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November 28th, 2014

Stuck in the Middle: Giving ‘House Divided’ a New Meaning

house divided flag

The epicenter of the Bluegrass Rivalry in Louisville creates the most chaotic culture for clashes between fans.  The Thanksgiving tables around the city were surely filled with less turkey than there were arguments about the Cats and Cards.  The KSR writer in a family filled with Brohms, I always believed my passion for the Cats’ was unquestionably the most difficult.  I found a Cats’ fan that has a much tougher time, stuck in the middle of his team and his family.  

The life of Vince Irvin has changed a lot in the last year.  It has been a roller coaster ride that the cliche cannot do justice.  As fast and crazy as the ride has been, football has kept the proverbial cars on the track.  Tomorrow the ride will reach its climax when the lifelong Cats’ fan sets aside his Big Blue allegiances for his little brother, Cardinal quarterback Reggie Bonnafon.

It may seem implausible to believe, but Vince is as passionate about his Cats as anybody.  He started at a young age.  Even though their mother has always been behind the Cards, both Vince and Reg’s fathers introduced them to the blue at an early age with the Cats’ Pause.  Vince never put them down, while Reg was more indifferent.  Vince’s fandom has only grown over time.  A regular KSR reader, one of his greatest memories from last year was going to Indy to watch the Cats take down the Cards in the NCAA Tournament.

He’s also a pretty clever Cats’ fan:

Vince is a pretty good athlete himself, starring in basketball and football for Fern Creek before playing four years of football at Lindsey Wilson College in Colombia, Ky., where he’s currently finishing his degree.  Vince was a good left tackle (even though he couldn’t block me), but Reg has always been a special athlete.  He played receiver for Trinity while awaiting his turn to start at quarterback his Senior season.

Not too many paid attention to Reg before he became a starting QB, except for Louisville.  After performing well at a camp, they told him if he kept improving, a scholarship would be waiting for him.  A year later at the same camp, he did everything they wanted, receiving an offer immediately after.  At this point, Joker Phillips was still the Cats’ coach and had not pursued Bonnafon at all.  Once Stoops took over, DJ Eliot immediately began recruiting Reg.  It was a little too late, but once Eliot found out Vince was a UK fan he wanted to get them all on campus for a basketball game at Rupp.  Vince told his little bro, “Even if you are going to Louisville, we gotta take a visit.”

Entering his first college football season, Vince didn’t think he’d see much of his brother on the field, “I wasn’t expecting much out of this season.  I was really hoping he’d redshirt but I knew that Louisville’s quarterback situation was so thin that probably wasn’t going to be an option.”

Petrino turned to Reg early in the season against Murray State.  In the second half he became the proverbial “most popular man on the team” as the backup quarterback, completing 8/11 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for two more scores.  The next week the Cards were on the ropes at Virginia.  Reg looked like a true freshman on the road in the ACC.  Card fans that adored him a week before, wanted him gone a week later.  On the other side, Kentucky fans started chirping on Twitter.  Vince was stuck in the middle, “I can’t even pick a side on this one.  Everybody’s coming at him.” 

Vince stood strong by his brother.  Unfortunately the adversity Reg faced on the road at Virginia was NOTHING compared to what was to come.

(From left to right) Rosalind Bonnafon, Reggie Bonnafon, the late Wallace Bonnafon, and Vince Irvin.

(From left to right) Rosalind Bonnafon, Reggie Bonnafon, the late Wallace Bonnafon, and Vince Irvin.

The one hour and 50-minute drive from Colombia never took so long.  It was a Monday morning when Wallace Bonnafon suddenly passed away.  “He was pretty much my second-dad since I was two.”

Football didn’t matter so much anymore.  The family spent the next week in mourning, spending time together to try to make sense of things.  “More important than anything I felt like, was that I was just here for him.”

The emotional burden can still be heavy at times for the family, but they keep moving forward.  After a week off, Reg started his first game at home against Wake Forrest.  He had a few hiccups, fumbling a handoff exchange and dropping a shotgun snap, but the Cards got the W and he finished the game 16 of 32 for 206 yards and 71 yards on the ground.  Little did he know, things were just getting started.

Will Gardner eventually returned from injury, allowing Reg to work on his mechanics during practice while getting some game snaps here and there.  Vince could now let out a sigh of relief, knowing that the season didn’t fall on his brother’s shoulders, “It’d be so much easier if he was playing receiver.  Any other position BUT quarterback.  The quarterback shoulders the blame, for EVERYTHING.”  

That all changed when Vince received a text in class, “Reggie’s starting for the rest of the year?”  Gardner injured his knee for the third time, giving the ball to Reg to finish off the season with games at Notre Dame and against Kentucky.

The story could not have been written any better last week.  He started strong with two rushing scores, one that capped off a 93-yard drive.  Vince could not hide the pride from his face when talking about his brother’s composure.  Reg hit some adversity in the third quarter, allowing old bad habits to surface, but Vince kept the faith in his brother.  When the game ended, Vince could not contain his emotion:

 “Actually after the Notre Dame game, I cried man.  After it was over, he took a knee to run the clock out.  It was…it was just emotional man.  Everything we’ve been through.”

Reg celebrates an emotional win at Notre Dame, tweeted out by his big bro.

Reg celebrates an emotional win at Notre Dame, tweeted out by his big bro.

Vince’s emotion has quickly been replaced by anxiety.  Stuck in the middle gain, he’s found himself torn, subconsciously cheering against his Cats.  He wants his brother to do well, but not at the expense of Kentucky.  Unfortunately, there really isn’t another option, “I wouldn’t say I was cheering against UK, but if he’s playing em, you don’t want him to be that guy that loses to UK.  How everything’s going right now, you don’t want him to be the guy that loses to UK.”

“I  was looking forward to the UK game.  It wasn’t going to be all on him.  Will does his thing, then Reg comes in a few times , does whatever he does.  But if they lost, it was all going to be on Will.”

Vince is right, if the Cats can pull off the upset, it will be at Reg’s expense.  Louisville’s quarterback play is the only uncertainty on the team.  If he takes care of the ball, everything else – the aggressive defense and stable run attack – should take of itself.  A big part of the Cats’ gameplan will be applying pressure in the hope of creating turnovers.

Vince will be perpetually stuck in the middle for the rest of Reg’s career.  Vince will always be a Cats fan, but once a year he will have to put away his blue for his brother.

“I can’t cheer for UK.  I can’t do it.  If he was playing any other position, I’d definitely be able to do it.  Everything just comes down on the quarterbacks.”

Before you got at a Cards fans’ throat, remember this story of Vince and Reg.  After all, it’s just sports.


Kentucky Women Escape in Overtime Thriller

Photo Britney Howard, UKAthletics

Photo Britney Howard, UKAthletics

After losing their first game of the season to Illinois at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, the 9th ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team came back from down eight points with 1:24 to go to defeat the Oklahoma Sooners 92-88 in overtime.  Sophomore Makayla Epps led the way with a career high 29 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats in a topsy-turvy affair that featured various nine point leads for both teams before knotting up at 79 at the end of regulation. The Cats are now 5-1 on the year.

For the most part, Kentucky has looked pretty discombobulated in the Virgin Islands, with poor defense, a lot of fouls, and confusion on offense, but Epps and fellow sophomore Linnae Harper have been the bright spots for Kentucky, as Harper also added a career high 23 points and 12 rebounds in the win tonight. Oklahoma had the eight point lead with under 90 seconds remaining but were unable to seal the game with free throws, and a crazy double-foul call with 1.1 seconds left helped the Cats tie it up. Nicole Kornet was running down the court as the Sooners held a 79-78 lead when Harper pulled her jersey, getting called for an intentional foul. As her jersey was getting pulled, Kornet slammed the ball into the ground, resulting in a technical foul. Epps hit 1-2 free throws to tie the game, while OU missed both of theirs and bam. Overtime.

A win is a win and Mitchell and Co. will be happy and relieved to walk out of the gym tonight with a W, but it’s certain Kentucky will need to clean things up to have continued success this season. The Wildcats return for their third and final game of the Paradise Jam tomorrow evening against the South Florida Bulls at 8:15.

@WilderTreadKSR


Calipari told Caleb Swanigan he has no plans to platoon again

Following his mediocre performance in today’s game at the Bluegrass Showdown, Caleb Swanigan told Ben Roberts Cal has said he doesn’t plan to platoon again after this season. Apparently Swanigan got a little selfish in the second half of his game when his team trailed, something he said won’t fly if he plays for UK in college.

“What I did in the 2nd half wouldn’t work at Kentucky,” he told Roberts. “Coach Cal would chew me out. They play as a team and they play together.”

Swanigan finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds in the double-digit loss, but committed eight turnovers and did not make a bucket in the second half.

He will visit UK during the Cats’ practice tomorrow before playing again at Dunbar tomorrow night.


Watch Coach Cal, Dakari Johnson and Tyler Ulis look ahead to Providence

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Bored on Black Friday? Take a few minutes to watch the guys talk UT Arlington, Thanksgiving and Sunday’s game against Providence…

John Calipari:

Dakari Johnson and Tyler Ulis:


Kentucky Stole My Fish: Top 10 Tweets of the Week.

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Good afternoon, my fellow Cat fans. Welcome to this week’s smorgasbord of hate. I’d suggest pairing it with a fine wine made from the fresh tears of the ignorant and depraved. Don’t worry, you can have another glass, we have plenty. Enjoy.

#10

#9

2

#8

#7

#6

5

#5

#4

#3

#2

9

#1


Thon Maker is up next in the Bluegrass Showdown LIVE STREAM

The must-have player from the 2016 class is on the floor in the Bluegrass Showdown. Tune in to the live stream to watch Thon Maker destroy whoever gets in his way:


WHO IS READY FOR BETH MOWINS AND JOEY GALLOWAY TOMORROW???

Anyone? Anyone at all?

Come on! It’s Beth Mowins on play-by-play and Joey Galloway dropping knowledge as her analyst.

Let’s get fired up!


Calipari says Dakari’s free throw shooting is all mental

Andy Lyons | Getty Images

Andy Lyons | Getty Images

Dakari Johnson went an absurd 12-of-14 from the stripe in Kentucky’s Tuesday win against UT Arlington, much better than his career 45 percent foul shooting entering that game. He was 12-of-25 on the year before finding the hot hand against the Mavericks.

In today’s pre-Providence press conference, Coach Cal was asked what happened to turn the poor shooting big man into Kyle Macy 2.0:

“Let me ask you, if he went for 12 for 14, that means he’s capable of that,” Cal told reporters. “So what gets in the way of him making 12 out of 14? It’s those six inches between his ears.”

Cal believes Dakari’s bad misses come when he’s thinking, ‘I may miss this one,’ when he needs to be shooting with confidence on every trip to the line.

“They weren’t bouncing around and in and swishing,” Cal said of Tuesday’s made shots. “But he’s capable now and he has to have his own confidence and demonstrated performance, which he has had. I say that to other guys on my team. I’ve said it for years.”

It will be interesting to see how Johnson responds on Sunday against Providence. If he has another impressive night at the foul line, do we dare say Dakari is a player we’re comfortable seeing at the line?


Watch Caleb Swanigan LIVE in the Bluegrass Showdown

Caleb Swanigan, the first of several UK targets in the Bluegrass Showdown, is currently on the court for Homestead out of Indiana. Coach Cal, Kenny Payne, Bruce Pearl and several other coaches from around college basketball are in attendance to watch the former offensive lineman play.

Swanigan is the third-ranked center in the class with heavy interest from the Cats since his breakout performance at the Peach Jam. He picked up his offer in July and took an unofficial visit to Lexington in October.

Watch him LIVE below:


Kentucky to face a brand new Bobby Petrino tomorrow

petrino

No matter what happens in tomorrow’s game, remember: Bobby Petrino is a changed man, coaching in a family atmosphere at Louisville. Wins and losses are meaningless. It’s all about loving your neighbor and being the best person you can be. He’s a family man now. HE CADDIED FOR HIS DAUGHTER.

Football is an afterthought. Remember that tomorrow at noon when the Governor’s Cup kicks off, because that’s the way Bobby sees it. He’s a brand new man.


George Briscoe says Isaiah signed to “put it to bed”

When Isaiah Briscoe committed to the University of Kentucky earlier this month, he said on the ESPN Recruiting TV special that he will wait until the spring to sign the paperwork. However, 24 hours later, news broke that he changed his mind and sent his Letter of Intent to UK.

In an interview with ESPN Insider this week, George Briscoe, Isaiah’s father, explained the sudden change of plan:

“We went out to dinner right after the show and spoke as a family,” Briscoe told ESPN.com“We didn’t want to leave any doubt that we were all in and 100 percent solidified, so we decided to sign and put it to bed.”

The signed LOI was a relief for Cal and his staff; had Briscoe waited, he still would’ve been heavily pursued by St. John’s until the spring, and UK would’ve spent precious time keeping him on board when they could be out recruiting others. But now, he’s 100 percent in and can’t be touched.

 


Louisville planning a “Red Out” tomorrow

The University of Louisville is encouraging its fans to wear red — much more specific than the usual “please wear shirts” — to tomorrow’s game in Papa John’s Stadium. The Cardinals are calling it a “Red Out” for the Governor’s Cup game.

Sir, you’ll have to leave your “I Promise To Rep The Ville” shirt at home this time. The earrings and knockoff sunglasses are fine, as is any additional jewelry and accessories you purchased from a kiosk in the middle of the mall.

cardsfan1


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Cal says Aaron’s still his go-to guy late in the game

Photo by Darrell Bird, CatsPause.com

Photo by Darrell Bird, CatsPause.com

When asked what improvements need to be made in the Cats’ perimeter shooting, John Calipari said that Aaron Harrison needs to start making more 3-pointers. So far this season, Aaron is only 7-28 from behind the arc for 25%, but Calipari says Aaron is still his go-to guy in late game situations.

“If it’s a late game and it’s tight, who do you think I’m gonna go to? I don’t care if he’s shooting 12%, I’m going to him. The reason is demonstrated performance. I’ve seen it, I know it. I’m not testing the waters with other guys. Ain’t happening.”

Even the purest shooters can panic in clutch situations. Not Aaron. “He believes he’s making it. Everyone in the building believes he’s making it. The other team believes he’s making it,” Cal said. “We’ve just gotta create it so he can get it off.”

Meanwhile, your Calipari GIF of the day:

calgifofday


Coach Cal confirms UCLA will replace UNC for two seasons

Today Coach Cal confirmed what we already believed to be true: the new series with UCLA will serve as a replacement for the North Carolina series for two years. “North Carolina has already sent us a contract for after those two years,” Cal said today. “This is plugging that hole right now.”

Kentucky is scheduled to play North Carolina in Las Vegas in 2016 as part of the CBS Sports Classic, so the home-and-home series needed that year off. But taking off one season throws off both schedules, so the two sides agreed to take a two-year hiatus to accommodate the CBS tournament and keep their home schedules balanced for the future.

Therefore, we get a trip to UCLA next season and a visit from the Bruins in 2016 before it’s back to Cats and Heels.

In related news, No. 5 North Carolina stomped No. 22 UCLA last night, 78-56. We’ll see them in back-to-back weekends beginning December 13th with UNC coming to Rupp, followed by a subzero trip to Chicago on December 20th. Can’t wait.