By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 17th, 2018 @ 10:30pm
On a day when Kentucky had to say goodbye to one of its best senior classes, fans also got to welcome a beloved player back into the fold. Josh Paschal returned to the field this afternoon for the first time since being diagnosed with malignant melanoma on his foot before the season began. When he got a tackle in the second quarter, fans gave him a standing ovation, a moment so awesome Paschal couldn’t stop smiling when asked about it after the game.
“It felt good just to wipe some dust off finally,” he told reporters. “I loved it. Just to know everybody is supporting me and knows what I’ve been through. They’ve been supporting me the whole time and lifting my spirits up when I’m feeling down. It felt great.”
There were whispers that Paschal might play this week, which is pretty incredible when you consider that a few months ago, he was still using a scooter to get around. Since his diagnosis late this summer, Paschal has been undergoing immunotherapy treatments every four weeks and will continue do to so until next August in anticipation of a full recovery. Because the side effects aren’t as extreme as those from chemotherapy, he’s been able to work on getting back into playing shape. Due to an NCAA rule change, he can play in four games without risking his redshirt, a goal he’s been working tirelessly towards.
“I always wanted to work as hard as I can,” Paschal said when asked if he expected to play again. “I know it may have not seemed like I was ready to play but I just knew I couldn’t follow my plan, I had to follow God’s plan for me. You never know what God’s plan is so you have to keep going harder and harder every day and just do the things necessary to get to this point.”
The dream started to become a reality earlier this week.
“It just started this week, and once I got a couple of practices down, I felt I was 100% and could explode the ball how I wanted to and play the way I wanted to.”
Mark Stoops admitted that the plan was to have Paschal back by the Georgia game, but he suffered a setback (unrelated to the melanoma).
“It meant an awful lot to us,” Stoops said. “I don’t know what he just said to you now, but he was trying to come back a few weeks ago and just the foot was bothering him and in different, from where he had the surgery. And that really disappointed him because he was ready to go a few weeks ago, trying to get back for the Georgia game, I want to say, and just wasn’t ready. And we certainly wouldn’t put him out there until he’s ready to go.”
“We gave him the start just because we thought it was right and it was good and it was inspiring to the team and fun and we got off to a really good start with the two turnovers there defensively.”
Throughout the season, Kentucky honored Paschal and offensive line coach John Schlarman, who is also battling cancer, in the form of helmet stickers and bracelets. The team breaks every huddle with “JP on Three!”, a refrain that Paschal admits got him choked up at first.
“It felt good. The first time I saw it I teared up a little bit just because I wanted to be out there with them but also because the team means so much to me and I mean so much to them. It’s just a brotherhood around there. It meant a lot not only to myself but to see the support that Coach Schlarman had also. We’re family around here. I love it.”
Family has taken on a new meaning for Paschal this year. He opened up about the moment he found out about his melanoma and how his family helped him stay strong.
“It caught me off guard a lot but my family, especially my mother and sister, they wrote a lot of scriptures and put them on my wall. It was a lot of healing scriptures too, so whenever I felt down about it, I just looked up to my wall and got my power from God to keep going through.”
Paschal’s faith and determination culminated in a moment much larger than the football field he returned to today. His story is proof that you can conquer anything with a strong resolve and support from the ones you love.
“It meant a lot to me just because of where I was a couple of months ago and how God has blessed me with the opportunities, and the support staff and Big Blue Nation and everybody to lift me up and keep me going to get to the point I’m at right now.”
By Nick Roush on ©November 17th, 2018 @ 10:00pm
Kentucky’s seniors saved their best for last.
Playing at Kroger Field for the final time, the Wildcat seniors made history. Kentucky defeated Middle Tennessee State 34-23 to improve to 8-3, UK’s first eight-win season since 1984. It wasn’t the only record broken at Kroger Field.
Two defensive stars entered elite company. Mike Edwards had 12 tackles, two for loss, to become just the second UK defensive back to record more than 300 career tackles. Edwards started the game with a Pick Six on the first drive and a forced fumble on the second. Josh Allen snapped UK’s career and single-season sack records after taking down Brent Stockstill twice. In the process Allen also racked up a career-high 15 tackles.
It was special to see the records snapped, but the greatest moment happened when No. 4 took the field. For the first time since he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in August, Josh Paschal played in a football game. After starting at outside linebacker, Paschal was just happy to be back on the field.
“It felt good just to wipe some dust off finally,” he told reporters. “I loved it. Just to know everybody is supporting me and knows what I’ve been through. They’ve been supporting me the whole time and lifting my spirits up when I’m feeling down. It felt great.”
It was an incredible moment to see Paschal play in a gutsy win. It was the high point of a game that featured a few ups and downs.
Edwards and Allen put up impressive numbers and made big plays at the most important moments. Josh Allen’s sacks came on third and fourth downs that stopped MTSU’s comeback. Darius West was just behind Allen and Edwards, finishing the game with eight tackles.
When Allen wasn’t sacking Stockstill, his teammates were. Chris Westry and Adrian Middleton each recorded a sack in their final home game.
Kentucky’s offense does not feature quite as many seniors, but their impact was equally felt. C.J. Conrad caught a team-high four receptions for 51 yards and an incredible touchdown in the back of the end zone that gave UK a 24-7 lead. Out of the halftime locker room, Kentucky made a statement behind Bunchy Stallings. The two-time SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week paved the way for a Benny Snell touchdown to recapture momentum.
Even though the Seniors will not play another game at Kroger Field, their impact will be felt for quite some time.
“They have just set such a great example for our younger players because of their work ethic,” said Stoops. “They have been leaders, they have been, they have had a great work ethic. They have been very unselfish and really about the team and far from perfect, but they have really, they really have great hearts and their minds are in the right place and they really want to lead and set a great example and set the precedent for the future.”
Gashed by Screens
Kentucky’s defense made some big plays, but gave up a tin of little ones. Middle Tennessee attacked the edges with screens to consistently move the chains. Tony Franklin’s offense limited UK to just four second half offensive possessions, thanks to a pair of 11-play touchdown drives.
Open field tackling used to be a strength. It was not today. Even though Westry had a nice sack, he had his fair share of missed tackles. The Blue Raiders went after Davonte Robinson all afternoon in a variety of ways. Edwards posted some excellent numbers, but as a unit, UK’s secondary probably played their worst game of the year.
Hello, Offensive Line
While outsiders argued the proper remedies to improve the offense, Eddie Gran and John Schlarman kicked the offensive line back into shape. Limited to less than 100 yards in three straight games, today the offensive line paved the way to a 203-yard performance on the ground. Physical at the point of contact, UK’s running backs averaged 5.1 yards per carry through exceptionally wide rushing lanes.
Eddie Gran called quite a game. There were creative plays that got C.J. Conrad the ball and let Lynn Bowden run the read option. Despite the many positives, two drives gave his critics plenty of ammunition.
With 3:22 to play in the first half and a 24-7 lead, Kentucky got the ball at their own nine-yard line. Receiving the ball to start the second half, a long scoring drive could have been the dagger. Instead of getting creative in the passing game, the Cats ran it twice and took the ball out of Terry Wilson’s hands with a screen pass on third and long.
That outcome was made exponentially worse when the punt went haywire. Pressure got to Max Duffy and he was lucky to kick it 20 yards. Middle Tennessee only needed to go 19 yards to kick a field goal.
The decision-making became even more bizarre when Kentucky took a timeout to stop the clock with a minute to play. They only called one downfield shot before going back to the run. Choosing aggressiveness after opting to run out the clock did not make sense.
That drive was not as dire as the fourth quarter four-and-out. The Cats tried to run out the clock with A.J. Rose instead of Benny Snell. He was only inches short of the first down marker after a run on third and five. With the ball on the 41 and an eight-point lead, Stoops decided to go for it with a quick quarterback sneak. It failed.
The strange decision-making almost cost Kentucky the game. Luckily, Josh Allen was prepared to bail out the offense with a fourth down sack on the following possession.
Let it Rip!
Terry Wilson brought some swagger with him to Kroger Field. The Kentucky quarterback played with the confidence we’ve been looking for and boy, it was a sight to behold. His best throw of the day looked like a sure-fire interception. But Wilson set his feet, trusted his arm and his receiver. The ball sailed just over the fingertips of three outstretched defenders and into C.J. Conrad’s hands.
It was this close to getting picked off.
Terry’s composed performance was evident on the stat sheet. He completed 10-of-14 passes for 124 yards to earn a 167.6 quarterback rating. Wilson also ran for 27 yards and only took one sack.
The Final Benny and the Jets?
Mark Stoops didn’t sound too confident that Snell would be back for another game at Kroger Field. Benny kept it light when he was asked about the subject.
“Maybe after the bowl game I’ll go home, talk to my Snell Yeah company, my family will be there. We’ll all sit down, have some coffee and talk about it. I don’t know yet,” said Snell.
Kentucky’s Seniors walked off Kroger Field for the final time with more SEC wins than any other group in program history. The playmakers rewrote record books and changed the trajectory of the Kentucky football program. After a victory over Middle Tennessee State, they can add an exclamation point to an excellent season with a win at Louisville.
As Josh Allen said earlier this week, “It’s only right to go out with a bang.”
What a day for CJ Conrad. The BBN has been begging for more from the tight end since basically the moment he arrived on campus, and tonight they finally got it during his final game in Kroger Field.
Against Middle Tennessee State, Conrad had the most looks of his season – four catches for 51 yards. Today’s performance gave Conrad the fourth-highest number of catches throughout his career, behind six catches against Mississippi State in 2015, five against New Mexico State in 2016 and five against Ole Miss in 2017. It was the first time time he surpassed three catches in a game so far this season.
After the game, Mark Stoops said prioritizing getting the ball to Conrad is something “we always do,” but added it was easier to make that happen against Middle Tennessee State than it was against SEC teams.
“Everybody always wants to say [Conrad doesn’t get the ball], but some of our RPO’s are there sometimes and sometimes they’re not. And when we’re playing these SEC teams, they’re not going to give him those. They’re not giving him any freebies,” Stoops said. “There were some good reads today by Terry [Wilson] and there was an effort by us on some to draw the player in and him on a RPO and we had some opportunities there.”
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran went even farther with his belief in Conrad. According to Gran, today’s game plan included getting the ball to Conrad “eight to ten times.” While that obviously didn’t happen, he was still content with Conrad’s efficiency.
“In the game plan, he certainly did have an opportunity. We felt like in those big sets we had the chance to get him the ball. Going into it… we said, man, he’s got a chance to catch eight to 10 balls,” Gran said. “I don’t know how many he caught… He caught four. A guy catching four like that with that production, you do that all the time. We got a couple of explosives that way too, and that’s when we’re really good.”
All of Conrad’s catches came at critical times for the Wildcats, but none were more important than his 11-yard catch through coverage for a Kentucky touchdown. At first, it looked like a possible interception in the end zone. But Terry Wilson’s throw and CJ Conrad’s hands didn’t let that happen.
After the game, Conrad admitted he was happy his quarterback made the decision he did.
“I put my hand up and luckily he saw me,” Conrad said. “I’m thankful he had the trust in me to throw that because, you know, that’s a dangerous pass.”
“I saw CJ in the back of the end zone so I was like, let me give him a chance to catch it. So I just threw it,” Wilson said of the decision to send it to Conrad. “It was close, it was close. After I saw it go through his hands, I was like ‘yes, thank you. I’m good.’ It was a great catch by him.”
Regardless of what you think of Eddie Gran or how many more times you think Conrad should have been given the ball throughout his career, today’s game was special. After the win, the senior said he had 70 people in the stands rooting for him. He’s seen the rise of Kentucky football, and that’s something he’ll hold onto for the rest of his life.
“Our goal as a group, we seniors, was to change this program. We’ve still got some games left but we feel like we’re really heading in that direction and that just means the world to me,” Conrad said. “I just try to go out there and give everything I have to this team.”
He’s certainly done just that. CJ Conrad, thanks for everything.
By Nick Roush on ©November 17th, 2018 @ 12:26pm
Entering his final game at Kroger Field, Mike Edwards needed one tackle to join UK’s 300-Tackle Club. He did not waste any time.
In the first three minutes of the game, Edwards recorded three tackles to become just the second defensive back to enter the 19-member 300-Tackle Club. That wasn’t even the most impressive thing he did at the start of Senior Day.
On the third play of the game, Edwards ripped the ball away from a Middle Tennessee State wide receiver and returned the interception 66 yards for a touchdown.
Four plays later, Edwards forced a fumble to setup another Kentucky touchdown.
The Kentucky Badger can’t be contained on Senior Day.
It’s hard to believe that there are only two weekends remaining in the 2018 college football regular season, but that is exactly where we’re at. After a humbling loss in Knoxville, Kentucky will be returning to Kroger Field to send off an historic senior class on Saturday afternoon.
Standing in their way will be a Middle Tennessee squad who is 7-3 and will be playing for a division title in the C-USA against UAB next week. The Blue Raiders employ an Air Raid offense in tandem with an undersized and aggressive defense. Under Rick Stockstill, MT has beaten five Power Five teams. They will not be intimidated.
Nuts and Bolts
After spending 14 seasons on the staff at Clemson and two years working for both Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, Rick Stockstill finally made the move to become a head coach. He came to Murfreesboro in 2006 and has been roaming the sidelines ever since.
Now in his 13th season, he owns an 86-75 record with seven bowl appearance and one conference title. He has the Blue Raiders in position to add another conference championship to their trophy case this December.
In recent years, Rick Stockstill made outstanding additions to his staff by bringing in Tony Franklin and Scott Shafer. Franklin, a former UK assistant Hal Mumme with a checkered past, is considered one of the masters of the Air Raid offense. After Sonny Dykes was fired at California he was looking for a job and the offense at MT have been good since he arrived.
Scott Shafer was the defensive coordinator at Michigan and later the head coach at Syracuse. He was fired after three seasons and then took a year off before coming to Murfreesboro. His defenses are known to be aggressive.
With these two assistants, Rick Stockstill has surrounded himself with experienced coaches who have had success at the highest levels of college football. Due to some circumstances, each found themselves in a position to needing to work at a Group of Five program and it has paid dividends to Middle Tennessee. It’s no surprise to see them competing for a conference crown.
Like many of the programs you see in the C-USA and Sun Belt, MT was in the FCS not so long ago. The Blue Raiders made the jump in 2000 and they’ve been very successful since. Originally a member of the Sun Belt conference, Middle won two conference titles before realignment. They moved to the C-USA in 2013 and have yet to post a losing mark in league play since the conference switch. They have a winning culture.
This will be the third time these two programs have met with Kentucky holding a 2-0 series lead. Rick Stockstill brought his Blue Raiders to Lexington in 2008 and nearly came away with an upset. On the last play of the game, MT threw a hail mary and UK would need a tackle from Robbie McAtee at the one-yard line to secure the Kentucky victory.
Out in the desert, Kentucky is currently a 16-point favorite with a total of 46.5. That’s a projected final score of somewhere around 31-15. In their last 1o games as a favorite, Kentucky is 0-10 against the spread. On the year, Kentucky is 4-6 against the spread while Middle Tennessee is 6-4 against the number.
In any Air Raid scheme, you need a quarterback that can deliver the ball quickly with accuracy and precision. Middle Tennessee has exactly that with Brent Stockstill.
The son of the head coach, Brent Stockstill has been starting at quarterback for the Blue Raiders since his redshirt freshman season and owns every program passing record.
As a freshman and sophomore, the coach’s son put up more yards and points but this year the Blue Raiders have gone to a more conservative approach. MT doesn’t have as many explosive playmakers surrounding the quarterback so they’ve put more on his plate from a game control standpoint. It’s paying off with him having a career high completion rate of 68.8% and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 21/5. He’s a very good quarterback and will be one of the best UK has seen this season.
On the perimeter is where you’ll find Middle’s best two playmakers in Ty Lee and Patrick Smith. The two undersized receivers have more quickness than breakaway speed and that’s needed in this horizontal passing attack. Under Tony Franklin, the Blue Raiders want to get you going east/west before they attack you north/south. Lee and Smith are great at this.
The duo each have a catch rate of or above 70% and have combined for 10 receiving touchdowns. Whenever the offense is in a bind they look to their two star receivers and get the ball to them in the lot of ways. If you can stop the run early they will use the quick passing game to these two as an extension of the run game.
Middle suffered a big loss when running back Brad Anderson was lost for the season. The sophomore was a great weapon as a third down back and without him their running back rotation has included more power. In the last few games, redshirt freshman Chaton Mobley has emerged as the team’s top running back option.
The 235-pound back rumbled for 198 yards in a win over WKU two weeks ago and now leads the team in rushing. He won’t be the only back UK sees on Saturday. Much like Tennessee last week, MT runs a platoon and they’ll ride the hot hand. Terelle West has replaced Brad Anderson as the third down back and Tavares Thomas is another power back. This offense has a nice blend of options in the backfield.
Up front is the weak link of the unit. However, this scheme was made to allow you to win without dominant offensive line play. Most of the time, Brent Stockstill gets the ball out quick but if you can get the Blue Raiders in obvious passing situations pressure can really get to the experienced quarterback. In the run game, there’s a reason MTSU is only averaging 3.75 yards per carry. This group struggles to move people at the point of attack.
When you see an Air Raid offense with a popular offensive coordinator and a talented senior quarterback you would assume scoring points and beating teams in shootouts would be this squad’s strength. However, Middle Tennessee bucks that trend.
The best unit on Rick Stockstill’s squad is on the defensive side of the football and coordinator Scott Shafer has done an excellent job with this group. The Blue Raiders have one of the best defenses in the Group of Five and they play an attacking style.
In this 4-3 scheme, Middle Tennessee prefers to play downhill and create havoc. Most of this disruption is caused by an outstanding trio of linebackers. Khalil Brooks, Darius Harris, and DQ Thomas have combined to collect 28 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and 40 run stuffs (run stops at or behind the line of scrimmage). These are great numbers and they will be a terror for UK’s offensive line to deal with.
Both Khalil Brooks and DQ Thomas (each under 215 pounds) are undersized for their spots. However, middle linebacker Darius Harris looks like a pro prospect at 6-foot-2, 238 pounds and he plays like it.
The senior from Mississippi is second on the team in tackles and is one of the best run stuffing inside linebackers UK has seen all season. The Wildcats interior run game has struggled and getting right against Darius Harris will not be an easy task.
The linebackers get all of the attention, but MT has two nice options at defensive end. Jahmal Jones and Trae Philpots have combined to contribute 10.5 tackles for loss and they’re both threats to rush the passer. Each is under 260 pounds but they both play with a motor.
In the secondary is where you’ll find Middle Tennessee’s leading tackler. Sophomore safety Reed Blankenship has recorded 80 tackles in 10 games this season and cleans up a lot of stuff once it gets past the linebackers. Joining Blankenship is senior Jovante Moffatt who is excellent at free safety. In this attacking scheme, it is important to have safeties that can limit big plays when the offense gets past the first two levels. Middle Tennessee has that with Blankenship and Moffatt.
If you’re looking for a weakness of this group it is at defensive tackle and corner. The Blue Raiders have already lost starting corner Cordell Hudson for the season and are extremely thin and small at that spot. Inside, Malik Manciel gives up a lot of weight at only 254 pounds playing a defensive tackle spot. Rosheem Collins gives Middle more size, but it’s going to be quite a challenge for them going against UK’s big interior line.
The Blue Raiders are currently plus-6 in the turnover margin and a big reason for that is the defense. Middle Tennessee has forced 19 takeaways on the season with four defensive touchdowns. Expect man blitzes and some unnecessary risks to be taken. Big plays will be there for UK if they can hold onto blocks, beat man coverage, and break tackles in space.
Special Teams Breakdown
Kentucky will be facing a very strong punter on Saturday, but this time it won’t be because of his powerful leg. Matt Bonadies averages less than 43 yards per attempt, but where he hurts you is with is accuracy. The senior forces a lot of fair catches and has nearly half of his punts downed inside the 20. However, Middle Tennessee has been susceptible to big returns when he is off his game.
At kicker, MT has had their struggles with Crews Holt only going 9-of-14 on the season with four missed PATs. On kickoffs, Middle rolls with Matt Bonadies and he’s nowhere near as efficient as he his on punts. Big return opportunities will be there for Lynn Bowden.
Middle Tennessee seems to have a fair catch return philosophy in the kicking game. They nearly go with it on each opportunity, but when they call for a return they’re usually pretty successful. Ty Lee is dynamic as a return man and with the struggles UK’s punt coverage team has had expect Middle to have something prepared to expose that.
Keys to the Victory
- There’s been a lot of talk about the Wildcats scoring less than 20 points in every game since September, but the real cause for concern has been the slow starts. UK hasn’t had an opening drive touchdown since the Murray State win and they haven’t held a double-digit lead since the South Carolina victory. On Saturday, UK must start fast to gain some confidence. You won’t have to look long to find Midde Tennessee’s weaknesses. Kentucky’s offense, just to get some confidence, needs to expose them early.
- A week after allowing Georgia to roll up over 300 yards on the ground, Kentucky allowed the worst rushing offense in the SEC to collect 215 yards last week. Most of the talk has been about the offense’s ineffectiveness, but this defense has taken a step backwards the last two weeks. Against a bad rushing offense, Kentucky must make Middle Tennessee one-dimensional. Do that and force some passing downs then Josh Allen should easily break the program sack record on Senior Day.
- Senior Day is always a great celebration but usually they can be followed by sluggish starts. After consecutive losses and what appear to be some legit confidence issues, UK cannot afford another slow start. Eddie Gran talked about urgency this week and that is what they must show once the game kicks off at noon.
The Blue Raiders have the most interesting mascot in the world. Agree or disagree?
By Jack Pilgrim on ©November 16th, 2018 @ 8:30pm
After an up and down start to the Kentucky basketball season, we’re about to find out just how hard the Wildcats are able to grind throughout the next week or so.
They’ll start with an evening matchup on Sunday against VMI, followed by Winthrop on Wednesday and Tennessee State next Friday. Three games in six days is tough, no matter the level of competition.
To prepare for that grind, the Kentucky players and coaches have ramped things up in practice to build the endurance necessary to get the job done each outing.
“It all starts in practice, trying to go at each other,” freshman guard Immanuel Quickley said this afternoon. “Going hard each and every day. Not taking any team for granted, because any team can come out (on any given night) and beat you.”
There was a noticeable uptick in intensity on both ends of the floor from the first two games of the season to Kentucky’s matchup on Wednesday night with North Dakota. Quickley said the coaches preached execution on the little things over the last week in practice, and that led to things clicking for the team.
“We had a lot more energy, a lot more effort,” he said. “Credit to the coaches for getting us prepared, practice was harder this last week or so. It all started with practice. … People were diving on the floor, taking charges, stuff like that. Little stuff that I think will help us get wins throughout the year.”
There has been an emphasis on fighting from start to finish each possession, not loosening up regardless of the situation.
“Most of the practices have been focused on defense,” said freshman center EJ Montgomery. “We’re really trying to get better on defense every day. We’re going at it very hard. The intensity, fighting through the whole shot clock, never giving up, and competing.”
Quickley understands the team is talented offensively, but when the defense is there, they’re tough to beat. The 6-foot-3 point guard said individually, he has become a polished defender since he first arrived in Lexington.
“The offense is going to come, but I think my defense is really coming along since I got here. You know, pressing the ball full court, talking on defense, being alert, active, trying to get deflections.”
Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been a huge part of that development, and it has helped Quickley become a more complete player.
“He’s just trying to help me be an overall better point guard. Getting the ball out of my hands early, all the coaches are trying to get me to talk a lot, something I’m still working on. Defense. Really just everything to become an overall better player.”
Montgomery said the intensity in the frontcourt against the other star Wildcat big men has been crucial to his development, as well.
“I learned a lot, those guys really compete. There are a lot of physical guys, they show that physicality on the court. I’m just trying to grow and learn every day from them. … I just want to do anything on the court to help my team win. Whatever coach needs me to do, I’m going to go out there and do that.”
Watch both videos with Quickley and Montgomery below:
By TJ Walker on ©November 16th, 2018 @ 4:00pm
Tyrese Maxey can’t get enough of the checkerboard, and who can blame him? The Kentucky signee’s high school season has started and below is a short highlight video of Maxey doing Maxey things. He can score from anywhere on the floor, he gets teammates involved, has great athleticism and is a lockdown defender. But you don’t need to hear it from me, John Calipari said as much when Maxey faxed in his LOI on Wednesday.
“Tyrese has unbelievable competitive spirit,” Calipari said in a release. “I love Tyrese’s basketball savvy. He has an elite ability to score the ball, yet he creates shots for his teammates, he defends and he rebounds. In all the time I’ve watched him play, rarely does he make the wrong play. He may not make every shot, but he almost always make the right play. You can tell that he’s a coach’s son. Physically he is going to be able compete with the best in the country.”
UK fans are going to love this kid, and if you care about this sorta thing, he really, really wanted to be a Cat. There was no drama in his recruitment and he committed to Kentucky early on in the process. Plus, he likes checkerboards so he’s probably a pretty cool kid all around.
— SLAM HS Hoops (@SLAM_HS) November 16, 2018
— Overtime (@overtime) November 15, 2018
— Overtime (@overtime) November 15, 2018
UK has received Dontaie Allen’s Letter of Intent, officially making him a Kentucky Wildcat.
The 6-foot-6, 200-pound wing committed to the Cats on Aug. 2nd and joins Tyrese Maxey as the two players to have sent in their LOIs. Kahlil Whitney is the other 2019 target committed to UK, but his mom told KSR he won’t sign in the fall period.
Allen is considered one of the best players in Kentucky and picked the Cats over offers from Louisville, Clemson, Florida, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Purdue, and Xavier.
“Dontaie is one of Kentucky’s finest,” John Calipari said in a release from UK Athletics. “I love Dontaie’s ability to score the ball in different ways. He’s got a lot of skills with the ball in his hands and athleticism to play above the rim. I’m always excited anytime there’s a player from our state who can come in and help this program and have an impact. Dontaie does all that for us.”
He’s the first Kentuckian to sign an LOI with UK since Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis in 2013.
“As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a UK fan,” Allen said in the release. “The walls in my room are painted UK blue with pictures of Rupp Arena hanging with hopes and dreams of someday playing there. So many great players have come through the University of Kentucky. Being born and raised in this great state, this has been a dream of mine.
“Competing against elite level players reminds me of what my parents always told me: ‘Steel sharpens steel.’ I carry that with me. Having the opportunity to play for a Hall of Fame Coach in Coach Cal at an elite program like Kentucky in front of the best fans in the world, the Big Blue Nation, I’m just blessed and very thankful. Big Blue dreams do come true.”
If you remember, Kentucky watched Allen this summer and he blew up on the AAU circuit. When the Cats brought Allen in for an unofficial visit and offered him a scholarship in person Allen surprised everyone, including his family, when he committed on the spot.
Many UK fans will follow Allen’s senior season at Pendleton County and if it’s anything like his junior campaign it will be special. Last season he averaged 31.8 points, 11.4 rebounds while shooting 39.6 percent from deep.
Welcome to the Big Blue Nation, Dontaie.
— Jonathan Dunn (@jdunnlex18) November 16, 2018
Kentucky is still considered a national title contender in college basketball this season, despite an ugly 34-point loss to the Duke Blue Devils in the season opener. But many question whether or not a team can go on to win a championship after suffering such a lopsided defeat in the same year.
Going back almost four decades to 1980, the 2013-14 UConn team had the worst loss among all college basketball national champions. That team lost at 11th-ranked Louisville, 48-81, in the final game of the regular season. The Huskies went on to lose to Louisville again in the AAC title game before running the table in the NCAA tournament and beating Kentucky, coincidentally, in the championship game.
The 1992-93 North Carolina team had the next largest defeat with its 26-point loss at Wake Forest in January of its national championship season. Those are the only two losses of 25 points or more, although there are six national champions with a loss of 20 points or more.
So if Kentucky were to figure it all out and win the title next April, it would have the widest loss on its resume among all champions. However, it’s worth noting the loss came in the very first game of the season, on November 6 (the earliest of any of the champions’ big losses), and against the new No. 1 team in the country. Given UK’s inexperience, the date of the game and the opponent, it’s not as bad as it seems against these other losses.
|2018||Villanova (36-4)||at Butler, 93-101||8||Dec 30|
|2017||North Carolina (33-7)||at Miami, 62-77||15||Jan 28|
|2016||Villanova (35-5)||vs (7) Oklahoma, 55-78||23||Dec 7|
|2015||Duke (35-4)||vs Miami, 74-90||16||Jan 13|
|2014||Connecticut (32-8)||at (11) Louisville, 48-81||31||Mar 8|
|2013||Louisville (35-5)*||vs Katina Powell||Title Vacated||X|
|2012||Kentucky (38-2)||vs Vanderbilt, 64-71||7||Mar 11|
|2011||Connecticut (32-9)||at St. John’s, 72-89||17||Feb 10|
|2010||Duke (35-5)||at NC State, 74-88||14||Jan 20|
|2009||North Carolina (34-4)||at Boston College, 78-85||7||Jan 4|
|2008||Kansas (37-3)||at (24) Kansas State, 75-84||9||Jan 30|
|2007||Florida (35-5)||at Vanderbilt, 70-83||13||Feb 17|
|2006||Florida (33-6)||at South Carolina, 62-68||6||Jan 25|
|2005||North Carolina (33-4)||at (4) Wake Forest, 82-95||13||Jan 15|
|2004||Connecticut (33-6)||vs Georgia Tech, 61-77||16||Nov 26|
|2003||Syracuse (30-5)||at (18) Connecticut, 61-75||14||Feb 10|
|2002||Maryland (32-4)||at (1) Duke, 78-99||21||Jan 17|
|2001||Duke (35-4)||vs (16) Maryland, 80-91||11||Feb 27|
|2000||Michigan State (32-7)||at (13) Ohio State, 67-78||11||Jan 20|
|1999||Connecticut (34-2)||vs (16) Syracuse, 42-59||17||Feb 1|
|1998||Kentucky (35-4)||vs (1) Arizona, 74-89||15||Nov 25|
|1997||Arizona (25-9)||at USC, 62-75||13||Jan 16|
|1996||Kentucky (34-2)||vs (25) Mississippi State, 73-84||11||Mar 10|
|1995||UCLA (31-2)||at Oregon, 72-82||10||Jan 5|
|1994||Arkansas (31-3)||vs (10) Kentucky, 78-90||12||Mar 12|
|1993||North Carolina (34-4)||at Wake Forest, 62-88||26||Jan 30|
|1992||Duke (34-2)||at Wake Forest, 68-72||4||Feb 23|
|1991||Duke (32-7)||vs (7) North Carolina, 74-96||22||Mar 10|
|1990||UNLV (35-5)||vs Kansas, 77-91||14||Nov 22|
|1989||Michigan (30-7)||vs (4) Illinois, 73-89||16||Mar 11|
|1988||Kansas (27-11)||vs (11) Iowa, 81-100||19||Nov 28|
|1987||Indiana (30-4)||at (1) Iowa, 88-101||13||Jan 22|
|1986||Louisville (32-7)||at NC State, 64-76||12||Feb 8|
|1985||Villanova (25-10)||at Pittsburgh, 62-85||23||Mar 2|
|1984||Georgetown (34-3)||vs St. John’s, 71-75||4||Feb 21|
|1983||North Carolina State (26-10)||at Wake Forest, 73-91||18||Jan 22|
|1982||North Carolina (32-2)||at (3) Virginia, 58-74||16||Feb 3|
|1981||Indiana (26-9)||at (12) Iowa, 65-78||13||Feb 19|
|1980||Louisville (33-3)||vs Iona, 60-77||17||Feb 21|
Now let’s take it one step further and look at the worst loss of each NCAA runner-up in that span.
Michigan State had the worst with its 35-point loss to No. 1 North Carolina in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Spartans would go on to lose to North Carolina again in the title game that same year, 72-89.
Seven of the NCAA tournament’s second-place teams had losses of 20+ points before reaching the final game.
|2018||Michigan (33-8)||at Nebraska, 52-72||20||Nov 23|
|2017||Gonzaga (37-2)||vs BYU, 71-79||8||Feb 25|
|2016||North Carolina (33-7)||at (19) Louisville, 65-71||6||Feb 1|
|2015||Wisconsin (36-4)||vs (4) Duke, 70-80||10||Dec 3|
|2014||Kentucky (29-11)||at (1) Florida, 65-84||19||Mar 8|
|2013||Michigan (31-8)||at (8) Michigan State, 52-75||23||Feb 12|
|2012||Kansas (32-7)||vs (2) Kentucky, 65-75||10||Nov 15|
|2011||Butler (28-10)||at Milwaukee, 52-76||23||Jan 3|
|2010||Butler (33-5)||at UAB, 57-67||10||Nov 16|
|2009||Michigan State (31-7)||vs (1) North Carolina, 63-98||35||Dec 3|
|2008||Memphis (38-2)||vs (2) Tennessee, 62-66||4||Feb 23|
|2007||Ohio State (35-4)||at (4) Florida, 60-86||26||Dec 23|
|2006||UCLA (32-7)||vs (11) Memphis, 80-88||8||Nov 23|
|2005||Illinois (37-2)||at Ohio State, 64-65||1||Mar 6|
|2004||Georgia Tech (28-10)||at (12) North Carolina, 88-103||15||Jan 11|
|2003||Kansas (30-8)||vs (1) Arizona, 74-91||17||Jan 25|
|2002||Indiana (25-12)||at Minnesota, 74-88||14||Feb 2|
|2001||Arizona (28-8)||vs Stanford, 76-85||9||Jan 6|
|2000||Florida (29-8)||at (22) Kentucky, 70-85||15||Mar 4|
|1999||Duke (37-2)||vs (15) Connecticut, 75-77||2||Nov 28|
|1998||Utah (30-4)||at Wyoming, 56-62||6||Feb 12|
|1997||Kentucky (35-5)||vs (20) Clemson, 71-79||8||Nov 15|
|1996||Syracuse (29-9)||at (6) Georgetown, 64-83||19||Jan 24|
|1995||Arkansas (32-7)||vs (3) UMass, 80-104||24||Nov 25|
|1994||Duke (28-6)||at (2) North Carolina, 78-89||11||Feb 3|
|1993||Michigan (31-5)||at (4) Duke, 68-79||11||Dec 5|
|1992||Michigan (25-9)||at Wisconsin, 78-96||18||Feb 26|
|1991||Kansas (27-8)||at (25) Kentucky, 71-88||17||Dec 8|
|1990||Duke (29-9)||at North Carolina, 60-79||19||Jan 17|
|1989||Seton Hall (31-7)||at (2) Syracuse, 66-90||24||Jan 7|
|1988||Oklahoma (35-4)||vs LSU, 77-84||7||Jan 11|
|1987||Syracuse (31-7)||vs (16) Pittsburgh, 70-84||14||Jan 26|
|1986||Duke (37-3)||@ (4) Georgia Tech, 80-87||7||Jan 21|
|1985||Georgetown (35-3)||@ (11) Syracuse, 63-65||2||Jan 28|
|1984||Houston (32-5)||vs NC State, 64-76||12||Nov 19|
|1983||Houston (31-3)||vs (1) Virginia, 63-72||9||Dec 16|
|1982||Georgetown (30-7)||vs Connecticut, 52-63||11||Jan 20|
|1981||North Carolina (29-8)||vs (7) Wake Forest, 68-84||16||Feb 11|
|1980||UCLA (22-10)||@ Washington State, 64-80||16||Jan 26|
To quote John Calipari from the day before the loss to Duke: “We don’t want to be playing in November like it’s January or February. We don’t want to be that team. We want to just continue the gradual climb in what we’re doing.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 15th, 2018 @ 10:55pm
On Saturday, Josh Allen will play his final home game at Kroger Field. He needs just one more sack to pass Oliver Barnett for the most in school history (26) and to tie Dennis Johnson’s single-season record of 12. A finalist and semifinalist for several national awards, Allen will leave the program as one of the best to ever wear blue and white, a statement few would have believed when he committed as a two-star recruit back in 2015.
In honor of Allen’s incredible career as a Wildcat, I opened up the KSR archives to reflect on how he got here.
January 31, 2015: Josh Allen commits to Kentucky
You’ve heard it before, but the story of how Allen and Kentucky came together is amazing. While in Washington D.C. to see a different recruit, former UK defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley stopped by nearby Montclair to see Allen, a two-star prospect, in a last-ditch effort to fill a spot vacated by Tyrone Riley, who had decommitted the day before. Because Allen moved from Alabama to New Jersey for his senior year of high school, he was widely overlooked by the major recruiting services, despite leading the state in sacks. He also played wide receiver, earning all-state honors in Alabama as a junior.
As the story goes, all Ansley needed was one look at Allen to get him on a plane to Kentucky for an official visit, during which he committed. If Ansley hadn’t gone to Montclair that day, Allen would have likely ended up at Monmouth, an FCS school. As Allen’s high school coach John Fiore said the day after, the Cats hit the jackpot.
February 4, 2015: Freddie says Josh Allen is the Steal of the Class
No one was a bigger fan of Allen from the start than Freddie Maggard. On UK’s National Signing Day Show, Freddie said Allen was the steal of the class.
“Everybody else’s loss is Kentucky’s gain,” Freddie said. “Remember this moment for Josh Allen.”
August 2015: Allen stands out in camp
Allen immediately turned heads in fall camp as a true freshman who could be called into action early on the defensive line.
“He’s going to be a very good football player,” Stoops said after one practice. “When, I’m not sure, but I love his work ethic, I love his attitude and I love his talent.”
“The New Jersey sack leader is bigger and better than I evaluated on film. Optimal size and athletic ability to become a special edge rusher.”
November 21, 2015: Allen gets his first career sack
Allen played in all 12 games his freshman year as a backup and on special teams, with his best performance coming against Charlotte, when he shared his first career sack with Farrington Huguenin to go with two tackles for loss. As Freddie noted a few weeks later, Allen was primed to become a major part of Kentucky’s defense heading forward.
“Josh Allen will look and perform like a different player. Thrown into action due to necessity, a year of the Korem/Edmond program is necessary. Allen’s ceiling is high.”
March 2016: Allen’s transformation turns heads
When spring practice began in 2016, it became clear Allen had put in the work in the offseason, showing off an added 20 lbs. of muscle, which made him even more dangerous on the edge.
“Today revealed that Josh Allen must be Kentucky’s speedster on the outside,” Nick wrote in a practice report. “Running with the twos, Mason Wolfe could hardly touch him. He was a consistent disruption for the offense.”
Even with a nagging shoulder injury, Allen was one of the stars of the spring, registering three sacks in the first scrimmage.
“I’m ready right now. I’m ready to just compete with everybody. I don’t care who it is. I’m ready to compete, and I feel like I can hold my own.”
“When I first got here, I was just fast off the edge. That was all I used really. Now I’ve worked on on my techniques,” he said. “If you be consistent in what you do — good hand placement, if you read your man — you can win anytime.”
August 18, 2016: Allen goes “Behind the Facemask” with Freddie
During fall camp, Freddie interviewed Allen for his “Behind the Facemask” series, asking him what it was like to move back and forth from Alabama to New Jersey, and, in turn, wide receiver to defensive end.
September 3, 2016: Season-high nine tackles vs. Southern Miss
Allen was a bright spot in an otherwise terrible season-opening loss to Southern Miss, finishing with nine tackless, four solo, including a sack. He might have had more if not for injuring his shoulder. Luckily, he returned to action a week later vs. Florida.
September 25, 2016: Crucial sack vs. South Carolina
Allen may have had the play of the game vs. South Carolina in 2016, sacking Gamecocks quarterback Brandon McIllwain to create 3rd and 17 on a crucial drive in the fourth quarter.
November 5, 2016: Eight tackles vs. Georgia
Allen shined in Kentucky’s heartbreaking loss to Georgia, turning in eight tackles, four solo, and a forced fumble.
Allen finished his sophomore season with 62 tackles and a team high seven sacks. He led the SEC in forced fumbles with four.
April 2017: “Allen has transformed into a freak”
As he did the year before, Allen spent the offseason in the weight room, adding another 30 lbs. to his 6’4″ frame. As Nick wrote after watching him in practice and scrimmages, he had transformed into a “freak.”
“Allen was making plays all over the field. He’s made plenty of tackles for loss in the past, but I was most encouraged by his ability to drop back into pass coverage. Last year his reaction time was a half-second slow; now he’s much more comfortable.”
July 30, 2017: Big expectations
At his Media Day press conference, Stoops singled Allen out as a player he expected to have a breakout season.
“Josh, we expect him to make a very big jump this year. And he did some very good things a year ago, but he’s one of those guys that I talk about right from the onset, right from the beginning of practice, to have that attention to detail and to take it to another level from the beginning. He’s a guy that when he puts the fine strokes on things, he’s going to be a very good football player. I think what I liked, the maturity that I’m seeing out of him. He came in the other day just to talk about some things, and we just sat down and had a nice conversation and I like what I see out of him. I could tell he’s very focused and interested in taking it to another level.”
August 2017: The “Blitz Brothers” are born
After combining for 12.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss in 2016, Allen and Denzil Ware dubbed themselves the “Blitz Brothers” heading into the 2017 season. In the season-opening win vs. Southern Miss, they backed up that nickname with monster performances, combining for 8 tackles, 4.5 for loss, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and a touchdown. Goodness.
September 25, 2017: Standout performance vs. Florida
Allen shined in Kentucky’s devastating loss to Florida last season, with eight tackles, six solo, one for loss, one sack, and a pass breakup, all against All-SEC left tackle Martez Ivey. In an otherwise heartbreaking night, his NFL Draft resume started to really shape up.
“This film will be utilized by NFL Draft early entry committee following the 2017 season,” Freddie wrote. “Allen made himself some money on Saturday. [He] is playing as good as any Edge defender in the SEC; some say the nation.”
October 5, 2017: “Allen could end up being a first-round draft pick”
Not even two weeks later, WalterFootball.com listed Allen as a possible first-round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
There is another Josh Allen who is creating first-round buzz in the scouting community, and that is Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen. Sources from multiple teams say that the Wildcats’ Josh Allen could end up being a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft as well.
October 7, 2017: Allen saves the Missouri game
Allen showed off his football smarts when he knocked the ball out of Missouri’s J’Mon Moore’s hand as he was trying to take it to the official for the spot, costing the Tigers crucial seconds on what could have been a game-winning drive:
#41 Josh Allen is the MVP here. Knocked it out of J'Mon Moore's hand before he could throw it to the ref! pic.twitter.com/4dK0LBQdwY
— Jeff Faughender (@JFauGFX) October 8, 2017
The SEC reviewed the video and determined the clock should have been stopped. Sorry, Tigers!
November 18, 2017: First career interception
Kentucky had a strong start vs. Georgia last year in Athens thanks in part to Allen picking off Jake Fromm on the Bulldogs’ first drive, his first career interception. I don’t need to tell you how that game ended, but Allen was a beast.
Allen finished his junior season with 65 tackles, a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss, a team-high 7 sacks, a team-high four quarterback hurries, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and the aforementioned interception. He was named AP All-SEC Second Team, Phil Steele All-SEC Third Team, and a Butkus Award Semifinalist.
January 8, 2018: Josh Allen announces he’s returning for his senior season
Despite some outlets projecting him as a second round pick, Allen decided to return to Kentucky for his senior season, a decision he later explained in an awards campaign video.
“I could have left, but I had unfinished business. I had games to win. Records to go after. Streaks to break. I came back to get better. I came back to get better for myself, for my family, for my son, and my brothers. I came back to make Kentucky great. To leave a legacy.”
Shortly after the Music City Bowl, Allen and his girlfriend welcomed a son into the world, which he told reporters played a big role in his decision.
“Once he came, it changed everything. It made my thought process a little different. Him being there made the decision for me. I couldn’t leave him.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©November 15th, 2018 @ 5:30pm
After dominating in the Bahamas on both ends of the floor, and then again putting on a show in the Blue-White Game, the Big Blue Nation really had no idea what they were watching in Kentucky’s two exhibition matches. Against far inferior competition in Transylvania and IUP, baskets were hard to come by, they got out-worked in the low post, and worst of all, they got beat off the dribble on the perimeter. It didn’t look like a skill issue, it seemed to be pure effort.
Still, though, many assumed they were just playing down to their competition and looking forward to their much-anticipated matchup with Duke in the Champions Classic.
And then they suffered a 34-point beatdown under the national spotlight. And then they found themselves down by as many as seven points in the second half against Southern Illinois, eventually grinding out a “meh” 12-point victory. Again, the offensive production was mediocre, but the team’s defensive intensity was the key frustration for the fanbase.
On Wednesday night, the Wildcats we came to love in the Bahamas finally started finding their groove again.
In a 96-58 victory over North Dakota, Kentucky kicked it into high gear defensively, holding the Fighting Hawks 39 percent from the field and 36 percent from three. The Cats also forced 12 steals, 20 turnovers, and blocked five shots.
If you ask Kentucky head coach John Calipari, it just felt good to finally get things going on that end of the floor, especially in the forced turnover department.
“There were a couple plays in the post where we just got scored on and I’m like come on now,” he said. “But I liked the fact that we turned somebody over finally, that I’ve gone back to old school, here’s how we’re doing this, and I’m holding them accountable.”
Calipari said he made it clear, if his players don’t listen to him or take shortcuts like they had been doing to start the season, they’re not playing. He assumed the team was ready for advanced teaching, but after a rough start to the year, he had to go back to the drawing board to get the Wildcats ready both physically and mentally.
“I told them, you don’t do what I’m asking you to do, I’m making it very clear, you’re choosing not to, you’re going to hear it and then deal with it,” he said. “And if you’re afraid to play because I get on you, then don’t play. I mean, the best thing that happened to us is, me personally, not these kids, figuring out that I had moved way too fast and beyond what they really knew or knew how to play. I thought well, they know this stuff, and any time I think that it’s, I make a mistake.”
Kentucky sophomore forward PJ Washington said practice this week has been entirely focused on defense. After finding that perfect recipe against North Dakota, he expects his teammates to stick to that and keep forcing the issue going forward.
“That’s all we’ve been working on in practice,” Washington said. “We just have to focus on staying in, and then going out to contest three-pointers and force guys into steals. We did a lot of great trapping today, forced a lot of turnovers as well. That’s our identity going forward, we need to stick to that.”
Freshman wing Keldon Johnson said he’s not worried about the offense at all, he understands the talent they have there. By establishing an identity and setting the tone early on defense, everything else will fall into place later.
“We took defense personally tonight, and that’s how it should be every night,” he said. “We need to set that tone every night. When we play defense, it leads to easy offense. … That’s just been our emphasis, we don’t worry about offense, we just care about defense. The offense will come.”
Freshman shooting guard Tyler Herro, known strictly for his skillset on offense, agreed with Johnson’s analysis. By doing his part on offense, the easy shots came on offense and he was able to finally find his groove.
“Tonight, being active on defense, not relying on my shot, more so start defense and play with the game,” Herro said. “I was playing with the flow of the game, not forcing anything.”
What specifically is Herro working on to improve on defense? Working the passing lanes, which led to a team-high five steals on the night.
“Just going out and playing active with my hands to get deflections, stuff like that,” he said.
It’ll be a while before we see the team’s true improvements on defense against a legitimate opponent, as the Cats don’t have a ranked matchup until December 22 when they take on No. 7 North Carolina in Chicago. Nonetheless, their defensive effort on Wednesday night was certainly a necessary step in the right direction.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©November 15th, 2018 @ 3:30pm
When former Kentucky star Devin Booker started his career as a Wildcat, things weren’t as glamorous as some fans might remember. The deadly three-point assassin the Big Blue Nation knows him for actually started his year just 5-20 from the field and an abysmal 1-11 from three. His 2014-15 squad was (obviously) pulling off victories, but Booker hit a cold spell right out of the gates.
Fast forward four years, and current Wildcat guard Tyler Herro, who grew up idolizing Booker, found himself in a similar rut to start the season.
Through his first two games at Kentucky, Herro shot just 4-17 (24 percent) from the field and 1-8 (12.5 percent) from beyond the arc. He finished with 14 points in the season-opener, but many of those made baskets came late in the game when the outcome was already decided. When the game was still in reach, Herro was unable to create his own shot and looked extremely uncomfortable. An 0-6 performance in game two against Southern Illinois indicates things weren’t any better against lesser competition.
Right when the noise on social media grew louder, the 6-foot-5 freshman found a way to break out of his funk and silence the critics.
Herro finished Kentucky’s 96-58 victory over North Dakota with a season-high 18 points on 7-12 shooting and 1-2 from three. He also added a rebound, three assists, five steals, and converted each of his three free throw attempts.
It was a made two-point jumper at the 18:30 mark in the first half that sparked Herro’s confidence for the remainder of the game.
“Just seeing that first shot I shot go through,” he said. “I knew coming in, obviously, whatever I was shooting. I was thinking in my mind I needed to get something easy at the basket, see something fall, so I could get that confidence and exhale.”
The breakthrough wasn’t a surprise, but he was certainly happy to finally put on a performance he was proud of.
“It felt good, I knew it’d come eventually,” he said. “I see a lot of people freaking out that I haven’t made a shot yet, but I miss shots all the time, so it’s fine.”
So what worked for Herro on Wednesday night that didn’t in his first two outings?
“Tonight, being active on defense, not relying on my shot, more so start defense and play with the game,” Herro said. “I was playing with the flow of the game, not forcing anything.”
Kentucky head coach John Calipari agrees. He knew his star shooting guard was rolling, and didn’t want to say anything to get him off his game. His efforts on defense translated to easy offense.
“When you get it going good, don’t say anything, just keep playing and ride it,” he said. “Because you say something or do something or try to change what’s going good, it goes the way real fast and then you’re back to where you were, 0-6 and can’t make a play and so. But he did better. He’s defending better.”
Herro acknowledged he heard the noise on social media during his slump, along with his friends and family also teasing him a bit about his rough start.
“I’ve seen a lot of people on social media,” he said. “Friends are just telling me, we just kind of laugh about it. … My dad was stressed out, he’s always freaking out when I’m not making shots.”
Even when the production slipped a bit, the confidence never did.
“I just have to stay confident,” he said. “If I don’t believe in myself, no one is going to believe in me.”
A reporter asked the Wisconsin native if he knew about Booker’s poor start and just how quickly he was able to bounce back.
“Yeah, hopefully I can be like him,” Herro said with a smirk.
I want to be like Devin Booker. https://t.co/NDrTFFHETK
— Tyler Herro (@raf_tyler) April 5, 2017
Booker returned the love over a year later, giving Herro a piece of advice and said he was excited to see him in action this season:
— Devin Booker (@DevinBook) July 31, 2018
I don’t think Kentucky fans would mind Herro following in Booker’s footsteps in the slightest.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 15th, 2018 @ 2:30pm
The renovations to Rupp Arena are now underway, and with club areas and additional chairback seating in the works, UK just released new details on the seat selection process for upper-level season ticket holders.
Chairback seating will replace the bleachers in upper-level sideline sections 211-217 and 228-234, reducing Rupp’s capacity to approximately 20,500. As a result, if your seats are in the upper level, you will participate in a new seat selection process for the 2019-20 season, regardless whether or not your seats are along the sidelines. Lower-level season ticket locations will not be affected, and therefore those season ticket holders will not participate in the new seat selection process.
The seat selection process for the 2019-20 season will begin in late spring of 2019. To assist fans with the seat selection process, UK will launch a Rupp Arena Virtual Venue in February 2019, giving fans 360-degree views inside the renderings of the finished product. The order in which fans will select seats will be determined based on K Fund priority point ranking as of Jan. 31, 2019. Season ticket holders will also receive bonus K Fund points based on years of consecutive purchase of men’s basketball season tickets as a reward for their loyalty.
UK also released this rendering of the renovated Rupp, showing the new chairback seating, club areas, entrances, and a much-needed facelift for the facade.
Construction on the club areas has begun, while the upper-level chair-back project will begin at the end of the 2018-19 season. For more information on the Rupp renovation and seat selection process, visit UKathletics.com/RuppRenovation.
By Nick Roush on ©November 15th, 2018 @ 2:00pm
Kentucky’s senior class will play their final home game at Kroger Field as a Top 25 team. They will leave the field with more SEC wins than any other senior class in school history. That success didn’t happen overnight.
When Mark Stoops recruited these players to Kentucky, there wasn’t much to sell.
“I came here, really with a vision,” C.J. Conrad said. “Coach Stoops gave all of us kind of what was going to happen. We were at the old facility. It was grass, there wasn’t turf on the field. The stadium wasn’t renovated or anything like that. We had to buy into a vision.”
To reach this point, it wasn’t easy. A few players, like Mike Edwards and Darius West, were four-star talents that turned down offer from big schools to come to Kentucky. For Josh Allen, it was really the two-star recruit’s only option. He embraced the challenge and transformed into one of the college football’s most dominant defensive players.
“We worked extremely hard for this. Every year we got better, team-wise and individually. We worked hard for this. This senior class sacrificed so much to get here,” Allen said. “We went through so much and worked extremely hard for this moment.”
Darius West will have his moment Saturday morning. The senior safety leads the team in tackles (66) and interceptions (3) after overcoming not one, not two, but three serious leg injuries. The injuries forced West to miss more than three years of football.
“It’s just a special feeling for me because I didn’t get my senior year of high school,” West told the Herald-Leader. “So this season is real special.”
Injuries also hampered Dorian Baker’s career. The wide receiver that has all too often been plagued by drops, played his entire junior year with a nagging hamstring injury. Once he was healthy enough to play, he caught a 35-yard game-tying touchdown against Louisville in the corner of the end zone that sparked the Cats’ victory over Lamar Jackson.
Others dealt with self-inflicted adversity. As a freshman, Tymere Dubose was one of a handful of players that shut down south campus in an infamous pellet fun incident. Poor grades almost forced him to leave the team. Stoops sidelined him for one spring practice, but he never gave up on Dubose. This season Dubose has been a contributor on the defensive line and is expected to graduate.
Many fans wanted Stoops to give up on Jordan Jones long ago. The All-SEC selection confronted fans at Southern Miss and was in the middle of multiple altercations against Louisville. Stoops stood by Jones’ side. He did not change his ways overnight, but Jones developed enough discipline to lead one of the SEC’s best defenses (even with a broken hand).
Before Bunchy Stallings won two SEC Offensive Linemen of the Week awards as a senior, the offensive guard struggled playing center as a junior. Poor shotgun snaps but the Cats behind the 8-ball, all while he was dealing with a loss. Bunchy lost his mother to cancer just before the start of the 2017 season. He couldn’t have coped with the loss without his teammates.
“My brothers, they’re at my hip,” Bunchy said. “I look to them for motivation, for techniques, for things I need to just work on. So without those guys, I probably wouldn’t be the player I am today.”
Lonnie Johnson never thought he would make it this far.
“Where I come from, don’t nobody teach us that, to take care of your academics, get it done right now,” Johnson said shortly after arriving on campus. “I’m from a city where you can get killed, like that (snaps his fingers). It really wasn’t about academics for me in high school, it was about staying out of the way.”
Since he struggled with academics, the Gary, Indiana native did not qualify to attend Ohio State out of high school. After a year of junior college, he still was not academically eligible. Johnson had to sit out of football for a year to focus on academics. After a long journey, he punched his ticket to Kentucky.
“I didn’t actually think I would make it to Division I,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think I’d be here for real.”
After two years, he’s caught the eyes of NFL scouts and helped turn Kentucky into a winner.
“It’s humbling. You got a chance to do something special still. Being a part of changing the program around, I just thank God for that.”
Through the senior class’ time at Kentucky, they’ve slowly and steadily improved. The last two seasons ended with seven regular season wins, but a pair of bowl game losses. The Music City Bowl loss left the veterans with a bad taste in their mouths.
“We made a statement before camp even started after the last game last year, we’re not going to be like that. That’s not how we’re going to leave our legacy,” Baity said. “There were 16 guys that were there when we were losing. Sixteen guys, 16 different opinions and mentalities, we put it all together because that’s not going to be us.”
It’s not just all talk. Kentucky beat Florida for the first time in 31 years to give the Cats a winning record in the SEC for the first time in 41 years. They took a slight step back against Tennessee, but are prepared to make sure that loss does not sour a special season.
“We’re changing in the right direction,” said Allen. “This senior class, we’ve done a lot for this program. It’s only right to go out with a bang. We decided coming here that we were going to do something special. I feel like we had something special when I first saw these guys here. Just to get to the point where we’re at today is amazing. The growth we’ve made and the progress we’re making, it’s unbelievable.”