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October 4th, 2015

Relive Tailgate Time in the Bluegrass

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How Pitino Can Survive

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It’s been a tough week for Rick Pitino. And what a contrast with his arch-rival, John Calipari: While Cal got to pal around with the Pope, the University of Louisville basketball coach was forced to respond to the release of a new book that alleges a former assistant paid prostitutes to have sex with Cardinal players and recruits.

While Pitino and U of L athletic director Tom Jurich wisely jumped out in front of the story, holding a press conference in which they conveyed both their disappointment and determination to obtain the truth, this crisis appears far from resolved.  The salacious nature of the accusations — combined with Pitino’s own personal history with sex scandal — is irresistible manna from the zeitgeist heavens for both the mainstream media and the blogosphere. And it’s widely expected that new revelations (texts, pictures, videos) will feed the talking head and tweeting beasts for weeks to come.  Pitino’s current vow of silence about the Cardinal sins may not be sustainable.

Worse, these allegations could prove more than simply embarrassing to the ball coach.  If there is any modicum of truth behind them, not only could U of L team eligibility be implicated, but criminal charges could also potentially be filed.

While I find myself, like much of KSR Nation, instinctively rooting against the Cards at every opportunity, I’ve moved past my hard feelings toward Rick personally, choosing instead to remember his role in restoring our Cats to greatness.  In that spirit, I’ve gathered my team of recovering politicians: With crisis management skills forged as former targets of the piercing glare of the national media spotlight, we advise clients on managing and surviving public crises like this.  Below, my colleagues share guidance from their own painful experiences, as well as a few of our  twelve step mantras to counsel Coach Pitino:

Be First to Frame Your Narrative in Your Own Voice, with Facts and Sincerity

Michael Steele, the former Republican National Chairman, can sympathize with Pitino’s particular circumstances:  Steele found himself embroiled in a high-profile national sex scandal when he discovered that an underling had used the Party’s credit card to pay for entertainment at a lesbian-bondage-themed strip club.  Steele survived the crisis by stepping out early before the cameras with a candid explanation for the circumstances, and a sincere rebuke of the staffer who created the mess.

Steele suggests the same approach for Pitino:  “Never sell short the power of getting in front of a narrative,” Steele advises.  “The coach will likely find himself with a lot of lawyers telling him not to say anything, ‘Let us do the talking.’  But hunkering down behind legalese can be very harmful to your interests and your reputation.”

If indeed Pitino was not involved in the wrongdoing, Steele recommends that he is clear not only about his own innocence, but also his disapproval:  “He needs to let the public know that he is as outraged and disgusted by this behavior as everyone else.  He cannot look like he is protecting the wrongdoers or the institution.”  Steele recommends that Pitino be strong and resolute:  “He needs to let folks know his willingness to get to the bottom of things, that he wants to straighten this out more than anyone else.  Most of all, that he recognizes the severity — that these athletes are teenagers, somebody’s sons — and the actions taken toward them are offensive.”

Own Your Own Mistakes, Take Responsibility and Sincerely Say “I’m Sorry”

Former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton found his political career derailed by a sex scandal that resembled Pitino’s 2009-10 imbroglio:  He was accused of wrongdoing by a woman with whom he had engaged in a consensual sexual relationship.  Ultimately, the charges were dropped, but Jetton’s path toward career rehabilitation was aided by the personal responsibility he assumed, and the sincere contrition he showed, for putting himself in the compromising position that led to the charges.

Jetton sees a similar path for the coach: “Pitino might not know of anything like this going on — I sure hope that’s the case,” Jetton states.  “But even if he wasn’t directly involved, he was ultimately responsible for hiring and supervising the assistant who did this awful stuff.”

Jetton urges Pitino to sincerely apologize for his actions and inactions that ultimately resulted in the malfeasance: “Saying ‘I’m sorry’ — and saying it with true and honest conviction — is the first step to recovery,” Jetton argues.  “Pitino has to admit where he was wrong, and own up to his mistakes.  People can forgive a sinner.  They can’t forgive someone who refuses to take responsibility for his program.”

Lean Into, and Learn from, Your Crisis

Former Kentucky Secretary of State John Y. Brown, III never experienced public scandal in politics, avoiding it perhaps because of the lessons learned from his youth.  At 22, Brown was battling the bitter demons of alcoholism, but now three decades clean and sober, he uses what he learned in his lowest moments to help mentor and counsel others through struggles with addiction and other challenges.

Brown suggests that anyone coping with a public crisis must acknowledge clearly that he has learned from his own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others in his charge: “If wrongdoing is uncovered, it must be acknowledged and addressed head on — in fact, embraced as a defining event; and immediate action must be taken to rectify damage done, and sweeping concrete steps taken, to ensure it cannot happen again.”

Brown also advises complete openness and honesty as a clear signal to the public that you understand the underlying message: “As a general rule, when serious allegations are made against a person or institution and any parts seem credible, a response is required of complete candor, transparency and full cooperation with an unwavering commitment to see where the facts lead. If this is done, the public will usually withold judgment until the facts bear out what actually happened and didn’t happen.”

Tell the Truth: Don’t Even Go Near the Line

Jeff Smith, the former Missouri State Senator whose recent book, Mr. Smith Goes to Prison is climbing the bestseller list (and I reviewed for KSR here), offers the most powerful and poignant advice:

Don’t lie!

Smith was involved in a minor wrongful campaign finance scheme that if discovered would have likely resulted in a small fine and an embarrassing news story.  But when he signed a false affidavit about the incident — and was caught admitting it on a wire worn by his best friend — Smith was forced to serve a year and a day in federal prison.

Smith strongly urges Pitino to learn from his own example; and if the coach was aware of any element of the wrongdoing, even a small one, he can’t expect others to take full responsibility: “As I learned painfully, one way or another, the truth always comes out,” notes Smith. “That’s because if an organizational leader knew about something, at least one other person below him/her knows that he knew it. Probably more than one. And if the leader was involved in a decision in any way, the subordinates will likely feel compelled to talk, eventually. Whether for legal, moral, psychological, or reputational reasons, they may seek to minimize their own culpability by revealing or even exaggerating the leader’s. As tempting as it may be for a leader to hope that his case will be different, and his secret will remain hidden, the odds are not good.”

Smith concludes that the coach must clear the air immediately, forcefully and completely: “That’s not to say Pitino is guilty of anything, but if he knew anything about this, he should say so immediately. And even if he truly didn’t, he still should take responsibility as the head coach and organizational leader.”

Gunnar Hoak signs with Kentucky; Will join team in January

(H/T @RowlandRivals)

(H/T @RowlandRivals)

Gunnar Hoak became the latest Kentucky commit to take the next step. Hoak tweeted today the signing of financial aid papers with Kentucky. The three-star 6-4 Quarterback from Dublin, Ohio committed to the Cats back in April.

Hoak also announced he would be with the Cats for Spring practice, joining Drake Jackson and Kash Daniel for extra the practices.


Sidenote: With all this talent coming in early this year, it comes that much more important to get to a bowl game for the Cats. Spring enrollees can practice with the team before a bowl game.


Kentucky continues to shatter losing streaks



This season is all about breaking different losing streaks. The Cats did just that last night by ending two different streaks. Kentucky ended a six game in-state losing streak. The last time the Cats beat an in-state team was in 2011 against Western Kentucky. Kentucky defeated Western 14-3 at LP Field in Nashville.

Kentucky also had not won an overtime game since 2007 against LSU. The No. 17 ranked Wildcats defeated No. 1 ranked LSU in a historic three overtimes on Oct. 13.


Relive last night’s scary win through Twitter


Marques Bolden will be at Big Blue Madness

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UK Athletics launched student rewards app in Apple Store

For a long time the UK student faithful have complained about not getting priority care for attending more games and showing more passion for their team. At some other schools, ticket rewards programs are common for students regularly attending sporting events at their university, and such programs were absent at UK until this year. About a month ago, one of our writers, Kindsey Bernhard, wrote an article about why we deserve a system with priority and opportunities for better seats for students attending games, and now those dreams are becoming realities.

Now, students will have the chance to accumulate points to win awards such as entry in drawings to win free textbooks for the spring semester, participating in halftime contests at sporting events, and winning kentucky memorabilia. Students in a high enough point range will have priority for UK mens basketball tickets. The bigggest beneficiary of the priority points system is without a doubt the loyal student basketball fans who attend every game and don’t want to have to fight everyone who wants to only go to the big games. No more complaining about not getting tickets, justice has been served!


Cory Johnson continues to impress


The story of the night on the defensive side of the ball was defensive line up and comer, Cory Johnson. He erupted for 19 tackles on the night and surely will be in contention for another player of the week award after his individual impressive performance against the Colonels. He was unstoppable again this week for the 3rd straight week in a row. He gave the EKU offensive line fits all night long and was one of the few bright spots on defense last night.

Johnson was a one-man wrecking ball in the final moments of the game, getting into the backfield on consecutive plays and coming up with the game-winning sack on the final play of the game. 19 tackles is a new career-high for the senior, coming just one week after his old career-high performance with 11 tackles  against Mizzou. Cory Johnson has averaged 15 tackles in each of the last two games, and hopefully will continue his dominance past the bye week alongside the probable return of Regie Meant before Auburn.


Dawson Kept it Simple, Fed Dorian Baker Down the Stretch

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

The offense laid another egg last night.  Noah Spence and Co. dominated the offensive line, the running game was non-existent (55 yards), and Patrick Towles was making mental mistakes aplenty in the first half.  Down 14 with 4:59 to go, the Cats finally found a spark.

“When you get in those ruts, the only way to get out of them is do simple stuff,” Shannon Dawson said after the game.  They had to keep it simple because there wasn’t a play that worked in the first half.   “I don’t think we executed anything for three quarters, to be honest with you,” Dawson said.  “There wasn’t a call on my sheet that was good.  There just wasn’t.”

“I don’t know if there’s anything I can point to directly, but I feel like everybody as a unit, collectively, we came out sluggish.  It wasn’t just one man, two man, it was all of us, “Dorian Baker said.

Towles, Baker and the rest of the offense still remained optimistic, and finally began executing.  They got it out of Patrick’s hands quickly and began putting routine plays together.

“There was never any point tonight where I thought we were gonna lose the game.  I honestly believe that.  There were probably 20,000 other people who did, (but) that wasn’t me.  That’s not our team,” Towles said.

Towles and Dawson knew who they needed to get it to – Dorian Baker.  “I like the matchup with him with everything,” Dawson said.  “We were trying to do that the whole game a lot of times and the ball just wasn’t finding him.”  Dorian asked for the ball, and he received.

On the final score, it wasn’t originally supposed to be a fade to Baker.  They had three receivers on the left side that were going to be primary targets, but Patrick told Dawson and Dorian on the sideline, “If he has 1-on-1, I’m going to him.”  Dorian and Pat both made the right read, linking up on the perfectly executed play.

“He(the defender) actually made a good play on the ball, but I just had to go up over top of him and take it away from him.”  Dorian said there wasn’t a chance he was going to let the defender beat him, “There’s no chance.  I gotta make that play.  4th and 3.  If I don’t, we lose.”

This sequence illustrates just how close it was to going the other.  Luckily, Dorian doesn’t lose often.

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Photos by Jason Ballard (@JBallardphoto)

6 Areas of Concern and 6 Silver Linings from last night’s scare

© Mark Zerof | Getty

© Mark Zerof | Getty

The only thing worse than almost losing to Eastern Kentucky? Losing to Eastern Kentucky. Perspective can be hard to find after a near miss like last night, but that’s what the morning after is for. In that spirit, I spent the morning breaking down the biggest areas of concern in UK’s near-loss to Eastern (hard for me to call this a “win”) and, in an attempt to comfort myself, found a silver lining for almost every single one. It wasn’t easy.

Let’s start with the most offensive.

UK only had 55 yards rushing

…on 36 attempts. To be fair, 13 of those attempts were by Patrick Towles, but UK’s normally-robust rushing attack looked weak against Eastern, an FCS team. After getting the starting nod over Boom Williams, JoJo Kemp had 14 carries for 46 yards and one touchdown. Mikel Horton carried the ball 9 times for 13 yards. Freshman Sihiem King, who many figured would see the field, never did. With Boom out, UK’s rushing attack faltered, in part because Eastern’s defense manhandled UK’s offensive line.

Silver lining: Boom Williams will be back in the lineup for Auburn. Hopefully the offensive line, which has seen a lot of praise this season, will get their act together as well.

Patrick Towles’ first half was awful

Patrick better be happy he had the second half he did, because that first half? Woof. 10-19 for 121 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Florida Patrick was back. With each bad throw and sack, the calls for Drew Barker became deafening. His offensive line wasn’t doing him any favors, but Patrick dug a hole for himself in the first two quarters.


Silver lining: Patrick’s second-half and overtime performance may have saved him his job. 19-23 for 222 yards and three touchdowns. Missouri Patrick was back! Can we keep him?

Also, I love you, Patrick, but can we cool it with the hair shakes and winks? Or at least save them until the end of the game?

At times, the offense looked inept

…against an FCS defense. There’s a lot of blame to go around here, but it starts with the offensive line. EKU had four sacks for 33 yards, numerical proof they manhandled UK’s line. That poor performance led to ineptitude across the offense, especially the rushing attack.

Silver lining: They showed up when it mattered. I praised Patrick Towles’ second-half performance earlier, but the biggest praise has to go to Dorian Baker, whose heroics saved Kentucky from the ultimate embarrassment. Baker had 8 receptions for 86 yards and two touchdowns, a few of those catches so freakish and athletic that at times, you wonder if he’s human.

Shannon Dawson’s comments about Baker after the game said it all.

“He’s a special kid. He’s a competitor. And he’s one guy that, in my opinion, tonight, he really put this offense on his back. He said, ‘Gimme the ball.’ So we got him the ball, and probably some situations where it wasn’t a good look to get him the ball.”

Once you get over how terrible the offense looked for most of the game, you have to admit that their final few drives were pretty freaking impressive.

EKU ran for 180 yards; put up 363 yards total

Remember that defense everyone was raving about after the Missouri game? Me too. Where were they last night? EKU put up 363 yards of offense, 180 of those on the ground. Behind Ethan Thomas and Dy’Shaw Mobley, the Colonels averaged 3.5 yards per carry to UK’s 1.5.

Silver lining: I’m struggling to find one, so instead, I’m just going to praise Cory Johnson. Johnson built on a career game against Missouri with another one against EKU, tallying 19 tackles, including three for loss and one sack. There were a lot of negatives in last night’s near-loss, but Cory’s performance certainly wasn’t one of them.

Eastern wanted it more

The phrase that keeps running through my mind while writing this is “against Eastern!”. After a big win over Missouri and an enticing Thursday night showdown with Auburn on the horizon, it’s clear Kentucky overlooked Eastern and almost got burned for it. But you have to give the Colonels credit. With heavy hearts, they came to play and clearly wanted the game more. Quite frankly, they deserved to win.

Silver lining: Hard to find one here. After almost losing to a FCS team, overlooking opponents shouldn’t be an issue the rest of the season.

Kentucky almost lost

Silver lining: They didn’t.

UK 2018 recruits on campus

SPIRE Men’s Basketball Academy 2018 recruits 6’8″ F Maurice Calloo and 6’0″ PG Kajon Gordon-Stephens dropped by UK this afternoon for a visit and tour of campus. Both young men are Canadian nationals playing for their new basketball academy located in Geneva, OH.

They were attendees at this weekend’s John Lucas Midwest camp this weekend in Louisville and figured they drop by UK while they were here. Calloo’s older brothers played on Mychal Mulder’s high school team in Canada if you were wondering where the connection came from, they were ranked in the top-10 in Canadian high school hoops in 2012.



Get your highlights from the win

Come watch your highlights from the thrilling UK win over EKU last night. Thank god for Dorian Baker.

Stoops comments on ‘fortunate win’

The Cats somehow found a way to fight their way out of a 14-point deficit with less than eight minutes to go and come out with the victory over EKU in overtime. Nobody saw last night’s game ending how it did, and BBN was left stunned temporarily before they scored 21 unanswered to end the game. Coach Stoops weighed in on last night’s victory saying he was proud of the Cats resiliency and fight after going down late. Here’s what he had to say.

Just feel very fortunate, that’s the word that jumps out at me right now. Give them credit, you know I feel like they coached better than we did, they played with much greater energy and enthusiasm and executed better than we did, and fortunately we had some guys step up and make some plays late. I am very proud of our team and our determination to stay with it and to finish the game, and to somehow find a way to get the victory. But overall, not very pleased with our effort. We’ll get back to work, we have a bye week this week to get some guys healed up, and get back to work and fundamentally get better as a football team.

The Cats move to 4-1 and avoid catastrophy against an FCS team. I don’t know how we pulled it out and I don’t really care, let’s just not do that again. Here’s to moving forward and getting some players healthy during the bye week before the big Thursday night showdown.


Sunday Morning Wake Up

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Psst Willie it’s time to wake up! That’s right everyone today’s morning wake up is brought to you by the Sacramento Kings and Willie Cauley-Stein sleeping. I know most people might have lost a year or two off our lives from last night’s game, but let’s get into Sunday.

Set Your Lineups

Just a friendly reminder the first NFL game today kicks off at 9:30 Eastern because the Jets and Dolphins are playing in London. Also a friendly reminder, no one cares about your fantasy team, but set your lineup. Let’s take a quick minute to talk about how dumb it is the NFL plays in London. This counts as a home game for a team each year, taking away true home field advantage and making players get out of their routine. London is a five hour time different from the east coast, so most players will have to take sleeping pills to fall asleep at a normal time.

UK Wasn’t the Only One

Believe it or not but Kentucky wasn’t the only team to struggle yesterday. No. 1 Ohio State had to rally to beat Indiana yesterday while No. 2 Michigan State had to hold off Purdue despite being up 21-0 at halftime. Catch that Big 10 action, folks.

Props to Boom

Look, no one knows why Boom wasn’t playing yesterday, but I do want to give props to Williams for being on the sidelines and celebrating like a little kid with his teammates. He’s sure to catch some heat from the comment section, but Boom did what he was supposed to, which was supporting his team.

Kentucky needed overtime to get past EKU


They say a win is a win, but tell that to the stain in my shorts from watching Kentucky go down two touchdowns late in the game to the neighboring Eastern Kentucky Colonels. I had very little to no confidence when Eastern scored the go-ahead touchdown; I had zero confidence once Eastern added another on top of it with a little over seven minutes to go.

Then Patrick Towles and Kentucky’s offense stepped up and got the job done, tying the game on a fourth-down fade route to force overtime. From there, things looked positive entering OT and all of those “what-if” thoughts running through our heads slowly disappeared. (But really, can you imagine how bad a loss would’ve been???)

It was a hard-fought game, one that was supposed to be a blowout, but the fourth W is in the win column. And that’s all that matters in the end.

Let’s talk about it for a moment then forget about it…


It’s safe to say the Cats overlooked the opponent this week.

With a bye week and the biggest game of the year ahead, there’s no doubt Kentucky is guilty of looking past its FCS opponent. Early in the week, Mark Stoops mentioned getting Drew Barker some reps in this game, as well as other reserves. He never came out and said he expected to be up big on the Colonels, but quotes from him and the assistants suggested strong confidence heading into the game.

Yes, Eastern played well — kudos to them — but an SEC team shouldn’t be down two touchdowns to an FCS school at home. The talent gap is just too wide, even at Kentucky. Chalk this one up to relaxing all week and not getting up for the opponent. And Eastern giving them hell on top of that.

The rushing numbers are disappointing.

180 for Eastern, 55 for Kentucky. No excuse for that. Shouldn’t happen. Ever.

Another frustrating stat: UK needed overtime to catch EKU in total yards.


Patrick Towles was outstanding. After halftime.

After giving the Drew Barker advocates plenty to complain about in the first half, Towles turned things around after the break. He responded to a 10-for-19, two-interception first half with 222 yards on 19-of-23 passing and two touchdowns in the second half and overtime.

Just when you think Towles has tanked and it’s time to give his backup a look, he answers the call and plays the quarterback position as well as anyone. We saw it in the Missouri game after many fans called for a change all week, then again tonight when he played a disappointing first 30 minutes. Now, how do we get him to do it all of the time? It’s in him, we’ve seen it. Just gotta find that consistency.

The win tied the school record for biggest fourth quarter comeback.

And for the fourth time this year, Kentucky closed out a game by putting points on the board and making stops defensively with their backs against the wall. They love to make us sweat these out, but they get it done in the end.

“Very proud of the finish,” Stoops told Tom Leach.

Dorian Baker was unstoppable.

The aforementioned record comeback was made possible because of one Dorian Baker. He hauled in a difficult fourth-down catch for the game-tying touchdown; then bulldozed his way into the end zone in overtime for the game-winner.

Shannon Dawson said Baker demanded the ball on a screen with no blockers in overtime. Well that’s what he got, and he took it to paydirt for the win. He carried the Cats in the end.

“He’s a man,” said Towles.

Baker finished with eight catches for 82 yards and those two scores. The win doesn’t happen without his playmaking.

Cory Johnson has been a monster the last three weeks, tonight especially.

There’s a reason I picked Johnson as my MVP on the pregame show: he has been unblockable as of late and Eastern’s offensive line wasn’t cut out to slow him down. Johnson recorded a career-high 19 tackles against the Colonels, coming off his old career-high of 11 tackles against Missouri. He set a record for tackles by a UK defensive tackle and closed out the night with a sack on the final play of the game.

Austin MacGinnis, hurry back.

Confession: I couldn’t watch Miles Butler kick the extra point at the end of regulation. I can’t be the only one. Speak up, guys. It’s okay.

Stoops said he expects MacGinnis to be back next week.

Josh Forrest and Ryan Flannigan combined for 21 tackles, probably missed that many, too.

Forrest and Flannigan seemed to be in on most of Kentucky’s tackles in the game. They somehow seemed to miss every tackle too. I counted at least six blitzes where one of the two linebackers blew past the line and missed the QB. It got to be very frustrating, until one of them made a big stop on the same drive. They’re both very good, but could be even better with improved tackling.

This was a hell of play by Towles and Bone:

Bone had a good game with seven catches for 85 yards. Nice breakout night for him after a rather quiet first four games.

By show of hands, how many people were dying to put some pads on Boom Williams?

It was gut-wrenching to see Boom on the sideline in sweatpants when the offense was stagnant. The SEC Network didn’t do us any favors by cutting to him often and after failed drives.

Let’s hope Boom learned that lesson by sitting out when his team was desperate for his help.

Celebrate, BBN!

As ugly as it was, the record reads 4-1 going into Auburn.