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Football Season Coverage
Over the week on the show Matt has had fans calling in telling their best case and worst case scenarios for the upcoming football season. Cases range from an 8-4 season and a healthy team to a 0-12 season and the physical collapse of Commonwealth Stadium. While most people are looking at numbers when it comes to the cases, there is something else that would be much more valuable than what is in the Win or Loss column. Respect.
After going 4-20 with no conference wins in two seasons, Kentucky is looked at as the laughing stalk of the SEC, and some could even argue in college football as well. Constantly media and coaches alike vote Kentucky as the bottom of the pack, giving the team no respect, even if Kentucky fans disagree because we have personally seen the progress the team has made since Stoops took over.
Because of the progress we have seen as a fan base, It is annoying to hear people talk so negatively about the football program. It is annoying to hear people constantly say Kentucky is a basketball school. Stop. It is not wins or loses that determine what sport a school associates with, it’s the dedication of the fans. While there is obvious dedication to the basketball program, I believe that Kentucky Football fans show ‘a little’ bit of dedication to be so patient with the program and still buy, I believe, over 40K season tickets after back-to-back 2 win seasons. (sorry, I kind of went off on side rant there)
If all these things irritate the fan base, imagine what it does to the players and their self-esteem when playing on the field. This is why no matter what happens this season record wise, it is important for us to at least see a general improvement from the team as a whole. Being respected among peers would be the best thing to help this team. Respect builds confidence and confidence goes a long way.
This season, Respect is my worst case scenario. I believe whether the football world knows it like we do or not it is coming. Kentucky will shock the country.
The UT-Martin offense wasn’t too bad last year, averaging just under 400 yards per game in a two quarterback system with Dylan Favre and Jarod Neal. They get the job done, but anytime you consistently are using two QBs, they can’t be that great. It’s because this offense LOVES to turn the ball over. Neal threw almost as many touchdowns (9) as interceptions (7) last year for a team that had a -15 turnover margin. The one thing the offense can hang their hat on: they return four starters on the offensive line.
Mark Stoops and DJ Eliot have made it a primary focus in the offseason to get more turnovers. There isn’t a better chance to get the ball rolling than against the Skyhawks. Even though they have four offensive linemen back, only two of them are over 300 pounds. After fighting against Jordan Swindle and Darrian Miller during the preseason, Bud and Z are going to have fun teeing off on whichever poor quarterback is in the game.
Tony Bell is the bad boy for Tennessee-Martin. The senior linebacker had 10.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss last season, earning attention from NFL scouts as a strong safety. Bell received the praises from Mark Stoops earlier this week, but he’ll have to do most of the work by himself. There are only four returning starters from a team that gives up a TON of points to Division-I opponents. Last year they gave up 70 to Eastern Illinois, 63 to Boise State, and 45 to Murray State.
I think Kentucky’s better than Murray State, so it’s safe to assume the UK offense is going to put the Wildcat through one hell of a one-armed pushup workout. With superior athleticism and conditioning, Neal Brown’s NASCAR offense is going to abuse the Skyhawks in the heat. If the Cats play like the team I saw practice, they should surpass 50 points before the 4th quarter.
Score: 55-10, but most likely it will be the Cats by 90.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©2:30 pm
UK is doing their best to improve the gameday atmosphere at Commonwealth Stadium, and this morning, sent out a release detailing all of the “fan experience enhancements” in place for tomorrow’s game against UT-Martin. It’s a LONG list, but here are some of the highlights
- Fans’ choice in music: UK is partnering with four local radio stations to allow fans to vote on songs from four genres–hip hop, pop, rock, and country. The vote’s been going on all week, and the winning songs will be played during timeouts. If you haven’t checked out the list yet, I encourage you to do so. Some of the options are…interesting. I’ll leave it at that.
- Players’ choice in music: Earlier this summer, eight UK players chose songs they want to hear right before kickoff and fans voted for their favorites. Tomorrow, you’ll hear Braylon Heard’s choice of “Who Run It” before the the Cats run it back for a touchdown (hopefully).
- They can play songs and videos between downs now: The SEC changed the rules to allow video, audio and music to be played between downs, which hopefully means we’ll see Za’Darius Smith leading the crowd in some chants on the jumbotrons.
- The mysterious pre-fourth quarter tradition: UK will unveil a new tradition for the break between the third and fourth quarter tomorrow. What will it be? Randall Cobb leading the crowd in the CATS chant? Please???
- In-game score updates – Game scores from across the country will be played on a continuous loop on the ribbon boards during the game so you won’t miss a thing.
- FREE WATER! – Complimentary 10-ounce cups of water will be available to fans at stadium concession stands this season. That means you have no excuse not to rehydrate from your pregame tailgating festivities.
Go Cats. Go free water.
The line for tomorrow’s game is finally out, and the Cats opened as a 20-point favorite over UT-Martin.
Cats by 24.
Last night was Jalen Whitlow’s debut for Eastern Illinois, and well, it was an up-and-down affair. The former UK quarterback did a little bit of everything in Eastern Illinois’ loss to Minnesota, passing for 14-for-23 for 110 yards and 1 interception and rushing on 19 carries for 77 yards. He even caught a pass for 25 yards and punted the ball. Yes, he punted! Unfortunately, the ball only went three yards:
First game jitters?
When you go through the down times that Kentucky has over the last several years, you tend to develop some negative streaks that can be quite the embarrassment for the fans. And certainly at UK, we have become accustomed to streaks. The Tennessee losing streak hovered over this program for nearly a quarter century. The current Florida losing streak is starting to do the same, where every year the game is played the first thing brought up is the length of the losing streak.
But right now, there are 2 streaks that are attached to this program that I think are the ones that we should struggle with the most. I wonder which of these 2 you are most embarrassed about as a fan and would rather see broken this season, if only 1 of the 2 can be broken:
1. 16 STRAIGHT LOSSES IN THE SEC
-Currently it’s the 2nd longest conference losing streak in UK history. But the record is 17, so if Kentucky doesn’t want to surpass that, they will have beat either Florida of Vanderbilt. But whether they get past 17 straight losses or not, the number that we absolutely can not get to is 24. A 3rd straight 0-8 conference season would be an utter disaster for this program. We would turn into the Northwestern of the early 1990′s or Rutgers or Temple of more modern times. Personally, I don’t really care where it comes from, there has to be an SEC win in there somewhere. The schedule sets up to give Kentucky several shots at a win and I fully expect them to execute. But the longer that number remains and gets bigger, the more pressure for each game.
2. 3 STRAIGHT LOSSES TO LOUISVILLE
-Kentucky lost 4 straight to Louisville at the end of the Bobby Petrino Era #1. But it’s been especially tough recently as UL has gone to another BCS Bowl and now brought back Petrino. UL fans believe they have a grip on this rivalry now and for the future long term. Which is more reason that Kentucky breaks that losing streak sooner than later. Not only are there actual ramifications on the recruiting trail if that streak continues, but the general misery of UK fans until basketball season begins having to hear crap from Cards fans needs to stop.
Now, I am not sure that both of these streaks can’t be broken this season, but if I told you that only one of them could happen in 2014, which one would you rather see happen? Personally, give me an SEC win this year and a win over Louisville next year in Commonwealth.
As you, my loyal and devoted reader, enjoy this insightful post, we sit less than 48 hours from kickoff of the 2014 Wildcat football season. Once you’ve finished reading, you have my full authorization to head on over to Commonwealth to initiate tailgating festivities. Your boss/teacher/spouse/probation officer (Louisville guests) told me it would be fine. Each Thursday evening of this football season, we will delve into the match-up with Kentucky’s upcoming opponent. This week, on the eve of year two of the Mark Stoops era, we preview Kentucky’s first ever football tilt with the legendary UT Martin Skyhawks. So what do we know about these guys? I did a little research to find out.
Skyhawks was a 17 episode television cartoon series sponsored by Mattel that aired from 1969 to 1971. As it type that sentence, it occurs to me that this information is likely not pertinent to Saturday’s game. You win this round, Wikipedia. Looking a bit further, I ultimately found the UT Martin athletics official site, and managed to uncover a few interesting tidbits for Cat fans to consider when heading to the game this weekend. First, UT Martin is an FCS program (Division 1AA for old timers) competing in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Skyhawks are historically a mediocre program even by the standards of the lower tier of college football, but have experienced some degree of success under current coach Jason Simpson, who has compiled a 52-39 record in his 8 years at the helm. The Skyhawks finished 7-5 in 2013, but lost convincingly on both occasions in which they faced FBS opponents. Boise State bludgeoned the Skyhawks 63-14 and the atrocious Memphis Tigers beat them 21-6. Both results bode well for the Wildcats’ chances on Saturday.
In addition to relative program history, comparative physical size favors the Cats in this match-up as well. It is a rare Saturday that finds the Cats fielding the more physically imposing roster, but such is the case this weekend. Specifically, UT Martin projects to start two offensive guards who weigh under 250 pounds. At 6-1 and 230 pounds, starting right guard Kenneth Crenshaw is four inches shorter and eight pounds lighter that Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles. There is a reasonably decent chance that at some point in Saturday’s game, Crenshaw will attempt to block Matt Elam, who outweighs the diminutive Crenshaw by 145 pounds, or roughly one TV Williams. That play alone will be worth the price of admission. The size differential is not limited to when the Cats are on defense. The Skyhawk defensive line averages only 260 pounds, and will be out-girthed by 44 pounds per man by the Kentucky offensive line. This should give both Patrick Towles and the deep stable of Wildcat tailbacks ample room in which to operate.
The size factor is only one example of a larger point. For one of very few occasions during Mark Stoops’ rebuilding process, Kentucky simply has far better football players than its opponent. Only Skyhawk linebacker Tony Bell, an FCS All American in 2013, would likely see the field for the Cats. Kentucky should roll on Saturday. I’m going with 45 -7. And if you don’t enjoy the new stadium music, don’t blame me. I voted for ‘Lil Scrappy.
#5 Braylon Heard
– Height: 5’11”
– Weight: 189 lbs.
– Class: Redshirt Junior
– Experience: Transfer
– Position: Running Back
– Hometown: Youngstown, Ohio
– High School: Cardinal Mooney
Class of 2011 High School Ranking
– Rivals.com: #5 RB,
– 247Sports.com: #5 RB,
– ESPN Recruiting: #25 RB,
How He Got Here
After playing two seasons at Nebraska, Heard transferred to Kentucky because he found himself behind two other running backs on the depth chart. Braylon decided then it was time for a fresh start somewhere new. Heard wanted to come to Kentucky because it was closer to his hometown. Heard says that his mom will now be able to drive to his games instead of fly which was another key factor.
During his first two season, Heard rushed for a total of 452 yards and scored four touchdowns. During his sophomore season, he played in all 12 games averaging 5.9 yards per carry. His career-high game came against Idaho State, where he rushed for 74 yards with a career best 27-yard run and a touchdown.
Something You Didn’t Know About Him
Braylon took an service/educational trip to Ethiopia this past May.
Something We Made Up About Him
After constantly breaking out in hives and weird rashes for two years at Nebraska, Braylon finally went to the doctors to figure out the problem. After multiple tests, the doctors finally diagnosed Braylon with a corn allergy. Knowing that his corn allergy meant he couldn’t stay in Nebraska, Heard knew it was time to leave. With much thought, Braylon decided to come to Kentucky because if football does not work out, his other dream job is to be bourbon distiller and open his own distillery.
Unfair NFL Comparison
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Outlook for 2014 Season
Coming to Kentucky as a transfer, Heard has a lot to prove in his first season here. After impressing the coaches and making great strives while sitting out, Braylon is ready to show the #BBN what he has to offer. His quickness and agility will give Kentucky the backfield they need after losing veteran Raymond Sanders. Expect Heard to be the guy we need to get our running game back where it needs to be.
-The team is getting everything wrapped up for game day and putting in the finishing touches in preparation for the Skyhawks at home on Saturday. The offensive unit had to kick the press out of the UK football team room for a meeting that looked pretty important.
- Stoops is going to be using a different routine to get the Cats ready for game day this year. He’s switching up the Thursday-Friday practice schedule on game weeks to where Thursday will be the light walk-through day, and Friday will be a fast game-paced practice. Stoops said he had heard of many coaches doing it previously, but pointed out Chip Kelly at Oregon as a coach who had great success with it in the past.
-Mike Edwards, the freshman safety who found out he doesn’t have to have shoulder surgery, has reported to campus and was spotted walking around inside the UK Nutter Training Facility today. Stoops confirmed, though, he is not currently practicing with the team and isn’t ready to do so anytime soon.
-Stoops feels very anxious about playing against the Skyhawks. He didn’t downplay the importance of the game and said he really feels his team is ready to go to battle on Saturday. “I feel good about where we are right now going into this game, I know the players are all ready to get out on the field and finally play.” Said coach Stoops.
-Coach Stoops wants to show the fans on Saturday that Kentucky has something to prove. He mentioned that it’s important for UK to put up a good performance against UT-Martin to get the fans behind this team. Stoops made a big point about how it’s the team’s job to go out and impress the fans, and give them what they deserve in this season’s opener.
-Lastly, Stoops will be kicking back and watching the Ol’ Ball Coach play the Aggies tonight. He said it’s an important night to relax and enjoy some good early-season football, and he shall be joining in on the festivities.
The college football season is finally here. Texas A&M and South Carolina are kicking off the season in style, on the brand-new SEC Network as we speak. The two schools are moving on without the services of Johnny Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney. It’s yet to be determined how difficult it will be for each school to replace its big star, but this has me thinking … in recent history, which Kentucky football and basketball stars have been most difficult to replace after their departures?
We’ll consider “recent history” to mean any player since the start of the Rich Brooks and Tubby Smith eras. This is not a list of the best players Kentucky has had during this period, although they are probably all in the conversation. It’s a list of players who have been the most difficult to replace. Much of the list has to do with the talent, or lack thereof, that followed each star.
Let’s begin, in chronological order:
The Hefty Lefty was the third of a trio of good QBs at Kentucky. Tim Couch passed down the torch to Dusty Bonner for a solid 1999 campaign, but the job was Lorenzen’s from 2000-2003. Lorenzen threw for 2,221 yards and 16 TDs with eight INTs in 2003, the first year of the Rich Brooks’ era. He was primarily replaced by Shane Boyd, who totaled only 1,328 passing yards with seven TDs and nine INTs in 2004. Lorenzen’s loss could also be felt in the 2005 season as Andre Woodson took time to develop into the great QB that he would eventually become in 2006 and 2007.
Hayes was a key player in the best four-year run of the Tubby Smith era. When Tayshaun Prince’s eligibility expired after Hayes’ freshman year, most expected UK to regress in 2003. Instead, the Cats went 32-4, ran the table in the SEC and earned a No. 1 overall seed. With Keith Bogans gone the following season, 2004 was also thought to be a rebuilding year. Wrong again. Although the Cats were upset by UAB in the second round, Kentucky went 27-5, earned a No. 1 seed and was ranked No. 2 in the final regular season AP poll. The one constant key to the success of Kentucky through these years was Chuck Hayes. As a senior, he averaged 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists, along with 10.9 points per game in 2005. The next two seasons without Hayes, Bobby Perry led Kentucky’s forwards with just 3.9 and 3.5 rebounds per game. The Cats had to rely on their point guard, Rajon Rondo, for a team-leading 6.1 rebounds per game in 2006. That was the first of four straight double-digit loss seasons.
Kentucky easily replaced and improved in almost every area in John Calipari’s first season. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and company joined an NIT team and instantly turned it into a Final Four contender. The one key part they lost from 2009, however, ended up being the one thing they needed most in the NCAA Tournament. Jodie Meeks’ outside shooting wasn’t replaced and it may have been the one thing that stopped the Cats from winning it all in 2010. Meeks made 117 three-point shots at a percentage of .406 in 2009. In 2010, the Cats’ two best long-range threats combined for less made threes than Meeks made alone the year before. Darnell Dodson made 50 threes at a percentage of .347 and Eric Bledsoe made 49 (.383). And in that final game against West Virginia, those two combined to make 2-of-14 and the team made just 4-of-32 from long range.
Yes, Mike Hartline. Hartline wasn’t as beloved as the other players on this list and was often unfairly criticized, but it’s been four years and Kentucky has yet to replace his production or go to another bowl game. He had one of the strongest seasons in the SEC as a senior in 2010. Hartline threw for 3,178 yards, 23 TDs and 9 INTs. He led the SEC with 268 pass completions and finished second in passing yards. In 2011, the year after he graduated, Maxwell Smith led the team with just 819 passing yards.
In addition to losing Mike Hartline, Kentucky lost one of the greatest all-around players in its history in 2010. Randall Cobb did everything in his three years in Lexington. He spent time at QB while Hartline was developing or injured, made a huge difference in special teams, and developed into a 1,000-yard receiver as a junior. He totaled 1,441 yards from scrimmage that season. No player played a bigger part in helping Kentucky reach five consecutive bowl games than Cobb, who kept the streak going for three more years after Andre Woodson, Stevie Johnson, Jacob Tamme, Wesley Woodyard and company had departed after the 2007 season. There hasn’t been another player step into his shoes, but to be fair, there likely never will be a player like him again.
Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy
The bowl streak was snapped in their senior year, but they also helped end the losing streak to Tennessee in their final game. These two kept Kentucky competitive with a five-win season in 2011, despite an offense that was struggling to adjust to the losses of Randall Cobb and Mike Hartline. The two combined for 124 solo tackles and 263 total tackles. The duo of Avery Williamson and a young Bud Dupree fell short of those numbers with 226 total tackles between them in 2012. In the win-loss column, Trevathan and Guy’s absence showed as the Cats went from five wins to two and Joker Phillips was on his way out.
The 2012 National Championship team
It wouldn’t be fair to name just one or two players from the 2012 National Championship team that were toughest to replace. The reality is Kentucky lost its entire team and completely started over again in 2013. Anthony Davis’ freakish skill set couldn’t be replaced even by a healthy Nerlens Noel. Darius Miller’s veteran presence was gone. MKG’s work ethic was nowhere to be found. Doron Lamb’s deadly shooting was missed. Terrence Jones at his best was a beast. And we would have loved another year of Marquis Teague at point guard. All six players lost that season are worthy of this list and none of them were able to be replaced in a 2013 season that ended sadly and bizarrely in Moon Township, PA.
Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments section below.
There is a definite split amongst UK fans and fans of football in the state on what the expectations should be for Kentucky this season. Some fans are calling for another year of patience and looking forward to 2015. I generally fall in the camp that expects a 2-3 win jump this year into the 4-8 or 5-7 area. And there are strong arguments for both sides. But my biggest point about thinking the Cats will get to 5 wins this year is the simple fact that a 2nd year of any coaches tenure at a school usually brings an improvement. The simple fact the players are much more comfortable with the coaching staff and the system in place makes it a smoother entry into the season. But does my belief in 2nd year head coaches hold water? Below are each of the 14 SEC schools with the coaches they have hired since 1990. And next to each coach is the increase or decrease in wins from their first season to their second. Those in red had a decrease.
Gene Stallings: +4, Mike Dubose: +3, Dennis Franchione: +3, Mike Shula: +2, Nick Saban: +5
Jack Crowe: +3, Danny Ford: -2, Houston Nutt: -1, Bobby Petrino: +3
Terry Bowden: -2, Tommy Tuberville: +4, Gene Chizik: +6
Steve Spurrier: +1, Ron Zook: Even, Urban Meyer: +4, Will Muschamp: +4
Jim Donnan: +5, Mark Richt: +5
Bill Curry: +1, Hal Mumme: +2, Guy Morris: +5, Rich Brooks: -2, Joker Phillips: -1
Curley Hallman: -3, Gerry DiNardo: +3, Nick Saban: +2, Les Miles: Even
Jackie Sherrill: Even, Sylvester Croom: Even, Dan Mullen: +4
Larry Smith: Even, Gary Pinkel: +1
Tommy Tuberville: -1, David Cutcliffe: -1, Ed Orgeron: +1, Houston Nutt: Even, Hugh Freeze: +1
Brad Scott: -2, Lou Holtz: +8, Steve Spurrier: +1
Phil Fulmer: +1, Derek Dooley: -1
Dennis Franchione: +3, Mike Sherman: +2, Kevin Sumlin: -2
Gerry Dinardo: -1, Rod Dowhower: Even, Woody Widenhofer: -1, Bobby Johnson: Even, James Franklin: +3
All total, that is 50 head coaches. Of those 50, 37 head coaches had an even or increase in wins in their 2nd season. But even more important, for those 37 coaches, their average wins jumped up 2.4 wins from season to season. If that holds true for Mark Stoops this year, we are looking at a 4 or 5 win season this year. And that is how I get to my conclusion. Now, to be fair, there are 13 coaches who dropped in wins from their 1st to 2nd season. But considering that UK won only 2 games this year, I find it hard to believe that Kentucky is going to drop in wins this year.
So do you see a 2nd year bump for Mark Stoops?
Mitch Barnhart, Eli Capilouto, and Lexington mayor Jim Gray just held a press conference to discuss the game day changes at Commonwealth Stadium for this season due to the ongoing construction. They sent out a lengthy release detailing everything you need to know, but it can really be summed up in three words: GET THERE EARLY.
Many season-ticket holders have been reassigned to new lots this season, so be sure to check the parking map to make sure you’re going to the right place to get your tailgate on. PLEASE display your parking pass on your dash so traffic personnel can quickly point you in the right direction. Parking lots will open at 8 a.m., which sounds really, really early, but Ryan, Jared, Donte Key and I will be making the rounds for the KSR Pregame Show starting at 8:30 a.m., so you’ll be in good company.
Also, Gates 10 and 11 will be closed the entire season, so fans entering through the South side of the stadium need to use Gates 7, 9, 12, and 14. Ladies, if you’re bringing a bag, make sure it’s no larger than 13.5″ x 10″ x 7″. Or wear a skirt with pockets.
To read about all of the changes, click here.