Football Season Coverage
By Drew Franklin on ©November 13th, 2019 @ 10:45pm
These are difficult times in Big Blue Nation, my friends. Can you remember a worse two-game skid in football and basketball? This could be it: the worst of the worst.
Saturday’s football loss to Tennessee was absolutely gut-wrenching in how it all played out with Kentucky blowing a lead and then failing to get one singular yard on two tries to win the game in the final minutes. The loss even had questionable coaching decisions, missed kicks, missed touchdown opportunities and a backup quarterback (Jarrett Guarantano, of all people) looking like a Heisman candidate to really pile onto the misery.
Then last night’s basketball game was an all-timer in embarrassment. Evansville? Evansville? You’re ranked No. 1 and you lose to a team from Indiana that calls themselves the Purple Aces and only won 11 games a year ago and finished dead last in the Missouri Valley? Evansville????? WHO LOSES TO EVANSVILLE AT HOME???? WHO LOSES TO EVANSVILLE ANYWHERE?????
Yet that is where we are in life as Kentucky fans. The Greatest Tradition in College Basketball can’t beat Evansville in Rupp Arena and Mark Stoops’ Wildcats dropped another rivalry game that should’ve been a win.
This sucks, but let’s try the glass-half-full approach and point out some positives going on (even if we have to pretend).
Kentucky can still go 7-5 in football and go to a great bowl game.
As bad as Saturday’s game was, the Cats are still in position to finish the regular season with seven wins. This is a season in which the team’s leader and starting quarterback, Terry Wilson, suffered a season-ending injury in the second game of the year. The head was literally cut off of the offense before the first league game of the season, and Kentucky can still hit the seven-win mark with a wide receiver playing quarterback.
Remember, this was always going to be a ‘down year’ for UK after losing a record number of players to the NFL from last year’s team. I don’t know about you, but I predicted a 7-5 season before it all began, so I’m satisfied with where they are through all of the adversity of losing two quarterbacks, having a brand new secondary, and not having one capable kicker on the team. Win these next three (and they’ll be the favorite in all three) and it’s all good with me. Heck, Kentucky had won seven games only five times in over three decades before Mark Stoops got them back to seven in 2016. We should be thrilled with a 7-5 year, given the circumstances, should it play out that way these last three weeks.
Last night’s loss should light a fire under Coach Cal’s team.
If John Calipari is good at his job, and if his current players are true competitors, the loss to Evansville will only make them better in the long run. The Cats quickly learned that the No. 1 team in America still has to show up with some fight, and that they’re not as good as the love they received after beating Michigan State, the previous No. 1 team.
UK should learn to never overlook an opponent, no matter the opponent, and that they have a long way to go to be consistently good. They don’t play again until Monday. Practice will be hell between now and then, and it’ll be good for them. All of them.
Turn this embarrassment into a positive and learn something from it.
In the big picture, the loss to Evansville isn’t that big of a deal.
It sucks today and Kentucky will be mocked for many months to come, but it will be a complete afterthought come NCAA tournament time. Last year’s Duke debacle taught us that. Just hang in there, BBN.
Recruiting is still up, so there’s that.
On the basketball side, Kentucky signed its first player of the 2020 class this morning, and he’s a good one. Terrence Clarke inked his Letter of Intent to confirm his spot on next year’s team. Clarke reclassified to get a head start on his college career, and 247Sports ranked him fourth overall among high seniors when he made the jump. He is the top-ranked combo guard and an elite scorer. 247 even called him a potential No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
Over on the football side where things can get a little dicey, Mark Stoops was glowing when talking about keeping his current class together before Signing Day. On Monday he said, “I was so encouraged by the recruiting aspect of it. There were guys texting me afterwards, ‘til late in the evening, picking me up and I was like, ‘I can’t tell you how much that means to me, I needed a little pick up right now.’ And guys were really encouraged and this is a special group. It’s a tight group. I think their unity within the commits is affecting guys that are on the fringe. I think we have a chance to put a special class together.”
The star of the group, five-star defensive tackle Justin Rogers, was at the game and reassured fans by posting a pic of himself with a UK football helmet just yesterday. Then I’m told an uncommitted visitor at the game, potential Auburn QB transfer Joey Gatewood, really enjoyed his time in Lexington.
All good news for the future.
Vanderbilt really sucks.
Please win Saturday. Please. I don’t know if we can go on if Kentucky drops Saturday’s football game in Nashville. Gotta win it. We need it. We all need it. Please destroy Vanderbilt. Please.
I hope this helped a little. If it didn’t, at least Floribama Shore starts back up tomorrow night with a two-hour episode.
Kentucky failed to deliver a knockout punch against the Tennessee Volunteers. Now reeling, Adam Luckett and Nick Roush talk about what went wrong and how the Cats need to bounce back in Nashville this weekend against the Vanderbilt Commodores. Highlights:
— Kentucky uses offense to play defense.
— Brand new sound effects!
— One big pass away from ending it.
— Vandy’s offense is historically bad. They have defensive weaknesses too.
— Improving Conference Championship Weekend with Friday night Toilet Bowls.
— Kentucky bowl scenarios.
The only consistent presence on Kentucky’s offense is the Wildcat offensive line. A physical, experienced group, they’ve made far fewer mistakes than most on UK’s offense, leading the way for an aggressive rushing attack.
Saturday night against Tennessee, the offensive line paved a path for the Wildcats to move the ball down the field. They simply stalled out one too many times.
“We had two nine-play drives and a 12-play drive and we didn’t finish. I said that Saturday night,” said Eddie Gran. “We didn’t finish. We had opportunities and didn’t get it done.”
This week Lynn Bowden did not have to do it alone. Chris Rodriguez ripped off 6.8 yards per carry and Kavosiey Smoke gained 7.3 yards per attempt. The backs made third downs more manageable before Bowden did something magical.
“He makes us look real good,” said senior offensive guard Logan Stenberg. “We’ll miss a block and he’ll scramble for 40 yards and it looks designed. It makes it really easy. I think as an offensive line, we’re a damn good unit up front, so we can go in between the tackles when we need to and Lynn back there makes us look good.”
Bowden made them look good until the very end of the game. Needing one yard in two plays, Rodriguez was stuffed on third down. On the following play the UK quarterback was tackled two yards shy of the goal line. Speaking on behalf of the rest of his teammates, Stenberg shouldered the blame for the loss.
“I don’t think it’s a short-yardage problem. As you saw on fourth and one, we ran wedge and blew them off the ball for three yards. It’s definitely not a short yardage problem, it’s getting our hat where we need to be and executing better. We put that loss on the offensive line. It doesn’t matter what’s called, we need to be able to get one yard. It doesn’t matter if we’re running straight verts. We need to be able get a yard. That’s on us.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 12th, 2019 @ 4:30pm
Kentucky remains at four wins following the loss to Tennessee. With three winnable games remaining, including a season-ending showdown with Louisville, what’s the bowl picture looking like? Here’s a roundup of the latest projections from college football experts across the interwebs.
- Brett McMurphy: Belk Bowl vs. Miami (Dec. 31, noon, Charlotte)
- ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura: Belk Bowl vs. Pittsburgh (Dec. 31, noon, Charlotte)
- The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel: Belk Bowl vs. Miami (Dec. 31, noon, Charlotte)
- Sports Illustrated: Belk Bowl vs. Virginia Tech (Dec. 31, noon, Charlotte)
- ESPN’s March Schlabach: Music City Bowl vs. Miami (Dec. 30, 4 p.m., Nashville)
- CBS Sports: Music City Bowl vs. Virginia (Dec. 30, 4 p.m., Nashville)
- The Sporting News: Independence Bowl vs. North Carolina (Dec. 26, 4 p.m., Shreveport)
- USA Today: Liberty Bowl vs. Kansas State (Dec. 31, 3:45 p.m., Memphis)
So, basically, take care of business and you’ll spend New Year’s Eve in either Charlotte or Nashville. Not too shabby.
Since Lynn Bowden, Jr. become QB1 for Kentucky we’ve seen Eddie Gran essentially convert the offense into an option attack. In each game, UK has rushed between 35-64 times while passing the ball no more than 16 times. That has forced the staff to come up with a few wrinkles and one we have seen many times is the speed option.
In a similar spot, Kentucky went with this concept to take the play out of the crowded area between the tackles and give their quarterback a chance to use his agility against an inferior athlete in space. This has worked well for UK recently and they went back to the well on the most important play of the football game in the loss to Tennessee.
It’s time to go into the KSR Film Room and show you exactly what went wrong on that fourth-and-goal. After once again moving backwards in a one yard to gain situation, UK decided to put the ball in its best player’s hands.
Facing fourth-and-goal at the two, Kentucky comes out in the pistol formation with 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers). The Vols give a cover zero look with the free safety lined up as a Sam linebacker in between the right guard and right tackle. Tennessee is expecting a run and that is exactly the kind of defense called by Derrick Ansley.
On the snap, Kentucky runs a speed option and they believe they’ll have numbers advantage. In theory, the safety moved down to linebacker will have to choose between the quarterback and the running back due to the two players in man coverage on the outside. There won’t be enough time for the Mike linebacker to scrape over and it should result in an easy touchdown. However, right tackle Darian Kinnard gets beat at the point of attack.
Defensive end Ja’Quain Blakely defeats Kinnard and that causes Bowden to extend the play horizontally. If the plan was to just pitch it all along, you would have seen the quarterback cut upfield much sooner and there would have been a lane for Chris Rodriguez, Jr. to get to the endzone. However, the plan was always for Bowden to keep and use the pitch as a last ditch option. You can’t really fault that decision.
Safety Nigel Warrior now knows that he has help inside thanks to the defensive end winning his individual battle and Bowden taking the play wide. He heads outside and guards the pitch man. At this point, all Bowden can do his get upfield and see if he can break a tackle. Unfortunately, the calvary has arrived and it’s too little too late for Kentucky.
Similar to previous short-yardage issues we’ve seen, it is usually one missed assignment that causes a negative play for the offense. On the previous play, tight end Keaton Upshaw missed a block and that a created a tackle for loss on third-and-goal from the one. On this play, Tennessee won the leverage battle on the outside and turned a numbers advantage for Kentucky into a numbers advantage for Tennessee in the blink of an eye.
An experienced option quarterback would likely be able to read the defensive end and once contain is broken, it is time for a quick pitch. That was the best case Kentucky had on this play once the defensive end set the edge, but Lynn Bowden, Jr. is still learning how to play this position on the fly and it appears that a proper pitch relationship was not always there. The quarterback and running back get a little too close as the safety barrels forward.
Short-yardage remains a pretty significant issue for Kentucky and more times than not it is just one little mistake that is costing the offense in some big moments.
The greatest player to ever rush a passer at the University of Kentucky returned to the Bluegrass last weekend. It’s not hard to tell that Josh Allen enjoyed his time in Lexington.
You probably saw Allen join the SEC Network broadcast, but you probably did not hear him on the UK Sports Network. Josh surprised Tom Leach in the middle of the call before Allen helped the Voice of the Wildcats and Jeff Piecoro call the game. He shared some of his favorite moments from his time at Kentucky, what he likes most about Jacksonville and more.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©November 11th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
While Mark Stoops typically speaks to the media twice a week – once on Monday afternoon for a weekly press conference and another post-practice session on Thursday evening – the Kentucky head coach usually uses weekly call-in radio show on Monday evenings to kick back and relax a bit.
During the hour-long show with Tom Leach, Stoops usually opens up about his team’s performance from the previous week, previews Kentucky’s upcoming opponent, and answers questions via phone and social media from the Big Blue Nation.
This evening, Stoops went in-depth about Kentucky’s recent loss to Tennessee, how the team is responding, recruiting, and what he’s expecting out of Vanderbilt on Saturday, among other topics.
Here are the ten things we learned during the Mark Stoops Show this evening:
The leaders are helping the younger players move on
After a disappointing loss to Tennessee on Saturday, Stoops said the team had a successful practice on Monday to “get the stench of [the] loss off.”
“It was good,” he said. “Always good to get out there and kick the dust off, get the stench of a loss off you a little bit. Just move on. It was a nice day out there today, weather was good before this nasty stuff came in, everyone was in good spirits.”
A big reason for that? The veterans helping the team move on.
“Without a doubt, that was part of the conversation today,” Stoops said. “It was about picking yourself up, our leaders stepping forward. We need those guys to because we have to go back on the road and take on an SEC opponent in the East. We need this victory. There’s no time sit back and sulk.”
What did he see from the Tennessee game film?
Stoops said that despite the final result, there were “a lot of good things” to take away from the Tennessee loss.
Still, though, the “critical misses” killed Kentucky’s chances to win at the end of the day.
“I saw a lot of good things. A lot of critical misses and plays in tough times,” he said. “You look at it on both sides, we controlled the game, we just didn’t control the outcome, the score at the end. That’s what’s frustrating. the ball for most of the game. Offensively, you start looking at it, and you don’t see too many games like this except in the NFL. We only had nine possessions. We started with a 17-play, 10 minute drive. Force a three-and-out, get the ball back, score quickly with a two-play score. But after that, we had one three-and-out all night. We moved the ball effectively all night, but the key to the game was getting stalled. We got stalled on our last three possessions with turnovers on downs.”
The kicking game has to improve
Following Kentucky’s third missed extra point attempt in just two games, Stoops said it is obvious they need to take a closer look at the kicking game and who leads the charge moving forward.
“We need to get back to kicking the ball effectively,” he said. “It changes the way we call our plays [when we struggle in the kicking game], it changes where you’re at. When you sit there and miss three extra points in two games, all of a sudden, when you use two different kickers, you’re losing confidence in the kicking game. The missed extra point itself hurt us because at the end of the game, we would have been able to kick a field goal and tie the game.”
And when will he decide that?
“I’ve got to wait to see, we didn’t kick today as far as extra points and field goals go,” Stoops said. “We’ll kick tomorrow and Thursday, live with the kickers, and we’ll see what they look like. We’ll make a decision then.”
Stoops gives Veterans Day shoutout
With today being Veterans Day, Stoops wanted to give a quick shoutout to those who have sacrificed their lives or continue to do so as service members.
“Without a doubt, I said it in my news conference today,” he said. “Thank you to all men and women, past and present, for their service and all they do for our country. We greatly appreciate it, our whole program does. Our players absolutely care so much, guys like Kash [Daniel]. He’s so involved and cares. We talk about it a lot and greatly appreciate your service.”
Lynn Bowden’s interception was “haunting” for the staff
Stoops was not shy about Kentucky’s struggles in the passing game lately, and he also admitted that Bowden’s early interception spooked the coaching staff out a bit moving forward.
It started with the lack of opportunities.
“We didn’t have as many opportunities with that on Saturday,” he said. “As I mentioned during the postgame, against Missouri, with the way they were playing, I felt like there were some opportunities down the field. It just depends on how they play us. Tennessee didn’t commit as many people to the run, so we didn’t have as many clean looks [passing].”
And when he missed on the interception, it lingered a bit.
“He did on that particular throw, and it did float on him and drift a couple yards outside,” Stoops said. “He just missed it. Had we had clear opportunities like that throughout the night, I believe he would have connected on some of them because he can throw it. A critical play was that interception, that’s where I struggle. You talk about haunting yourself and thinking about it, we had them on the ropes, controlling the game at that point. We were driving on them, I believe it was the seventh play of that drive. We just created a big chunk play in the run game, so we take our shot, and the shot was there. He was open. That’s a touch pass, those are hard on quarterbacks that don’t get as many opportunities. But that’s where we struggle [as a coaching staff]. Do we just continue to pound it out? I kick myself over that.”
Speaking of missed opportunities, what did he think about the final offensive play at the goal line that ultimately ended the game?
“There were some plays that we felt we just missed by a fraction. It was just very close,” Stoops began. “We talked it over. Anybody that says they wouldn’t change their mind is [mistaken]. The play before we ran it up the middle on a power play. It was on the goal line so they had another guy lined up there. I can’t blame Chris because it was a tough run. With Lynn on the perimeter, that gave us the option with him to run it or pitch it. We’ve had great success with that over the last several weeks, so that’s why we did it.”
What about putting in Sawyer Smith on obvious passing situations?
With Kentucky struggling in the passing game, could UK decide to insert Smith in on passing situations?
Stoops said it’s possible, but it’s not as cut-and-dry as people make it out to be.
“You can, you can. The other dynamic is this,” Stoops said. “I didn’t go back and look at it exactly, but I want to say at least two three-and-longs, I know at least a third-and-three, we converted running the ball. And with Lynn, it gives you the dual threat, that’s tough on a defense. He converted on [several third-down opportunities]. Those are things we’re thinking about as well. If Sawyer goes in, you have to take the Q-run game out of it. But it’s a fair question to ask, we could possibly look at that this week, certainly putting him in a possession or two in certain games. But like I said, only one three-and-out, it’s tough to take him out when he’s doing so well and we’re moving the ball so effectively. We just have to convert in critical [scoring] moments.”
Ahmad Wagner and Bryce Oliver are close to returning
After telling the media earlier today that Ahmad Wagner and Bryce Oliver would likely play this weekend against Vanderbilt, Stoops provided yet another positive update.
“It’ll definitely help [getting them both back],” he said. “Ahmad was out there today, so that helps. Bryce wasn’t fully practicing, but he was on the sideline moving around. Hopefully we get a good report in the morning.”
Quarterback gripes are “a legitimate frustration”
One fan called in complaining to Stoops about the quarterback situation, saying the team has to establish some semblance of a passing game if they want to end the season with success.
Stoops didn’t disagree.
“I do not disagree at all, I totally agree,” he said. “It’s a legitimate frustration and comment. You’re correct.”
That being said, the Kentucky head coach was quick to acknowledge that the staff is working hard to correct the mistakes.
“I was having a conversation with a prospect’s father today, and it was interesting because we were discussing all these things and how it’s tough to be in this situation,” Stoops began. “He said, “Listen, coaches are coaches and I’m a parent. You’ll never hear a word from me.” He said, “Believe me, I think you all have a little bit more on your plate than anyone else as far as a vested interest to win.” So when people have frustrations like that, I agree. I’m not saying I have the exact answers on that or that I’m always right. I just promise you, I was not in that office from 9 AM on Sunday morning and left at 10 PM on Sunday night for any other reason but to help us win. I have a very vested interest in us winning football games. This is not a job for me, this is a way of life. I respect [all of the complaints] and I hear you, but the coaches are banging their heads and just as frustrated.”
Recruiting is “through the roof”
Despite the difficult loss on Saturday, Stoops is confident his 2020 recruiting class is solid from top to bottom, and momentum isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
“The amount of recruits at the game was unbelievable,” he said. “There had to have been 20-25 kids there. I had wide receivers, running backs, all different positions are calling me and texting me at 2 o’clock in the morning telling me they were all in. … [Recruiting is] through the roof. This is a unique group. They’re special, they’re solid.”
In fact, the staff feels they got over the hump with some “fringe” guys.
“We had some guys calling that were on the fringe that I think we are now over the top,” he said. “We still have to hold guys and it’s always a battle in this league, but this is a special group. We don’t have a problem getting guys in the boat.”
What do we need to know about Vanderbilt?
Moving on from Tennessee, what does Stoops know about the Vanderbilt Commodores?
“They had a quarterback start for the first time this past week, their starter should be back next week,” he said. “He was in concussion protocol I believe, so he should be back against us. I know the way Derek Mason coaches, I have a lot of respect for him, I know they’ll play hard. We just need to be ready to play. Offensively, we need to build on the things we’re doing well, put the ball in the end zone.”
By Nick Roush on ©November 11th, 2019 @ 10:45pm
Sawyer Smith’s only snap was a quarterback sneak, a crucial play on the first series that converted a fourth down and ultimately led to a Kentucky touchdown. Aside from that one play, Kentucky’s offense was all Bowden Ball.
Why did UK almost exclusively run with Bowden? The answer to that question is complicated.
First and foremost, Kentucky’s first offensive possession with Bowden at quarterback was a masterpiece. A 17-play, 75-yard drive that took 10:18, it was the longest scoring possession in terms of plays and time since Mark Stoops became UK’s head coach.
Kentucky’s offense moved the ball well against a good Tennessee defense. They had trouble when it was time to score, as Stoops explained Monday morning.
“Every week we look at the best opportunity to win and you look at a big portion of that game and you just look at the drive chart, it frustrated or baffles all of us in how you lose a game like that. But you look at the possessions and where we went, we had one three-and-out all day. We had one three-and-out all day and that’s the first possession of the second half,” Stoops said.
“After that we only had three more drives. We drive it for nine plays, ends on downs. We drive it for another nine plays starting from our own five-yard line and goes all the way into Tennessee territory again and overcome a holding call that was essentially a 22-yard swing and end on downs again there. Then the last drive, you take it 12 plays and end up on the 2-yard line. So, that’s tough to answer, right?”
In total, Kentucky reached Tennessee territory in seven of their nine offensive possessions. Bowden Ball worked well, until the Cats reached ‘no man’s land’ around the Tennessee 35-yard line, too far to kick a field goal and too close to punt. On the first drive of the game, going for it on fourth down worked twice. It failed on the next three attempts, including the potential game-winner at the two-yard line.
“Put yourself in these shoes, because that is a lot of good against a good defensive team. It is just a matter of finding some explosive plays. But it is a balance and something to think about. It is hard when you only have nine possessions in a game. It is a lot easier after the fact to say, ‘Hey, give Sawyer (Smith) three series.’ But every play and every series is so important and again with Lynn (Bowden) we have been very effective and we’ve been moving the football.”
To put it simply, Kentucky’s margin of error decreased significantly following Terry Wilson’s injury. Sawyer Smith could have entered the game to run UK’s base offense, but if it didn’t work, there goes a third of the Cats’ offensive possessions.
“The efficiency was pretty darn good. So that is a tough balance right there. It’s a fair question and it’s hard to do. Put it like this, the last three drives – nine plays, nine plays, 12 plays.” If just one of those ends in a touchdown, we aren’t having this discussion. If he put in Smith for just one drive and it failed, Stoops is right: “You’re sitting here calling me a compete idiot.”
Kentucky had every chance to win. They just were a few plays away from a victory.
“This is at least the second time this year where I come in here and we are talking about a play here and a play there. That is our job to find that, our job to do it. Felt like our guys, again, competed extremely well and we had an opportunity to win in a game like that,” said Stoops.
“That is the key, as we all know, that comes down to winning and losing, converting one of those at the end.”
By Nick Roush on ©November 11th, 2019 @ 7:30pm
Mark Stoops addressed the media Monday morning after a tough loss to Tennessee. See everything Kentucky’s head coach had to say on Veterans Day.
Opening Statement …
“I do want to acknowledge and thank all the veterans past and present around the world for what they do for us and what they do for our freedom and our country. We do greatly appreciate them here at the University of Kentucky and I certainly do. So, thank you for your service. As I mentioned after the game, just an extremely difficult game and extremely difficult outcome. Very proud of the way our team played and competed across the board. Really did some very good things to put us in a position to win. As a I mentioned afterwards, it is not some coaching cliché or ways for you guys to pounce on me about it, but we have to find a way to get those yards … inches, yards plays. (In) Critical moments, we have to find ways to execute and to make those plays happen. Right now, the way we are playing the margin for error is extremely small but we are playing extremely hard. Guys are doing a lot of good things, it gets down to a few plays. If you look at our league, there are probably six teams with a better record than us and then everybody s lumped in there from seven to 14, it is extremely competitive and extremely close and there are plays here and plays there for all of us. We are all trying to make those plays and win these close games. This is at least the second time this year where I come in here and we are talking about a play here and a play there. That is our job to find that, our job to do it. Felt like our guys, again, competed extremely well and we had an opportunity to win in a game like that.
It was weird in the sense that we had nine possessions in the game, that is all the offensive possessions we had was nine. You look at some of those possessions and they were remarkable. Of course, the start of the game with a 17-play drive and then a quick explosive play after the blocked punt and you get a two-play drive. But after that, you are talking about seven possessions the rest of the game and the last three ended on downs. That is the key, as we all know, that comes down to winning and losing, converting one of those at the end. That is compounded by a missed extra point again, or it is different. It is different in maybe possession seven and eight in how you are moving the ball to get a field goal if nothing else and then at the end of the game to get a field goal to tie. We have to get that fixed. I don’t have an answer for that other than to continue to work with the kickers that we have and build their confidence and get them better. I know they can do it. There is a lot of good and a lot of things we need to get cleaned up and improve on.”
On how you evaluate the current status of the offense …
“Yeah, it gets difficult, it really does. We kicked that around every week and as you know, you watch our games, every play, every possession is critical. Even whether you throw it or run it. We have a lot of explosive runs in that game. If you throw an incomplete pass and you’re behind the chains, it gets tough, that balance. We are confident in Lynn’s throwing ability. I will say this, Tennessee is a good matchup with us right now because they are stout up front, as I mentioned going into the game, and they have been covering very well. They have been creating a lot of interceptions. Their back end has been playing well. I felt like even when you look at possession eight when we were stopped on downs, we had a shot there for a huge play and potential touchdown or big gainer and we miss it by a little bit. E
very week we look at the best opportunity to win and you look at a big portion of that game and you just look at the drive chart, it frustrated or baffles all of us in how you lose a game like that. But you look at the possessions and where we went, we had one three-and-out all day. We had one three-and-out all day and that’s the first possession of the second half. After that we only had three more drives. We drive it for nine plays, ends on downs. We drive it for another nine plays starting from our own five-yard line and goes all the way into Tennessee territory again and overcome a holding call that was essentially a 22-yard swing and end on downs again there. Then the last drive, you take it 12 plays and end up on the 2-yard line. So, that’s tough to answer, right? Put yourself in these shoes, because that is a lot of good against a good defensive team. It is just a matter of finding some explosive plays. But it is a balance and something to thing about. It is hard when you only have nine possessions in a game, it is a lot easier after the fact to say, ‘Hey, give Sawyer (Smith) three series.’ But every play and every series is so important and again with Lynn (Bowden) we have been very effective and we’ve been moving the football.”
Nobody is happy after the Tennessee loss. Once you hear the KSR Football Podcast crew voice their grievances, you might feel better about Kentucky football. Give it a try. Highlights:
— Can Duffy just drop kick extra points?
— What did Kentucky ever do to Guarantano?
— Why Vandy will be ready to play vs. UK.
— Drew’s biggest complaint from the game.
— Good recruiting news.
— Can we blame the loss on the couple who got married at halftime?
By Nick Roush on ©November 11th, 2019 @ 1:00pm
Kentucky’s pass offense lost two of its best weapons prior to the Tennessee game. When Lynn Bowden was in trouble, he could not simply throw it up.
Ahmad Wagner and Bryce Oliver are Kentucky’s two most-talented jump ball receivers. In a game that Tennessee won thanks to a few 50-50 receptions, Wagner was sidelined by a leg injury and Oliver missed the game after injuring his toe in practice.
“I hope both of them will be back this week. We’ll see,” said Stoops. “I was told that both of them were close, both of them were better today, so hopefully they’ll be out there.”
One person who did unexpectedly return to the sideline is Marquez Bembry. The junior college transfer injured his knee in the spring. On Saturday the outside linebacker did not play, but he was in uniform for the first time.
“He’s working his way back in there, he really has. He’s been practicing a couple weeks. We’re close to getting him into a game. He’s getting there,” Stoops said. “We have actually explored because of the need — we have some good depth at outside and we need some help inside — we’ve actually been repping him at inside (linebacker). That can help us in the future for next year. Now you’re talking about a big guy, a big strong guy that can move in there.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 11th, 2019 @ 11:55am
Mark Stoops’ weekly press conference is about to begin. Watch below as he answers questions about Kentucky’s loss to Tennessee and Saturday’s game vs. Vanderbilt in Nashville.
By Bryan the Intern on ©November 11th, 2019 @ 10:00am
Every Monday I breakdown the UK offensive performance in down and distance scenarios. It can give you a good sense of where the Cats were most successful and where they struggled the most. And you can also get a better view of what the offensive gameplan was. Against Tennessee, UK continued to show solid production in the ground game in a limited offense. But the struggles on 3rd and short reared their ugly head again and likely cost UK another game. Is it playcalling or is it execution? It’s hard to say. But the UK offense is limited and it’s hurting them:
Run: 24 rushes for 140 yards
Pass: 2-4, 13 yards, 1 INT
Combined Season Stats
Run: 166 rushes for 936 yards, 10 TD (1 fumble lost)
Pass: 41-85, 466 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks allowed
Breakdown: The yardage numbers are decent, with just under 6 yards per carry total. Overall, UK did a pretty nice job getting good, positive yardage at the beginning of drives and sets of downs and put themselves in decent position. As with as stat you look at, this production decreased in the 2nd half over the 1st half.
Run: 21 rushes for 99 yards, 2 TD
Pass: 2-2, 12 yards
Combined Season Stats
Run: 125 rushes for 706 yards, 4 TD (1 fumble lost)
Pass: 37-65, 380 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT, 4 sacks allowed (2 fumbles lost)
Breakdown: Production in the 2nd quarter was awesome on 2nd down but the other 3 quarters was pretty bad. The Cats do get both of their touchdowns on 2nd down, with Smoke’s run being the highlight here. UK had more negative plays on 2nd down than any other down in the game.
3rd Down and Long (6 yards or more)
Run: 5 rushes for 42 yards (converted 3 of 5)
Pass: 1 sack (converted 0 of 1)
Combined Season Stats
Run: 19 rushes for 207 yards, 1 TD (converted 9 of 19)
Pass: 20-43, 245 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 6 sacks allowed (converted 11 of 49)
Breakdown: UK was able to convert 3 times on the ground on 3rd and long, so all in all, it was a great success. They have actually shown more success in 3rd and long than 3rd and short, especially in the ground game since Bowden took over. It’s a weird stat that almost no other team will have.
3rd Down and Short (5 yards or fewer)
Run: 9 rushes for 27 yards (converted 4 of 9)
Pass: No Plays
Combined Season Stats
Run: 37 rushes for 123 yards, 1 TD, 3 fumbles lost (converted 17 of 37)
Pass: 5-15, 116 yards, 1 TD (converted 5 of 15)
Breakdown: It’s no secret now that this is where UK has declined so significantly from last year and you could point to this game and Florida as games that could have easily won just converting 3rd and short situations.
Today we honor the many men and women who have served and continue to serve in the United States Armed Forces. We thank them today, and everyday, for fighting for our freedoms. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
The Kentucky football team did that thing it does every single year where it loses to Tennessee. I believe it is now 32 losses in the last 34 years, if my memory hasn’t suffered too much damage from the rivalry to keep an accurate count.
This time Kentucky dominated the time of possession (41:37 to 18:23) and rushed for over 300 yards, yet still lost the game, as is tradition.
After the game, Lynn Bowden pulled up his favorite app to call out the fans.
To the fans that are true blue I thank and love y’all but to the ones that down talk a bunch of college kids but claim to be our fans go be a fan at another school
— Lynn Bowden Jr (@LynnBowden_1) November 10, 2019
But the majority of the fans’ frustration, if not all of it, is directed toward the adults in the locker room who are getting paid millions of dollars, not the “college kids.”
Eastern Kentucky brought its fast-paced style of basketball to Lexington on Friday, only to get run out of the arena, 91-49, by your soon-to-be No. 1 Wildcats. It took seven minutes before the Colonels scored their first points in the game, but a late first-half run filled up the scoreboard to keep it somewhat respectable at halftime.
Nick Richards was the star of the game with 21 points and 10 rebounds, his second career double-double; although the real MVP was UK’s defense, again, as Kentucky allowed only 25 percent shooting from the field, its best mark since holding Georgia to 22 percent back in 2016.
Watch KSR’s video recap of the night:
— Josh Allen had the weekend off from his responsibilities with the Jacksonville Jaguars so he was able to attend the UK game in Lexington. We caught up with him on the Cat Walk prior to the game:
— In Pittsburgh, Benny Snell did not play in the Steelers’ win over the Rams. He is out with a knee injury. His UK teammate, Bud Dupree, had four tackles in the victory.
— Randall Cobb had a big game on Sunday Night Football with six catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. However, it was in a losing effort against the Vikings in Dallas.
— Are the Titans back?
Gambling (But not in Kentucky, of course)
The line on Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt opened up with the Cats giving up eight and a half points to the Commodores. The total on the game is 44.
Kentucky is 5-3-1 against the spread this season, according to VegasInsider.com. The total has gone under in six straight games.
Could you do this one?
I just finished this puzzle that doesn't have a picture pic.twitter.com/724fmp0CSr
— Whoa Interesting (@WhoaInteresting) November 8, 2019
— Coming up at noon, Mark Stoops will hold his usual Monday press conference to look back on Saturday’s game and ahead to the next challenge on the schedule. This week Stoops will be explaining some of his decisions in the deflating loss to Tennessee while previewing the upcoming trip to Nashville to potentially get back in the win column against struggling Vanderbilt.
— Stoops isn’t the only coach answering questions today. John Calipari will also hold a press conference to preview his team’s game against Evansville tomorrow night. Cal is expected to begin his presser around 2 p.m. today. We will have the live stream here on KSR.
— You will get a new KSR Football Podcast tonight. We’re recording it a little earlier than usual so you should get it around dinner time.
— The first rankings of the college basketball season will come out around noon today and Kentucky will almost certainly take over the No. 1 spot from Michigan State in both polls. It’s a spot the Cats should hold for a long time with no real threats on the schedule until late December.
— Tune in to KSR at 10 a.m.!
By Brent Wainscott on ©November 10th, 2019 @ 10:30pm
After another gut-wrenching loss to Tennesee, Kentucky opens as 8.5-point favorites over Vanderbilt.
Kentucky is 5-3-1 against the spread this season while Vandy is an abysmal 1-8.
Kentucky has three games left and must win two to head to a bowl game. Vegas likes the Cats in Nashville and one would have to assume they will like them against UT-Martin as well. So, Vegas seems to think that Kentucky will be bowl eligible for a fourth straight year and a win over 2-7 Vanderbilt will almost guarantee it.
With my Vegas record speaking for itself, I am no gambling expert. However, the over-under is set at 44, which might be something to flirt with. Vanderbilt is coming off the heels of a 56-0 thrashing at the hands of the Florida Gators and Kentucky has no consistency on offense right now.
With a run-heavy UK offense, a Vanderbilt offense that is averaging 15 points per game, I would be stunned to see this thing go over 44.
The Cats will kick things off with the ‘Dores at 3:30 p.m. on the SEC Network in the Music City.
By Hayden Hooper on ©November 10th, 2019 @ 6:30pm
As we all know, last night was not the best game at Kroger Field. As it got colder throughout the night, the more stagnant the offense was as they didn’t score a point in the last three quarters of the game. Even with an interception to his name, Lynn Bowden put the team on his back with 114 yards on 26 carries but that was not enough for the Cats. So let’s get to what Twitter had to say about last night.
Lynn Bowden Post Game
As everyone was stuck in traffic, Lynn Bowden went to Twitter about the game he just played.
To the fans that are true blue I thank and love y’all but to the ones that down talk a bunch of college kids but claim to be our fans go be a fan at another school
— Lynn Bowden Jr (@LynnBowden_1) November 10, 2019
Do some much complaining talking bout us the recruits see what you fans say and it matter keep that in the back of y’all heads https://t.co/kpqlXMQaev
— Lynn Bowden Jr (@LynnBowden_1) November 10, 2019
As you can tell Bowden has gone dark on Twitter, after like a loss like that, I don’t blame the guy.
I guess it was Rocking in the USA day at Kroger Field with an epic rendition of the National Anthem!
— Kentucky Athletics (@UKAthletics) November 10, 2019
Wedding Day at Kroger Field
What an epic way to get married on Gameday – in the stadium. AMAZING!
— Jordan M. (@JordanMcGhee) November 10, 2019
Man, Quinton Bohanna has a cannon…
Kentucky chucked it ? pic.twitter.com/4lBYYE1OAr
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 10, 2019
Here’s his response
— Quinton Bohanna (@QBohanna) November 10, 2019
Recruits were in attendance for the game
— Justin Rogers (@AllAmerican52JR) November 10, 2019
— Joey Gatewood (@Joey1gatewood) November 10, 2019
Lynn Bowden’s performance last night
Again, in a Kentucky defeat, Lynn Bowden didn’t disappoint with his running attack.
Lynn Bowden jr vs Tennessee defense pic.twitter.com/zimsE8MDCC
— Danny Davis ? #2 (2-0) ? (4-5) (@DannyDa27021564) November 10, 2019
Time to take over this game Lynn Bowden Jr. #BBN
— Andy Wade (@AndyWade77) November 10, 2019
QB Lynn Bowden Jr. was a thorn in UT’s side with 93 rushing yards in the first half including a 12 yard scramble late on 3rd down to keep the ball away from the Vols. Tennessee does get it first in the 2nd half. @wvlt pic.twitter.com/cqWebtktSr
— Rick Russo (@wvltrick) November 10, 2019
Gonna have to try something else on Offense. Bowden has been a warrior but got to try Sawyer in the 4th
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) November 10, 2019
Gotta love those KSR references!
Always have to love the KSR references in the broadcasts. Just give Tom Hart the award now for best sports announcer of 2019.
— Evan Hatter ? (@ehatt493) November 10, 2019
After last night, the Cats are now 4-5 with A LOT of football left to play. Going to be a fun weekend in Nashville! Go Cats!
After an extremely eventful weekend in College Football, the Amway Coaches Poll has changed quite a bit.
In no surprise, the LSU Tigers are now the No. 1 team in the nation following an impressive 46-41 road win against Alabama. They received 55 of 64 first-place votes.
Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama, and Georgia round out the rest of the top five with Oregon coming in at No. 6.
Here’s a look at the Top 10.
The biggest jump of all came from Minnesota as they moved up six spots to No. 7 following their upset over previously unbeaten Penn State.
With just three weeks remaining in the regular season, it is more likely than not that two SEC teams will be in the College Football Playoff. Minnesota looks like the real deal but will have to beat Wisconsin and likely Ohio State in the Big Ten title game for a chance to go to the playoffs.
Check out the rest of the Coaches Poll here.
By Adam Luckett on ©November 10th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
The stage was set in Lexington for the program to pick up a big win against a program they have historically struggled with and that is putting it lightly. In front of 56,760 on a cold November night, it was a great atmosphere and the Wildcats got off to their best start of the season.
However, the momentum disappeared after the first quarter and thanks to a quarterback change, Tennessee put together two quick scoring drives out of the half. Unfortunately, Kentucky could never recover. It’s back to the drawing board as the Wildcats will finish under .500 in SEC play for the first time since 2015. This one is going to be tough to swallow.
Kentucky rolled up 327 yards (302 rushing, 25 passing) on 71 plays and this was their most snaps run since September. The Wildcats controlled the football for over 41 minutes, but that still wasn’t enough to get the job done. The 4.6 yards per play average is just not enough to win a football game. While the Wildcats efficiently moved the ball (21 first downs, 7 of 15 on third down) they had trouble finishing the drives and creating explosive plays.
For the first time this season, Kentucky scored on their first possession going on a beautiful 17-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ate up over 10 minutes. It gave the Wildcats some big momentum to start the night. After a three-and-out and blocked punt forced by the defense, the Wildcats cashed in again with Kavosiey Smoke finally showing that he broke through that freshman wall.
On their first two drives, Kentucky had two scoring opportunities and cashed in with two touchdowns. However, it was all downhill in the final 47 minutes of the game.
The final two possessions of the half, Kentucky got the ball to the Tennessee 40 but recorded zero points. Lynn Bowden Jr.’s first interception of the season came at a very bad time and the coaching staff decided to not be aggressive on the final possession of the half. On what could have been a blowout, Kentucky allowed Tennessee to hang around.
Kentucky’s final three possessions of the game would all reach the Tennessee 40 but zero ended with points. The stop at the end of the game is the one everyone will remember, but each possession is just as important.
The Wildcats had seven scoring opportunities and came away with just 13 points. In what could have been a blowout, Kentucky turned into a loss.
For the third time under Eddie Gran, Kentucky ran for at least 280 yards against Tennessee but this time it was a little different. The Vols were able to limit Kentucky to under five yards per carry while in the last two meetings the Wildcats put up over eight yards per rush. That is production a defense can deal with when an offense rushes the ball 64 times in a football game. They did it by slowing down Lynn Bowden, Jr.
The junior was held to just 114 yards on 26 carries and put up a season low 4.4 yards per carry. Bowden had just one run over 20 yards and was swarmed by Tennessee’s defense. Due to all of this attention, UK’s two freshmen running backs were able to take advantage.
Christopher Rodriguez, Jr. and Kavosiey Smoke combined to rush for 139 yards on 20 carries and put up just under seven yards per attempt. This was the production this ground attack was desperately missing and it was good to see both young players breakthrough after each has dealt with adversity earlier in the season. However, the veteran of the group had another rough night.
A.J. Rose leads the team in rush attempts (122) by a good margin but is only putting up 4.5 yards per carry. Add that in with his inability to produce chunk plays and that makes your running game really inefficient. Rose found one big run (collected 26 yards on a draw) but other than that he had 18 yards on his 15 other carries. That is just not good enough and is very similar to what we’ve seen him produce in other games this season. I would expect a full on committee approach at running back moving forward.
In their first game playing with decent weather since the home win against Arkansas, we were hoping to see some more from the UK pass attack. That did not come as the Wildcats attempted just seven throws and took two sacks. No Bryce Oliver or Ahmad Wagner in the lineup certainly hurt and Lynn Bowden had Justin Rigg open on his only interception of the night. However, this is kind of expected when you have a wide receiver playing quarterback.
Kentucky allowed 296 yards (83 rushing, 213 passing) on 46 snaps. The Vols put up 6.4 yards per play and this was the highest total allowed by the defense since the road loss to Mississippi State. After a very solid first thirty minutes, the game completely changed when Jarrett Guarantano entered the lineup.
The Vols started true freshman Brian Maurer for the first time in three games and Kentucky looked very comfortable against the former three-star recruit. He completed just 7 of 16 throws in the first half with 6.1 yards per attempt average as the teams headed into the locker room with Kentucky holding a 10-point lead. Jeremy Pruitt decided to make a change and Guarantano was the reason they won the game.
The New Jersey native led the Vols on two long scoring drives in their first two third quarter possessions to turn a 13-3 deficit into a 17-13 lead. In the half, the redshirt junior completed 7 0f 8 passes, put up 14.4 yards per attempt, and tossed for two scores. He was the difference in the ballgame and Kentucky’s highly ranked pass defense was roasted.
Tennessee entered the night having the worst rushing attack in the SEC and Kentucky did a good job in making sure that held serve. The Vols ran for just 83 yards and did not have a carry that went for over 17. Tennessee put up four yards per carry in 21 attempts, but their backs had just 37 yards on 11 carries. Jarrett Guarantano led the team with 30 yards on six carries and his last run of the night iced the game for Tennessee.
A major area we thought UK could have an advantage in would be rushing the passer. The Vols have an anemic ground game that Kentucky was able to stop. Add that in with quarterbacks that want to be stationary in the pocket and that should present some good opportunities for UK’s pass rush. That ended up not being the case.
Due to the weapons the Vols have at wideout, Kentucky decided to play coverage most of the night and try to rush with four. Kentucky’s front wasn’t up to the challenge. Edge rushers Joshua Paschal, Boogie Watson and Jordan Wright were never a factor in the game as the two true freshman five-stars at tackle played outstanding football. Calvin Taylor, Jr. was able to record his sixth sack and third forced fumble of the season to give the pass rush its only bright spot of the night.
Kentucky’s defense was able to create one takeaway in the fourth quarter that setup the offense’s final drive, but for the most part this group is struggling to produce takeaways. Brad White’s unit hasn’t come away with an interception since the Mississippi State loss. Also the red zone offense that had a touchdown rate ranked 126th entering the game was able to get two touchdowns in three possessions on Saturday. Kentucky’s defense held the Vols to 17 points, but did not play to the level the team needed them at.
Thanks to the offense being able to consistently move the football all night, Max Duffy really was not needed. The potential All-American punted just three times and one occurred at the Tennessee 40 when UK probably should have went for it on fourth-and-short. However, he bombed another one 50-plus yards and gave Kentucky an advantage in net yards punting.
The kicking game continues to be an issue and this time it was Chance Poore who missed an extra point. It was the third miss in two games and all have occurred in the end zone right in front of the student section. This cannot happen and the miss forced UK to go for six instead of having the option for three at the end. The field goal ineptitude plays a big factor in the decision making when UK crosses into Tennessee territory.
Kentucky recorded its first blocked kick of the year and it was the second blocked punt of Joshua Paschal’s career.
For a defense struggling to produce takeaways, this acts as a turnover and gave UK a huge momentum swing to start the ballgame.
After everything Kentucky had been through this season, the table was set to have a huge month of November following the upset win over Missouri. The Wildcats were going to be favorites in their final four games and it was very conceivable that this team could get to 8-4. However, it was going to take some close wins and this team let one slip through their fingers on Saturday.
Tennessee defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley did a great job game planning for UK’s unique offense. The Vols were locked in on stopping the quarterback run game and by doing that it opened some doors for other players. Christopher Rodriguez, Jr. and Kavosiey Smoke came up big, but A.J. Rose was woefully inefficient. Add that in with no passing game and zero plays over 30-plus yards allowed and it was the perfect recipe to stop this offense.
On the other side, we saw that Kentucky’s pass defense is not as good as we thought. The coaching staff still prefers to play with coverage more times than not and that puts a lot of pressure on their four guys rushing the passer. They were unable to create an organic pass rush and that opened up things for a hot Jarrett Guarantano. Due to the limited number of possessions, any bad series is magnified with the way Kentucky plays and the two out of half completely swung the football game in the blink of an eye.
This loss really, really stings and it is going to be hard for Kentucky to get off the mat. In their previous heartbreaking home loss to Florida, the Wildcats responded by playing their two worst games of the season in road losses to Mississippi State and South Carolina. That cannot happen this time around.
Tennessee’s defense has played at a top 20-25 level in recent weeks and they showed that on Saturday. But moving forward, Kentucky will be facing three of the worst defenses they have seen this season. Things that were eliminated by Tennessee will be open in the next few weeks and this ground game should get back to producing chunk plays.
The same can be said for the defense until the final game against Louisville. The pass defense woes must be fixed and the Wildcats really need to find a way to force some turnovers in the last 12 quarters of the season. This one is going to sting, but there is still a really good chance to end this season on a high note. However, avoiding the hangover is going to be real challenge on the road.
On to Vanderbilt.
The NFL season rolls on with 11 games today as the playoff picture is beginning to come together a bit clearer.
Atlanta Falcons (1-7) vs. New Orleans Saints (7-1) (Larry Warford)
It’s now or never for the Falcons as Head Coach Dan Quinn is on the hot seat. A win will be tough to come by as the Saints are looking like true contenders.
The game is slated to start at 1 PM on Fox.
Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) vs. Tennessee Titans (4-5) (Wesley Woodyard)
Reigning NFL MVP Pat Mahomes is officially back following a two-game absence. Wesley Woodyard and the Titan defense have quite a challenge as the Chiefs receiving core is stacked.
To watch the MVP tune in to CBS at 1 PM.
Arizona Cardinals (3-5-1) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6) (Corey Peters, Mike Edwards)
Two teams that play much harder than their record indicates. I expect a highly competitive, high scoring game.
This game will air on FOX at 1 PM.
Detroit Lions (3-4-1) vs. Chicago Bears (3-5) (Danny Trevathan)
Lofty expectations in Chicago have not gone as planned with the Bears struggling to move the ball consistently. With Matthew Stafford likely out, the Bears must pick up a win.
The game is set to begin at 1 PM on CBS.
Carolina Panthers (5-3) vs. Green Bay Packers (7-2) (Za’Darius Smith)
The Packers laid an egg last week as they could not get anything going offensively against the LA Chargers. If the Green Bay run defense continues to play as it has, it could be a huge day for Christian McCaffery & Co.
Catch this game at 4:25 on FOX.
Los Angeles Rams (5-3) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4) (Bud Dupree, Benny Snell Jr.)
Bud Dupree is having his best season to date as he has 34 tackles, six sacks, and eight tackles for a loss. He must keep it up as Sean McVay and the Rams are coming off a bye week.
The game will begin at 4:25 PM on FOX.
Minnesota Vikings (6-3) vs. Dallas Cowboys (5-3) (Randall Cobb)
Sunday Night Football features two of the NFC’s best this week as the Vikings travel to JerryWorld to play the Cowboys. Kirk Cousins is typically not very good in prime time and is without top wideout, Adam Thielen.
Tune in to NBC at 8:15 PM to catch the game.