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Kentucky makes ESPN’s Bottom 10 Rankings

Kentucky’s embarrassing loss to Tennessee changed the national narrative on the Cats quite a bit. ESPN’s Ryan McGee included Kentucky Football in his “Bottom 10,” a ranking of the most miserable fanbases, thanks to an assist from the basketball team.

5. The Cold Kentucky Rain (7-3)

A mere two weeks ago the nation was buzzing about the boys in blue and their chances of crashing the SEC title game and perhaps even bigger games beyond that. But the Wildcats lost to Georgia at home and followed that with their 17th consecutive loss in Knoxville, this time to a four-win Tennessee team. Meanwhile, the basketball team was run over by a truck with no brakes. Authorities say it had North Carolina plates, was painted dark blue and the driver looked like the Count from Sesame Street. Reports say he shouted, “One … two … three … four … five! The Coveted Fifth Spot goes to you, from K! UK! Bwahahahaha!”

Ouch. He ain’t wrong. Also on the list: Western Kentucky at No. 3 and Louisville at No. 10. Respect to McGee for pointing out that Louisville firing Bobby Petrino also contributed to Kentucky’s slump because we won’t get the season-ending joy of sending him out with a rout. Dangit.

[ESPN]


Q&A: Everything Mark Stoops said at his Pre-Senior Day Press Conference

Opening Statement…

“As I mentioned Saturday night after the game, feel the same way today. We obviously didn’t play good enough. I didn’t have them prepared well enough and we need to do a better job. That’s a very important game that we did not put forth our best effort, and that can’t happen. It’s inexcusable and we need to do a better job. With that being said, that’s one game and we have to move on and get ready to prepare for a victory here this week. We’ve got to do whatever we’ve got to do to get ready to play this game against Middle (Tennessee) to get our eighth victory. Again, it’s very important. Doesn’t diminish all the good things our team has done throughout this year, and appreciate their effort throughout this season. Again, as I mentioned Saturday, I didn’t do a good enough job getting them motivated and getting them prepared to play last week, and that’s what we have to do. We’ll get back at it here this week.”

On if he thinks it’s time to re-think the entire offensive scheme…

“That wouldn’t be a very good idea. We got two opportunities to get the most victories we’ve had in a regular season since 1977. I don’t think that’d be very wise. We did a lot of good things to win seven games, and we plan on trying to get to eight and nine. I appreciate all the good things that they did to put us in that position. That would be called panic mode.”

On if he considers this to be somewhat of a breather game…

“There’s no team that we can say that’s a breather. You see it again, you see it in college football, and you see it all the time. You saw Tennessee score seven points on Charlotte the week before, and come out and play lights out against us. These are college kids, there’s going to be ups and downs. You’ve have to be good enough to win when you don’t play your best. It’s very difficult to play at your peak for 12 straight weeks and some of the teams that are competing for 13, so it’s difficult. You’ve got to be good enough to overcome them when you don’t play well. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t.  I think there are three teams in this league, we’ve got a pretty good league don’t we? 14 teams in this league that have pretty good programs, and I think three of them have a better record than us. I don’t think it’s time to scrap everything.”

On if the film showed that some guys were just going through the motions Saturday like Benny (Snell Jr.) mentioned…

“Definitely. I said it after the game, I was the first one to say it. I said it to the team prior to them talking to you. I didn’t do a very good job because we weren’t ready to play at the level that we needed to play at. I think you could see Tennessee, where maybe they played that way the week before, and they got straightened out and came out and played with a lot of passion and energy. Our team has done that throughout this year. We didn’t Saturday and that’s on me. I appreciate Benny (Snell Jr.) pointing those things out, and that’s what leaders should do. I don’t think he’s pointing at any one person, just in general, I told them that we didn’t do a good enough job.”

(more…)


Kentucky is not Pressing Panic Button after Second Straight Loss

Kentucky is not Pressing Panic Button after Second Straight Loss

After a disappointing 24-7  loss to Tennessee in Knoxville, Mark Stoops will not scrap the scheme and start from scratch.  Kentucky’s head coach is not panicking.  After all, they are still 7-3.

“I don’t think that’d be very wise,” Stoops said at his weekly press conference. “We did a lot of good things to win seven games.  We plan on trying to get the eighth and ninth.  I appreciate all the good things that they did to put us in that position.  That would be called panic mode.”

Most of the panic in the BBN revolves around Kentucky’s dismal offense.  The Cats have not scored more than 17 points in a game since September.  That’s just one of the many stats that highlights Kentucky’s poor production.

Even though the unit has struggled to score points, Stoops doesn’t think they are so far off that drastic changes must be made.  From afar, the problems appear to be complicated.  Stoops sees the problem plainly: every time the offense is prepared to finish a long drive with a score, they make a critical mistake.

In the Georgia game, a third and short near the goal line turned into third and long after a pre-snap penalty.  On the first drive against Tennessee, Benny Snell missed a hole on a second down that made it third and short, then a lineman missed a block.  One drive later, Kentucky advanced the ball all the way down to the 26 before a snap flew over Terry Wilson’s head.  One play later a receiver dropped a pass.

“Those are things that we can’t overcome. That’s where we have to put it all together and play clean,” Stoops said.

“We have to make long drives.  In our victories throughout the season, we’ve had 12-13 play drives because we’re not overly explosive, but you have to be very good and you have to be very precise and you can’t have a missed assignment here, a missed assignment there.”

The numbers reinforce that statement.  In two relatively high-scoring wins against South Carolina and Mississippi State, Kentucky produced just over 300 yards of offense.  In the five games since, UK has not surpassed 20 points, yet the offensive production is on par with MSU and SCAR.

Opponent

Total Yards

Total Points

Miss. State

300

28

South Carolina

327

24

Texas A&M

178

14

Vanderbilt

298

14

Missouri

385

15

Georgia

310

17

Tennessee

262

7

At Tennessee Kentucky gained four or more yards on 17 of their 27 runs.  That’s good enough to score points if you have an explosive offense, but the Cats simply don’t have enough playmakers.

“We need to be very precise.  The complete game changers, we don’t have a lot of them on offense.  We’ve gotta make sure that we execute and we’re very efficient in what we do,” said Stoops.

Finding the right recipe for offensive success follows mistake-free football.  This team cannot play perfect.  That’s asking too much.  However, they have been good enough in previous games to play through their own shortcomings.

“You got to be good enough to overcome them when you don’t play well.  Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t.”

On Saturday, Kentucky did not have it in them to beat Tennessee.  The Cats appeared to be emotionally drained from the roller coaster season of highs and lows.  Instead of attacking the Vols with a ferocious physicality, Tennessee was the aggressor.

“We haven’t been very good when we’ve been the hunted. We’re a much better football team when we’re the hunter. We’ve gotta understand what level you’ve gotta play with all the time.”

Kentucky must flip the switch and re-inject energy back into the team for Senior Day.  If not, it might be time to take a second look at the panic button.


Kentucky’s bowl projections after loss to Tennessee

Kentucky’s bowl projections after loss to Tennessee

Barring a major surprise in tomorrow night’s playoff rankings, Kentucky’s loss to Tennessee knocked them out of contention for a New Year’s Six bowl. At 7-3 with two winnable games left, where do college football experts believe the Cats will end up this postseason? The Citrus Bowl in Orlando on January 1 (1 p.m., ABC).

ESPN: Outback Bowl vs. Michigan State OR Citrus Bowl vs. Northwestern

Sports Illustrated: Belk Bowl vs. NC State

The Sporting News: TaxSlayer Bowl vs. Michigan State

CBS Sports: Citrus Bowl vs. Penn State

SB Nation: Citrus Bowl vs. Penn State

247 Sports: Citrus Bowl vs. Northwestern

Brett McMurphy: Fiesta Bowl vs. UCF

McMurphy is the only major prognosticator to still have the Cats in a New Year’s Six Bowl, which he says is dependent on them winning out and beating Florida out for the spot (currently, he has the Gators in the Citrus Bowl). Tomorrow’s updated playoff rankings will tell us a lot.

Don’t forget, Citrus Bowl reps have already visited Kentucky this season. There are far worse things than Orlando in January…just please let Northwestern end up somewhere else.


Stoops won’t let you forget the Senior Class’ Accomplishments

Stoops won’t let you forget the Senior Class’ Accomplishments

Saturday will be the final send-off for 16 seniors at Kroger Field.  The game against Middle Tennessee State will serve as a celebration, especially if and when the Cats snap a two-game losing streak, the first losing streak of the season.

The last two weeks of football have been disheartening, to say the least.  Still, Stoops won’t let the seniors’ accomplishments get overlooked by a bump in the road.

During the head coach’s weekly press conference, the Courier Journal’s Jon Hale asked Stoops, “The senior class that’s playing in their last home game on Saturday is going to go out with as many wins as any Kentucky senior class in a long time.  What has that group meant to your program?”

Stoops responded: “I appreciate that Jon.  I’d like you to rephrase that a little bit louder so everybody can hear that.”

It was not just a tongue in cheek remark.  Stoops made Hale say it louder so the folks in the back could hear that this group of seniors has won more SEC games over the last three years than any team in the history of University of Kentucky football.

“The most in school history as far as SEC victories.  I think they deserve a little credit for that.  I think we all, I’m the first one, you always want to hang onto things.  What can you do better?  That’s what drives us everyday, it’s what drives me everyday and that’s what I wanna do.  But I also wanna give recognition to that senior class, what they’ve done and what they’ve meant to this program and how much I greatly appreciate them and I think the Big Blue Nation appreciates them.  They will, it’s a fact; over the last three years they’ve won the most SEC games as anybody in the history of this school.  That’s a long time folks.  I appreciate what they’ve done.”

Kentucky has won 13 SEC games in the three-year span, largely thanks to contributions from the senior class.  This season has been an historic success, even with the recent shortcomings, ones that will not be overlooked as they prepare for MTSU.

“That can’t happen, it’s in excusable and we need to do a better job.  With that being said, it’s one game.  We have to move on and prepare for a victory this week,” Stoop said. “It doesn’t diminish all the good things our team has done throughout this year.”

If the Cats can move past the Tennessee loss and finish the season with two more wins, it will be the most by a Kentucky team in 41 years.  That’s incredible.  Don’t forget that (or Stoops will send you a reminder).