There are games we’re going to remember from this season, and there are games we →
Football Season Coverage
It’s been five weeks since Kentucky’s last football game, but it’s felt more like ten. Approximately eleventy hundred thousand words have been written about the game on this website. Frankly, we’re starting to run out of stuff to say. Thankfully, we made it. Gameday is finally here.
Just three hours from kickoff, here’s just about everything you need to know about the TaxSlayer Bowl.
The KSR Pregame Show is on NOW
Even though it used to be called the Gator bowl, the Gator used for the tailgate shows at Commonwealth Stadium did not make the trip. You can still listen to the radio show by turning your radio dial to 630 WLAP or you can stream here.
Don’t Miss the Cat Walk
Get to Gate 1 at 8:45*. Seriously, you can’t miss it. If you can’t make it, check out our Facebook LIVE. As the kids say, it’s going to be LIT.
* They have never, ever been on time. Be prepared for something closer to 9:00.
What’s your favorite colors BBN?
The Seniors’ Last Game
Seeing Jojo Kemp’s locker for the final time just gave me all the feels. A group that has endured plenty of highs and lows (but mostly lows) gets to take the field one more time wearing Kentucky blue and white. I’m going to miss them, especially Jojo. Kemp said he was going to change the game, “Why not Kentucky? Why not us?” He can accomplish that mission today with a win. Godspeed.
There are a few reasons why you should be at EverBank early. To start, getting through security will likely be a pain in the butt. Here are a few things you should be aware of:
- Clear bag policy. No purses are allowed. You can carry a hand-sized clutch along with a clear gallon-sized bag, available at fan information booths around Jacksonville.
- Metal detectors. Do NOT try to take a metal flask into the game. It will be seized. Besides, they serve beer here.
- For more details on restricted items, click here.
If you don’t have a parking pass and need help getting to the stadium, there are shuttle fares from downtown ($7) and suburban lots ($12), pictured below, with more information here.
If you still are thinking, “I’m just going o get to the stadium at 11:00.” THINK AGAIN. There will be a military flyover at 10:30. You can’t miss something that cool.
Marcus McClinton will be in the building today. I doubt they’ll give him a microphone entering the 4th quarter, so they gave him one at last night’s pep rally. We didn’t get any “Yeeeeeeeah’s” but he did give us some Go Big Blue’s.
— Kentucky Athletics (@UKAthletics) December 30, 2016
The pep rally was an unbelievable turnout by the BBN. It was incredible seeing so many fans. You people are crazy.
The Final Bowl Outing
The pep rally was the highlight for many fans, but this was probably a bigger highlight for the players.
What UK Must Do to Win
1. Take Care of the Football
It’s been the difference-maker for Kentucky all year. When they gave the ball to the other team, they either lost or barely squeaked by with a win. When they took advantage of turnover opportunities, they beat a Heisman Trophy winner on the road. Against a team that grinds offensively, you can’t afford to give them extra possessions.
2. Don’t Try to Fight Fire with Fire
Kentucky has the 16th-best rushing attack in the country and is the only power five team with two 1,000-yard rushers, but today’s game can not be won on the ground. Let Georgia Tech stick to their triple option. Kentucky needs to run the ball well, especially if they get a lead, but this game will be won through the air.
UK’s offensive line is excellent at protecting Stephen Johnson. Georgia Tach’s defense is not good at rushing the passer. Johnson doesn’t need to be as great as he was against Louisville, but I think he certainly can be. It only takes a few homeruns to get the Jackets on their heels and I believe this defense has that, and more.
The defense got a month to prepare for the flex-bone’s misdirection. They cannot let the moment get too big for them. If discipline takes precedence over emotion, they should not have trouble containing Georgia Tech. However, that’s much easier said than done.
Expect to see a high-scoring game. The team with the best quarterback play should win the game. That being said, it will probably be a 13-10 final, just out of spite. Regardless, you can’t not feel good about the Cats. With a blue stadium, if UK captures momentum they can ride it into the offseason with their eighth win of 2016.
Today’s Tale of the Tape
By Nick Roush on ©December 30th, 2016 @ 11:00pm
Just under 24 hours away from kickoff, Mark Stoops received a round of applause as he joined Matt Jones on Kentucky Sports Radio to discuss the TaxSlayer Bowl. Of all the games he’s coached in, none have felt more special than this. Hear his praise for the BBN and much more in the ten-minute interview.
As he left, Stoops greeted fans. Just before hitting the escalator, he was forced to stop when he saw Petrino’s massive face in a neck-brace.
— josh (@Jacook2823) December 30, 2016
Allow me to hop on Freddie Maggard’s Jon Toth bandwagon one final time.
An intelligent human being, normally Toth is all business, all the time. Today, we saw the lighter side of Toth shortly after his final practice as a Kentucky Wildcat. With three of his teammates at the table, they were often all asked to answer the same question. Last in line, Toth showed a side of himself we’ve rarely seen — his sense of humor.
Jon Toth in all his glory pic.twitter.com/aUj2LIAr5F
— Curtis Burch (@curtisburch) December 30, 2016
He was just getting started.
Jon Toth the comedian? pic.twitter.com/CaFPagAjZr
— Curtis Burch (@curtisburch) December 30, 2016
It’s a good thing we still have another year of Charles Walker. Not only is he an exceptional athlete, he’s smart too.
I bet he didn’t fail English three times.
Shout-out to the fantastic filmography from Curtis Burch. If you don’t know him, the Big Blue Insider is an excellent follow @CurtisBurch.
The Yellow Jacket defense has been lost in the shuffle with the majority of media attention focused on the diverse Georgia Tech offense.
Let’s take a closer look:
BY THE NUMBERS
— Scheme: Multiple, 4-3
— Coordinator: Ted Roof
— Strengths: Veteran defensive line (All 4 starters have at least 4 years in the program) and aggressively intelligent linebackers.
— Weaknesses: Pass coverage and Havoc Stats (INT’s, TFL, sacks, forced fumbles, etc..).
— Characteristics: Bend but don’t break. Cornerbacks allow significant pre-snap cushion for opposing receivers.
— Produced 9 turnovers in its final 12 quarters of the regular season.
— Linebacker PJ Davis is the only Ga Tech defender that projects to the 2017 NFL Draft. DT Patrick Gamble is an outside shot for a late-round pick but most likely free agent.
— Total tackles: Strong safety Quintin Griffin-79
— QB sacks: DT Patrick Gamble-5.5
— Tackles for loss: Patrick Gamble-8.5
— Interceptions: Lance Austin-3, Lawrence Austin-3
— Scoring: 25 points per game
— Rush: Allows 174 ypg
— Pass: 233
— Total: 408
— 3rd Down: 50%
— Red Zone: 27 touchdowns/43 trips; 63%
— QB sacks: 16
— Tackles for loss: 53
The Jackets have received a defensive boost with an onslaught of late-season, forced turnovers. It’s accumulated 9 in its final 3 games; 7 of which were interceptions.
The Cats have to secure the football in order to have a chance to win. Simple as that. QB Justin Thomas and the offense have produced 34 points off turnovers in that same November span.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 30th, 2016 @ 6:57pm
The official UK pre-TaxSlayer Bowl pep rally occurred tonight at 6:00 PM, and the crowd was about as ridiculous as you’d expect.
Here are all the pictures and videos you need:
Crowd is getting fairly large at the UK pep rally at Jacksonville Landing… pic.twitter.com/dBdAS9kPXJ
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) December 30, 2016
The pep rally ended at about 6:30, but fans stuck around and partied after the fact. Music and dancing is still going on as we speak.
Man, this is fun.
By Nick Roush on ©December 30th, 2016 @ 5:00pm
If you were too busy this morning to hear or see UK’s final press conference before tomorrow’s TaxSlayer Bowl, we got you covered. Here is everything Mark Stoops, Stephen Johnson, Jon Toth, Courtney Miggins and Courtney Love had to say (Spoiler: Jon Toth was funny).
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, Coach Stoops and your players. We’re excited about having you playing in the 72nd game. Coach will say a few words as we get started.
COACH STOOPS: Appreciate it. Thank you to the staff. It’s been an unbelievable week. Your group of volunteers have made it extremely easy for us. Our team has had a great week. I think we found a nice balance to really enjoy ourselves and enjoy Jacksonville, but also get a lot of work in. We’re excited it’s time to get locked in and get ready for this game.
I thank everybody that’s been a part of this. Excited and looking forward to tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: At this point we will open it up to questions.
Q. I’d like the players to address the issue of bowl games and where games like this fit in the overall structure. There’s been criticism there’s too many bowls, the bottom 10 or 12. But the issue, how much it means. Could each of you address to both your team and fan base what you think coming to a bowl game for the first time in six years means.
STEPHEN JOHNSON: I know for this team, it’s been a while since we’ve been to a bowl game. For the seniors, it means a lot to come here and have these 15 extra practices, play in an extra game to finish off the season. For the team and seniors, it really does mean a lot.
COURTNEY MIGGINS: Bowl game is pretty big for me. It’s my last year. Pretty much piggyback off of what Stephen said. Get these last couple practices with the guys. Pretty much been a joy, so.
COURTNEY LOVE: I would say the same thing, as well. The bowl game is a great time to spend with your teammates. It’s always good to get to a post-season, get extra practices for young guys to show coaches what they got. Just to get out here with our coaches and their families, just create a better bond.
JON TOTH: I think what they all said is great (smiling).
Q. Mark, is there anything you’ve learned about this team over the last month that you have more of a look at some more guys down the depth chart?
COACH STOOPS: You’ve heard me talk each and every day after practice. I’m proud of this group in general. I think we’ve come a long way. I’m proud of these gentlemen up here, the leadership they’ve shown, the rest of our seniors. Again, how far we’ve come and the adversity that we faced.
I think in the last month, you heard me talk, but we worked all off-season to finish. It started with our winter conditioning, the weight lifting. It started with our fourth quarter program, doing more, having more physical practices last spring, harder two-a-days.
To see that come to fruition, to see us finish the way we did, to play our best football at the end of the year, against our arch rivals on the road, to put us in a position to be in this game says an awful lot.
I also like the way our team has handled our business here. As I mentioned in the opening comments, I think our team has found a good balance. They know when to work and they know when to have fun. I think we all like to be around each other. We enjoy each other. This team has grown awfully close. The staff is very good.
I think, like Courtney mentioned, just to get to come here and spend time with each other, more time around each other, have some fun, the experiences that this bowl has put together for this team has been wonderful. It’s been a great experience.
I know you get tired of me saying it, but we’ve grown more in this last month.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©December 30th, 2016 @ 4:30pm
In between today’s bowl festivities, players and cheerleaders from both Kentucky and Georgia Tech took a break to spread some joy at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville. Check out these pictures of George Asafo-Adjei, Tavin Richardson, Jacob Hyde, Courtney Love, Kash Daniel, Austin MacGinnis, and the UK cheerleaders handing out stuffed animals and signed footballs to patients:
Good on ya, guys.
By now I hope that we’ve somewhat explained the Flex-Bone offense or well enough that talking head verbiage won’t seem like Greek on Saturday. Georgia Tech is a fascinating study in record vs. production. By all means its unique offense offers a troublesome task for all opponents; however, in this post you’ll see that the Yellow Jackets are winning games by explosive plays as well as forcing and capitalizing off turnovers. Average time of possession may surprise you a little later.
Let’s take a look:
— Averaged 30.9 points, 426 yards, and 7.5 yards per play in its last 7 regular season games.
— Has only 2 senior starters: QB Justin Thomas and Center Freddie Burden. Veteran-dynamic players at QB and C propels the Flex-Bone’s schematic depth and scope.
— C Freddie Burden is its only All-ACC performer on either side of the football.
— National averages of interest: 3rd in yards per pass attempt-10.8. 10th in rush yards per game; 257. 7th in 50+ yard plays and 17th by averaging 6.6 yards per play.
— Contrary to popular opinion, Georgia Tech hasn’t dominated time of possession: 30:07 per game.
— Fumbled 25 times, lost 11.
— Converts 42% on 3rd Down.
— 24 Red Zone touchdowns in 38 attempts; 63%.
— B-Back Dedrick Mills leads the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 602 yards, 11 TD’s, and 5 yards per carry.
— A-Back Clinton Lynch is Tech’s designated home run threat. Lynch averages 11.2 yards per rush and 30.6 yards per reception. He’s totaled 8 touchdowns.
— Top 2 receivers (WR Ricky Jeune and WR Brad Stewart) combine for 39 receptions but just 1 touchdown catch.
— Scored 34 points off turnovers in its final 3 regular season games against Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Georgia.
–– Ranks 114th in nation by tallying just 16 QB sacks.
— 118th in nation; accumulated just 53 tackles for loss.
— 126th in nation on 3rd down as opponents converted 50%.
— Forced 9 turnovers (7 INTs) in its final 3 regular season games.
— Defensive line is comprised four, 4-year plus players: DT Francis Kallon redshirt senior, DT Patrick Gamble redshirt senior, DE Rod Rook-Chungong redshirt senior, and DE KeShun Freeman redshirt junior.
— DT Patrick Gamble is the leader up front: 47 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 QB sacks.
— Twin brothers CB Lance and SS Lawrence Austin lead the team in INTs with 3 a piece.
— Linebackers are smart, active, and physical: OLB PJ Davis-70 total tackles, MLB Brant Mitchell-68 total tackles, 3 TFL, 2 INTs.
— Team’s leading tackler is strong safety Quinton Griffin: 79 total tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 QB sack, and 1 interception.
Georgia Tech’s season ending win streak has been fueled by points off turnovers; 34 points in 3 games to be specific. Simply put: the Cats lose on Saturday if they turn the ball over 2 or more times.
See you in Jacksonville.
GT coach Paul Johnson: “(UK’s) offensive line gets overlooked. They’re very physical up front, have three really good running backs.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 30th, 2016 @ 2:00pm
We’re just 21 hours from kickoff, but the team is still in full-preparation mode leading up to Saturday’s matchup against Georgia Tech. Mark Stoops, Stephen Johnson, Courtney Love, Jon Toth, and Courtney Miggins (along with a group of GT guys) led the way with the final press conference this morning, which will be followed up with a final “run-through” later on, and a bit of last-minute film work on the Yellow Jackets.
When asked about Kentucky’s offensive attack at today’s press conference, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson was not too thrilled about what he had coming for he and his defense. UK’s stable of running backs proved to be one of the best groups in the nation, led the way by two 1000-yard rushers in Boom Williams and Benny Snell. Stephen Johnson maintained the reputation as “Mr. Cool” throughout the year, staying calm and collected regardless of what was thrown his way. The most valuable asset(s) to the team? John Schlarman’s unit up front, the guys Alabama star DE Jonathan Allen considered the “most physical” group the Crimson Tide had played all season long.
“Their offensive line gets overlooked,” Johnson said. “They’re very physical up front, have three really good running backs. Once their starting quarterback got hurt, not to take anything away from him, because he’s an outstanding player, but I think it kind of helped their team because they came up with a really good scheme for the personnel they had. I think they utilized the backs very well. It also plays into shortening the game for their defense and a lot of things.
“The biggest thing is trying to, like every week, limit the big plays. They do a great job with their wildcat stuff. Their quarterback is very capable of throwing the ball when he has to. They’ve got receivers that can get downfield. It will be a tough matchup for our defense.”
After coming in with little time to prepare as the team’s starter, Stephen Johnson threw for 1862 yards, 12 TDs, and just six picks. He managed to stay healthy throughout the year, kept his poise, and all but secured the starting position for next year in the long run.
He’s shown what it takes to be a capable SEC QB, but for Johnson, the credit goes to the guys behind him on offense. “For me, I know it takes a lot of pressure off me having Benny, Boom, and Jo back there be able to get hit at the line of scrimmage and get a first down still, really helps out our offense. It allows us to do so many things. It opens up the pass. Once we get the passing established, it opens up the run again.”
The leader of the group that makes it all happen up front, Jon Toth, agrees that it has definitely helped with such a dynamic unit in the backfield.
“It’s important to have both run game and pass game. They kind of feed off each other,” Toth said. “Once you get the run going, it helps the pass. If you happen to start off with a pass, get that going, it will help the run game.”
When Jojo Kemp came to Kentucky, he was given the opportunity to change the culture of the Kentucky football program. As time ticked, the recruiting pitch changed even though the product on the field had not dramatically changed.
After consecutive five-win seasons, the product on the field dramatically improved in 2017. Few expected this team to win seven games and play in a New Year’s Eve bowl, but that’s exactly what Courtney Love expected.
“I did envision it once I transferred in,” Love said. “This is what Coach Stoops told me we were going to do.”
Love was recruited to Kentucky a year before Stephen Johnson, but the expectations were the same. For a while, those expectations looked out of reach, but the team never flinched.
“It wasn’t like that at the beginning of the year, but I’m glad on how it all unfolded,” Johnson said. “Our goal was to go to a bowl game and get this extra 13th game.”
Even though they envisioned this moment long ago, it has exceeded their wildest expectations.
“I think it’s very special for this program to take another step within the history of this program. We really changed it,” Love said. “It’s been awesome and I love being here.”
For six years UK fans have yearned for a bowl game. The advantages of an extra game are numerous, from the fans to the players and coaches.
“I know for this team, it’s been awhile since we’ve been to a bowl game.” Stephen Johnson said at today’s press conference it means a lot for the fans and the seniors. “They’ve been yearning for it and waiting for it for a long time.”
“It’s my last year,” Courtney Miggins said. “Just to get these last practices around the guys and coach Stoops. It’s been a joy.”
Jon Toth echoed a similar sentiment. Referred to as the “staple” upfront by his head coach, Toth has watched the program blossom over his four years. He knows how much this game means for the future of the program.
“It’s obviously new territory for Kentucky as a program in our recent history. I think it is a good thing we get the extra 15 practices. It helps develop the younger guys and also the older guys,” Toth said. “It helps lay a foundation for the future of the program. I think it is advantageous that we’re in this position and I think it will be beneficial for the program.”
Toth took it one step further. The advantages aren’t just from a few extra practices. It’s how the team has approached their extra time together because of the culture Mark Stoops has created at Kentucky.
“It’s not because it’s the 13th game, it’s because it’s the next game,” Toth said. “Coach Stoops has done a great job instilling in us to just keep your head down and go to work each and every day.”
Coach Stoops wants to make sure Toth’s career ends on a good note.
“He’s really the closest thing you can get to a professional player in a college player,” Stoops said. “He’s a special guy. We’re going to be sad to see him go, but we want to send him out the right way.”
LIVE from the Hyatt Regency in downtown Jacksonville, Florida, the Kentucky football team is speaking for the final time before tomorrow morning’s bowl game at EverBank Field. Mark Stoops is accompanied by Stephen Johnson, Jon Toth, Courtney Miggins and Courtney Love.
By Nick Roush on ©December 30th, 2016 @ 9:00am
It’s a great day to be a Wildcat. The basketball team returned to rare, historic form and the football team is a day away from playing in their first
Gator TaxSlayer Bowl. There’s no time to waste; let’s get to it.
1. Another Triple-Double
For the second time in seven games, a Kentucky guard finished his night with a triple-double. This time ESPN will not be refuting any claims, partially thanks to Derek Willis. Isiah Briscoe needed one more rebound to complete the elusive feat. Standing at the free throw line, Derek Willis had to help out his teammate.
“And he was just like, ‘Yo, you need one more rebound?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ He said he got me,” Briscoe sid after the game. “So, shoutout to Derek, for real. I appreciate that.”
Briscoe’s final line: 19 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds.
2. The Monk and Bam Show
Isaiah Briscoe had a triple-double, yet he might not have been the best player on the court for Kentucky last night. Bam Adebayo had his official coming out party, scoring a career-high 25 points, with 16 of those points off of eight dunks. Malik Monk is officially back. He knocked down 11-of-16 shots for 34 points, including the No. 1 play on Sportscenter.
For full highlights of the game, click here.
3. Cal is on the Road
John Calipari will not be hitting the road to see the football team in the Gator Bowl. He’s too busy recruiting. 5-star small forward Kevin Knox told 247 that Coach Cal will be in attendance for his game tomorrow at The John Wall Holiday Classic in Raleigh. Recruiting a future player is a little easier when he’s playing in a tournament that’s put on by a former player.
4. LSU Forward Dismissed
Before I get to football, an important SEC basketball nugget. Just a few hours before opening SEC play, LSU forward Craig Victor II was dismissed from the team for a “violation of team rules.” The junior has been a consistent contributor in the frontcourt for Johnny Jones each year. Without Victor, LSU will once again be a beautiful disaster.
5. A Setback Free Week *Knock on Wood*
Despite the many distractions on the road during the bowl week, Stoops has consistently praised his players for being able to balance work with play.
“I think we’ve gotten our work done when we needed to. They’ve been very attentive in the meetings,” Stoops said after yesterday’s practice. “We normally don’t travel all these guys, so there’s quite a few players here. When you’re dealing with that many numbers you’re trying to stay away from the outside distractions. We haven’t had those. They’ve been locked in at meetings and the practices have been very good.”
6. Stick to Football
The Kentucky football team spent Thursday afternoon playing another sport: golf. Despite their athletic prowess, the overwhelming majority were terrible. Derrick Baity talked like he was the best to ever step on a golf course. Stephen Johnson had to put him in his place.
Benny Snell’s superstar follow through was fantastic, Alex Montgomery’s swing was dangerous, and Jojo Kemp was ecstatic when he finally made contact with the ball. Yesterday’s trip made the journey to Jacksonville worth it.
7. Final Press Conference
After the team’s final practice, a morning “run-through,” Mark Stoops, Stephen Johnson, Jon Toth, Courtney Miggins and Courtney Love will meet with the media for the final time in the TaxSlayer Bowl’s Press Conference. Following the media appearance, members of the team will visit patients at Wolfson’s Childrens Hospital.
The nightcap is for the fans. The UK pep rally will be at Jacksonville Anding (the light for “L” in the sign is out) beginning at 6:00. If it’s anything like the crowd at the UK Alumni Watch Party, I suggest you arrive early. Following the pep rally there will be a parade of boats, with fireworks over the river.
8. Kash Daniel Discussed the Triple Option
We’ve heard about Tech’s triple option non-stop for the last month, but it was enlightening to hear what freshman linebacker Kash Daniel had to say about the system.
“I think it comes down to eye discipline, especially if you’re a linebacker.” Kash echoed what Freddie Maggard said on our pre-bowl podcasts. “If your eyes are in the right spot and you play the right gap, your defense is going to be really good and sound.”
Kash faced a few triple options in high school, but it takes a little more discipline to take down the athletes of the ACC. Watch the full interview from Jack Pilgrim’s fancy shmancy iPhone 7 Plus below.
9. Freddie’s Hey Kentucky! Analysis
If you would rather hear Freddie’s perspective than Kash Daniel’s, worry not. Freddie joined Matt yesterday at TPC Sawgrass to discuss what Kentucky has to do to beat Georgia Tech.
You can watch the full episode with Jeremy Jarmon here.
10. You Better have the KSR App
Last night we unleashed the Ryan Lemond laugh alert for the first time. Spoiler: everybody loved it, or just had no idea what to think of it. If you haven’t yet, download it today (Android, iTunes) and you might get lucky enough to hear Ryan’s awkward laugh before the day is over.
While you’re at it, make sure you hit “Like” on the KSR Facebook page. The Facebook LIVE machine was rolling through some great stuff yesterday. You don’t want to miss any of the action from Jacksonville today.
VIDEO: Stephen Johnson, Benny Snell, Jon Toth, Jacob Hyde, and Kash Daniel talk following final bowl practice
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 29th, 2016 @ 6:30pm
The Wildcats took it easy this afternoon, going through just a walkthrough two days before their TaxSlayer Bowl matchup against Georgia Tech. Media was allowed to view the first portion of practice, before being kicked out for the in-depth game planning. (Wake Forest really screwed everyone up after their mole incident.)
The coaching staff was upbeat, players were happy, and the entire squad was excited to head to TopGolf afterward. Team preparation, their overall mindset on a quick “vacation,” and golf skills were all discussed.
Here are all the interviews from today: