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Good Sunday evening, folks. It’s our first week of the post-Breaking Bad era, and honestly, I’m not really sure what to do with myself. After sadly flipping though channels, I found myself watching the Denver/Dallas game in time to see Danny Trevathan’s huge pick in the fourth quarter to help the Broncos to a last-second win. That (kind of, almost, not really, but we’ll say it does) makes up for his pick six goal line drop in Week One.Click here to watch it.
The TV stayed on CBS after I saw the “60 Minutes” promo teasing a segment about the Eric C. Conn Law Office. Around these parts, the Eric C. Conn Law Office is most famous for erecting a statue of Charles Ramsey, the Cleveland man who discovered the three missing women at his neighbors house. Ramsey became an American hero, and after his interviews with the media, a KSR darling. So, when we heard he’d be at the unveiling of his statue in Stanville, it was a dead giveaway that KSR would be too. The show that took place will go down in the “Best of” vault for years to come.
Anyways, it turns out Eric C. Conn’s in pretty big trouble. “60 Minutes” did an expose on Conn and other lawyers who are taking advantage of the federal government’s disability program, which has exploded in size in the last six years and could become the first federal benefits program to run out of money. What does Conn have to do with it? His firm has allegedly helped those who aren’t actually disable get money from the government fraudulently. Conn is being accused of partnering with a loose disability judge and doctors to work the system to award a half a billion dollars of lifetime benefits to his clients. The oddest (and therefore funniest) fact in the story? It turns out Conn is the third largest disability lawyer in the country, but his office only has one handicap parking space. “60 Minutes” traveled to Stanville to talk to Eric C. Conn, who declined to comment (although he was tempted). There’s a Senate hearing on Monday to discuss the matter, but for our sake, let’s just be happy we had that lovely Friday in May with Charles Ramsey.
If you want to see the “60 Minutes” story in full, click here. If not, read on for these five story lines for the next week in Kentucky sports:
1. The offense finds a rhythm
Leading up to Saturday, the Kentucky football team had no identity on offense. The two-QB system had stalled, with neither Jalen Whitlow nor Maxwell Smith seizing the reins to move the group forward. After the offense struggled to put up 173 yards of total offense against Florida, Mark Stoops knew it was time to change. He gave Jalen Whitlow the nod in practice last week, and even when he began to second guess himself during the game Saturday night, stuck with the mobile sophomore, and that confidence paid off. Jalen is not perfect, but against a defense like South Carolina’s, he gave Kentucky the best shot to win. He’s not your typical “Air Raid” QB–he’s too inaccurate on short throws–but for now, the offense found a rhythm under him against South Carolina, and therefore the team should stick with him. Without perpetual fear that he would be yanked, Jalen was able to settle down and establish some chemistry with his receivers, and put together three impressive fourth quarter scoring drives. UK even converted on third down, with 5/11 and an impressive 2-2 on fourth down. A lot of those short-yardage gains were thanks to the Wildcat package, which featured Raymond Sanders, Ryan Timmons and JoJo Kemp successfully. The freshmen and JUCO wide receivers showed why they’re the future of the program on Saturday night, accumulating 124 receiving yards. Here’s hoping that progress continues against Alabama.
2. The team shows heart
I’ll admit it: between the loss to Florida, the Big Blue Madness Campout and the overwhelming excitement for basketball season, I lost a little bit of interest in football this week. Playing South Carolina at South Carolina seemed too daunting a task for a team that could barely move the ball against the Gators. Thank God they proved me wrong. Once again, the Cats clawed back in the second half, unwilling to roll over and give up like they did in years past. After Mark Stoops challenged them to step up in practice this past week, the team smacked back and showed some heart. The losing mentality that permeated the Joker Era is gone and Stoops will no longer accept his team simply “going through the motions.” This is Kentucky’s first ever stretch of four consecutive games against Top 20 opponents, and honestly, they’ve fared better than most of us expected. After the Alabama game, the toughest part of the season will be over and Kentucky will have some winnable games ahead of them:
10/24/13: at Mississippi State
11/02/13: vs. Alabama State
11/09/13: vs. Missouri
11/16/13: at Vanderbilt
11/23/13: at Georgia
11/30/13: vs. Tennessee
3. Alabama comes to town
First, the defending National Champions come to town. An upset would be a miracle, so instead, we can only hope for continued progress. Alabama brings with it its own kind of crazy, and next weekend should be a fun one in Lexington. Their fans will travel in droves, so expect to see plenty of houndstooth at Keeneland on Friday and Saturday. Since the game will be televised on ESPN2, it will also be the first time many people will see Kentucky play, and hopefully they can be competitive. Alabama opened as a 27-point favorite on Sunday. Will the Cats cover?
4. The basketball team continues to impress
I don’t think it’s possible for the excitement level to be any higher for basketball season. Last season’s lows combined with the best recruiting class in college basketball history resulted in a record crowd for the Big Blue Madness Campout. It seems like every day brings more good news about the team, whether it be the individual competition in practice, the integration of the dribble drive, or the rotating title of “surprise performer.” On Friday, Cal told us that because Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress have been out due to minor injuries (WCS a cut on his hand; Alex a hamstring strain), Marcus Lee and Derek Willis have stepped up their game. I thought the week’s most frightening comment came from Jarrod Polson, who said this about the team’s depth:
“We’re by far the deepest team I’ve been on in my four years. We literally have two guys at every position that are going at it, sometimes three, so you can’t really take a break in practice. If you take one break, you’re gonna get exposed and the other man is coming for your spot and you’re coming for their spot.”
Think that’s awesome? Check out John Calipari’s comments after today’s practice:
“Just finished practice and I was pleased with EVERY player.”
All 16 of them. Have you booked your tickets to Dallas yet?
5. The preseason kicks it into another gear
We are eleven days away from Big Blue Madness, which means the preseason events really get underway this week. Media Day is Tuesday, and Drew will be there to cover it in the most ridiculous manner possible. The Women’s Clinic is Sunday night and over 600 women will be in attendance. I’m driving up for the occasion, and bringing a box of 700 “Ladies of KSR” buttons with me. Please don’t mob me at the door.
Finally, a site note. If you haven’t heard yet, Matt’s grandmother passed away on Saturday night, so he’ll be taking a few days away from the site and radio show to spend with his family. Knowing Matt, he’ll still check in every now and then, so please leave your condolences here or pass them along via Twitter. We’re all family, and your messages mean a lot.
See you in the morning.
Randall Cobb’s dazzling catch earlier today for the
Kentucky Wildcats Green Bay Packers wasn’t the only big moment for a former Wildcat in the NFL. Danny Trevathan had a highlight reel play of his own, and it was one of the biggest plays of the day. Trevathan and Wesley Woodyard, a former Kentucky tandem, have been very successful for this year’s Bronco defensive unit. The Broncos were all even with the Cowboys with time winding down. Tony Romo had picked apart the Denver defense for most of the day. And then Danny Trevathan happened.
With just under 2 minutes left in the game, Trevathan dropped back and intercepted Tony Romo’s pass. The Broncos were then able to run the clock down, allowing kicker Matt Prather to win the game with a field goal to keep the Broncos undefeated.
After Kentucky had chipped away at a 21-point lead, the defense needed one more stop against South Carolina for an opportunity to win the game. However, the referees were having none of that as the Wildcats were slapped with a 5-yard, illegal substitution penalty which shortened the field for the Gamecocks. Of course, after further review, it was determined that Kentucky only had 11 men on the field – the proper amount. Coach Stoops was visibly upset with the call as were the other coaches and players. Star Kentucky linebacker, Avery Williamson, was one of those upset players, and today, he took to Twitter to express his feelings on the matter.
The refs probably tailgated too much before the game. We clearly had 11 men on the field. #cockfans
— Avery Williamson (@awill40) October 6, 2013
Couldn’t have said it better myself, Avery.
You may still be down from the football team’s close defeat against South Carolina, but John Calipari is here to tell you some positive news. The Kentucky Basketball squad had practice today and Coach Cal took to Twitter to tell Big Blue Nation his thoughts on his team’s performance. Spoiler Alert: he was pleased.
Just finished practice and I was pleased with EVERY player.
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) October 6, 2013
The good folks over at KYWildcatsTV recently released the video used to hype up the Kentucky Football squad for last night’s game. Sadly the hype wasn’t enough to overcome the Gamecocks as the Cats fell 28-35. Of course, all involved are disappointed with the final result, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone displeased with the effort put forth from the players and coaches.
So maybe you spent your Saturday night downtown, or playing board games. Or maybe you’re like me and spent your Saturday night in Frankfort watching your Mom star in a play about a dead ex-wife (Way to go, Mom). Regardless, there are plenty of legitimate reasons, and even more bad reasons, for why you might have missed last night’s encouraging game against South Carolina.
So enjoy these highlights instead, as you prepare to watch the NFL Cats play all through this afternoon.
Here is your Sunday morning Leach Report from Tom Leach…
Mark Stoops is trying to teach his team “how to win” and there’s a lot of more that goes into changing the culture of a program that just X’s and O’s. And Stoops can use the 35-28 loss at 12th-ranked South Carolina as a great teaching tool. On the plus side, Kentucky “didn’t flinch,” to borrow a phrase offensive coordinator Neal Brown used in his postgame remarks. Just 16 minutes into the game, it looked like Kentucky was on the way to another entry on the list of beatdowns inflicted by Steve Spurrier-coached teams. But this time, the Cats kept getting back up in Rocky-like fashion and they went the distance. On the other hand, Stoops can tell his team to think about what it feels like to come up short of a statement-making win and know that they wasted a day of practice in the past week. And when you do put yourself in position to do something noteworthy, you have to take what you want, whether it’s making a key tackle, making a touch catch, etc.
= = =
It was Connor Shaw’s 31-yard run on a read option play in the fourth quarter. USC was facing second-and-three on its own 18-yard line after Kentucky had scored 14 straight points to pull to within 27-21. Shaw’s run got the Gamecocks out of a hole and they drove in from there for the game-clinching touchdown.
= = =
KEY CAT STATS
5/11 on 3rd downs. And UK followed two of the misses with conversions on fourth downs. Good job by offensive coordinator Neal Brown of finding a new offensive set, the Wildcat plays with a running back taking a direct snap, to give UK a chance to succeed in short yardage situations that had been a problem in the three previous losses.
4 touchdowns on 4 trips into the red zone. Coming into this game, Kentucky was last in the SEC in terms of its percentage of producing touchdowns once it reached the opponents’ 20-yard line but the Cats scored 4 TDs in four of those situations against South Carolina.
6 “big” plays for South Carolina. USC had four plays that went for 20 or more yards in its first three drives and added two more in the second half. Kentucky had only two such plays and both came on the Cats’ final TD drive.
= = =
“WILDCAT PAW” HELMET STICKERS
–Jalen Whitlow. 17/24 passing for 178 yards and 2 TDs plus he ran for 69 more and a TD. Finally, Whitlow started to relax and find a rhythm in the second half and it looks like the Cats are on their way to find an offensive identity.
–Ryan Timmons. 4 catches for 36 yards and his first UK TD. He’ll evolve into a Percy Harvin type of player for the Cats and it’s always impressive to see a rookie step up to the challenge of his first true road game.
–Jordan Aumiller. He matched his career high with 3 catches and he’s developed into a solid blocker. It would have be easy for Aumiller to throw in the towel when he fell out of favor with the previous staff so kudos to him for hanging in there.
–listen to Tom each weekday morning at 9:06am eastern on “The Leach Report” radio network; and follow him on twitter @tomleachky and via “The Leach Report” page on Facebook
–check out tomleachky.com for more of Tom’s coverage of the Cats
“You can call me Aaron Burr from the way I’m droppin’ Hamiltons.”
Who says Sunday has to be lazy? Not the University of Kentucky, which has a couple options for your viewing pleasure this afternoon (assuming you’re not too busy taking a nap).
First up is women’s soccer at Vandy:
— UKWomensSoccer (@UKWomensSoccer) October 6, 2013
Called by the always-enjoyable Buzz Baker, should be a lot of fun to catch on TV or online, if you have access to the providers.
If you’re looking to do something a little more active, make a trip to Memorial to watch the volleyball team play, and demolish, Tennessee.
— Craig Skinner (@UKCoachSkinner) October 6, 2013
Volleyball in Memorial is always a blast, and come on, you weren’t planning on doing anything anyway. Except maybe now watching Lonely Island videos.
After the first quarter in Columbia, I’m pretty sure most Kentucky fans had that old familiar feeling. Down 14-0 with Sandstorm ringing in our ears and the South Carolina offense moving the ball at will, this game had the feeling of a Steve Spurrier shutout. But this is not your old familiar Kentucky team. The Cats clawed back to striking distance and showed that the losing mentality of the Joker Phillips era is long gone. I sat down after the game and came up with a list of what worked against the Gamecocks and what didn’t, and even though they lost, ended up with more positive than negatives.
The One-QB System — With the two-QB system looking more inept than the government against Florida, Mark Stoops knew it was time to pick a quarterback. Stoops reportedly gave Whitlow the majority of the reps in practice last week, only to have Jalen turn in a terrible practice on Tuesday. Regardless, Stoops gave him the nod on Saturday night, and it worked. Whitlow was 17-of-24 for 178 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed for 17 times for 69 yards and a touchdown. He wasn’t perfect; he continues to be inaccurate on the majority of his short throws, but under him, an otherwise stagnant offense finally found a rhythm. Jalen’s nerves didn’t affect him nearly as much as they have at other times this season, and with him at the helm, the Cats scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. After the game, Stoops admitted that he considered putting Maxwell in at one point last night, but decided against it: “I gotta admit, I was thinking about some things in the middle of the game and I said, ‘Nah, lets go with it.’” Thank God he did. UK’s offense is better off for it.
The young guns shine — If you’re looking for the future of Kentucky football, look no further than the freshmen wide receivers and JoJo Kemp. UK’s freshmen and JuCo wideouts were responsible for 124 receiving yards and one touchdown last night. Kemp also looked good, with 12 carries for 40 yards. Ryan Timmons is now the first UK freshman wide receiver with 200 receiving yards since Kennan Burton in 2003, and his first collegiate touchdown was a beauty–an over the shoulder grab in the endzone. Another advantage of sticking with one QB: it allowed Whitlow to form some gametime chemistry with his wide receivers.
Angry Stoops — We hadn’t really seen the “wrath of Stoops” until last night. Stoops looked unhappy for the majority of the game, in part because of his defense’s play, and he was downright livid with Eric Dixon after he missed a crucial tackle on third down. Stoops also had plenty of words for the refs after a bogus substitution infraction late in the fourth quarter. The officials claimed Kentucky had twelve men on the field, when that was obviously not the case. Stoops was still fired up about it in his postgame remarks, telling reporters that he “didn’t understand” the call and the team didn’t even sub anyone on that series. I’ll touch on this more in a second, but Stoops told his team last week that he “would not stand” for their poor performance in practice, and last night, I feel like fans got a little taste of “Angry Stoops.”
Heart — Like I said earlier, this game had a very familiar feeling after the first quarter. The old Kentucky would have rolled over and cried for mercy like they did two years ago in Columbia in a classic 54-3 Steve Spurrier beatdown. One of Stoops’ biggest challenges so far has been changing the losing mentality around the program. For one reason or another, before this season, the team accepted mediocrity, but to Stoops, losing is unacceptable. Last week, he said he felt his team was just “going through the motions” during practice and he lit into them for it, telling them that he wouldn’t stand for their lackluster effort. South Carolina came out hot last night, and instead of rolling over, the Cats clawed back like they have so many times this season. Afterwards, Stoops said he believes they’re changing the culture in the locker room, but he’s not satisfied with a moral victory:
“Our players showed a lot of character, showed a lot of toughness, that they’re doing things the right way,” Stoops told reporters. “Not flinch, take their best shot, and battle back and have an opportunity to make plays in the fourth quarter to win the game. Proud we were in position to do that and very frustrated that we did not do that.”
Senior Avery Williamson said that he’s seeing progress:
“I thought about and I was like, ‘Man we can’t allow that to happen again.’ We dug down deep and just kept on fighting to not allow that. I feel like it’s a different team, we didn’t give up, we kept on fighting. Two years ago we might have laid down but this time we didn’t. I feel like we have 10 times a better team than we did two years ago.”
It won’t come against Alabama, but with that attitude, you have to feel like the Cats will get an SEC victory at some point this season.
Jason Hatcher — Bud Dupree missed most of the game because of a strained pectoral muscle, but Hatcher stepped up to perform admirably in his place. The freshmen defensive end had one of his best games so far, finishing with three tackles and his first career sack.
The uniforms — The white tops, blue pants and blue helmets looked awesome. Definitely Kentucky’s best look so far this season. /FashionRave
Tackling — Eric Dixon’s missed tackle on a crucial third down was the most unfortunate example of this, but the Cats still had way too many missed tackles last night. For the majority of the game, South Carolina moved the ball at will, mainly because of poor execution by the defense. Stoops, who takes bad defense personally, was especially discouraged by the team’s inability to get a stop on South Carolina’s last drive of the game:
“I felt like if we could’ve gotten another stop there defensively, that we could have given ourselves a chance to score.”
That being said, the defense did make some good adjustments at halftime, and were without Bud Dupree and Ashely Lowery at times because of injury. Dupree strained a pectoral muscle during weight training on Thursday and had to come out because the pain was still too bad. Lowery had cramps but returned to the game.
Special Teams — We’ve long loved making jokes about UK’s special teams, which, for a long time, was one of the few bright spots on the squad. Last night, they didn’t look so special, botching an onside kick and failing to pin an excellent Landon Foster punt down at the 1-yard line. The fake field goal against Florida was so spectacular I’m willing to overlook it.
I don’t believe in moral victories, but after last night, it’s hard not to believe in this team and Mark Stoops.
“I don’t know what to do with my hands.
After a solid performance against the Gamecocks, Kentucky starts this week as (only?) 27-point ‘dogs to the Crimson Tide. Bama is coming off of a 42 point trouncing of Georgia State, and while they’ve been great so far this season, they might not be the dominant team that many expected. Can Kentucky win? Unlikely. But can they cover the spread? Yesterday’s game is reason to hope that UK can keep the game under four touchdowns.
There were a lot of things to feel good about last night against South Carolina, even before the fourth quarter brought about hopes of a victory. In our last trip to Columbia, we lost 54-3. In this game, the Cats got down 21-0 early and I feared that another shellacking similar to that one was in the cards again. Why wouldn’t it be? As Kentucky fans, we haven’t seen many games in the past few years that have featured the Cats going down big early before clawing back into it–much less a game on the road against a top 15 team.
But then something strange happened. Things didn’t get worse. Raymond Sanders scored on a short run in the second quarter. Kentucky accomplished a feat that they weren’t able to do in four quarters the last time they visited South Carolina. Though the Cats were down 24-7 at the half, it didn’t feel as if the first two quarters had been a complete embarrassment, a victory in itself when ones considers where this team was last year. I think the reason for this feeling, which almost resembled optimism even at this point in the game, is that the Kentucky football team was showing fight. They were not simply going to fold up shop and wait for the final seconds to tic off the clock before hanging their heads (or having a laugh with Spurrier midfield) and heading back to Lexington.
Obviously, this fight only got stronger in the second half, and whether anyone really bought in or not, the Cats had a legitimate chance to force this game into overtime. Kentucky, one year removed from a two-win season that saw the Cats get completely smacked around by each of their SEC foes, was going blow-for-blow with one of the best teams in the conference. I think it’s important to note that this team is not substantially better than last years team. Outside of a few outstanding newcomers that Stoops and his staff recruited, this is still a talent-depleted team. The difference is, this Wildcat team fought tooth-and-nail to not only stay in this game, but to try and win it. I truly believe this goes back to coaching.
If you weren’t completely bought in on Mark Stoops, it is time to get him and this staff. They’ve already proven they can recruit. Their in-game coaching will get better as their confidence grows with their experience (and obviously as their players get better). Last night, they proved that they had a variable that we weren’t yet sure they had. Mark Stoops challenged his team this week. He pushed the right buttons. His team responded and they went to war for him, and for the rest of his staff even when things could have gotten away from them.
We have Alabama this week and then things get substantially easier. I don’t know what I think is going to happen, but now that we have picked the right quarterback (finally) and with this team willing to dig their heels in, I’ll go back to thinking there is a chance for Kentucky to win games starting on October 24th in Starkville.
-Kelly Oubre hopes to have a decision shortly after Kentucky visit for Big Blue Madness
-Jahlil Okafor cut his list to four: Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky
-Jadeveon Clowney asked to sit out for Kentucky game, apparently, after coaches thought he would be able to play. That’s right, he better keep walking
-UK Coordinators had some encouraging words after the loss to USC
-Andrew Wiggins isn’t bad, but he’ll have a tough time beating Kentucky by himself.
By Courtney Sealey on ©9:00 am
(H/t Regina Rickert)
The No. 19 University of Kentucky Women’s Volleyball team is still undefeated in SEC play after a sweep of Ole Miss Friday allowed them to continue their win streak. After Friday’s match the girls are 11-3 overall and 3-0 in conference. The girls have now won six straight matches, and 10 of the last 11.
The girl’s look to continue their streak this afternoon against Tennessee at the Memorial Coliseum. The match starts at 1:30. The match will be a White Out and the first 150 students attending will get free sunglasses. Tickets are only $5 and you can get in free with the flyer KSR posted Friday.
Recap vs. Ole Miss
The Cats sweep Ole Miss quickly in a three set match. The set scored ended 25-13, 25-16; and 25-8.
The electric atmosphere at the match gave the Wildcats an added boost. A season high crowd kept the noise level high and the Cats energized. Even before the match started ‘Blue and White’ chants went across the gym, giving the opponents chills.
Set 1: The Cats earned a 25-13 win thanks to an amazing .484 hitting clip. UK had a 3-0 advantage in blocks, with two coming from Morgan alone. The Cats went on a five point run after taking a 2-0 lead, however Ole Miss went on to make a comeback. The two teams traded points until the score reached 18-12 and UK went on to score seven of the last eight points.
Set 2: Ole Miss scored the first point but Kentucky answered back with a 7-0 run to take a 7-4 lead. Ole Miss came back to tie it at 7 but Kentucky answered right back with a 7-1 run to take a 14-8 lead. The Rebels got within 2 points at 18-16, but that was the last point they would score as Kentucky took the set 25-16.
Set 3: It is questionable if Ole Miss even showed up to play the third set since UK won 25-8. UK hit .481 with a 14-5 advantage in kills. UK started on a 5 point run, which extended to 7-1 then 9-2. Both Junior Alyssa Gergins and redshirt freshman Kelsey Wolf made their Wildcat debuts in the third. Wolf got her first dig, while Gergins posted her first assist.
Fans got to see senior Whitney Billings rack up a match-high 12 kills for a career best .600 hitting clip. Junior Lauren O’Conner added 10 kills for a .429 hitting percentage, which was also her career high. Junior Jackie Napper led with 18 digs in the match and Morgan Bergren helped her teammates with 30 assists.
According to UK athletics, Craig Skinner thinks his girls are doing great.
“Whitney (Billings) behind (the setter) was working, the middles were getting involved and I wish we could get Zan (Morgan) more kills,” he said. “She’s such a valuable side attacker. But our defense was good again, holding an SEC team under .100 is pretty good.”
Getting to know Tennessee
The Vols comes to Lexington with a less than impressive 8-7 record, including a 2-0 true road record and a 3-1 loss to South Carolina in its only SEC contest this year. UT is coached by Rob Patrick who is currently in his 17th season with the school. He has led the team to nine NCAA tournaments, however has never gotten the banner..
The Vols are a young team and are led by Freshman Jamie Lea who has 189 kills with a 3.38 kills-per-set rate and 35 blocks, this season. Sophomore Lexi Dempsey has recorded 527 assists so far with 12 service aces. Senior Ellen Mullins has recorded an impressive 353 digs as well.
All time, the Wildcats are 43-29 against the Volunteers. Although the Cats are leading, UT has won six of the last nine. UK won both home contest the past two seasons, but this will be the only meeting of the schools this year. This is the first time since 1990 they have only met once.
Once again, the match starts at 1:30 at Memorial Coliseum and make sure to wear white. If you cannot make it you can still listen to the match on 1580 AM. Sadly Ryan Lemond will not be calling the contest this time. =[
Make sure to follow me on Twitter: @Sealey_KSR
By Nick Roush on ©12:49 am
A game that was destined for disaster transformed into what will be looked at as a turning point in the Kentucky football program. The game started sour, with the Cocks reeling off two quick scores while the UK offense was doing the exact opposite, running only 9 plays in the first quarter. With Jalen Whitlow at QB (the ONLY QB) the Cats hung around, trailing only 24-7 at half.
Trailing 27-7 entering the 4th quarter, Whitlow was finally comfortable enough to get into the zone. Jalen hit Demarco Robinson for a 4-yard touchdown that was a result of booth reviewed reversal. On the ensuing kickoff Malcolm McDuffen popped the ball out of Bruce Ellington’s hands, quickly turning around the game after Ryan Timmons caught his first touchdown pass on a 14 yard grab. A 27-20 game would’ve seemed like a miracle when South Carolina fans began leaving early in the 3rd quarter. The defense began to break after that, with the Gamecocks rolling down the field with only 1 play going for less than 7 yards on the quick 3-minute drive.
The unthinkable happened again: the Cats responded. Jalen capped off an 81-yard drive with a QB sneak TD. With 4:01 left on the clock and a 35-28 score, there was a chance that the Cats could come away with the win. Then Joe Mansour had another terrible onside kick, then Eric Dixon missed a tackle, then Coach Stoops head almost exploded, then a penalty that shouldn’t have been a penalty (that isn’t being a homer, that’s counting only 11 players on the field, not 12) was the dagger for the Cats.
Big Blue Nation- Coach Stoops wants you to know that he has a team worth watching.
- Kentucky finally has ONE Quarterback. Jalen Whitlow must REALLY hate South Carolina. Using last year’s game as a coming out party, this year he ran (and passed) away with the opportunity to be THE starting QB. Neal Brown finally cut the crap and stuck with Whitlow throughout the game. After getting his feet wet without an interception through 2.5 quarters, Whitlow found his stride managing long drives to put the Cats back into the game. Despite putting up some unbelievable numbers (17-24 for 178 yards and 2 TDs; 17 rushes for 69 yards and a TD) Jalen was still visibly angry after the game that they couldn’t pull off the upset. The move to playing just one QB paid high dividends, enabling Jalen to get set in and push the tempo that Neal Brown has been yearning for since his arrival on campus. If there was a question of who should be THE guy, accounting for 82% of the offense is a great way to answer.
- The struggle was real on defense. Steve Spurrier’s offense did not stop mixing things up in the first half. He used it all: screens, QB designed runs, deep balls off the play-action, the Kentucky defense couldn’t find the pulse of the South Carolina offense. They couldn’t get things right schematically, and physically they missed A LOT of tackles. It didn’t help that Bud Dupree aggravated a strained pectoral muscle that he tweaked whiled lifting on Thursday, forcing Jason Hatcher to fill in for the final 2.5 quarters. Hatcher was one of the silver lining’s of the defense, along with Nate Willis (9 tackles), Avery Williamson (9 tackles), and (sometimes) Eric Dixon. However it’s hard to find too many silver lining’s when you allow the opponent to score on 7 of 8 drives.
- Jalen had to run for his life. The offensive line didn’t have to stop Jadeveon Clowney (bruised ribs), but Jalen never had it easy in the pocket. Darrian Miller was called out for two “unacceptable” plays last week and had back-to-back mishaps this week as well. The only thing on Jalen Whitlow’s side was great playcalling by Neal Brown. Jalen’s bread and butter was the 6 yard hitch route, WRs gained tons of positive yards on screens, and the QB draw kept the defense at bay. They found a way tonight, but John Schlarman is going to have to whip his unit in shape before next Saturday’s showdown with #1 Alabama.
- Jojo Kemp has never been used more effectively. Jojo was the go-to man out of the backfield today. He ran well inside and out on first down, and on short yardage situations he provided the power to get positive yards. There were two things we saw today that we’d never seen before: 1. The Wildcat formation 2. Kemp in the WR position. Kemp was motioned out of the backfield often, spreading the defense out while providing a nice check-down option. The Wildcat offense was phenomenal with Randall Cobb, but Matt Roark is the only person that has been able to pull it off since. The Wildcat package featuring Sanders, Timmons and Kemp caught the South Carolina defense off guard, never having a loss of yards in the formation. Neal Brown is finally beginning to figure out how to use his athletes’ abilities to their fullest potential.
A few areas of improvement
After going 1-23 on 3rd downs during the first half of Murderer’s row, the Cats converted on 3rd down 5-11 times today.
The Cats were 2-2 on 4th down, making one decision to punt on 4th and short late in the 1st half seem a little questionable.
The UK offense punched the ball into the end zone on all four trips into the Red Zone.
Even though his play was limited, Bud Dupree has a sack in 4 consecutive games.
After only having 47 plays of offense against Florida, the Cats won the possession battle for the first time this year.
The UK offense only had 2 ’3 and outs’.