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September 25th, 2016

South Carolina victory was bigger than a tick in the win column

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

After an ugly 0-2 start to the season, a good chunk of the BBN felt the need to jump off the Stoops train, calling for his termination and protesting the remainder of the season. There was little to be optimistic about.

The New Mexico State win was pretty on the offensive side of the ball, but an atrocious outing on defense, on top of the first two games, made many (most) call UK’s defense one of the worst in the entire nation. On College GameDay yesterday morning, Lee Corso emphasized the Wildcats may have the “worst defense in the history of football.” Ouch.

South Carolina was a must win, just to give optimism for the remainder of the season more than anything. They weren’t the strongest of SEC foes, but they were respectable, and carried a whole lot more weight than victories against teams like NMSU. UK went in with a two-game win streak against the Gamecocks, and a victory would push them back to .500.

It didn’t matter how it happened, it didn’t matter how ugly it was or how slow the game was, UK just had to come out on top in the end. And that’s exactly what they did.

Media had positive things to write about rather than negative. UK wasn’t the laughingstock of college football for the first time in five games. The victory itself was nice.

But after the game, it was different. There was a resurgence of the fan base, more than any other typical victory. The team, coaches, and fans were all desperate for this one, and it felt like an abundance of pressure, especially for Stoops, was (slightly) lifted.

This game gave fans a spark of hope. The defense that has been heavily criticized in the first quarter of the season managed to find a few niches to hang on to going forward. The offense converted on South Carolina’s mistakes, chipped time away off the clock, and produced long drives to give the defense much needed rest. There were key aspects on both sides of the ball for fans to look forward to, maybe not against Alabama, but against the other mortal teams on the docket for the the remainder of the year.

UK found their go-to guys on offense

As far as individual efforts go, Boom Williams and Benny Snell take the co-offensive MVPs on the day. UK has finally found a reliable one-two punch on the ground. We all knew Boom’s ability. The kid is elusive, has unbelievable vision to cut through blockers and find even the smallest of gaps to bounce through, and hits a third and fourth gear that not many can catch. He’s a superstar, and will likely go down in history as one of the best backs UK has ever had.

Beyond Boom, Kentucky has struggled to find a reliable back. Jojo Kemp has had his moments, especially in his time in the WildKemp as the Gamecock killer. Mikel Horton has shown flashes, Siheim King as well, but UK needed something more. That something ended up being true freshman Benny Snell.

Snell dominated last week against New Mexico State, rushing for four touchdowns and 136 yards on the ground. He quickly became a fan favorite, but most limited their expectations for the future due to the quality of opponent being so low. When Benny Snell got the call in the second half against South Carolina, he (literally) put the team on his back and carried them to the finish line. He’s a bulldozer, has an incredible first step, and his legs just never stop churning for the extra yard. He’s the power back Kentucky hasn’t had in who knows how many years, and man is it great to finally find one. After just two games on the field, he leads the SEC in touchdown runs with five, and has accumulated over 200 yards on the ground. Oh yeah, and we’ll still have him for three more years.

With Drew Barker out for an extended period of time, Stephen Johnson could use all the help he can get from other weapons to keep the offense’s production up. Luckily for him, UK found them.

Defense got off the field on third down

We’ll start with this: talent has never been the “problem” with the defense. I said it at the beginning of the season, and I stand by my word four games later, this is the most talent that has ever been on a Kentucky roster at any given time. That’s what has made this season such a disappointment.

That being said, that talent was finally put to light tonight, and they played up to their potential. They played with swagger and heart, and it immediately transformed the look of the defense.

Denzil Ware and Jordan Jones absolutely dominated on the field. Each of them flew around and made some huge hits on crucial downs. Towards the end of the game, when UK would give up the big play in most years, these two helped get the defense off the field with some terrific pass rushes and tackles in the backfield. The staff wanted heart out of the defense, they got it out of Ware and Jones.

USC went after Derrick Baity a good bit, and the young corner delivered. He made a few mistakes, but more than made up for it with lockdown coverage and a few pass breakups throughout the game. Solid outing from the entire secondary.

The DL also made a great push on the QB, something we have rarely seen thus far in the season. Josh Allen played out of his mind, and lived up to the hype as Jason Hatcher’s replacement this offseason.

As a team, UK limited the Gamecocks to just 3-13 on third down, a statistic that just doesn’t even seem possible given the past few weeks. USC accumulated just 177 yards passing, a season low, and just 16 first downs on offense. The Wildcats also sacked the quarterback four times, a season high.

Swaggy defense=good defense.

Special teams did their part

Let’s just take a minute to salute the entire special teams unit yesterday. We saw some bombs by Grant McKinnis to pin USC back near their own end zone, including one 53-yard boot. Austin MacGinniss sent some kickoffs back for touchbacks, and those that weren’t, the kickoff team laid the wood on some big hits to force the Gamecocks into long drives. UK got saved with a flag when USC returned a punt for a TD, but other than that slip up, the entire unit was solid. For a team that was so atrocious in this area in recent history (thanks backwards hat guy), they’ve been fairly consistent this season.

Team morale started high, finished higher

I won’t go into anything in particular, but I was really surprised with how well the team came out and fought last night, considering the garbage being thrown around throughout the morning and into the pregame coverage. In most cases, ugly “things” being discussed spark divide in locker rooms, player tension, etc., and I truthfully thought it would set the team back, at least slightly.

UK instead went in there, dismissed what was being said behind closed doors and stood behind their coach, and managed to get the job done. After the game, many of the players, Matt Elam in particular, went to social media to defend their coach and teammates.

It’s hard not to stand behind a coach that will rip a new one in a referee in support of his players:

 

Stoops still has a lot of work to be done, but he earned a hell of a lot of respect from me yesterday in the way he carried himself during the game and with the media following the victory.

Speaking of the head ball coach:

Stoops easily coached his best game of the season, possibly career

Give credit where credit is due: In a very possible “win-or-go-home” game for Stoops, he showed his ability as a coach, and really made some impressive calls out there. I’m not willing to say this was his best all-around coaching effort, but this one was up there. Pull off performances like this every week, Stoops keeps his job for the long haul, and I’m not sure anyone would be upset by it.

Outside of Stoops, Eddie Gran did a fantastic job as a game manager. The offense didn’t put up impeccable numbers, but against a fairly stout Carolina defense, they more than held their own. At times, there wasn’t anything the Gamecocks could do to stop UK’s offensive attack, and I put that solely on Gran’s ability. I think Kentucky finally found their guy in Eddie Gran.

I’ll openly admit it, I’m not a DJ Eliot fan, haven’t been for two years now, but he did a solid job last night as well. The called blitzes worked, the 4-3 switches stopped the run, and (aside from a few ugly plays) the team tackled fairly well. Denzil Ware said following the defense’s success had everything to do with motivation, but I’ll tip my hat to Eliot as well. Nice work.

Overall, it was a great team win, and there is a good bit to be optimistic about going forward. The term “must win” gets thrown around far too often, but this was without a doubt the perfect example of it. It wasn’t the prettiest, the team made a few costly mistakes, but they got the job done and came out on top.

 

Four more. Please.

 

@JackPilgrimKSR


UK Men’s Soccer knocks off #21 New Mexico

 

(@UKMensSoccer Twitter)

(@UKMensSoccer Twitter)

After a thriller of a matchup last season, UK and New Mexico played in another tight match this season, with the Wildcats coming out on top, 1-0. Last year, it took over 108 minutes for the only goal of the game to be scored, when Stefan Stojkovic gave the Cats the 2OT victory. This season, while the score was the same, UK found the back of the net much earlier.

Noah Hutchins scored his third goal of the season just over five minutes into the game on the assist from Charlie Reymann.

This win takes UK’s record to 5-2-1 on the year, and 1-1-0 in Conference USA. Tonight was definitely a big win going forward in conference play for the Wildcats. Hopefully, the can keep this momentum going in their games against Lipscomb and Charlotte later this week.

Take a minute and watch the highlights and post-game interview with sophomore goalkeeper Stuart Ford courtesy of KYWildcatsTV:

 

 


Lexington’s dancing cop will put a smile on your face

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The Lexington Police Department has a dancing cop and he was caught on video while directing traffic on Tates Creek Road over the weekend.

Watch as Officer BJ Blank puts some enthusiasm (and moves) into his job in one of those videos that’ll make you smile no matter your mood:


Cats in the NFL: Week 3 Edition

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Since Wesley Woodyard was elected into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame this weekend, let’s start with his and Avery Williamson’s game for the Titans. Tennessee fell to the Oakland Raiders by the score of 17-10. Woodyard accumulated 3 tackles, while Williamson racked up 9 tackles and had an interception as well.

Randall Cobb had his least productive week of this short season today against the Lions. Despite the fact that the Packers put up 34 points, Cobb only managed one catch for 33 yards.

Za’Darius Smith is still struggling to rack up big numbers for the Ravens in his second year out of Lexington. Today he recorded 3 tackles, equaling his total from Weeks 1 and 2 combined. His three tackles were enough to help Baltimore pick up the W in Jacksonville over the Jags.

Corey Peters had two tackles for the Cardinals today in their loss to the Buffalo Bills, in one of the more surprising results from today’s slate of games.

Jacob Tamme and the Atlanta Falcons take on the New Orleans Saints tomorrow night in Monday Night Football. Tamme has had two solid games this season, so he’ll look to continue to rack up the yards in Week 3. (Or at least I hope so, for my fantasy football team’s sake)


Can we keep the Boom and Snell 1-2 punch, please?

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Boom Williams and Benny Snell were the show last night, there’s no denying it.

Boom started us off. With 50 yards in 10 carries in the first half and then the go-ahead TD in the third quarter.

We knew what we were getting with Boom going into the season. We knew that he was explosive and had the power and speed to make the big plays.  Once he finds a hole, he’s gone. There’s no stopping him.

Against New Mexico State last week Boom rushed for 181 yards with 1 TD, taking a slight backseat to Snell in his breakout performance.

Boom is like a starting pitcher. You send him out in the beginning of the game to get things going. You trust him go out and get the job done.

On the other hand, Benny Snell is your closer. He’s who you bring in if you get in trouble, or just need to secure a win. He’s can power through anyone and has the ability to seemingly move mountains or, in this case, an entire defensive line.

And that’s exactly what happened last night. Boom got us started off with some big carries and brought us home, but it was Snell who brought home the win with the game-winning touchdown in the opening of the forth quarter.

On that drive, Snell rushed the ball on every snap moving the team down the field for 65 yards. On the last play, Snell took the ball out of the Wildcat, broke a tackle at the 5-yard line and was home free for the end-zone.

Together the two rushed for 200 yards, Boom with 123 and Snell with 77. Going forward, Eddie Gran has almost no choice but to keep the 1-2 punch, opener and closer combo of Boom and Snell – maybe adding JoJo Kemp into the mix as he continues to make his way back. Whatever he does, he just needs to keep that combo moving.

#BoomSnell2016


The Reds Report: September 25

votto

USA TODAY-Sports

usa-today-9197670-0The Cincinnati Reds season is quickly coming to an end. After today’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers the club has just seven games remaining. The past week was a struggle, and it was a reminder to all fans of the issues that have plagued this team in 2016. Earlier in the week, the Reds were swept by the Chicago Cubs by a combined score of 20-5. The Reds were able to bounce back and take two out of three from the Milwaukee Brewers this weekend.

Let’s get to this week’s Reds Report.

1. It’s hard to write or even think about baseball today without thinking of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez. News broke early Sunday morning that the twenty-four-year-old was killed in a boating accident. On the field, Fernandez was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. His stuff was electric, and he always displayed an infectious joy. Details remain sparse, but this is one of the most significant tragedies to hit MLB in some time.

Jeff Passan wrote about Fernandez’s climb from Cuban immigrant to major league superstar in an article entitled “The American Dream.” C. Trent Rosecrans looked at several Reds players who had strong ties to Fernandez, and how they were handling the news.

There is no easy way to transition from this story to the normal events of a week in baseball. Jose Fernandez will be missed.

2. The Reds kept setting records this week. As you can imagine, they weren’t the good kind of records.

3. One of the biggest questions facing the Cincinnati Reds in 2017 is what to do with Jesse Winker. There was a time when Winker was considered to be the Reds left fielder of the future. However, the emergence of other options have left that conclusion in doubt. Zach Buchanan took some time this week to ask “Where does Jesse Winker fit in?

4. Another major question for the Reds as this season concludes is what to do with Brandon Phillips. 2017 will be the final year of Phillips’ six-year contract, and it’s likely Cincinnati could try and move him in the offseason. The team attempted to trade Phillips prior to the 2016 season, but he vetoed a trade to Washington. Phillips has put together a nice second-half at the plate, and it’s possible a team could look at him as a short term upgrade with an expiring contract. Mark Sheldon of MLB.com broke down Cincinnati’s in-house options if they move BP.

5. In sports, success is usually defined by wins and losses. Yet each year there are a handful of teams clearly out of contention from the beginning of the season. Most analysts put the Reds in this category prior to the season. Does the fact that the Reds weren’t going to win a title mean they couldn’t succeed this year? Over at Red Reporter, I took some time to assess whether or not the 2016 Reds season could be called a success. Specifically, did the Reds take the necessary steps to upgrade the roster and get closer to contention?

6. One thing is for sure. The future looks bright with Jose Peraza in the Reds lineup. The twenty-two-year-old rookie hit his third home run of the season against Milwaukee this weekend. For the season, Peraza is now hitting .330/.354/.425.

To close out the season the Reds will play four in St. Louis, followed by a three game series with the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park. As of Sunday afternoon the Cardinals were half a game back of a Wild Card spot. Cincinnati has the opportunity to play spoiler for their division rival in the early part of the week.

You can follow the Reds all season long, and Eric’s other writing, at Red Reporter.


Week Four College Football Recap

 

Courtesy: USA Today Sports

Courtesy: USA Today Sports

 

Alabama 48 Kent State 0

Nick Saban welcomed in his alma matar with a 48 point beatdown. The story of the game is the injury to RB Damien Harris. This something that you never want to see. Harris is a player that Kentucky fans know well and should hate to see it. The Tide welcome in the Cats next week for a game under the lights in Tuscaloosa.

Ole Miss 45 Georgia 14

Chad Kelly passed for 282 yards and rushed for 53 to combine for 3 touchdowns in a huge win for Ole Miss. It was the largest win over a ranked opponent for the Rebels. They led the game 45-0 midway through the 3rd quarter before giving up two late touchdowns. The Bulldogs welcome in Tennessee next week, while Ole Miss will try and get revenge against Memphis.

Tennessee 38 Florida 28

Tennessee scored 38 unanswered points to help lead the Vols to a huge comeback victory against the Gators. Joshua Dobbs finally showed his true form by passing for 319 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Vols will hope to continue on the winning track in Athens next week, while Florida will visit Vanderbilt.

Mississippi State 47 UMass 35

Mississippi State trailed at the half by one before turning it on in the second half to win 47-35. Nick Fitzgerald passed for 299 yards for 3 touchdowns, while also rushing for 110. Mississippi State has a well needed bye next week before playing Auburn on October 7th.

Missouri 79 Delaware State 0

This wasn’t even close. Drew Lock passed for 402 yards and 5 touchdowns leading the Tigers to 51 first half points. The teams agreed to play two 10 minutes quarters at halftime and for the Hornets, this was a great call. Missouri now will head to LSU to see if they can continue their hot offense.

Vanderbilt 31 Western Kentucky 30 (OT)

Vanderbilt scored a touchdown on the last play of regulation and intercepted the Hilltoppers 2-pt conversion attempt in Overtime. The Tops had multiple turnovers that ended up costing them the game. Ralph Webb was a difference maker as he rushed for 95 yards and 3 touchdowns. Vanderbilt welcomes in Florida next week, while WKU welcomes in Houston Baptist.

Auburn 18 LSU 13

The last play of the game has everyone talking. Danny Etling threw a touchdown pass with no time remaining and LSU believed they had won. After reviewing the play, the referee noticed that LSU did not get the play off in time and Auburn won the game. Daniel Carlson kicked 6 field goals in the Auburn win. Auburn welcomes in UL-Monore, while LSU welcomes in Missouri.

Note: This was my favorite play of the weekend. Check it out below.

Texas A&M 45 Arkansas 24

Trevor Knight continued to be extremely impressive this year as he passed for 225 yards and rushed for 157. Knight had touchdown runs of 42 and 48 and passing touchdowns of 92 and 9. For Arkansas, Austin Allen passed for 371 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Razorbacks welcome in Alcorn State next week, while Texas A&M visits South Carolina.

Wisconsin 30 Michigan State 6

Yup, I was wrong about this one. Michigan State seemed to not even show up to the stadium as Wisconsin destroyed the Spartans. The Wisconsin defense forced four turnovers including a 66 yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. In fact, it was such a one-sided game, that the play everyone is talking about is from above. Michigan State head coach, Mark Dantonio seems to disappear somehow.

Louisville 59 Marshall 28

Yeah, Lamar Jackson is really good. He passed for 417 yards and 5 touchdowns, while “only” adding 62 yards on the ground and 2 touchdowns. The picture above does show what a fantastic environment that Marshall created. I love the “stripe the stands” effect and would love to see the Cats try it for a game this year. Let me know in the comments if you would support Kentucky trying a checkerboard/stripes pattern for a future game.


Latest report card gives UK’s defense a high grade

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

For a defense that has been nothing but criticized for the entirety of the season, UK’s performed exceptionally well last night. So well, in fact, to earn an A on SEC Country’s latest report card.

The reasoning:

“The Wildcats defense was absent for three weeks but showed up against the Gamecocks. UK held South Carolina to just 268 yards of offense on 2.6 yards per carry. Stopping the run put pressure on freshman QB Brandon McIlwain. That’s just what the Wildcats wanted.

D.J. Eliot’s defense entered the matchup ranked 127th (out of 128 FBS teams) in opponent third down conversion rates. UK was allowing opposing offenses to convert 58 percent of third downs. South Carolina was 3 of 13 (23 percent) on third downs Saturday.”

There’s no doubt that UK’s defense stepped it up big time last night. South Carolina’s offense isn’t the most highly touted defense in the SEC, but hey, improvement is improvement. We were able to stop South Carolina’s run and actually put pressure on their quarterback. Alabama next week will be ridiculously tough, but it’ll be interesting to see how the defense does against the number 1 team in the nation.


Les Miles and OC out, D-Line coach in

AP Photo

AP Photo

Just a bit ago, Ross Dellenger of The Advocate, reported that Les Miles and his offensive coordinator Cam Cameron were both out at LSU.

The termination of both Miles and Cameron came after last night’s crazy loss to Auburn. LSU thought they had a game-winning touchdown in the final second, but the call was reversed when officials concluded that the Tigers had not snapped the ball off in time.

In the meantime, LSU’s defensive line coach, Ed Orgeron has been offered the interim head coach position.

(Dellenger 100% should’ve pulled an Alan Cutler and chased both of them into the facility)

And let the #LesMilesToKentucky stuff begin….


The Unofficial Top 3 Third Down Defense Hype Songs

 

Photo: UK Athletics

Photo: UK Athletics

Last night, UK football finally picked up some momentum, especially on the defensive end. Going from allowing 42 points against New Mexico State to holding an SEC offense to just 10 is a huge step in the right direction, not just for the team, but for the fans. When a stadium can unite, players and fans, to build to a crescendo on every third down, that’s a recipe for a big stop. Part of that crescendo is the music.

So, here is my unofficial ranking of the top 3 third down defense hype songs:

3. Hells Bells, AC/DC

Classic, classic hype song. If you came to me today and said that this song should’ve been number one, I wouldn’t argue too much.

It just starts too slow. They have to cut out half of the bells in the intro or else the ball would get snapped mid-chime. And post bells, the song doesn’t ramp up quickly enough. So for that, it ranks third.

2. Guerilla Radio, Rage Against The Machine

Just like disco, rap-rock has gone the way of the dodo. That’s too bad, because this song hits the ground running and never stops. If anything, in contrast to Hells Bells, it moves a hair too fast.

If rap-rock were still a big deal, this song would be number 1. Unfortunately, that ship sailed like 15 years ago, so alas, my personal favorite sits in second place.

1. For Whom The Bell Tolls, Metallica

The superior song with bells. UK Football likes to double down on the Metallica, but this gem shines above fellow 3rd down anthem Ride the Lightning.

Perfectly paced for pumping up the crowd, with only two bell rings before the big guitar drop, For Whom The Bell Tolls is the quintessential 3rd down hype song.

 

Any suggestions for a new song that Commonwealth Stadium should break out on 3rd downs?

 

@JayWinkKSR


Mark Stoops got his first ‘trailing at the half’ win last night

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One not surprising but unknown fact is that last night’s win was Mark Stoops first win when trailing at halftime. Before that, Stoops had lost 23 (yes, 23) games when the Cats were down entering the second half.

Most notable of those 23 losses are last year’s Auburn and Vanderbilt, Louisville from 2014, and Florida of, well, every year.

Last night was a huge win for Stoops after all the doubts from the first couple games of the season. Any win against an SEC game at home, especially one you’re favored in, is a must-win. But knowing this Stoops first time coaching the Cats from a first half deficit makes the win even more meaningful. Half-time adjustments were evident last night, so maybe we are heading in the right direction after all.

Congrats, Coach.


Eddie Gran a possible replacement at FIU for Ron Turner?

gran5

 

This morning, Florida International University fired Ron Turner as their head coach after a 0-4 start, according to Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman. Turner was never able to get the ball rolling at FIU and the dismal start to the season was just icing on the cake for the FIU Athletics Department.

Following his report of Turner’s termination, Feldman came out with some interesting prospects for the new opening at FIU and UK’s own Eddie Gran made the list.

Others who are also prospects for the job at Butch Davis, former Miami Head Coach; Manny Diaz, Miami’s defensive coordinator; and Jedd Fisch of Michigan.

It’s a long shot, but I’m starting to like Eddie Gran and this program doesn’t need to lose another OC.


FINAL DAY: All Things BLUE Sale at the KSR Shop!

allthingsblue_ksr

Today is the final day for the All Things BLUE Sale at the KSR Shop. Remember, anything that has BLUE on it is 20% OFF at ShopKSR.com.

Come check out our blue KSR hats, blue UK t-shirts, and much more. All you have to do is enter promo code ALLTHINGSBLUE on ShopKSR.com to receive this great offer.  Hurry tell your family and friends before this great deal ends at midnight!

 

All Things BLUE Sale at the KSR Shop!


Everything Mark Stoops Said After the Game

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Good effort by all three sides. I thought our offense made tough first downs, tough yards when they needed to. Late in the game they protected the football. We need to clean it up and have a couple that we need to stay away from. Defensively it came down to third downs again. Getting them to Second and long, third and long and getting off the field. We’re 3-13 and that’s the game for us. We have really not been executing and not playing to our potential on third downs.

When you can get off the field, you limit your opportunities, yards and points.

It was a really good team victory. I’m proud of those guys. It’s really important for us to play well this weekend when we honor the four gentlemen that we did on Thursday. And to have the Hall of Fame weekend, I have great respect for all of those people.

That’s the way this football team needs to play, with that passion and energy that every fan expects, that we expect and that we will do. These guys mean well. We had work to do and have work to do and we’ll continue to work at it. They come to work. They have accepted it and they looked in the mirror. You can’t change the past, but we can certainly change our future and push forward.

Really it just feels good to get to .500. Again, it wasn’t the start we wanted, we can’t change the past, but we can learn from our mistakes and push on. We’re excited to get on to the next opportunity and next week will be a real challenge.
Did you see the defense respond what you said on Wednesday and in the next practices or was it just the game?
I did, I did. I just wasn’t going to let them accept it on Wednesday. It wasn’t that — but it’s not okay. The way we have been playing, it’s not okay. Every opportunity we go out there is to get better. We don’t go out there just to kill time. When I see some of it, they mean well, they just need to push. And we need the discipline. We need to approach every practice and every play, because you never know what one play is going to make a difference in a game. I think our approach has been better.

Did you have a player or two step over?
I think I could just see it with all of them. I really could. I don’t know, but it really appeared to me that the guys up front played tougher tonight. I know Alvonte made a couple critical plays. In the past couple games, in third and medium, when we were getting some good pressure, I knew they would come to some runs at some point. He made a great play on the third and medium, a really disciplined play, and that was big. He made a few plays that stood out to me. Courtney had some good pressures and the guys off the edges had some good rushes as well.

It all starts up there. Those guys have to play with that attitude, that technique and be that precise all the time. There were still things in there. There were things that we blew. We gave them, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, we didn’t execute on the third down that gave them the three points. That’s not okay.

What is it that Benny Snell gives you that maybe other running backs don’t?
Obviously, he’s physical. He’s a strong guy. Boom is super explosive and can take it the distance at any time, but Benny’s a little different change up. He has really good vision, really good patience and he’s very strong.

Does your style kind of allow to you use him in a closer role, almost?
It does. Yes. In critical situations those are tough yards. We all know that certain games are going to come down to very close calls and inches. It was nice to see our O-line get that fourth down right there and not have to go back on the field. That’s the way you want it. He can get us that.

Did your secondary answer the bell tonight?
They did. They were much sharper. Those were the guys that I’ve been leaning on because we need to play better and they played a lot better today.

Your biggest win since you’ve been here?
They’re tough. It’s not an easy business. That’s okay, we know what we’re in for and it’s a big win. I guess you could say that. We’re in year four and we all know what comes with it. The heat’s always on and so it comes with the territory. So it was a needed win, yes.

At one point Stephen was 7-8 and you were 1-6 on third down, were you trying not to put too much burden on his shoulder?
He missed the one third down, I want to say, over the middle. We thought it was open and he overthrew it and got the interception. Some of it was protection. I thought late in the game we had a third down that we had schemed up pretty good, we thought it was there, and I don’t know if his vision was bad or protection broke down, but he pulled it down. I think he was wanting to be careful with the football at that point also.

How do you evaluate him?
I’ll have to watch the film. I know he made plays when he had to.

How big was his scramble to get down to the one on that possession?
That was very big. That’s what you guys know we have seen people do that to us. It’s a back breaker when you have things covered or you get some good pressure and a guy pulls it down and scrambles and make that first down. It hurts your defense. It was big for us. It was a smart decision and good vision by him and a good run.

Is this the best game that Denzil Ware has played?
It looked like he played solid to me. He missed one, you’ll probably see it on TV, I was chewing his butt during the game. He lost some leverage on a swing that we had corrected at halftime on some things. A couple things I noticed are when we got him behind the chains, he was very physical on the counter and that had been hurting us earlier in the year.  Some things we cleaned up and he made one play in particular I know that got him to second and long on a counter that he was very physical.

Could you sense that the —
The coverage I thought was big on the third on the sprint out. He got that corrected from me chewing his ear off and then he was out there and made a nice play in the flat.

You say the ceremony had an impact on your guys?
I think it did. I really do. I think that was very important for us, the courage of those guys and what they have done. Knowing the difference between right and wrong and that those guys really made a stand, a difference and had an impact on a lot of people’s lives. They taught others at that time and are still teaching today. It was very important for our team and myself to be there and we have great respect for those gentlemen and the inductees as well.

Any significant injuries?
I don’t think so.

Did you have Wesley try to go in and talk to the team beforehand?

I told them when I went out there that I wanted him to and I couldn’t find him. I would have loved him to talk to the team before hand and I told them that as soon as he went on the field. I hoped he was around there getting them jacked up because I wanted him to be there.


Cats Called Out, Respond with a Win

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

Hot air was blowing outside Commonwealth Stadium. Inside, a ticked-off group of Wildcats played their guts out to beat South Carolina 17-10. Carolina punched; the Cats punched back. Let’s take a look:

OFFENSE

— Kentucky racked up 351 total yards in spite of a minus 2 turnover margin while going up against the Southeastern Conference’s 4th best scoring defense. RBs Boom Williams, JoJo Kemp, and freshman sensation Benny Snell Jr. are proving to be a formidable trio. Williams went over 100 yards for the second time this season by rushing for 123 yards off 15 carries. Snell again seemed invincible and stubborn to be tackled by racking up 77 tough, physical yards. Kemp provided spark and a breather with 4 carries for 16 yards.

— Stephen Johnson was sacked 4 times but completed 11 passes for 135 yards. His steady impact was mostly felt in the Run/Pass/Option scheme through quick decisions and persistency. UK did not attempt a 4th quarter pass as it buckled down in the run game. This offensive philosophy change seemed to work well.

— UK won the time of possession battle 32:40 to 27:20. Third downs were not pleasant: 4/13. But, it converted a crucial 4th down to seal the win late in the 4th quarter.

— During the game I received several messages that the offensive line struggled. In actuality, UK rotated several front-line players while physically wearing down a good South Carolina front seven. One grouping included true freshman Landon Young, redshirt freshman Logan Stenberg as well as sophomores Bunchy Stallings and George Asafo Adjei. It faced a salty, veteran group. Overall, the OL played an operative football game.

— South Carolina came into Saturday allowing a 31% touchdown ratio in the Red Zone. Kentucky was 50% for the night as it scored on a WildSnell, 1-yard TD run.

— Kentucky rushed the football 50 times for 216 yards. My priority key to the game was for the Cats to rush for 200. Check.

— Turnovers continue to be this team’s own worst enemy. Kayaune Ross fumbled a Stephen Johnson pass in the first quarter which could have taken the wind out of the Big Blue sails. It didn’t. Johnson later overshot a wide open receiver which resulted in his first thrown interception of his career.

— This team’s lack of offensive physicality was called out during many pregame television shows. Kentucky countered by exercising a rugged, 2nd half game plan.

 

Pic by TheState.com

Pic by TheState.com

DEFENSE

We often discussed that either the Kentucky defense or the South Carolina offense were going to uncharacteristically win the football game. Chalk this matchup to the Cats’ D. It held Carolina to just 268 total yards (287-avg) and impressively stopped the Gamecocks on 3rd down by forcing punts or 4th down attempts on 3/13 occasions. Credit is due to the front seven. Yes, that same front seven that has taken an absolute beating by media and fans alike.

— UK’s defensive linemen had not registered a QB sack going into Saturday. DE Alvonte Bell and NT Naquez Pringle were both credited with one each. NT Matt Elam joined Denzil Ware for another. The DL answered the bell and criticism by playing their best football of the season. Much like their offensive line counterparts, Mark Stoops rotated defensive linemen on a regular basis.

— Linebackers are expected to make the majority of tackles in the 3-4 defense. LBs Jordan Jones, Josh Allen, Courtney Love, and Denzil Ware did just that. Ware sacked QB Brandon Mcllwain twice. He added 2 tackles for loss while totaling 5 tackles. Josh Allen played his best game as a Wildcat by accumulating 1 QB sack, 1 tackle for loss, and 7 tackles. Jordan Jones continues to be the heart and soul of the defense by leading it in tackles with 8.

— DEs Courtney Miggins and Alvonte Bell decreased containment errors that have plagued in 2016. Both stretched the option and managed to limit Mcllwain’s running lanes as the true freshman signal caller finished with 13 rushes for 41 yards. Miggins and Bell were obviously the two most improved defensive players on Saturday.

— The secondary was solid. It did break down on one zone coverage bust that allowed a free roaming Hayden Hurst for a long gain. QB Brandon Mcllwain finished the night 15-30, 177 yards, 0 TDs through the air.

— Defense played fast and intentional

— Mark Stoops coached his rear-end off. I’m happy for him and his coaching staff. Adjustments were made, mistakes corrected, and attitudes altered.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker Austin MacGinniss found his range by nailing a 30-yard field goal, his first of the season. True freshman punter Grant McKinniss continued to be consistent by averaging 40.8 yards per kick. Coverage teams were sufficient, but did allow a punt return for a touchdown that was nullified due to a block in the back penalty.

 

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

What does all this mean?

I totally understand that South Carolina is not Alabama, Florida, or Tennessee. But, after the game, I saw a happy group of Wildcats meet and greet appreciative fans on their walk from the stadium to the new training facility. This team responded after being continually beaten down by their own fanbase, on message boards, blogs, talk shows, social media, and so forth. National talking heads had been equally as brutal. A CBS head, name unknown, referred to UK as a junior college following a lackluster performance in the Swamp. College Gameday’s Lee Corse said, and I paraphrase, that Kentucky’s defense may the worst in the history of football. Perspective=reality; regardless of opponent or situation, an SEC win is a SEC win.

— Yes, Kentucky has surpassed South Carolina in the SEC East. Said it two years ago. Said it last season. Said it again on Saturday. UK has now extended its winning streak to three consecutive victories over the Gamecocks.

— BBN: hats off, kudos, well-done my friends. Students packed their section and were rowdy throughout. I count folks in seats; I don’t fixate on those that are unoccupied.

2-2 is not the start many wanted or predicted. Truth of the matter is that Southern Miss is a much better football team than South Carolina. Remember the uniform sterilization theory that I constantly preach. 3-1 would have been optimal. But that’s not the case nor can history be altered.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and overplay a win over an average football team with the Tuscaloosa Juggernaut on deck; however, UK should celebrate a much needed and hard-fought triumph. Will Kentucky win another game this season? Yes; especially if it plays like it did vs. Carolina. Will UK lose another game in 2016? Yes. But it doesn’t matter what happened before or who-what is next. Mark Stoops’ team tasted success on Saturday night. It’s perfectly ok to savor the moment. Kentucky is 2-2.