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October 31st, 2014

3 Match-ups That Could Decide UK-Missouri

Shane Ray Vs The Offensive Line

The Tiger may have lost co-defensive player of the year Michael Sam but they have picked up where he left off with the play of freak athlete Shane Ray. Ray is currently leading the SEC with 8.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss and will be the most explosive player the Cats have faced off the end since Dante Fowler in Week 3. The offensive line will need to find Ray and keep him blocked as best they can to keep Patrick Towles from getting pressured. The line will also be instrumental in establishing the run game which can only be helped by some well executed pass plays. Speaking of pass plays.

AJ Stamps Vs Matty Mauk

So far in SEC play Mauk has been less than stellar. So far he’s averaging just 97 yards per game in conference with only 5 touchdowns. Mauk has struggled with his passing game this season as he has already tossed 9 interceptions. AJ Stamp’s is one of the leaders of the SEC and the nation when it comes to picking the ball off and turnovers could play a part if Kentucky is going to win on the road. Stamps will also need to keep Mauk’s favorite target, Bud Sasser, locked down. The King of Receivers has more than double the receptions and yards of all the Tiger wideouts as Missouri’s game is built on a methodical run game.

Jojo Kemp Vs A Run Susceptible Defense

Remember that time Kentucky fought back from a 14-point fourth quarter deficit via a Jojo Kemp based offense? It seems like it was so long ago after back to back games against two of the nation’s best defenses. Missouri’s strength in in their defense but they aren’t able to shut down an aspect of the game like Mississippi State and LSU. The Cats will once again be able to rack up some yards on the ground and the WildKemp should be on full display in Columbia.


On paper the two teams look to be pretty evenly match. Kentucky has the better offense. Missouri has the better defense. In a game that could determine the final finish in the SEC east just a few match-ups could decide an entire game. How do you expect the Cats to kickoff their first of four season closing road games?

Watch Mark Stoops discuss his contract extension with UK

He says he’s here to stay, so back off.

Missouri as Blueprint for Kentucky Football Development


Gary Pinkelstoops3

Tonight’s candidates for America’s most popular game show:  Who’s More Grizzled…


I am naturally inclined to root against the Missouri Tigers.  First, as a general opponent to change on any level, I do not like the Johnny-come-lately SEC teams.  I am still trying to get accustomed to Arkansas and South Carolina, and those greenhorns have been around here for a quarter century. The torment to which the traditional SEC programs have subjected my beloved Cats over the years notwithstanding, I have strong feelings of nostalgia for the SEC as I have known it.  Secondly, Missouri still seems an odd fit for the conference.  Columbia is not exactly south and it’s not exactly east, so it is irregular from a geographical perspective, and I’m not sold that the culture of the program is a real fit. But what fuels my dislike the most is undoubtedly Missouri’s early success within the conference.  After the Tigers’ inaugural season, in which they struggled mightily to adjust to the rigors of America’s toughest conference, Missouri punched a ticket to the SEC Championship game in jut their second year as a conference member.  Such instant success was a difficult pill to swallow for Kentucky fans who have never seen the Cats really even come close to that level of success within the conference. But while I am not a fan of the Tigers, I do believe there is a strong parallel between the Missouri and Kentucky football programs.  Specifically, I think that Stoops and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel are in many ways the same guy, and that Kentucky can take a page from Missouri’s recent success in hitching their football wagons to Stoops for the long haul.

Like Stoops, Pinkel hails from the state of Ohio, and personifies the no-nonsense mid-western persona.  He played football at Kent State under Hall of Fame coach Don James. Interesting aside number one.  Pinkel roomed with with future NFL Hall of Famer Jack Lambert, who likely never troubled Gary to borrow his toothbrush.


Interesting aside number two. One of Pinkel’s college teammates was Nick Saban. Just imagine what a good time those two wacky kids had together. Watching film, practicing delivery of football cliches in monotone, plugging Saban into the mainframe each night to recharge his battery. In any event, Pinkel, like his buddy the Sa-borg, learned under Don James, whose primary philosophy was hard-nosed, physical football. Stoops came up under much the same pedigree both from his father and from Iowa Hawkeye legend Hayden Frye. But what separates Pinkel, and I believe Mark Stoops as well, was his willingness to combine the toughness that is at the foundation of his football philosophy with a willingness to incorporate innovation within his program.

Pinkel received his first head coaching job at Toledo, and in a decade with the Rockets, became their all time leader in coaching victories.  He took over a struggling Missouri program in 2001, and, like Mark Stoops, found the early going a bit rocky.  Pinkel finished 4-7 and 5-7 in his first two seasons in Columbia.  But Missouri rightly stood by Pinkel, and he has rewarded their patience and loyalty by leading the Tigers to 9 bowl games, three conference divisional titles and the most wins of any coach in Missouri history. This from a program that had only had had two winning seasons in 16 years prior to Pinkel’s arrival.  Along the way, he has accumulated 181 victories as a college head coach, good for 6th among active FBS coaches.  Pinkel achevied much of his success, particularly at Missouri, by being one of the true forerunners of the spread offense in major college football.  Under Pinkel’s direction, players like Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert and James Franklin put the Tigers at the forefront of offensive football over the last decade.  While the offenses dazzled, Pinkel never lost the focus on physical and aggressive football.  Missouri’s defense has again shown that saltiness this season as the Tigers lead the conference in sacks at 28 going into Saturday’s contest with Kentucky.

Like Pinkel, Mark Stoops inherited a program without much of a heritage of winning football.  He also seems to be attacking the situation in much the same way that Pinkel has with the Tigers.  When you hear Mark Stoops talk football, when you watch him in practice or on the sidelines, it is apparent that toughness is his calling card.  It would be easy for him to do what many tough guy coaches of the past have done and to rely on that toughness to try to simply overcome opponents by sheer force of will.  (The Billy Gillispie tougher guy wins mentality minus the booze.)  Instead, because Stoops cares more about building his program than branding himself as some sort of defensive guru, he has acknowledged that he needs an offensive-oriented attack to work in combination with his old-school core.  Thus, the hiring of Neal Brown and the massive investment into high performance.  Stoops recognizes that in 2014, old school must marry innovation, particularly at a program that historically struggles to find success on the field.

Missouri’s administration has ensured that Pinkel is rewarded for his success, and has managed to keep him in Columbia for 13 years despite multiple opportunities to leave for seemingly greener pastures.  Kentucky’s administration obviously intends to do the same for their man.  A point I intended to make in this post was that the Kentucky administration had to do all things necessary to keep Mark Stoops in Lexington. While typing it, it was announced that Mark Stoops’ contract has been extended through the 2019 season.  Does Mitch Barnhart always know what’s happening in my head? I guess I’ll find out in a few minutes if he brings me some biscuits from Cracker Barrel. Regardless, this extension is a fantastic, forward-thinking move by UK.  When you find the head man who is the right fit, as Missouri and Kentucky both have, you hang on for dear life.  With a little luck, Stoops can duplicate the decade of unprecedented success at Kentucky that Gary Pinkel has achieved at Missouri.



Watch out for Mizzou’s run game Saturday


In order to win Saturday, Kentucky needs to focus on one thing. That is stopping Mizzou’s run game, especially on special teams.

Unlike last week when Mississippi State had their ‘Heisman quality’ quarterback to lean on, there are two other players Mizzou will need in its game this weekend. Quarterback Maty Mauk started the year off strong, but has gone downhill lately. Against Power five schools he has thrown just four touchdowns, which in no way makes up for the 6 interceptions to go along with that.

So they have had to look in other places to make up for that slack. They have people to do that that in tailbacks Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough.

Backup tailback Marcus Murphy has put up excellent numbers the past few games. He might be listed as a backup tailback, but don’t let that fool you. Against Florida alone, Murphy ended the night with 224 all-purpose yards and leads the SEC with a 149.14 all-purpose yards per game average. Last week against Vanderbilt, Murphy finished with 94 yards on 16 carries. It is not the amount of carries that gives him these numbers; it is the length of the carries.

For example. Murphy has two kickoff returns for touchdowns and a punt for a touchdown this year because of his explosive run game. This is what worries me the most. I am not one to go after coaches, but Kentucky’s special teams has been….uh…less than favorable the last few games. Mizzouri knows this and you best believe they will put Murphy in the back field to receive a few carries as well. This could get dangerous.

Murphy has been switching back and forth for the number one spot with Russell Hansbrough. Against Vanderbilt last week, Hansbrough rushed 88 yards on 19 carries. Mizzou having two go to guys will not be an easy thing for Kentucky to overcome.

Luckily for Kentucky defense, both tailbacks are just average size for today’s tailback standard. Murphy comes in at 5-9, 195 pounds and Hansbrough is 5-9, 190 pounds. It will be interesting to see how Kentucky plans on dealing with these two on the field.



TACK’s New Player Tennis Clinic is the first step to reaching the Wimbledon Finals

TACK Logo (3 Color)

Want to learn to play tennis like the great ones? I’m talking Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Ivo Karlovic and Tom Jomby… That can be you!

But first you have to get started and there’s no better place to start than the Tennis Association of Central Kentucky’s New Player Tennis Clinic at Lexington Tennis Club. Check out the details below and then remember the little people like me when you’re on tour.


Watch Eric Bledsoe run from a dinosaur and then pretend like you wouldn’t do the same

What, they didn’t have dinosaurs in Alabama? Watch Bledsoe sprint away from the fake dinosaur set up inside the Suns arena.

In his defense, that things looks pretty real.

Eric’s reaction was great, but Archie Goodwin’s is even better. See it below in the full version.

Israel Gutierrez Dresses as Drake on Around the Horn


For Halloween, the Around the Horn crew dressed up as various oddities and the best had a UK connection. Israel Gutierrez went as Drake (he looks just like him) and over the course of the show represented a number of teams, including the Cats. It was good stuff and a big A+ from me for the costume.

Cut-Off Sleeve Guy, KSR respects you

On a night that saw the return of LeBron in Cleveland, Jameis being Jameis in the second half, NFL Thursday Night Football and the Season 4 premiere of Project Runway All-Stars, one man captured the attention of America by wearing not one, but two cut-off t-shirts on a chilly night in Louisville. We gave him hell, you gave him hell, the internet gave him hell. And to be fair, he deserved some of it.

But today I’m here to applaud Cut-Off Sleeve Guy — whose real name is Kyle Norris — for the way he and his exposed arms handled the newfound fame. After discovering him on Twitter earlier today, I can now say he has our respect and we will put him in that very small group of Louisville fans we actually like. (That makes roughly three people in that group.)

Have a look at some of Kyle’s tweets since his national TV debut:

Keep doing you, Kyle. Some men were born to wear sleeves, others weren’t. You know your place in this world.

Kenny Payne says UK has no choice but to platoon on Sunday


Kenny Payne has no idea who will start in Kentucky’s first exhibition game this coming Sunday — he said that’s for Calipari to figure out — but he knows they will platoon. It’s the only option right now until a smaller group emerges from the rest.

“We don’t have a choice,” Coach Payne told reporters, when asked if UK will platoon. “We’ve got 12 really good players. We got to find time for all of them, and they all deserve to play.”

He believes the entire team is still on board with platooning, for now, and he doesn’t expect it to change because they all have one goal in mind.

“I think everybody’s bought in. I think it was vital what we did in the Bahamas. It showed that it could work. And these guys are really at core about winning. And that’s important. So right now, everybody’s bought in. We don’t expect to have them not to buy in. We just gotta make it work, and it will. It will.”

Your AP No. 1 Wildcats will finally see another team on American soil on Sunday at 7:00 pm. Good luck to Pikeville in Rupp Arena.


Raises are coming for Stoops’ assistants too


You know what they say: It ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none; therefore Mark Stoops and the athletic department are working on extensions for his assistants, too.

Stoops did not give a timetable on when he and his assistants will be throwing new racks in the club together, but he did confirm new deals are in negotiations. “Yes, they will be made,” he said.

How nice is it to see UK dumping money into the football program? If I had more time I would put Mitch Barnhart’s face over Kenny Powers:

The new football practice facility will break ground in January

Exterior Perspective - Practice Fields

No one loves construction more than the University of Kentucky and it plans to add more work to the campus at the first of the year. News broke today (tucked beneath all of the Mark Stoops talk) that UK will break ground on the new $45-million football practice facility in January. Mitch Barnhart said, “We’re good to go on the practice facility. We’ve got enough funds to move on, and I think we’re breaking ground sometime in January. So we’re moving on with that. We’ve got lots of plans for that. Got it pretty dialed down.”

Barnhart expects the entire project to be completed in time for full use in the spring of 2016.

Mark Stoops is now the sixth highest paid coach in the SEC


According to these numbers from Saturday Down South back in August, Mark Stoops jumped up from dead last to sixth in the conference pay scale with his new deal. Only Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin, Les Miles, Steve Spurrier and Gus Malzahn are paid more, and all five of those guys are former SEC Coaches of the Year.

Stoops now makes an average of $3.225 million per season, just ahead of Bret Bielema and Mark Richt for the sixth biggest paycheck.


Saturday Down South

Meanwhile, Dan Mullen, head coach of the nation’s No. 1 team, takes over Stoops’ spot at the very bottom. (I hear Florida pays well, Dan.)

Mark Stoops’ New Contract Extension: What You Need To Know

Mark Zerof | US Presswire

Mark Zerof | US Presswire

Mark Stoops is set to be the head football coach at the University of Kentucky through the 2019 season after signing his second extension in six months earlier today. Mitch Barnhart said the new deal isn’t to reward Stoops for his five wins this season, but because the way things are headed under Stoops’ direction. “This is about the general trajectory and direction of our program,” said Barnhart. “That is what this is about.”

Stoops, who insists he has no interest in leaving Lexington any time soon, told reporters it was a short conversation before signing the new deal and he didn’t think twice about it. He feels the commitment from the university and its athletic department and he is equally committed in return. “We’re committed to each other.”

As for the actual deal, you can find every thing you need to know, short and simple, listed below:

— The deal has no buyout. Barnhart said he doesn’t believe in buyouts. He wants coaches who want to be at Kentucky.

— The compensation for his final season in the contract went from $2.65 million in 2018 to $4.25 million in 2019. The new guaranteed numbers look like this: $3.25 million, 2015; $3.5 million, 2016; $3.75 million, 2017; $4.0 million, 2018; $4.25 million, 2019.

— Stoops will earn a $250,000 bonus for every win past his sixth each season. So when he wins 10 games in 2015, Mrs. Stoops is getting a brand new car!

— He will earn $200,000 if UK wins the SEC Championship or plays in a BCS bowl. I will be getting a brand new car if either of those happen, on my own dime.

— He will earn another $200,000 if UK wins the National Championship. We will burn several cars, new and old, if that happens.

— Coach Cal thinks Mark Stoops is the perfect fit:


Mark Stoops: “I plan on being here for a long time.”


His name is being tossed around as a candidate for other jobs at season’s end, but Mark Stoops didn’t think twice before signing his new contract extension with the University of Kentucky. He met with the media before boarding the plane to Missouri this afternoon and spoke very highly of his relationship with Mitch Barnhart, the university, and his football program.

“We’re committed to each other,” said Stoops, several times. “I have the same commitment back to these kids and the program. It’s a great relationship and I plan on being here for a long time.”

He said the Stoops family was built on loyalty and he feels the loyalty here at Kentucky.

“I’m here, I’m happy to be the head coach and I’m looking forward to many more years,” he added. “I’m not interested in going anywhere.”

Now let’s go out there and clinch this bowl game.

Mark Stoops Press Conference LIVE