football history to end the streak, and we appreciate you for that.


Eddie Gran on Florida loss: “We had a chance to put them away and we didn’t do it”

Normally animated and fully charged, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran was visibly deflated after Saturday’s crushing 28-27 loss to the Florida Gators.

Gran’s conservative play calling on offense was called under scrutiny following the Cats’ defeat. As our own Nick Roush wrote after the game, the offense collapsed when it took the ball from Stephen Johnson. Between the final six minutes of the third quarter and the final drive of the fourth quarter, Johnson dropped back to pass the ball just three times. All three passes were far from successful – two were incomplete and the third resulted in a sack.

Still, Gran stood by his decision to resort to the run game.

“When we rush the ball, and if you’re the team that rushes the ball more, you usually win in this league,” Gran said after the game. “We’re going to run the football when we feel like we need to run the football.”

The problem, according to Gran, were the third-down conversions. Or rather, lack thereof. Against the Gators, the Cats went 1-10 on third downs. Florida finished 5-14 on third downs and 3-4 on fourth downs.

“On first and second downs, I thought we were pretty good. We got to third down and we weren’t so good,” Gran said. “And then we went a couple three-and-outs and, you know, you’ve got to convert. If we had converted, I don’t know, three more, who knows? Maybe it could have changed the game.”

But perhaps the most gut-wrenching quote from Gran came when he spoke on the final drive of the game, when Benny Snell ran the ball to the 25-yard line and set up Austin McGinnis for a game-winning field goal. Obviously, that’s not what happened.

“I just thought, when he broke the run, I thought we’d won the game,” Gran said. “Stephen Johnson did an unbelievable job. Thought our kids protected unbelievably on that series. 40 seconds left and they went right down just like we do on our two-minutes in practices. They executed to perfection. It’s unfortunate.”

Unfortunate is one way to put it.

Still, the offensive coordinator takes full responsibility for the mistakes made in the fourth quarter.

“We had a bad snap, we had a penalty, and those things are excusable. That’s on me,” Gran said. “We’re not on a team like this. We had a chance to put them away and we didn’t do it.”


@MaggieDavisKSR


Welcome to the Club: a new generation of Kentucky football fans

It still doesn’t feel real. From being ahead by double digits in the fourth quarter to a heartbreaking final few minutes, last night was tough. But for me, it’s all I’ve known. I am not 32 years old; I have never seen the Cats defeat the Gators. And that’s what makes this the hardest.

The classic “That’s So Kentucky Football” mantra has been long embedded in my vocabulary. I’ve heard it countless times and I’ll be honest: I’ve even said it more than I’d like to admit. But I hadn’t experienced the heartbreak that so many Kentucky football fans have felt over the course of a lifetime. Until last night.

I remember the amazing win over No. 1 LSU in 2007. I remember beating Steve Spurrier for the first time ever in 2010. And I most certainly remember where I was when Lamar Jackson fumbled and we beat Louisville.

But I remember the heartbreakers too. The demoralizing losses to Vandy or Tennessee, the embarrassing loss to Southern Miss, and the crushing defeats at the hands of the Cardinals. And now, the Florida heartbreakers.

Sure, a few years ago when the Gators got away with snapping after the clock expired, it was a tough loss because it shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. But it was nothing compared to last night.

Maybe it’s harder because I’m older and more invested, or maybe it’s because I’m a student at the University of Kentucky and felt the sadness of my peers on the eerily-quiet walk from the stadium to our homes. But maybe it’s just because I am young and optimistic. This year was our year. I’ve said it a few times, but this time I was confident, as I’m sure many of you were. We had a quarterback I trust; we had a coaching staff with experience and their own recruits; we had the new, multi-million dollar facilities; we had the motivation and the “hype.” But we also had the mistakes. Some people have endured 30 years of heartbreak, but I’ve had around 10. And last night was the worst.

I am now a part of the next generation of heartbroken Kentucky football fans. I’m in the club with those who continuously get their hopes up, just to have them chomped upon by the Gators. Some rivalries you’re born into – for instance, Kentucky vs. Louisville – but others take time to develop. While the other losses to Florida have stung, last night cemented the bitter attitude between young Kentucky fans and the blue and orange. And it won’t be fading any time soon.

But some things cannot be broken. I am still young and I am still optimistic. While dreams of going 6-0 are no longer in the realm of possibility, going 5-1 is still most certainly doable. A football program without the support of even their most loyal fans is no program I want to be a part of. So I’ll pick myself up, I’ll dust myself off, and I’ll be at Kroger Field next weekend to watch Kentucky fight for win number four. Because THAT is So Kentucky Football.


@MaggieDavisKSR


DeAndre Liggins traded to Atlanta, waived immediately

We have some disappointing news for one of our beloved NBA Cats…

DeAndre Liggins has been traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Atlanta Hawks, and will be waived immediately.

The former Wildcat was released by the Cavaliers this past year, and picked up off waivers by the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs traded him to Houston this offseason, where he was immediately traded again to Los Angeles.

After this news, Liggins is now looking for a new home.

Best of luck to him in getting picked up as soon as possible.


What hurts more? Comparing two of Kentucky’s top heartbreaks

Kentucky fans have experienced a range of upsetting losses over the years that span across all sports. From the Christian Laettner shot to the 1997 loss to LSU on a Hail Mary pass, the heartbreak and disappointed is something fans are never able to shake.

But since I’ve been alive, three losses have stood out to me the most, two of which have occurred in my four years of attending the University of Kentucky.

First we have the 2015 National Tournament loss to Wisconsin, when Kentucky’s basketball team could have competed for the title and topped Indiana’s undefeated season. Instead, the loss for the Cats turned into another championship win for Duke.

Then, we have last night’s loss to Florida in football, marking 31 years of disappointment for Kentucky fans when facing the Gators. Aside from the fact this has happened year after year after year, this time around felt different. The talent was there, all of the chips had fallen into place and the Cats looked like they could actually pull this one off. The streak was finally going to end. Until in true Kentucky football fashion, it didn’t.

The pangs of disappointed and funeral-esque mournings across the Bluegrass today are plentiful, but I can’t say I’m surprised. At no point yesterday was I fully confident Kentucky was going to win that game. However, a few years ago when watching Kentucky vs. Wisconsin, I was nothing but positive we could win, even when we got off to a terrible start and let Wisconsin on a 12-3 run.

Something about a season ending for players who you know will not return the following year settles a little bit differently than a regular season loss that you kind of felt coming. But don’t take my word for. Whatever it is you’re feeling today, here are a few fans from Big Blue Nation who are on your side…

 

 

A (small) portion of the people have spoken, and it looks like they side with me. Of 33 votes, 24% were more upset by the Florida loss and 76% by the Wisconsin loss.

 

What say you? Florida or Wisconsin? Which loss will haunt you more going through the remainder of your life as a Kentucky fan? Let us know in the comments.

@kelseyKSR


DeMarcus Cousins donates $253,000 to refurbish basketball court in Mobile, AL

@RobbyBakerTV

On Saturday afternoon, DeMarcus Cousins made a $253,000 donation to refurbish a basketball court in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama.

The court at Figures Park is located right down the street from Cousins’ high school, an area where the former Kentucky star spent the majority of his time growing up.

“Growing up, that’s all we did was play basketball,” Cousins told William Guillory of NOLA.com. “These courts kept a lot of kids out of trouble and they brought a lot of the people in the community together. We’re going to refurbish it and give it a little makeover and I think the people here will really appreciate it.”

Cousins held a block party to announce the donation, featuring free food, activities for kids, and a music performance by Rick Ross.

Anthony Davis, John Wall, and Eric Bledsoe also joined the former Wildcat at the block party.

Here’s a video of Cousins at the announcement:

But remember, the media says Cousins is a terrible person and a locker room cancer, so it must be true, right?

Keep being you, Boogie. The BBN is proud of you.


Four silver linings in Kentucky’s 31st consecutive loss to Florida

It’s been beaten to a dead horse, but last night’s loss was one of the most heartbreaking moments in the history of UK athletics.

After holding a 27-14 lead in the fourth quarter, many fans felt a field-storming was inevitable.

And then it wasn’t.

As easy as it is to dwell on the negatives, a lot of good (surprisingly) came from the devastating loss.

Here are five silver linings to focus on going forward:

Stephen Johnson

Kentucky’s QB1 had one of the most impressive games of his career, putting the Wildcats in position to win throughout.

He finished the day 17/25 passing, 196 yards, three touchdowns, and zero turnovers. With Florida’s inability to defend the run, many thought this would be a heavy Benny Snell outing. Instead, we saw Johnson make throws all over the field and find unbelievable confidence in his arm.

Again, we’re talking about one of the best secondaries in the nation, and the senior quarterback carved them up like a Thanksgiving turkey.

When you watch the highlights of his three touchdown throws, especially the balls to Blake Bone and Juice Johnson, only an elite quarterback could put the balls where he did and put points on the board. Stephen Johnson is just that.

Johnson got demolished on a late hit, a play that drew an ejection for Gator linebacker Vosean Joseph. Most quarterbacks, especially scrawnier guys like Johnson, would sit out a few plays and possibly the remainder of the game.

Instead, Johnson came back on the following play and did his best to lead his team to victory, banged up and all.

Kentucky fans need to embrace his final nine games as a Wildcat, because Stephen Johnson is a special talent and a special leader.

Siheim King

We all know what Benny Snell can do, but we’ve been waiting for the emergence of another running back to carry a heavy load.

Last night, Siheim King became that guy.

King maintained five rushes for 64 yards, with a long of 30, showing off ridiculous shiftiness and finding success in even the smallest of gaps opened up by the offensive line.

What was most impressive, though, was the junior back’s patience in the backfield. To start his career at Kentucky, one of the biggest knocks on his game has been his tendency to rush things and force plays that just weren’t there. Yesterday, we saw an extremely mature back make mature runs.

Every time King touched the ball, he made something impressive happen with it. For a guy that was the subject of transfer rumors throughout the offseason, we’re lucky to have him contribute the way he is.

Charles Moushey

Special. Teams. King.

Early in the game, Moushey made this crushing hit on special teams:

Later in the game, Matt Panton punted a ball to the one-yard line, immediately downed in the air by Moushey.

Two impressive plays on special teams that put the Kentucky defense in great field position to make a stop.

And he’s not just a one-game wonder. The walk-on has balled out every game this year, including this hit against EKU:

For a team with a recent history of struggling on special teams, junior walk-on receiver Charles Moushey has been an absolute stud.

Lynn Bowden

Out of the Wildcat at the start of the game, Bowden dropped back on a Randall Cobb-esque pass. When the Florida secondary closed in on the UK receivers, Bowden fake out two defenders, cut back across field, and found an open lane.

He was tripped up and stopped just short of the first down marker, but the elusiveness in the open field was everything we hoped for out of the freshman stud, and more.

Later in the game, Bowden received the ball on a double-reverse and tossed a 24-yard completion to Siheim King on the outside. We knew he was a quarterback in high school, and throws like that are certainly not out of his range, but to see it in action was a thing of beauty. It didn’t feel forced; it was a tight spiral with an easy opportunity for King to pull in the reception.

His stat-line of 1/1 passing for 24 yards, along with two rushes for 13 yards don’t jump off the page at you, but what he has done in extremely limited action has been beyond impressive.

We all expected Bowden to have a breakout game sooner or later, but I don’t know if fans realize just how good this kid is going to be.


As hard as it is to think of the positives, Kentucky had several in their loss to the Gators.


#1 2021 Point Guard Zion Harmon took his unofficial visit to UK yesterday

(@its_zionharmon)

Zion Harmon of Bowling Green, KY took an unofficial visit to the game last night. Harmon is the #1 overall recruit in the 2021 class in Kentucky and nationally.

Harmon is a freshman in high school this year, check out his 8th grade highlights below:

 

@EMitchKSR


Jacob Tamme’s Message to the Big Blue Nation

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Former Boyle County and Kentucky great Jacob Tamme sent out a series of tweets after last night’s game, I believe they are worth the attention of the Big Blue Nation:

As tough as it is to be a fan in situations like last night, it is much harder to be a coach or a player. This team put in hours on hours of preparation, all for that moment. The fan base is disappointed but I promise the players in that locker room are just as or even more disappointed.

The result is not what we wanted but you have to respect the effort and fight that the Kentucky football team displayed last night.

As hard as it may be right now let’s rally around this team, BBN.

@EMitchKSR


Gut Punched: Cats lose to the Gators… again.

I find no joy in writing this post. To be completely up front and honest, this article crosses the objective journalistic line and leans toward the former player in me. Wearing many hats is tiring. I’m tired. I’m sick. No, I’m mad. Kentucky was the better team on Saturday but did not win the football game. Inexcusably, two uncovered Gator receivers were gifted a pair of scores. Kentucky also penalized and bad snapped itself into a corner. It left points and a win on the field. When UK forced the first turnover of the night it didn’t go for the knockout punch but instead went away from the play action pass which resulted in a three and out. Multiple trips to the Gator 40-yard line didn’t produce points. Drive and potentially game ending tackles were missed. Two Stephen Johnson red-zone sacks pushed Austin MacGinnis’s first failed attempt to 48-yards instead of a chip shot. With all that and much more; UK was an unscrupulous holding call on Nick Haynes away from ending the streak. Florida won in the Swamp on a no-call clock play and in Lexington on a holding call that should have never been called in that situation. Hint, no reality; there’s a callable holding penalty on every single football play in every single game. Football happens. I guess. Credit Florida for the win. But, the game should have never been in question.

Yet, there were signs that support the claim that UK was the better football team which makes this loss take on a feel of cruelty more than the embarrassment of a 65-0 pasting. Again, this team played their guts out. A Stephen Johnson led third quarter drive that resulted in a 21-14 lead was textbook. Kentucky is at its best when utilizing its top player which happens to be the quarterback. Johnson’s influence and second half role decreased until the final drive of the game.

Saturday produced a one-point loss that could have very easily been a two score victory. The last coach to beat Florida was Jerry Claiborne and he commonly referred that train of thought as “the ole ‘iffin’ game.” Celebrations could still have been going on in Lexington but the Cats failed to Finish and lost to Florida for the 31st consecutive time.

During the week players and coaches spoke matter-of-fact about Saturday’s contest being the next game on the schedule and hinting that the stage would not be too big. It turned out to be overwhelming at times for the normally steady Cats. It wavered when it needed to maintain its course. A packed to capacity crowd did its part. The BBN deserved the W. I’m sorry. So did current and former players. I’m sorry again. The crowd was deserving of a lifetime victory against an opponent that was a mere logo resemblance of the Top 5 squads that the home-standing BBN grew accustom to seeing every other year.

10 points separated the Cats and Gators with 15:00 remaining in regulation. The scoreboard read Kentucky 24, Florida 14. The Gators scored two touchdowns in the final period, the Wildcats were limited to just three possessions and netted a field goal. Ball game. We could go into detail of the how; but what’s the point with emotions raw and the sting of defeat resonating throughout every fiber of our existence? We’ll get to that after I gather the courage to watch the game tape on Sunday night.

Execution, attention to detail, penalties, coaching culpabilities, and other lapses were obvious; especially at the game’s most critical moments. But so were effort, grit, determination, and fight within a Kentucky team that fought for sixty minutes. Can’t tell you how proud that I am of their effort and “want to.” The talent gap between the two programs is now a stalemate. But, at the end of the night the scoreboard still read Florida 28, Kentucky 27.

Even though it was assisted with a pair of Christmas gift touchdowns; Florida showed the resolve and perseverance of a team that happens to be the back-to-back SEC East Champions. Jim McElwain must be credited. However, if this UF wins the East in 2017 the division needs to fold and permanently concede superiority to its western counterparts.

Mark Stoops took responsibility for the aforementioned defensive errors that led to two inconceivable and uncontested UF touchdowns. He will be questioned again on Monday at his weekly press conference and I’m certain many times after that. I saw him after the game. The weight of the loss was uncomfortably visible.

Saturday wasn’t the first time that a Kentucky coach was scrutinized for specific situations that impacted a game’s outcome. Jerry Claiborne got raked over the coals in 1987 for running Mark Higgs on four consecutive unsuccessful plays at the goal line in a home loss to Tennessee. That was hard to see. Rich Brooks was grilled in 2009 when Randall Cobb wasn’t utilized in the red-zone against the Volunteers. Again, not fun to watch as the disappointment in Brooks’ eyes was disconcerting. Remember the Bluegrass Miracle? The Cats were up 30-27 over LSU and in prevent defense when a Tiger receiver got deeper than the deepest? What did the four coaches have in common? They took ownership of their missteps. I’m not defending Saturday’s mishaps. Just providing historical perspective.


Coach Stoops:

“They played unbelievably hard tonight — and played winning football. And I really appreciate them and the way they put themselves in a position all week to win the football game. And there’s quite a few plays in games and you never know which ones are going to decide the football game. And there’s probably one of 12 plays in there that changed the game. And it’s very disappointing that we didn’t come up with those plays. The breakdown in communication defensively on the two plays are really a sore spot because they stick out and it takes away from the great passion and energy that the team, that our team played with. We played winning football. We have to get those things fixed and I accept responsibility for those and we’ll get those plays fixed and do a better job. So, again, I thank the fans. The atmosphere was phenomenal. Greatly appreciate their support and energy, and I know our players did as well.”


So, what’s next?

This answer will not be popular, and that’s ok. But there’s nothing else to say or do than for the Cats to pick themselves up off the mat and prepare for Eastern Michigan. What’s the other option? Quit? Turn in equipment and fold the program? Your emotional answer may be yes and trust me; I feel your pain. For goodness sakes, my freshman class started this God forsaken streak of reptile ineptitude. Saturday was personal.

But quitting or folding shop is not a viable or realistic option. Disappointed? Absolutely. But, how many said a split against Carolina and Florida would be a precursor for a successful first half of the season? Florida can’t beat Kentucky on two consecutive Saturdays. Meaning; Saturday’s heart break loss can’t lead into an upset defeat to EMU. Mark Stoops and his Wildcats have still gone 10-5 over its last fifteen games. It may not feel like it at the time you read this post but there have been undeniable improvements within the Kentucky Football program. That’s no comfort; again I understand. But, there’s a great deal of football left in a twelve game season. But dog-gone-it Saturday’s loss stings. A lot.

Truth is that the healing process for the players will start once the Eastern Michigan game plan is unveiled. Young folks are far more resilient than weathered fans (like me) that have witnessed far too many near misses. Heck, the mood I’m in I’d go as far as publically apologizing for the 1989 and 90 losses which happened under my watch and several decades ago. I’m sorry.

Fans were crushed. But none hurt as badly as the players that wore the chrome helmets on Saturday. Sunday will be miserable for players and coaches alike. It’s now nearing 5:30am on Sunday morning and I remain despondent. Monday meetings will be nauseating. Regardless, forward motion must take place and the true character of this team will be on display when it takes the field next Saturday against Eastern Michigan.

I think it’s established that you and I are not happy with the loss but let’s read from those that actually played in the game. These Cats were hurting for each other. They played their guts out. They were also brokenhearted for not delivering a win they so badly wanted for the fans. Yes, that matters. A lot. Regardless of time or history, players universally seek fan approval. They urgently wanted to see the BBN celebrate, smile, and leave Kroger Field with a sense of satisfaction. Disappointment and shock were obvious 300-pound weights on the shoulders of all involved with the program in the postgame locker room. Charles Walker best summed up the only forward path this team can take.


Charles Walker on how long it will take to get over something like this:

“With football you have to have a quick memory. Just like in a game, you drop a ball, they are going to come right back to you and you have to catch it. It’s different every time. We’ll see. Definitely a tough loss. We’ll use this as motivation. Watch the film, get better, get corrected, forget about it and play the next game.”

Nick Haynes on penalty at the end of the game:

“I was surprised. I didn’t think it was a hold but I guess he thought something else. That’s all I can say about that really.”

Haynes on who stepped up in locker room after game:

“It was really all of us. That was a hard one to lose. But we have a bunch of seniors and leaders here and we’ll be ready to go as quick as tomorrow. We’re a hungry team and we’ll be back better than ever.”

Stephen Johnson on if he could tell from the start that Kentucky was physical enough to play with Florida:

“Absolutely. Everything we had game planned was going the right way. We had a few mistakes, especially on my part. A few throws I shouldn’t have made. But we just have to get all of that fixed on Monday.”

Eli Brown on how frustrating it was to leave guys open on two different plays:

“It’s communication. You get so riled up and you feel like you have the game in your hand and just something just slips up. Like I said, it’s communication. It was all closed in. We didn’t even see the other man move out. I guess they were breaking a huddle and moved somebody real quick where we didn’t see it, so they kept getting us with that. Every touchdown they had was a miss assignment. They didn’t earn one touchdown they had. One guy was wide open; the other guy was wide open. The long run, the guy jumped the gap and busted open something. They didn’t deserve anything. None of those touchdowns they had. It’s upsetting, but like I said, we got to go back and practice and fix our mistakes.”

Brown on what steps they have to take to improve the communication:

“More hand signals. Looking at each other, when the place is rocking, you want to win the game so bad and you give it your all and then it just slips right past. It takes the air out of us. It sucks real bad. Like I said, we just have to come back and be ready.”


What does all this mean?

Don’t let anyone tell you how to fan. It’s perfectly understandable to be disappointed or just plain mad. I was. I am.

This week will be flush with influencers all but daring you to give up on this team and coaches. With a mind of my own, I will certainly will not. Each game offers unique opportunities to learn, improve, and redirect. Unfortunately, lessons from UK’s loss to Florida will go down in Wildcat lore. The Cats are 3-1. It plays Eastern Michigan next Saturday.


UK Basketball Recruiting Rewind: Brandon Knight

It’s time for another Recruiting Rewind. Want more? Reminisce with me as we look back on the recruitments of John Wall, Terrence Jones, Nerlens Noel, and Karl-Anthony Towns.


Let’s try to forget about the Florida game, shall we? I’m already tired of thinking about it.

Remember how Coach Cal just picked up his first 5 star recruit of the 2018 class in Immanuel Quickley? He’s a versatile, athletic point guard who can make plays for himself or his teammates. Well, that got me thinking about another player that Quickley has drawn some comparisons to: Brandon Knight.

Their high school builds are very similar: both 6’3″, with Knight being slightly heavier at 185 pounds versus 180 for Quickley. Both are natural born playmakers. And I’d personally be A-OK with Brandon Knight 2.0 leading our 2018-2019 squad. Lest we forget, Brandon Knight was a stud.

The Recruitment

Knight was the number 5 overall recruit in the 2010 class, the second ranked point guard behind one Kyrie Irving. Knight was also named the 2009 and 2010 Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year, only the third player to receive the honor in back to back years. The first two? Greg Oden (doesn’t bode well) and LeBron James (much better).

Also, do you remember his dreads? I kinda wish he would’ve rocked the AI look once he became a Cat.

Interest came from all over the country, but Knight’s final list would be comprised of UCONN, Florida, Syracuse, Kansas, and Kentucky.

The Commitment

Knight would become the centerpiece of UK’s 2010 class, bolstered by the likes of fellow top 10 recruits Terrence Jones and Mr. What-if Enes Kanter, along with deeper cuts like Doron Lamb, and deepest cuts like Stacey Poole.

Not quite as flashy a class as Cal’s 2009 lineup, but they would go on to click just as well, and at just the right moments.

The Performance

Knight averaged 17.3 points per game, along with 4.2 assists and 4 rebounds. He was just a generally efficient player, playing about 36 minutes per game with a field goal percentage of 42.3 and making roughly 80 percent of his free throws.

But playing efficiently didn’t preclude him from making big shots.

I’m rooting for Immanuel to make a moment like this.

@JayWinkKSR


Cats in the NFL Schedule Week 3

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Big Blue Nation if you’re anything like me and need something to keep your mind off of last night’s heartbreaking loss, I’ve got something that might work.

Player GameTime/TV
Za'Darius SmithBaltimore Ravens @ Jacksonville Jaguars (London)9:30/CBS
Bud DupreePittsburgh Steelers @ Chicago Bears 1:00/CBS
Danny Trevathan Pittsburgh Steelers @ Chicago Bears 1:00/CBS
Larry WarfordNew Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers1:00/Fox
Wesley WoodyardSeattle Seahawks @ Tennessee Titans 4:05/Fox
Avery WilliamsonSeattle Seahawks @ Tennessee Titans 4:05/Fox
Randall Cobb Cincinnati Bengals @ Green Bay Packers 4:25/CBS
Corey PetersDallas Cowboys @ Arizona Cardinals8:30 Monday/ESPN

@EMitchKSR


The Streak Lives, The Players React

My feet hurt. My throat hurts. My head hurts. All for naught.

It’s a collective day of devastation for the BBN. Like a prisoner carving tick marks into the cell wall, the streak has moved to 31. 31 straight L’s. This is trash.

As crushed as we all feel, we all know the players are the ones taking it the hardest. Here’s how a few of them reacted in the aftermath:

If you’re noticing a trend, it’s that Kroger Field was the place to be last night. It was certifiably insane at times, especially when Grove St. Party came over the loudspeakers. Kudos to everyone who attended and hung on until the very last kick. You created a special environment.

Take a few days to recuperate. This one’s gonna sting a lot longer than usual. But the season rolls on.

Beat Eastern Michigan?

@JayWinkKSR


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Today on KSR: Reliving Last Night

Well, last night was not pretty. I don’t need to tell you that, we all saw it, we all felt it and I’m guessing – we’re all still feeling it today. Grab some coffee or beer (last night was heartbreaking, I’m not going to judge), cue up “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel and let’s all wallow in our sadness and pity together while I put the painfulness of last night into short and (bitter) sweet words.

It’s been 31 years…

I’ve never seen a win against Florida in my lifetime. I know there are TONS of fans who are in the same boat but, every time I say that it just feels more unreal. We’ve been so close so many times, how have we not gotten the job done yet? Will we ever get it done? I can’t help but ask that question this morning. Call me a bad fan but, every year I say “If we can beat Florida and Louisville, I’d be happy losing every other game. Just give me those two.” Don’t get me wrong I want us to win all the time but, man, I just want us to beat Florida so bad. I’m tired of us losing to Florida and most of all, I’m tired of getting hyped up about us possibly beating Florida only to lose and spend the entire night/next day mad about it.

This picture infuriates me.

By now I’m sure we’ve all seen this picture and if you haven’t, sorry for ruining your morning. I was watching the game last night with some friends who don’t know football at all and there were multiple times where one of them said “Why are they doing that? That can’t be right” I had no response. I’ve never coached a football team, and my playing experience is only limited to backyard pickup games growing up but, I have watched a lot of very good and very bad football. All this to say, no matter how much you know football, we can all agree: Kentucky played stupid football last night and it’s as simple as that.

I’ve already had the “Fire Stoops” conversation three times.

Guys. No. I get it, we’re all upset and I think the majority of BBN think this is on Stoops. I agree. This game is 100% on Stoops. To quote Benny in the post-game presser, “Florida didn’t beat us, we beat ourselves.” It’s true, as I and countless other people who’ve written about this game have said – we made dumb decisions, we didn’t adjust or change our game to adapt to Florida and we just flat-out fell apart. That’s on coaching. But, why is BBN as a whole always so quick to jump on the “Fire Stoops” bandwagon? I love love love BBN with my whole heart but this is something that makes me mad about the fanbase as a whole. Are we just too spoiled from being a basketball powerhouse? Are we too eager to become an Alabama-like SEC team? Whatever the reason is, I just don’t think there’s a need to bring out the pitchforks on Stoops the day after a bad game.

We’re not “underdogs” anymore.

A popular metaphor for Kentucky Football is that we’re like Charlie Brown, always getting the football taken out from under us at the last second. As fans, it still really feels that way but, I don’t think that’s true of our team anymore. We aren’t underdogs in every game, that’s no excuse for losing. We should’ve won that game, we could’ve won that game and if we had – we wouldn’t have been considered the underdogs. We have the ability to be a legitimate, good football team. There were moments last night where we were a good football team. It’s not an underdog story anymore.

Failing on the big stage.

I don’t think Kentucky could’ve failed on a bigger stage last night. The game was sold out, the analysts were picking us, the fans were pumped…stop me if you’ve heard a scenario like this before. At the end of the game I felt the same feeling I felt two years ago at the end of the Auburn game, except this time I felt worse. This year was different, the stakes were higher and the stage was bigger. But, in SEC football every game is a big stage game and Kentucky just isn’t preforming well during big stage games. Like Drew wrote last night – I still love the Cats and I’ll still cheer and watch every game but, it’ll be a long time before I get hyped about another “big stage” or “program changing” game again.

On a positive note…

Okay, I’m done being negative (at least for the next hour) about this. Let’s focus on a little bit of positivity. The anticipation in Lexington this past week was insane, I’ve never seen or felt anything like it during football season before. The banners, the sell-out, the 500 plus KSR remote, I mean, WOW. The BBN may hate this team and be down right now (I just admitted I was) but man, this past week was fun right? It was really really fun.

If you need some more cheering up…

Might I suggest binge-watching The Good Place, an NBC comedy created by the people who did Parks and Rec. I watched the whole first season on Netflix in about four days and found myself laughing so hard at times my roommate knocked on my door to make sure I was okay. I think it’ll raise your spirits. But if you need more, here’s a reminder that at least our football coach isn’t in a terrible Belk commercial and at least our Basketball team didn’t hire strippers.

Happy Sunday and Go Cats!

@savannahpattKSR

 


A “BS Call” Knocked Kentucky out of Field Goal Range

Even though they trailed by one, the Kentucky Wildcats still had a little magic in them with 44 seconds remaining.  Everything that had to happen, happened.

Benny Snell’s 10-yard run got the Wildcats down to the Florida 25, setting up Austin MacGinnis for a 42-yard game-winning field goal attempt.  At the end of the play, a yellow flag was on the ground.

“I was surprised,” Nick Haynes said after the game.  “I didn’t think it was a hold, but I guess he thought something else.  I mean, that’s all I can say about that really.”

The senior team captain was called for a hold that backed up Kentucky to the 45-yard line.  They were able to get MacGinnis a little closer, but 57 yards was still too far.  After the game Haynes still couldn’t believe it was called.

“It’s heartbreaking because you pour your heart out there in the game.  They go down and score.  You get a two-minute opportunity with 49 seconds left.  You drive down the field and you get in position to make a fifth-year senior make a kick that he can make all the time, and then a BS call gets made and that’s just how the game ended.  It sucks, but at the same time we gotta put it behind us and fight next week.”

The loss is not for Haynes to shoulder alone.

“I gave him a hug and said I love him because that’s not– that’s not one play that defines this game,” C.J. Conrad said.  “It’s part of the game, it was just unfortunate timing.”

The timing stinks. The flag stinks. The loss stinks.


This Sucks

© Mark Zerof | Getty

I’ve seen a lot of Kentucky football in my life, but tonight’s collapse might be the worst of all. The Cats went into the fourth quarter with a 27-14 lead, and just when you felt like it was too good to be true, it was. Slowly but surely, the Cats fell apart. Florida’s backup quarterback did what backup quarterbacks do to Kentucky: picked the Cats apart and exposed the flaws. Hope hung on in forms of big plays, but more often than not, Kentucky shot itself in the foot. As the fourth quarter dragged on, it felt like a slow march towards the inevitable: another loss to Florida. Thirty-one in a row. Just when you thought Sisphyus was going to stay at the top of the hill with that boulder, the football gods kicked it back down.

The Stoops Era has given us so many breakthroughs: a four-year winning streak over South Carolina; big wins over Mississippi State and Vanderbilt; the improbable upset of Louisville; the program’s first bowl game since 2010. However, it’s also given us a litany of costly coaching errors to look back and wonder, “What if?” Tonight’s were the most egregious. Twice, Kentucky left a Florida wide receiver wide open on a touchdown. Both times, it came out of a timeout, meaning the coaches should have had plenty of time to spot the error and call a timeout. They didn’t.

Fourteen points later, Mark Stoops knew he had no one else to blame and shouldered responsibility in the postgame press conference. Yes, there were other mistakes — the missed field goals, the holding penalty on Nick Haynes on what would have been a first down to set Austin MacGinnis perfectly for the game-winning kick — but if you’re like me, that fourth quarter was excruciating because you knew exactly what was going to happen. It was like being forced to watch a horror movie with your eyes open. With the SEC Network forcing us to relive history after every commercial break, it’s no wonder the actual ghosts of UK Football didn’t rise up from the field and finish it themselves.

Heartbreaking losses lead to hyperbole, so excuse my next rant. Perhaps it’s our cursed nature, but didn’t tonight feel a little too big for us? Kentucky was the better team. The atmosphere was the best it ever was, the offense was rolling, and for once, bless our hearts, we thought we had a chance of exorcising some 30-year-old demons. Unfortunately, the moment got too big and the team shot itself in the foot. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

The mistakes suck. The penalties suck. The result sucks. But the worst part of it for me is the dread I felt in the fourth quarter. No matter what fantastic thing Stephen Johnson or Benny Snell or Josh Allen did tonight, it will be remembered as Kentucky’s 31st loss to Florida. Florida was not the best team on the field. The Cats showed time and time again they were better than the Gators, but whether it be emotion, fate, or downright luck, it didn’t matter. The boulder has rolled down the hill, and here we are.

It sucks.


I can’t do it anymore.

Saturday’s loss was the last one that will break my spirits. It was the last time I walked out of Kroger Field with my heart ripped to shreds. From now on, my expectations for Kentucky football in big games will be lower than the Cats’ win percentage against the Gators.

I’ll continue to be a fan — that’ll never change — but you won’t catch me getting too excited before any of the so-called “program-changing” games. I’ll simply expect a loss, because that is all I’ve ever seen when I get my hopes up for something special.

I’m afraid I’m not alone, too. This feeling is probably pretty common around Big Blue Nation right now. We get fired up and we get excited and we spend the entire week saying “THIS IS THE YEAR,” but it’s not the year. It’s never been the year and it may never be the year when it comes to the Florida game. I’m not even sure Kentucky has won ANY of its big games when there is so much excitement and so much to gain. The best wins are the wins that come unexpectedly (see Roark, Matt); but when we go in with plans to storm the field or do something exceptional, we leave with our heads down in defeat.

And it sucks.

Being a Kentucky football fan is a lot like being a boxer who keeps getting knocked down, but climbs back up only to be knocked down again. This time, however, we are down for the count. Throw in the towel. Stop the fight. There’s no energy left to grab the ropes and pull ourselves back up to take another punch. Leave us lying here on the mat in the puddle of our own sweat and blood. We’re knocked out this time.

The good news is the season will go on and there are still plenty of opportunities for it to be a great year for the Cats — and I hope it will. All most of us wanted through four weeks was to be 3-1, and that’s what the record says as of today.

But these big home games, I’m done getting so emotionally invested in them. I can’t do it anymore. Kentucky football is going to be the death of me if I do.


The Kentucky Offense Collapsed When it Took the Ball Out of Stephen Johnson’s Hands

A second half offensive lull killed Kentucky’s chances of putting Florida away for good.

When Kentucky took a 24-14 lead with 5:54 remaining in the third quarter, the offense was imposing its will on Florida from all angles, especially in the passing game.  Stephen Johnson was 13-of-17 for 165 yards and three touchdowns.

Instead of sticking with Stephen Johnson, Eddie Gran turned to the running game.

The next UK offensive drive ended with a three and out.  A fourth down defensive stop gave the UK offense the ball on the Florida 49-yard line.  Five plays later, UK settled for a field goal.  On UK’s next offensive possession there was another three and out.

Johnson dropped back to pass just three times between the 5:54 mark of the third quarter and the beginning of the game’s final drive with 43 seconds remaining.  Two of the three passes were third down incompletions; the other was a second down sack.

After the game, I asked offensive coordinator Eddie Gran if they should have put the ball in Johnson’s hands more during that stretch.

“No,” he said without hesitation.  “When we rush the ball, and if you’re the team that rushes the ball more, you usually win in this league.  We were trying to get ’em.  We had some pretty good explosive run plays.  No, I don’t at all.

“We’re going to run the ball too.  We’re going to pass the ball too.  I thought we were balanced for awhile.  I thought we had ’em off balanced.  I thought he (Johnson) played a heck of a game.  We have to be physical and we have to help our defense too.  We can’t go three and out, three and out, three and out.  We’re going to continue to run the football when we feel like we need to run the football.”

Gran felt like the team needed to run the football.  From the stands, it felt like the Kentucky offense was playing not to lose.


September 23rd, 2017

Stoops accepts blame for two touchdowns by uncovered Florida receivers

Several mistakes led to Kentucky’s collapse vs. Florida tonight, but none more so than the Cats leaving two Gators wide receivers wide open on fourth down coming out of timeout. Both plays resulted in touchdowns for Florida, and ultimately, led to Kentucky’s loss. In his postgame press conference, Mark Stoops took full responsibility for the errors.

“There is probably one of 12 plays in there that changed the game. It’s very disappointing that we didn’t come up with those plays. The breakdown in communication defensively on the two [touchdown] plays are really a sore spot because they stick out and it takes away from the great passion and energy that our team played with.  We played winning football and we have to get those things fixed. I accept responsibility for those.”

What happened on the first uncovered receiver situation?

“By the time we realized there was nobody on him, I tried to call a timeout. I was too late. I was fractions off of getting the timeout.”

Football is game of inches, but tonight, it was a game of paper cuts. Those two mistakes will haunt us for a while.