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November 20th, 2014

Cats To Get a Much-Needed Break

 

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WEEK 13: Bye Bye Bye

I absolutely despise hyperbole, and do not employ it my my writing for this website. Having said that, no team in the history of North American football has ever needed a bye week more desperately than the Kentucky Wildcats need this bye week. After an energizing 5-1 start, the Cats have crashed back down to earth, losing 5 straight to drop to 5-6, dipping under .500 for the first time in year two of the Mark Stoops’ era. More than just losing, the Cats have been largely man-handled during their current losing streak.  Four of Kentucky’s last five opponents have scored at least forty points against the Cats’ languishing defense.  Even without the benefit of superhuman Todd Gurley, who is now sadly lost for the season with a torn ACL, the Georgia Bulldogs put up 63 points in Commonwealth Stadium. Tennessee, who has spent most of the season in offensive purgatory, exploded for 50 before calling off the dogs in the early stages of the fourth quarter.  The swagger exhibited early in the season by the Cats, especially on the defensive side of the ball, has given way to what looks almost like acceptance of the inevitable.

Though Kentucky’s late fall swoon is disheartening, it actually should have been fairly predictable to all but the most wide-eyed optimists of the Kentucky fan base. Saturday’s horror show at Neyland Stadium was Kentucky’s eighth game in as many weeks.  Of those eight consecutive games, seven were against Southeastern Conference opponents. Kentucky simply does not possess adequate depth on the roster to forge through that type of meat grinder at this stage of Mark Stoops’ rebuild.  Thus, faced with the rigors of physical SEC football for all those weeks, players began to drop.  Crucial players like Blake McClain, Za’Darius Smith, Fred Tiller, Reggie Meant and others missed time with nagging injuries.  Others were banged up and limited, but persevered.  Mark Stoops is not an excuse maker, and would tell you that a football team has to find a way to compete regardless of the natural attrition inherent in the game.  But at some point, particularly in the early stages of building a program in an unforgiving league, there is a harsh reality to face.  It  takes Kentucky’s absolute best shot to compete.  That best shot, at this stage of the program, is a virtual impossibility after eight straight weeks of big boy football.

Even Mark Stoops acknowledged Wednesday at his media availability just how needed the off time is for the Cats from both a physical and emotional standpoint. Stoops stated that he gave the players Sunday and Monday off to simply “decompress” and avoid thinking about an opponent for a few days.  In other words, he gave them a break from mental reps as well as physical ones.  I think this is another indication of Stoops simply getting it. Kentucky’s regular season finale at the House that Papa John and Crown Royal Built is obviously an enormous game.  Not only is it Kentucky’s most heated rivalry, but it is also a game with significant ramifications as Kentucky’s potential sixth win.  In a move that surprised me a little for its candor, Stoops talked extensively Wednesday about how important that sixth win would be for the program. (Extra practice time, etc.) So he obviously wants it badly. With that said, Stoops is savvy enough as a coach to know that he needs to loosen the reigns on occasion rather than to always grind, especially with a roster on the verge of exhaustion.

Following its one previous bye week, Kentucky’s defense was dominant in a home match up with Vanderbilt.  In a game that seems like it took place years rather than weeks ago, the Cats gave up only 139 total yards and zero offensive points while intercepting three passes and repeatedly causing havoc in the Vanderbilt offensive backfield.  Of course, some of that has to do with the fact that Vanderbilt is truly terrible.  Still, there is no question that Kentucky’s defense had a different speed and bravado at that point in the season.  They were healthy and rested, and what limited depth they have was available to them on that date.  It will be interesting to see if this week’s bye has a similar impact on the Cats going into the Louisville game.

To have any chance against the dirty birds on Thanksgiving weekend, Kentucky needs to get its core group of players healthy.  Wednesday, Stoops indicated that he believed that the Cats might get everyone, with the possible exception of Offensive Tackle Kyle Meadows, back in action for the season finale.  But simply having the complete roster available to take the field won’t mean anything.  Stoops must find a way in this bye week to get the Cats their mojo back. The Cats need to remember the feeling of dancing to “Bad Boys” rather than playing like a bad defense. If  the Cats can regroup, there is still much to play for.  A win against Louisville, marking the sixth win of the season and securing a bowl berth, would make Cat fans forget the lean times of late October and November.  Here’s hoping a week of rest will bank sufficient energy to turn back the clock on the Cats’ performance, and we’ll see the Cats of September once again.

 

 


10 Things To Know About The Boston Terriers

Until I looked at the schedule around noon today, I’m not sure I could’ve told you who Kentucky had on the schedule tomorrow night. I might’ve said Boston, maybe, but I don’t know. I’m still in celebration mode from Tuesday night. Go Cats.

However, eventually we have to move on and focus on the challenge ahead, so tonight I buckled down and did some research — like, looking up who Kentucky plays — on the upcoming opponent.

Do you know much about Boston University basketball? If the answer is no, and I assume it is, you’ll feel much more informed after you read all of the important information I dug up below. Thank me later.

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1.) The Terriers are 1-1 on the season.

Northeastern defeated Boston University in TD Garden in the season opener, 71-65. Northeastern then went on to beat Florida State in Tallahassee two days later, so they’re no joke.

Boston bounced back last night against Norfolk State with a 71-63 win in Norfolk to move back to .500 on the young season.

2.) Boston competes in the Patriot League.

The Patriot League is a conference made up of private institutions of higher education and two U.S. service academies, Army and Navy. Outside of the Ivy League, it is the most selective group of higher education institutions in NCAA Division I and has the highest student-athlete graduation rate for both the NCAA graduation success rate and the federal graduation rate.

A few other notable colleges in the conference are Bucknell, Holy Cross and Lehigh, the latter being the team that upset second-seeded Duke in the NCAA tourney a few years ago.

3.) The Terriers were the preseason conference favorite six of the last seven years, but begin 2014-15 at No. 6.

It is the lowest preseason conference ranking for Boston in its history, sharing the honor with sixth-place starts in 1999 and 2000. The Terriers opened the season with three brand news starters, in addition to more roster turnover across the board. Only two players returned from a season ago.

So they’re new.

4.) The school’s colors are scarlet and white.

Scarlet is a fancy word for red. It was originally called torch red in your crayon boxes until Crayola changed it to scarlet in 1998.

5.) According to the American Kennel Club, the Boston Terrier is an “All-American” dog.

“It is a lively and highly intelligent breed with an excellent disposition. Conveying an impression of determination, strength and activity, he is short-headed and compactly built, and must be black, brindle or seal with white markings.”

Fun fact: Helen Keller had a Boston Terrier named Phiz, given to her by her classmates, and that has absolutely nothing to do with tomorrow’s basketball game. Joan Rivers, Warren G. Harding and Gerald Ford also owned Boston Terriers, another useless fact.

6.) Starting guard Cheddi Mosely played AAU basketball with Karl Towns and new UK signee Isaiah Briscoe.

Mosely was a member of the 2013 NJ Playaz AAU squad, one of Tomlin’s favorites at the Peach Jam. The year before, Cheddi suited up for IZOD — yes, IZOD has an AAU team — with one Karl-Anthony Towns.

Mosely was the seventh-ranked recruit in the state of New Jersey’s 2014 class.

7.) The last time the Terriers played the No. 1 team, they lost by 17.

Boston opened the 2005-06 college basketball season with a trip to Durham to face No. 1 Duke in Cameron Indoor. That Blue Devils team featured J.J. Redick, Shelden Wiliams, Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts.  Boston held a first half lead for nearly 12 minutes but fell in the end, 64-47.

8.) Rhett the Boston Terrier got his name from “Gone With The Wind.”

Because “no one loves Scarlet more than Rhett,” says the novel.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

9.) Starting forward Nathan Dieudonne is from Louisville.

Dieudonne was named Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012 after leading Trinity to its first state title in school history. He was the MVP in the state title game and finished his senior season with 14 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.3 assists per game.

Now a junior at Boston, he started 34 of 35 games in 2013-14 and is coming off an 11-point outing in last night’s win over Norfolk State.

10.) Boston opened up as a 29-point underdog against Kentucky.

I’ll take the Cats for all of the money in my bank account, please.


Calipari was in Massachussetts last night to see his son’s first game back from injury

BradCalipari

Where in the world was John Calipari last night? Granby, Massachusetts to see his son, Brad, play in his first basketball game since tearing his ACL ten months ago. Brad is the starting shooting guard for the Macduffie Mustangs, and scored nine points and dished out two assists in their win over Redemption Christian Academy. Here’s one of his threes:

First game back in 11 months!!Feels good to be back! #Bottoms

A video posted by Brad Calipari (@bradcalipari) on

Congrats on the comeback, Brad.

[MassLive]


These custom Air Jordans for Tyler Ulis and Alex Poythress are amazing!

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A few days ago, nicekicks.com named Kentucky #2 on their preseason college kicks on court teams. Well, if Tyler Ulis and Alex Poythress wear these during a game this season, they may move up to number #1. These custom Jordan 10’s for Poythress and Jordan 11’s for Ulis by TrueBlueCustoms  are simply works of art. 

IMG_1112 @truebluecustoms

Which ones are your favorite? Im going with the 11’s

@Perk_21KSR


A Win Over the Red and White is a Win for Kentucky’s Redshirts

Mark Zerof/USA Today

Mark Zerof/USA Today

Less than ten days away from the final football game of the year, Mark Stoops’ second season as Kentucky’s head football coach will come to an end at Louisville, against the man who handed him his first loss as a head football coach, Bobby Petrino.  After a 5-1 start, the Cats have lost momentum during a 5-game losing streak.  But Stoops could salvage the season with a bowl birth on their biggest rivals’ home turf.

Beating Louisville would give you the upper hand in trash-talking.  It would give you an excuse to make a December road trip for a bowl game.  It would give the Cats a recruiting advantage around the state.  Beating Louisville wouldn’t ruin the Redbirds’ season, but more importantly, it would  give the Cats’ redshirts a leg-up as they look ahead to 2015.

“That’s why it’s important — there’s no denying that it’s real important — to get that sixth victory so you get out and start working with them (the redshirts) more during the practice time for a bowl game if we can get this sixth win,” Stoops said yesterday.

It’d be fun to rub a football victory in Cardinal fans’ faces, but 30 days later most will be forgotten when the Cats and Cards play in the Yum! Center.  The bowl game trip might not be glamorous in Biloxi, Ms., and the Cats already have a nice recruiting edge over the Cards in Kentucky.  The best benefit is the one the BBN can’t see from the outside but makes a world of difference inside the program.

“Basically it’s like another spring practice, or at least part of one,” Stoops said.  “You really take a good portion of those practices and work with the young guys.”

Many of the guys redshirting now will have to fill holes in the depth chart immediately.  Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith’s important positions will be vacant.  Darrian Miller has been consistent at left tackle – the most important pass protector on the offensive line – but will be graduating.  Production at tight end has been virtually non-existent, but will play an important part of Brown’s offense in the future.  The extra practice time will allow the coaches a head start on figuring out who are the best candidates to step in and play right away.

Here’s a rundown of who has performed the best, according to Stoops, Brown and a few players too.

Nico Firios 

The consensus from all is that Nico is one mean man.  I asked at Media Days what the BBN should expect to see him when he hits the field:

“You’re going to see me flying around to the ball.  I bring a lot of speed to the game.  When I strap up, I’m trying to hit somebody.  So you’re going to see me hit somebody.”

The first words Brown used to describe Nico were “flies around.”  He’s the most disruptive player on the scout team.  Everyday he attacks practice at 100 miles an hour, to the point where coaches will sometimes have to tell him to tone it down.  He’s a mustache-less and more athletic Jeff Snedegar, adorning a mohawk instead.  He’s what I like to call the Scout Team All-American: a nuisance to starters because if they aren’t going 100%, he’ll make them look stupid.  What the Cats have lacked in physicality at linebacker this year will not be a problem with Firios next year.

Bunchy Stallings

Every offensive lineman in the Class of 2014 is redshirting this year.  Brown likes what he sees from all of them, but Bunchy has set himself apart.  The center looks the part, but his greatest assets are his footwork and his family’s background.  His father and brothers played college ball and got a taste of the NFL, offering helpful tips and guidance as he grows as a student-athlete.  Bunchy’s a smart one too, necessary for the center position, the quarterback of the offensive line.

Darryl Long

People around the program have marveled at how much the tight end’s body has transformed in a few short months.  Standing near 6’5″, he’s been one of Bud Dupree’s most difficult matchups in pass coverage.

Denzil Ware

One of the highest-rated recruits in the class has not disappointed in practice.  Ware’s play has been good enough that we should not have to worry too much about the departures at defensive end.

“I think he’s got what it takes to be an edge rusher in this league, especially in the three-down front stuff that we’re doing.  I like his demeanor.  He’s got a good burst.  He’s getting better going against our two tackles.” – Neal Brown

Jared Tucker

The cornerbacks have been better than last year, but they still manage to make the BBN collectively pull their hair out at least once a game.  Tucker is a lengthy 5’11” corner that has displayed excellent ball skills in practice.  Every week he is designated as the opponents’ best corner, charged with shutting down the Cats #1 outside WR.

 


Funny Twitter follow of the day: @UKStoleMyFish

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There are A LOT of great UK parody Twitter accounts out there nowadays, from Not Jerry Tipton to Alex Poythress the type of dude. Another one came across my timeline this afternoon: @UKStoleMyFish. UK Stole My Fish tweets out actual, unedited message board comments from rival fans, which, given the Cats’ success lately, makes for some pretty hilarious reading. Here are just a few:

We are excited to announce that UK Stole My Fish will also be doing a weekly post for KSR on Fridays, starting tomorrow, so get ready to see more.


Get ready to see a lot of threes tomorrow night

Get ready to see a lot of threes tomorrow night in Rupp. Last season, Boston University ranked 31st in the nation in three-point attempts with 282, or 8.1 per game. Through two games this season, they’re 17-40 for an impressive 42.5% (UK is 29%). Today, John Robic was asked how the team will defend the three since burning it up behind the arc is pretty much the only way teams will be able to beat UK this season.

“I mean, we’re so big that if we can keep them off the foul line and keep them off the three-point line, it’s gonna be tough to score. Teams are gonna come in with the theory that, ‘we have to beat them from the three-point line.’ If we can do a good job of that and make them drive into our bigs, we like what our bigs do defensively, and that’s an important stat. We just can’t give away free points from the three-point line.”

Boston’s Cheddi Mosely is hitting an impressive 67% from behind the arc so far this season. Hopefully, the Cats clamp down on the perimeter and don’t turn him into another Devan Downey.


Welcome back, Bruce

Tucked in this video of impressive trick shots is an awesome cameo from Bruce Pearl. Pearl does as Pearl does, hitting a crazy shot from the upper deck at Auburn arena and yelling “That’s what I’m talking about, WAR DAMN EAGLE.”

Welcome back, Bruce.


UK opens as a 29-point favorite over Boston U.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Tomorrow night, the Cats take on the Boston University Terriers at 7 p.m. UK opened as a 29-point favorite this afternoon, and it’s already been bet up to 30.5.


Robic says Bahamian bonding is the secret to the platoons’ success

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

John Calipari says the main reason UK did the Bahamas trip was to get his players to buy into the platoon system. It worked; today, John Robic told the media that the platoon system is succeeding because the players genuinely like each other and are therefore willing to sacrifice individual goals for the team. “This group genuinely likes each other,” Robic said, pointing to the Bahamas trip as a crucial bonding experience. “We have great kids that — you’re right, they have given up some of their game, but they want to win. I think they’re doing what it takes to win when they’re on the floor and when they’re not on the floor. It takes a special player and a special person when you’re not in the game to be actively involved, and they are every time they go in and out.”

Tuesday night showed us what Kentucky is capable of when the platoon system is running on all cylinders. Robic said he was very pleased with his team’s play, especially how they rose to the challenge after Kansas’ run at the end of the first half. “Probably the biggest thing is how they were going to react to a high-level game against a very good, top-ranked opponent. We obviously played really well and I thought everybody responded very, very well in that game, even towards the end of the first half when Kansas made a little run at us to cut it at halftime,” Robic said. “Guys grouped together at halftime and really answered the challenge coming out of that halftime to score the first six points and bump that lead up.”

The Bahamas: forming platoons and unlikely friendships between media members since summer 2014.


The twins had some swaggy comments today

Darrell Bird | Cats Pause

Darrell Bird | Cats Pause

The Harrison Twins are usually pretty reserved in their comments to the press, but even they let a little swag slip out in today’s media opportunity. Both said they could sympathize with Kansas after UK’s relentless beatdown because that’s what practice is like everyday at UK.

Also, to all the haters who claim the players’ egos will get in the way of the platoon system, the Twins said that routing a top-five team in the fashion UK did Kansas playing only 20 minutes a game is just as satisfying as getting 30+ minutes of playing time.

Stone cold.


Watch John Robic preview tomorrow night’s game against Boston

 


2015 power forward Thomas Bryant visiting UK tomorrow

UK’s 2015 recruiting just got even stranger. According to Corey Evans, 2015 power forward Thomas Bryant will take an unofficial visit to Kentucky tomorrow. UK has not offered the 6’10” big man, but that may change very soon.

Bryan is considered the 7th best power forward and the 25th overall player in the 2015 class by 247 Sports Composite, and plays for the famous Huntington Prep in West Virginia. Syracuse, Indiana, and Missouri are high on the Rochester, New York native’s list, with Syracuse the perceived favorite. It’s also worth mentioning that former Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford is now an assistant on Missouri’s staff.

He’ll be in Rupp tomorrow night for UK/Boston University, so make him feel welcome. Until then, watch him work:


There’s a UK student on “Party Down South 2″ this season

Get More:

I’ll admit, I didn’t watch the first season of CMT’s “Party Down South” (“Jersey Shore” in the south) because the billboard on Broadway and West End in Nashville made it look pretty disgusting, but apparently it was successful enough to get a second season. Why do you care? That second season features a UK student. Harrodsburg native Hunter Robinson is one of the stars and makes quite the impression in this trailer that came out a few weeks ago. The part where he’s tells a keg “you saved me from the dark times” has Emmy written all over it.

According to the Herald-Leader (who actually did a story on this, believe it or not), Robinson beat out almost 1,000 applicants to be on the show and filled out an application late one night after he googled one of the original cast members he thought was hot.

“Party Down South 2″ premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET on CMT. Make us proud, Hunter.

[Herald-Leader]


I hate this debate, but…

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And in Kentucky:

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Sigh…