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October 20th, 2014

Grading the LSU Experience

beeler stadium pic

Typing this post as I wait for a slashed tire to be changed.  It’s been one of those kind of trips.  But before I turn into negative Nancy, there was still a lot of good stuff from a weekend in Baton Rouge.

Food: A+

My first experience of Cajun food outside of Bourbon N’ Toulousse, I did not receive sufficient warning of what I was getting myself into.  Hands down the best part of the trip was the tasty food.  Fried gator, boudin balls, po’boys.  The taste you can’t get anywhere else.  Now my mouth’s watering and I have to stop, my wallet says so.

Tailgating: A

LSU does all of the things that make you say Why haven’t we tought of that?  Things like stand-alone bathrooms near big lots, washers instead of corn-hole, a field larger than Stoll exclusively for the Greeks, and did a mention the Battleshots?  Take notes people.



The Fans: A

Southerners take pride in their hospitality.  Other than the occasional playful “TIGER BAIT! TIGER BAIT!” people could not have treated us better (even though understanding raspy Cajun was difficult at times).  Most of them were puzzled that we would miss Big Blue Madness for the football game, but the common denominator was simple: food.  From frat guys to old ladies to people you’ve only seen in Swamp People, everyone offered food and advice on the best eats around.  Needless to say, we didn’t go hungry.

These guys were cooler than the other side of the pillow.

These guys were cooler than the other side of the pillow.

It should be noted that the BBN showed out Saturday.  It may not have looked like that inside the stadium, but before the game you couldn’t walk far before running into more blue.  The Catwalk was crazy, with cheers so loud it was vomit-inducing for an LSU child (Linda Blair type stuff).

Downtown: C-

When you come to Baton Rouge you come for LSU football and nothing else.  There were a couple cool places along a four-block strip on 3rd Street, but they barely covered up the eye sores surrounding the place.  More often than not were lots filled with deteriorating buildings from hurricane damage, never repaired. It doesn’t help that this area of the Mississippi is what you consider “industrious.”

Downtown’s saving grace was the bayou marching band taking over the streets to kick off the night.

College Bars: F

The place to-be for LSU students is Tigerland.  The depressing slab of concrete in the middle of nowhere has an exterior reminiscent of the Emporium from Dazed and Confused, making the college bar feel more like an outdated honkytonk.  We lasted in “Mike’s” for all of 25 minutes before the DJ contest forced us out.   Two Keys doesn’t seem so bad after all.

College Campus: B

By far the most beautiful part of town, the scenery is pristine (and I’m not just talking about the women).  Surrounded by lakes, a golf course and beautiful homes, it doesn’t feel like you’re downwind from a smelly Mississippi River.  It was close to 85 degrees at 4:00.  The humidity might have made it miserable, but there are few spaces on campus that aren’t shaded by massive oak trees.

Where LSU’s campus lacks is their school buildings.  Their athletic facilities shine like a silver dollar, but their classroom buildings look about as bad, if not worse, than UK before the Capilouto facelift.  In addition to the aging buildings, they’re very spread out.  Combine the two, and I would never go to class.

College Women: B+


I’m not complaining, but I love my Lexington ladies.

Death Valley: A+

Tiger Stadium lived up to the hype.  The recently remodeled concrete castle is the gold standard of college football coliseums.  The press box area made LP Field look like the minor leagues.  Fans showed up an hour early to get rowdy to “Louisiana Saturday Night” and “Callin’ Baton Rouge.”  And then there was the noise.  The deafening roar pierces your ears like nothing you’ve ever heard.  The roar rumbles Between the Hedges in Athens, but in Death Valley, it crawls up your spine and into your brain.


All in all, aside from typical road trip setbacks, it was a wonderful SEC football experience despite the painful loss.  However, I should reconsider any further trips: I’ve failed to witness a win while being outscored 135-46.  I should stay away from Papa John’s Stadium Thanksgiving weekend.

Dave Baker and Tony Delk will cover basketball for the SEC Network this season

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 3.12.35 PM

Congrats to Dave Baker and Tony Delk, who will cover basketball for the SEC Network this season. Baker joins Dave Neal and Tom Hart as the primary play-by-play commentators, while Tony Delk will be an analyst for SEC Network’s studio coverage. Delk was a guest analyst during ESPNU’s coverage of UK’s NBA Combine back on October 10.

Other SEC Network basketball analysts include Barry Booker, Dane Bradshaw, Joe Dean, Jr., Daymeon Fishback, Darrin Horn, Jon Sundvoid, and Will Perdue.

Latest bowl projections have UK going to either Memphis or Houston

UK’s face plant at LSU hasn’t stopped the prognosticators from putting them in a bowl game. Here are the latest bowl projections from across the web:

Brett McMurphy, ESPN - AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl : Kansas State vs. Kentucky

Mark Schlabach, ESPNAutoZone Liberty Bowl: West Virginia vs. Kentucky

Bill Bender, The Sporting NewsAutoZone Liberty Bowl: Kentucky vs. West Virginia

Houston or Memphis? Memphis with a side of Rendezvous ribs, please.

Bud Dupree, Landon Foster, Darrian Miller & A.J. Stamps named midseason All-SEC by Phil Steele


Congratulations to Bud Dupree, Landon Foster, Darrian Miller and A.J. Stamps on being named midseason All-Southeastern Conference by Phil Steele, or as Matt would say, “Pheal Steal.” All four earned second team honors.

Check out the complete release from UK after the jump.


History needs to repeat itself on Saturday night

Saturday night was depressing any way you look at it, but here’s an encouraging stat from the past to help us turn the page. In 2006, Rich Brooks and the Cats also got routed by LSU 49-0 in Death Valley in the midst of Brooks’ rebuilding effort. The next week, they traveled to Starkville, Mississippi and beat the Bulldogs 34-31. In fact, UK won four straight games after the LSU loss to finish at 7-5 in the regular season, and went on to beat Clemson in the Music City Bowl.

On the Monday before that Mississippi State game, Brooks was asked if he was worried about his team coming out flat after the loss to the Tigers. Eight years later, the current Cats could heed his advice:

“If we are not ready, then something is wrong with us. We are coming off probably our worst game of the year clearly,” Brooks said. “If we want to get to what we announced as our goal at the start of the year, this is a huge game. If you are not excited about this one, then you ought to be playing a different sport.”


Video and transcript from Mark Stoops’ weekly press conference

Transcript after the jump…


Cal visiting Caleb Swanigan today


After dropping the mic at Big Blue Madness, John Calipari traveled to Fort Wayne, Indiana on Monday to visit 2015 center Caleb Swanigan. Swanigan’s high school coach Chris Johnson told the Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts that Calipari is expected to watch Caleb play during the school’s open gym.

Swanigan, considered the third best center in the 2015 class, visited UK for the NBA Combine on October 10 and hosted Calipari on an in-home visit in September. Michigan State is still a heavy favorite in Swanigan’s Crystal Ball, with 85% of the predictions; however, Cal’s been turning on the heat in recent weeks.

Let’s watch him work:

The SEC is reviewing Dorian Baker’s hit on Kendall Beckwith

In his press conference today, Les Miles said he sent the tape of Dorian Baker’s hit on Kendall Beckwith to the league office and they are currently reviewing it. If you missed it, you can see it above.

There’s been a lot of talk as to whether or not it was helmet-to-helmet or targeting, and while I think it was a clean hit, Baker’s trash talking afterwards was pretty immature. After the game, Mark Stoops said he wants toughness and physical plays from his team, but not for selfish reasons:

“I just thought there was a lot of jawing going on at that point. I want toughness and I want physical play, but it can’t be for selfish reasons,” Stoop said. “There was a lot of jawing going on, on the field, and at that point we’ve just got to line up and go play football.”

Moving On To Mississippi State With Mark Stoops


Starting on the wrong foot was a recipe for disaster.

If Stoops has one regret from Saturday, it’s using some trickiness on the opening kickoff, “That’s something that in hindsight we would do differently.”  When facing a juggernaut on the road, mistakes are amplified and magnified.  Saturday’s early failures in execution created an uphill battle the Cats simply could not overcome.

The same could also be said about playing on CBS against the #1 team in the nation at home.  The stage is the biggest yet and it’s important to show the nation that this program hs changed for the better.

The Run D was bad, but Stoops still believes they improved.

Joker Phillips’ coaching staff made it a norm to praise players after getting their butts handed to them, making little to no logical sense.  Stoops pumped the brakes on giving too much praise, but after watching film the front seven looked much improved from weeks past.  “With the power run game, if you just take some of those explosive runs (away), it wasn’t that bad.  We had a good dose of some pretty good run fits in there and played more physical than we had been,” Stoops said today.

A big difference was the addition of Jabari Johnson to the DLine.  Johnson has had VERY little playing time in his career, but his larger frame at the ‘Jack’ linebacker (Bud’s position) gave them a little more “umph” on the front line.  They’re going to need it just as badly this week against a talented offensive line.

Miss State has played the Cats off a Bye Week Four Years in a Row

That’s just Grade A Mularky.  “We better talk to somebody.”  It’s above his pay grade, but I think Fake Lou

Players Gotta Make Plays

Football games can be won on a handful of good plays.  Ryan Timmons had the opportunity to make one on a perfectly thrown flag route, but he didn’t get his head around in time.  Timmons, and the rest of the offense’s young playmakers, will have to step up if they expect to pull off the shocker this weekend, “Some of our playmakers need to step up and compete at a high level, win some one-on-ones and make some plays.”

Mark Stoops’ perfectly timed horse reference

Saturday’s game will be the biggest game most guys have ever played in.  When asked about their mindset and emotions, Stoops slipped in a wonderful Keeneland reference, “I’d rather say ‘WHOA’ than ‘Giddy up.'”

Kicking ‘em while they’re down

For the first time all season, the Cats’ resiliency failed to carry them through their early mistakes.  Part of that Stoops attributes to the magnification of mistakes on the road.  They’re also very young and many of those guys have never been stuck so far behind the 8-ball.  After working so hard to get the team to believe in themselves, he’s concerned that they could start doubting themselves again.

“I have no reason to believe that, though. I have a good feel that we’ll bounce back.”

That’s the spirit, Stoops.


For UK to upset Mississippi State, “our playmakers need to step up”

(Steve Blake/USA Today)

(Steve Blake/USA Today)

For Kentucky to have a shot of upsetting #1 Mississippi State on Saturday, they’ll have to play flawlessly. Especially the playmakers. Today, Mark Stoops told reporters he is expecting more from the playmakers on his team. “If we’re going to compete vs. the number one team in the country, some of our playmakers need to step up and make plays,” Stoops said, using Ryan Timmons as an example. “Ryan needs to continue to improve. He needs to compete at a higher level. We need him to.”

After starting the season off hot, Timmons’ production has cooled considerably in recent games and his drops are becoming more notable than his catches. The sophomore wideout only had four catches for 24 yards against LSU. He’s still Kentucky’s leading receiver for the season, with 31 catches for 339 yards and two touchdowns.

With nothing to lose, more of this on Saturday, please:

Stoops says UK was trying to be “too cute” with short kickoff


Saturday was bad from the kickoff. Literally. UK lined up in a short kickoff formation as though they were going to fake an onside kick. It didn’t work. LSU ended up returning the kickoff for 49 yards, setting up an easy touchdown a few plays later. What the heck happened? Stoops said his team was trying to be “too cute.”

“That’s something that, in hindsight, we would do differently,” Stoops laughed. “Poor execution, poor call. We didn’t kick it where we were supposed to either. That’s one instance we were too cute there.

That was just one mistake in really bad game for the special teams. Fortunately, Stoops said that many of the errors on special teams can be fixed. “There’s mistakes that can be corrected and they will be corrected,” Stoops said. “They’re magnified against a very talented team on the road.”

UK at Missouri will kick off at 4 p.m. on the SEC Network

The SEC just announced that UK at Missouri will kick off at 4 p.m. ET on November 1 on the SEC Network. Here are the rest of the Week 10 SEC kickoff times:

Boom Williams not cleared to play yet, but “things look better”

Mark Zerof

Mark Zerof

Freshman running back Boom Williams went down after a helmet-to-helmet hit on Saturday night, and after the game, Mark Stoops said he had a head injury, but was able to fly back to Lexington with the team. Stoops just told reporters that Boom hasn’t been cleared to play yet, but “things look better.”

Heal up, buddy.

Watch Mark Stoops’ weekly press conference on WatchESPN


Mark Stoops is in the Wildcat Den for his weekly Kentucky football press conference. Tune in via WatchESPN to hear his comments about UK’s loss to LSU and the upcoming game against #1 Mississippi State.

If you can’t access WatchESPN or are too busy at work to sneak away, Nick Roush will be by with a rundown of Stoops comments later this afternoon and our friends at Kentucky Wildcats TV will have the entire video online for your viewing pleasure.

UK wants you to wear blue Saturday


A blue out? We got this.