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November 19th, 2017

The Tackling Deficient Cats Routed by Georgia

There’s no easy way to say this; Kentucky’s tackling performance, or lack thereof, was the most inefficient defensive exhibition of the season. Missed tackles for loss, squandered mid-line and open field tackles, poor pursuit angles, and just about every other fundamental aspect of bringing the opposing ball carrier to the ground were insufficient between the hedges. Kentucky failed to register explosive stats as well by recording just one tackle for loss and quarterback sack. The glaring number from the game was 381. Georgia rushed for 381-yards against the Wildcat defense that was allowing 121 per contest.

Dreadful tackling, very little explosive defensive production, 31% 3rd down conversion ratio, two dropped touchdown passes, and subnormal special teams play equaled a blowout loss to the #7 ranked Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia is a very, very good football team. However, Saturday can only be categorized as a disappointing performance by Kentucky.

OFFENSE

Kentucky converted 31% on 3rd down which means that drives were rarely sustained. I did like the aggressive play calling. The Cats dropped two potential touchdown passes in the first half. What could have been a close game at intermission resulted into a 21-6 spread in favor of the home team. The proper recipe for an upset road win includes maximizing scoring opportunities. Those two missed scoring chances did not lose the game for the Cats but merely added to a long list of blunders that proved too much to overcome.

The Cats surpassed UGA’s allowed rushing yards per game by accumulating 124. I can imagine this number would have been larger if the game’s circumstance did not flip due to Georgia’s frequent scoring in the second half. The game flowed perfectly for Georgia. A 21-13 lead turned 28-13 after four plays. At that point Kentucky was forced into more passing situations which all but took Benny Snell out of the equation. Self-inflicted mistakes by the Cats aided Georgia’s dominance.

Kentucky Offensive Statistics

Scoring 13 points
Rushing 124 yards, (3.4 yards per carry)
Passing 138
Total 262
3rd Down 4/13 (30.76%)

 

Top Performers

Passing Stephen Johnson 12/22 (54,5%), 138-yards
Rushing Benny Snell 22 carries, 94-yards, 1 TD 4.27 yards per carry
Receiving Garrett Johnson 4 catches, 36-yards

DEFENSE
Missed tackles. Missed tackles. Missed tackles. You get the picture. Running backs Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, D’Andre Swift, and Brian Herrien were bottled up early but had their way with the Wildcat defense in the second half. Gap integrity was a concern going into the game. Reality was that UK was frequently in the right place at the right time but frustratingly did not execute tackles at the point of contact. This did not apply to the edge late in the game. UGA secured the outside for a plethora explosive runs. Defensive back pursuit angles were unfitting as Dawg runners ran through, over, and around the Cats for 381 rush-yards.

Georgia did nothing fancy. Matter of fact, it ran the same exact play on consecutive downs with the same positive results. Pass plays often consisted of play action or max protection with two receivers in the route. NT Quinten Bohanna’s absence was noticeable. The true freshman has played at a high level. Edge containment was poor. This falls on defensive ends, outside linebackers, and cornerbacks. Kentucky linebackers are the strength of the defense. Saturday was the group’s least efficient performance of 2017.

At the end of the day Georgia was just plain more physical than its visitors. Its running backs were meaner than the defenders with intentions to tackle. Football can be a complicated game, but it can also be just that simple. 381 rush-yards appeared exceedingly easygoing for the Dawgs.

Kentucky Defensive Statistics

Scoring 42 point
Rushing 381-yard, 8.7 yards per carry
Passing 123
Total 504
3rd Down 4/8 (50%)

Kentucky Defense Top Performers

Tackles Darius West 7
Tackles for Loss TJ Carter 1
QB Sacks TJ Carter 1
Interceptions Josh Allen 1

Georgia Offensive Top Performers

Passing Jake Fromm 9/14, 123-yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing Nick Chubb 15 carries, 151-yards, 2 TD’s, 10.1 yards per carry
Rushing Sony Michel 12 carries, 87-yards, 3 TD’s, 7.3 yards per carry
Rushing D’Andre Swift 7 rushes, 66-yards, 9.4 yards per carry
Rushing Brian Herrien 3 carries, 48-yards, 16 yards per carry
Receiving Javon Wims 6 catches, 83-yards, 1 TD

SPECIAL TEAMS

Roughing the punter call completely shifted the game’s early momentum. Following a three and out, Lonnie Johnson and Charles Moushey tackled the Georgia punter. The result of the penalty led to a touchdown drive. The Dawgs never looked back. Austin MacGinnis was 2/2 for the night, Matt Panton averaged 42 yards per punt. Mecole Hardman averaged 20-yards per punt return and 31 on kickoffs. Overall, an atypical  performance.

What does all this mean?

There were few positives to take from this game. Early onset offensive line blocking and Benny Snell’s 22 carries, 94-yards, and 1 touchdown can be construed as inspiring. Same can be said of first quarter defense. However, given the defense’s porous tackling and injuries to key Cats Quinten Bohanna, Josh Edwards, and CJ Conrad; beating Louisville for a second consecutive season now appears more daunting. Sunday through Friday are critical for this football team. Mark Stoops must correct, motivate, regroup, and prepare his team to take on the defending Heisman Trophy winner who will be inspired to make amends for last year’s late-game fumble.

Kentucky is better than it showed against Georgia. The Wildcats are 7-4.


Kentucky turned heads against a College Football Playoff-caliber team

Last week, Georgia was the No. 1 team in the nation with a spot in the College Football Playoff nearly locked up. They have two of the top running backs in SEC history, along with four and five-star talent layered throughout their roster.

To be exact, the Dawgs have 11 five stars and 44 four-star players. Kentucky? One five-star and 14 four-stars.

Top to bottom, the Bulldogs are more talented than Kentucky in just about every position group, and that’s no disrespect to the Cats. UK has built a roster with a solid mix of veteran leadership and young playmakers, and teams no longer chalk up this team as an automatic win. Mark Stoops has led this program to massive heights in his first several seasons as head coach, and teams are starting to respect that.

Just four years ago, the Wildcats finished 2-10 on the year and 0-8 in conference play. Stoops had an FCS-caliber team and had to start from (literally) scratch to build this program up. Kentucky was the laughing stock of college football and quite possibly the fifth best team in the state.

Following the loss, John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote an article titled “Kentucky football finishes another SEC season unable to compete with the big boys,” where he discussed the team’s ability to knock off teams at or below UK’s level. Anything beyond that, the Cats just aren’t good enough yet to hang with the nation’s best.

To an extent, I agree Kentucky is in no position to consistently defeat elite teams such as Alabama, Ohio State, Auburn, Clemson, etc., and who knows how long (if ever) it’ll take to get there. Nobody expects this team to be in that “elite” conversation, and frankly, Mark Richt was fired for winning 9-10 games a year at Georgia, whereas we’d name our football stadium after any coach that’d be able to do that.

But to say this team can’t compete with the big dogs, specifically after last night’s defeat, is just looking at the final score without taking into account what actually happened on the football field.

Last night, Kentucky landed the first haymaker against Georgia on national television.

The Wildcats picked off Jacob Fromm on the game’s opening drive, and were in position to take a 7-0 lead after inching their way to the red zone. Stephen Johnson threw three consecutive incompletions, and the Cats had to settle for a field goal. Execution.

On Georgia’s second drive, Kentucky managed to push the Dawgs deep into their own territory on a big TJ Carter sack and forced the punt. The Cats had all the momentum and had a massive opportunity to go up two scores early in the game. Roughing the punter, Georgia’s drive continues, touchdown Bulldogs. Execution.

Down 7-3, UK got the ball back and continued to move the ball down the field on offense. The Bulldog defense didn’t have an answer for Benny Snell, and the passing game kept them off balance. Eddie Gran was drawing up beautiful plays and made the defense extremely uncomfortable. After making it into the red zone for a second consecutive time, Johnson had a few misfires and we saw crucial drops from Wildcat receivers. Kentucky has to settle for another field goal. Execution.

Instead of potentially going up 21-0 after the first three drives of the game, UK was behind 7-6, and momentum shifted Georgia’s way. This was never a game Kentucky could win with field goals, and we saw exactly why in the first half.

Take away three or four crucial plays in the first half for Kentucky, the Wildcats likely have a lead going into halftime with the ball to start the third. At the very least, the game is tied, and UK could have flipped momentum back to open the second half.

Instead, the Cats had to fight from behind, the offense couldn’t execute, the defense got tired, and the wheels fell off. After cutting the lead to just eight points with 11:28 remaining in the third quarter, Kentucky either punted or threw an interception on every offensive drive to end the game. Georgia scored a touchdown on three of their next four possessions to end the game.

I am not a fan of moral victories, and I wouldn’t consider this one. Kentucky fought like hell in two quarters and couldn’t finish the job.

Head coach Mark Stoops agrees.

“I was disappointed in the way we played,” Stoops said.  “We knew we’d have to play a very good football team and we’d have to play some very good football on our end. I really didn’t feel like we did that.”

That being said, the Cats were in position to flip the script of this football game entirely and had a legitimate shot to shock the college football world. With execution on just three or four plays, who knows how that game ends.

The final score was ugly, and most people seeing the result on the bottom ticker on ESPN probably assume it was just another blowout loss for Kentucky. The UK coaching staff and players, however, had an impressive gameplan going into the game and went for the jugular of an elite football team.

Execution.


It is absolutely ridiculous to compare the 2017-18 squad to the 2012-13 NIT team

Through four games, the Wildcats are 3-1 on the year, though each game has left more questions than answers about what this team really is.

Following Kentucky’s slow start, I’ve read several media analysts and countless fans compare the 2017-18 Wildcats to Calipari’s lone NIT team at Kentucky in 2012-13. Lack of consistency from the point guard spot, shooting concerns, and up-and-down frontcourt play has led to these wild claims.

The Wildcats haven’t crushed anybody yet, and a lot of that has to do with the team not finding their identity on offense.

Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox have taken over as the team’s primary scorers, but Coach Cal has no idea how to handle late-game situations. He’s still dealing with teaching basic fundamentals, and crunch-time basketball is not on the top of his priority list.

When the game is on the line, who has the ball in their hands? This was the 2012-13 team’s biggest issue, as Archie Goodwin wasn’t a dominant scorer, yet he was the only one with the will to take over a game.

Alex Poythress was far too inconsistent, Nerlens Noel wasn’t a primary offensive target, and Ryan Harrow just wasn’t the right fit at point guard. Kyle Wiltjer was a solid shooter, but couldn’t defend to save his life, making him a liability on the floor.

Willie Cauley-Stein was a pleasant surprise, but like Noel, you aren’t going to run an offense through him. Julius Mays? Jarrod Polson? None of those guys quite had that “it” factor on offense, and it hurt the team.

This year’s Kentucky team, however, has a surplus of talent just looking to find their groove. Quade Green was quiet to start the year, but had a breakout offensive performance against ETSU. Knox hit big shots under the bright lights at the Champions Classic. Diallo looked like a true superstar in the season opener against Utah Valley. PJ Washington was a force in the middle and bullied defenders against Vermont. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been a stud on defense in just about every outing. Etc.

Great individual efforts on various occasions, but not one where everyone was able to put it all together.

Even still, Nick Richards and Wenyen Gabriel, two five-star talents out of high school, have yet to have breakout games for the Wildcats this season. Sacha Killeya-Jones is just now finding his groove, and Tai Wynyard has made an impact in minimal minutes against big opponents.

The pieces are all there. The next step for this Wildcat team is about putting it all together and letting that potential come to fruition.

Beyond current on-court talent, Jarred Vanderbilt has yet to play a minute for the Wildcats due to injury, and he was a top-ten recruit coming out of high school. Recruiting analysts look at him as a young Lamar Odom, a unique combination of size, athleticism, and scoring ability. He’ll be joining the lineup in the next month or so, providing a massive addition for the Wildcats on both ends of the court.

Jemarl Baker is easily the team’s best three-point shooter, and will become a spark off the bench when he returns to the court. Kentucky needs shooting, and their best one still hasn’t seen the floor yet. It’ll come.

The Wildcats have 10 consistent contributors in the current rotation with the ability to make plays at any given time, along with two more still waiting for their time to shine out with injury. The NIT team had seven main rotation guys, with Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood used at various points, as well. Following the Nerlens Noel injury, we’re talking about a THIN rotation.

When the 2012-13 team got down after Noel’s season ended, they didn’t have the offensive firepower to make easy comebacks or the defensive presence to make crucial stops. This team has proven to make massive runs to erase deficits when the pressure is on, and we still haven’t seen just how talented these guys actually are.

This team is a work in progress, and they’re going to be frustrating for a while, but slow down on the NIT talk. They’ll be just fine.


UK’s Bowl Game Scenario…aka Who and Where

As I sit here on a Sunday night watching the boring matches of the Survivor Series mid-card (yes I am a grown man, but a good PPV is still worth my time), I have been reading many scenarios online about the UK Bowl game possibilities. Most are from national writers who do a very good job putting for the national landscape and who have Kentucky basically headed to one of four Bowl Games. However, there view is macro and what most of us care about in Kentucky is on the micro level…specifically, what Bowl game is UK going to play in and who are the Cats possible opponents? I spent some time this morning calling a couple of sources on the team side and the Bowl side (I always talk to them when they come to games and give free things) and from those conversations, I think the scenario is fairly simple AS OF NOW (an important caveat):

LOSE AGAINST LOUISVILLE

I open with this scenario only because it is the most straight forward. As one source told me this morning, “if Kentucky loses to Louisville, I would put the probability very high that they play in the Liberty Bowl.” As most of you know by now, the Liberty Bowl is one of the Bowls that is in the “Gang of Six” that, which are considered “equal” by the SEC in bowl placement. As with most things deemed “equal”, some of the Bowls are a bit more “equal” than others, but in general when you are in that group, your relative standing amongst the other teams is an important factor, but not the sole factor. If Kentucky loses to Louisville, it will be 7-5 and the Liberty Bowl is by far the most likely destination. That Bowl wants Kentucky (due to proximity and no recent appearances) and the Cats have no conflicts of importance around that time that would hinder the pick. If Kentucky loses to the Cards, Memphis is our likely destination, absent a huge shift of events in the final weekend.

As for the Cats’ opponent, it is a bit more up in the air, due to the how close the Big 12 Conference standings are at this time. But a source told me on Saturday, “the loser of Texas-West Virginia is the heavy favorite for Memphis” and that ended up being the Mountaineers. If WVU were to play Kentucky in Memphis, the Eastern part of the state would have the game they have longed for and both fan bases could travel in mass to the destination. If Kentucky ends up 7-5, this is the most likely result…with Iowa State as the second most likely opponent right after.

WIN AGAINST LOUISVILLE

This is a much more complicated scenario and depends a great deal on what happens in the other games on the weekend. However the most simple version is this…if Kentucky wins and finishes 8-4, the Music City becomes the most likely destination. A sources tells me that Kentucky has communicated to the SEC office that the basketball game being the same day (at 1 pm) would not change the school’s desire for the Bowl, and I think a win against the Cards probably moves Kentucky to Nashville…with Iowa the most likely opponent, in a game that would mean a great deal for Mark Stoops.

If Kentucky does win against the Cards, three other Bowls are in play but a bit harder for placement reasons. One is the Outback, the most prestigious of the Six Bowls, but a source told me today that Kentucky’s finish down the stretch may prohibit that game as the goal from the league standpoint is to put the team playing the best at the end of the season in this marquee New Year’s Day Bowl. The Belk Bowl is unfortunately probably a non-starter due to it being at the same time as the UK-UL Basketball game. That game time means everyone involved, the Bowl Game, the two tv networks, the SEC and Kentucky see a dilution of audience for both events and such a scenario is not favored by anyone. The TaxSlayer would likely be the Bowl that Kentucky would most naturally be “slotted” for with its 8-4 season but UK’s ability to get tin the game last year, means it won’t be as likely this season. The SEC tries to keep teams from the same game in the Group of Six two years in a row….thus because the Cats played “up a Bowl” last year, they may not get the benefit of it this year, even though it would be where its record would deserve. Thus the Music City becomes the most likely scenario.

A win could also see a Liberty Bowl appearance, but according to one source, “a lot would have to happen” to make that in play, and since my head hurts and the big five-man tag is on the Horizon, we will leave that for another day.

Have a good evening everyone (and if you like to laugh, watch “American Vandal” on Netflix)


A Fact to Put Things into Perspective

We have been saying for awhile the state of the Kentucky football program might be at an all time high. The Kentucky football Twitter account confirmed these opinions with this tweet:

Sure, the SEC East is not a good division, but this is still something that we need to be proud of this team for accomplishing. If I would have told you this stat in 2011, would you have believed me? What about 2014? I know I wouldn’t have believed it. We, as fans, need to enjoy this period in Kentucky football. This is the beginning of the future of what will become a perennial power in the SEC East. I am confident of that. Kentucky football will be in an SEC Championship game within the next five years. I guarantee it.


Who’s Coaching in the SEC Next Year?

Photo via Randy Sartin USAToday

It’s been a crazy year in SEC football coaching wise and, with only one week left in the regular season, speculation about who’s leaving and who’s coming are at an all-time high. So, on this Sunday night I present you with my speculations on who we’ll see in the SEC next year.

1. Tennessee – Bobby Petrino

I know, I know – every time there’s a coaching opening at Tennessee it’s always all about John Gruden. He played there, his wife was a cheerleader there, he has a country club membership there…blah blah blah. This time the “Grumors” even went so far as a twitter conspiracy claiming he was a Knoxville restaurant with Peyton Manning yesterday (it wasn’t him though). If I were a betting woman though, I’d bet on Bobby Petrino. As much as I’d HATE to see him at UT, it makes sense. With his contract at UL screwed after Jurich’s firing and his history of leaving programs for the next sexiest job – I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him in orange next year. It’d be a good hire for UT, too. Petrino’s the type of coach who can turn a program around in no time and that’s exactly what UT needs.

2. Florida – Chip Kelly 

“Whoever gets that job will be really lucky” – Chip Kelly talking about himself because it’s basically a done deal. A few other names have been thrown around for Florida – Scott Frost and Charlie Strong being the biggest. While those would both be good hires, if I were Florida’s AD I’d hire a bigger name guy like Kelly. Big name guys get it done at Florida like Spurrier and McElwain.

3. Ole Miss – Charlie Strong

Before he took the job at South Florida, Strong was in talks with Ole Miss for a defensive coordinator position, now that there’s a head coach opening, Strong’s name has come up multiple times. The rebels/land sharks/whatever you want to call them aren’t going to keep Matt Luke after going either 5-7 or 6-6 at the end of the season. Strong’s 8-1 at South Florida and looking to move up to a more impressive conference – like the SEC West. The only hesitation? Ole Miss is a place where you’ve got to love the limelight and the culture and I’m not sure Charlie Strong can.

These are the only schools we know are for sure hiring. If we’ve learned one thing this season though it’s that there’s no telling who will be fired next (cue me talking about Butch Jones getting fired every weekend until he actually did). It’s very likely Arkansas and Texas A&M could be searching for coaches too. Who’d fit in there? I honestly have no idea.

 

@savannahpattKSR


DeAndre Liggins has proven his worth for the Milwaukee Bucks

To say former Wildcat DeAndre Liggins has been a journeyman as a professional basketball player would be an understatement. In just six years since being drafted in the second round by the Dallas Mavericks, Liggins has played for 12 different organizations, both in the NBA and overseas.

This offseason, the Milwaukee Bucks claimed the 6’6 shooting guard off waivers, and he’s been a massive difference-maker for the franchise ever since.

Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently wrote a feature on the Bucks guard and the impact he has made for the team:

“Everybody can score in this league, everybody don’t want to play defense,” Liggins said.  “That’s what I get paid for. I’m not looked at as a scorer. I can shoot the ball — my shot has improved — but my job first is to bring energy, do all the intangibles, take charges, get the 50/50 balls and that’s what I’m going to continue to hang my hat on.”
At Kentucky, Liggins became an elite defender and helped lead the team to a Final Four in his junior year with the team. In the NBA, he has made it his No. 1 priority to do whatever it takes to make sure his man doesn’t score.
“I don’t like to get scored on no matter what,” Liggins said. “Helping a guy then coming back to my man and my man hits a three – I’ve got to do both. That’s what I’ve got to a better job on, just working the floor and getting out to my man and making sure he don’t score or touch the paint.”
A few weeks back, the Bucks traded for former Wildcat teammate Eric Bledsoe, and Liggins told reporters his battles in practice every day remind him of his days at Kentucky.

“It was battles every day,” Liggins said, specifically referring to going against Bledsoe, now his teammate with the Bucks. “Coach Cal told me to pick him up fullcourt like I do now every practice and make him better and that’s what I did. It irritated (Bledsoe) a lot. He wanted to fight me at times, but I had to do my job to earn minutes so that’s what I had to do.”

Bledsoe says that Liggins’ effort is relentless, and it has translated to victories for Milwaukee.

“He’s one of those guys that takes challenges, especially on the defensive end, trying to stop the best player on the team,” Bledsoe said. “He gives effort every single play. No matter if the (offense) scores on him, it’s a tough bucket.”

Bledsoe added that he has a ton of love and respect for a guy that has earned everything  he has accomplished as a professional basketball player.
“DeAndre was in a position where he never gave up on what he wanted to accomplish,” Bledsoe said. “Now he’s here and he’s going to stick here and be here for a while. You can’t do nothing but, like I said, love the guy.”
Liggins is averaging just 2.5 points, 0.9 rebounds, 0.5 steals in 12.8 minutes per game for the Bucks, but his contributions on the W/L column are making him one of the most valuable players on the roster.

Keep making us proud, DeAndre!


FINAL HOURS: Buy One, Get One FREE on select sweatshirts

The BOGO sweatshirt sale at the KSR Shop is ending soon. Head to ShopKSR.com to Buy One, Get One FREE on select sweatshirts. Now is the perfect time to get a start on your holiday shopping and also get ready for the cold temperatures. Check out the KSR, State Pride, UK sweatshirts, and more. Sale ends at midnight.

 

[KSR Shop: Buy One, Get One FREE on Select Sweatshirts]


UK Hoops Remains Undefeated

Photo via @KentuckyWBB

Your University of Kentucky Women’s basketball team is now 4-0. After defeating Gardner-Webb last Sunday, UK Hoops started a long road trip. They won against Montana on Thursday night and now, have completed their road trip with a 73-68 win against Washington State. This game had me on the edge of my parent’s couch and I’m still hyped as I write this quick recap for you. Here’s how it all went down:

It wasn’t looking good for the Cats in first half, Washington State lead 23-16 with about five minutes left in the half. Mackenzie Cann didn’t want the half to end like that at all. She hit three consecutive threes and the Cats went on a 12-3 run to cut the halftime score to 35-34.

My exact mood during the beginning of the second half.

The fourth quarter is where it really got wild. At the end of the third quarter, UK Hoops lead 56-48. Washington State went on a 10-2 run, taking advantage of our slow offense. With 2:37 left, it was all tied up at 66. How’d we win? Two words: Maci Morris. Maci Morris shifted momentum tremendously with a huge steal and two clutch free throws. Up 71-68 with seven seconds left, Washington State put their three-point shooters on the court in hopes of making a long shot, they did not.

Mackenzie Cann had her first career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Maci Morris had an impressive 20 points and six rebounds. The Cats went 27-65 and finished with a total of 48 rebounds, something Matthew Mitchell said he wanted to work on last week.

“It was a very intense game, we were all very engaged,” said Mackenzie Cann, who didn’t even know she had a double-double until the game ended.

UK Hoops returns home this Wednesday the 22, to take on Morehead State.

Go Cats. See you there.


Kentucky opens as a 9.5 point underdog in the Governors Cup

Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky has opened up as a 9.5 point underdog in Saturday’s 12pm kickoff against Louisville. Last season, Kentucky defeated Louisville on a last-second Austin MacGinnis field goal. What is that? You want to watch that again? Here you go:

I think I could watch that 1,000 times and still get goosebumps.

As I admit almost every week, I am by no means one to trust when it comes to putting money down on a Football game. If you want that advice, definitely listen to Matt and Drew on the Free Money Podcast. With that being said, I think that this line is REALLY big in favor of Louisville. I’m taking the Cats ALL DAY on this. Trust Drew and Matt though… they know what they’re talking about.


No. 6 Kentucky volleyball sweeps Ole Miss on Senior Day

No. 6 Kentucky volleyball dominated Ole Miss on Senior Day this afternoon, sweeping the Rebels to move to 24-3 (15-1 in the SEC) on the season.

Kaz Brown led the team in kills with 18, and Leah Edmond finished second with 17. Setter Madison Lilley recorded 47 assists, six digs, and two aces for the Wildcats. Senior Ashley Dusek led the team with 16 digs, as well.

Seniors Brown, Dusek, Emily Franklin, Harper Hempel, and Darian Mack were honored prior to the match.

According to UK Athletics, the volleyball team is in contention for their first SEC title since 1988, and is in position to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. If the Wildcats win out, they could play the first four rounds of the NCAA Tournament inside Memorial Coliseum, setting themselves up for a massive run for the National Championship.

Kentucky will take on Arkansas in Fayetteville on Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m., and then will finish up the regular season against Georgia on Friday night at 5:00 p.m.

Finish this season strong, Cats!


What happened to the secondary?

Two years ago, we saw Chris Westry, Derrick Baity, and Mike Edwards emerge as three can’t-miss future superstars in the Wildcat secondary. They made plays we rarely see out of young defensive backs, with a unique combination of size and athleticism.

With talented prospects Jordan Griffin, Davonte Robinson, Marcus Walker, Tobias Gilliam, etc., eventually being worked in the rotation, many chalked up Kentucky’s secondary as one of the most stacked in school history, and a true #NoFlyZone was almost a certainty.

Defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley left for Alabama, and the unit just fell flat. Derrick Baity had an impressive season last year, but Westry saw little improvement, if any at all. The vast majority of young talent failed to take the next step up, and thus, the entire secondary was mediocre at best.

This season, the defensive backs have regressed even further, and opposing quarterbacks are now having field days against the defense.

But who is to blame? Mark Stoops? Matt House? Defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale?

Clinkscale has proven to be a solid recruiter for the Wildcats, but his unit has been rightfully criticized since the start of the season. Just about every college football analyst, both national and local, saw incredible potential out of the Kentucky secondary. Yet after one solid season, they haven’t scratched the surface of that yet.

Westry was benched for JUCO newcomer Lonnie Johnson. Baity, who is now covering opposing No. 1 receivers, is beat on deep throws countless times a game and has been wildly inconsistent. He looked like a star against Vanderbilt, but has had more than his fair share of rough outings. Darius West deals with missed assignments and timing issues. Edwards has been the one constant, and even he has had some miscommunication issues.

10-15 yards of cushion against dink-and-dunk passing offenses, not turning heads around to find the ball, and just flat-out getting beat. Every once and a while we see an impressive PBU or big interception, but the routine plays are still massive issues.

When it comes to making tackles, Westry just doesn’t have the fundamentals down to make plays. On this play against Tennessee, Ty Chandler comes with momentum, and an arm tackle forces the junior corner to get trucked.

Against Georgia, Westry got caught looking, leading to a Bulldog touchdown.

That’s coaching. There’s no reason a guy of Westry’s caliber doesn’t know how to make a tackle as a third-year starting corner in the SEC. Baity and West, along with several key role players in the secondary, have also had their fair share of missed tackles.

Beyond X’s and O’s, we’ve seen some terrible decisions on leaving players in when the game is out of reach. Against Mississippi State, several starters in the secondary were in the game with just minutes remaining in a blowout. Mike Edwards made a tough tackle and garbage time, and suffered a head/neck injury as a result. He ended up being okay, but could you imagine losing him for the season in a situation like that?

Against Georgia, we saw a similar situation, with countless fans on social media begging for the coaching staff to pull the starters when the game got out of hand. Edwards was dealing with a hip pointer, and was (rightfully) one of the first guys to sub out on defense, but there were still some main pieces in there when there was no reason for it. A major injury in garbage time would be inexcusable.

For a unit that many expected a lot of early departures to the NFL, that is no longer a reality. It’s certainly not a bad thing to have several returning seniors in the secondary next season, but we’ll need a big offseason from each of them to take the next step up.

They’ve recruited the right guys, and they each have talent. Expectations have been high for the unit for a reason. That being said, development is lacking, and it needs to be addressed this offseason.


On to Louisville

It has almost been one year. One year since what I still call one of the biggest wins in the history of Kentucky football. We will look back at that game in the next couple of years and continue to see the impact that it had. This was the game that fans were finally able to see and appreciate the work that Mark Stoops had been doing. Sure, Stoops had some solid wins in his previous four years at Kentucky, but none quite as big as that.

Saturday’s game is definitely winnable, but revenge is on Louisville’s mind. I am still confident in this program and confident in Mark Stoops and company to get the job done.

As you have definitely heard, Louisville’s defense is not good and Kentucky should be able to move the ball with ease against the defense. With that being said, it has been shown this year that Kentucky’s defense can be inconsistent as well.

Here is a post I made the day after the Louisville game last year. It leads me to ask the question, who will step up and make the little plays this year.

“Yesterday was fantastic. The Cats played their best game of the Mark Stoops era and picked up arguably one of the biggest wins in program history. There were a lot of moments to remember from the game: Dorian Baker’s touchdown catch, Stephen Johnson’s two deep balls to Garrett Johnson, and of course the Austin MacGinnis game winner. Below I have attached some of the plays that won’t get as much attention, but played a large part in the huge win yesterday. Go Cats!

 

1. Courtney Love stops Lamar Jackson on 3rd Down

 

Lamar Jackson and the Cards were starting find their rhythm on offense. Their drive started with a Jackson run for a pickup of 18 yards. Running back Brandon Radcliff picked up 5 yards on first down, before Jackson had an incomplete pass to Cole Hikutini. This brought up 3rd down and 5 from the Louisville 49 yard line. Lamar Jackson was met on the read option play immediately by Courtney Love. This forced a UofL punt and an ensuing Kentucky touchdown.

2. Denzil Ware stuffs Brandon Radcliff at the Goal Line

This play may go down as one of the top defensive plays of the entire season. Following a Lamar Jackson run on 1st and goal, the Cards had it 2nd and goal at the 2 yard line. The Cats were able to hold back-to-back Brandon Radcliff runs out of the end zone to hold Louisville to only three points. The third down stop by Ware forced a loss of one yard and forced Louisville to settle for a field goal, instead of a possible 4th down attempt.

3. Stephen Johnson’s Incredible 3rd Down Conversion

Kentucky entered the half down 24-21 and would receive to start the second half. Stoops and company needed a good drive to keep Lamar Jackson off the field. A Ryan Timmons catch and run for 28 yards got the drive rolling and helped the Cats cross midfield. A 2 yard loss by Johnson and an incomplete pass to Dorian Baker brought up 3rd down and 12 for the Cats. What followed was one of Stephen Johnson’s more impressive moments as a runner as he seemed to lose the football and catch it before running for a pickup of 16 yards. Three plays later, Benny Snell ran it in for an 18 yard touchdown and momentum had been gained for the Blue and White.

Let me know which player YOU think will need to step up to help the Cats win back-to-back games in this series for the first time since they won four in a row from 2007-2011.

@GormleyKSR


An Updated Look at Kentucky’s Bowl Projections

Following Kentucky’s blowout loss to #7 ranked Georgia let’s take a look at several possible bowl destinations for the 7-4 Cats.

SBNation

December 29 Music City Bowl vs Northwestern – Nashville, TN

ESPN

December 29 Belk Bowl vs Wake Forest – Charlotte, NC

CollegeFootballNews

December 29 Music City Bowl vs Virginia – Nashville, TN

CBS Sports

December 30 Liberty Bowl vs Texas – Memphis, TN

Sporting News

December 30th Liberty Bowl vs Texas- Memphis, TN


Most college football writers have the Cats heading to Nashville for the Music City Bowl but our very own Matt Jones seems to have some insight as to where the Cats may be headed;

I think the BBN will be okay with sacrificing a trip to Memphis, TN for a win over Louisville in the Governor’s Cup.

 


Cats in the NFL Week 11 Schedule

Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

Good Morning BBN!

Only 4 former Kentucky players are set to suit up today as Bud Dupree’s Steelers routed Wesley Woodyard’s Titans by a score of 40-17 on Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

Player GameTime/TV
Bud DupreePittsburgh Steelers 40 Tennessee Titans 17 Thursday Night
Wesley WoodyardPittsburgh Steelers 40 Tennessee Titans 17 Thursday Night
Avery WilliamsonPittsburgh Steelers 40 Tennessee Titans 17 Thursday Night
Randall Cobb Baltimore Ravens @ Green Bay Packers1:00/CBS
Za'Darius Smith Baltimore Ravens @ Green Bay Packers1:00/CBS
Danny Trevathan Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears1:00/FOX
Corey Peters Arizona Cardinals @ Houston Texans 1:00/FOX

@EMitchKSR