By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 07th, 2019 @ 5:00pm
After a week of Citrus Bowl festivities, celebrating the victory over Penn State, and ringing in the new year, things took a slight turn for the worse when the Kentucky basketball team saw a disappointing 77-75 road loss to Alabama on Saturday to open SEC play.
But never fear. Even with the loss, work kicking back into full gear, and the kids headed back to school, I have something that should brighten the mood on this late Monday afternoon.
Welcome to the very first edition of Pilgrim’s Basketball Insider Notes.
Our very good friend TJ Walker was in charge of recruiting updates here at KSR, but with him off making big career moves, I have stepped in as the lead recruiting analyst and basketball beat writer. Now, I will be in charge of bringing you guys the latest insider notes here every Monday afternoon.
Now let’s get down to business.
After working the phones and talking to several different people on Kentucky’s side of things and those on the recruiting trail, there has been one common theme: Kentucky is stuck in a holding pattern.
With basketball season in full gear with both high school and college, it’s a wait-and-see game for both sides of the equation. The early signing period (Nov. 14-21) is long gone, so recruits are now focused on finishing up their own seasons before seriously thinking about making final decisions. We see recruits cut their lists and set more official visits when they find the time, but other than a few prospects wanting to get their decision over with (we’ll get to that later), several of Kentucky’s big targets will wait for the regular signing period in the spring (April 17-May 15) before announcing. This is very good news.
On Kentucky’s end, like we saw last season, this team has several players with extremely unclear futures when it comes to the NBA Draft. With that, the “wants” vs. “needs” aspect comes into play.
As of today, sources tell KSR that Keldon Johnson and PJ Washington are expected to enter the draft, but everything is up in the air beyond those two. There is a sense that Ashton Hagans can make a leap similar to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander last season and find himself in the conversation as a lottery pick. NBA scouts are also curious about Tyler Herro and how he closes out the season from an efficiency standpoint, so that variable is interesting, as well.
Beyond those four, along with Reid Travis’ impending departure as a senior, it’s looking as though Kentucky may return everyone else.
Worst case: Immanuel Quickley, EJ Montgomery, Nick Richards, and Jemarl Baker return, while Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney, and Dontaie Allen are ready to roll. That leaves a minimum of two necessary spots to fill, with three being the sweet spot for John Calipari and staff.
Best case: Hagans, Herro, Quickley, Montgomery, Richards, and Baker return, along with Maxey, Whitney, and Allen joining the fold. From there, the Cats need one elite frontcourt target, with another addition being the end goal.
So what are the options on the table?
I have been told that things are looking really good for Kentucky with Matthew Hurt, with several individuals indicating the Wildcats were now in the driver’s seat.
The Wildcats got his very first official visit the first week of December, followed by North Carolina on December 14. He’s expected to officially visit Duke for their game against Virginia on January 19, and then Kansas sometime in February. He’ll take one more official visit to either Villanova, Minnesota, and Memphis before making a final decision in April.
Things are a bit quiet from there, as he’s currently focused on rolling through his final season of high school basketball. I’m sure we’ll hear more following his visit to Duke here in a few weeks, though I don’t feel they are a real threat in this recruitment.
I would expect the final decision to be between Kentucky, Kansas, and Memphis, with the Wildcats winning out in the end.
Listed at 6-foot-11, 185-pound power forward, Jaden McDaniels is one of the most unique prospects in the class of 2019. Garnering Kevin Durant comparisons, Daniels does things that shouldn’t even be possible at his size.
And the Kentucky coaching staff is licking its chops to bring him to Lexington because of it.
As of today, the Wildcats have picked up a ton of ground with the five-star prospect out of Federal Way, WA., and I really don’t think it’s a stretch to say Kentucky is the leader as of today.
Albeit challenging, the staff is extremely excited about the potential pairing of Hurt and McDaniels, with versatility and shooting being the key reasons.
With those two, the team would obviously have to adjust to fit their styles of play, but I’m told it’s a shift they’re confident in working. They wouldn’t rely on bully-ball like we see with current players like Reid Travis and PJ Washington, along with past players such as Bam Adebayo, and DeMarcus Cousins. Instead, it would be a team that thrives in transition with players that can hit threes at every spot on the floor. (Washington and Travis can hit shots, but Hurt and McDaniels would be legitimate threats from deep)
“John Calipari is the best in the game when it comes to adjusting his team and playing to their strengths year after year,” one source said, specifically noting the end-of-year turnarounds we’ve seen since Calipari arrived in 2009. “This wouldn’t be any different.”
They’d struggle defending some of the power big men we see in college basketball each year, but the counter of a team dominating in transition and hitting shots all over the floor is extremely enticing. And it’s the direction the NBA is moving toward, so that’s an easy pitch for Calipari, as well.
While there is a ton of momentum for the Cats surrounding Hurt and McDaniels, I didn’t get the same sense when it comes to 6-foot-9, 245-pound power forward Isaiah Stewart.
He originally cut the Wildcats from his list, but then later told Tipton Edits that the Kentucky was included in his final five schools, along with Duke, Michigan State, Syracuse, and Washington.
Stewart, who visited Kentucky back on September 28, said in the same interview that he just can’t ignore John Calipari’s pitch.
“It’s hard not to listen to Coach Cal and all the success he has,” he said.
The five-star frontcourt target added that he’s currently in a group chat with Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney, and Dontaie Allen, who all want him to join them in Lexington. As another interesting note, the only other school he’s in a group chat with is Duke and their commitments.
So when could we see Stewart make a decision? He says he’s close.
“I’m definitely close to the bottom of things,” he told Tipton Edits. “So that’s why I say (I’ll be announcing) soon.”
I get the sense that Kentucky is running third behind Duke (the favorite) and Michigan State. If a decision comes as soon as he seems to indicate, I believe the Blue Devils win out in the end.
At one point (specifically following Kahlil Whitney’s commitment), I completely counted Kentucky out for the five-star small forward out of La Lumiere in La Porte, IN.
Now, I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest if he ends up in blue and white.
As TJ Walker has said in the past, the staff absolutely loves Brooks’ game and feel his versatility is exactly what they’re looking for. If McDaniels and Hurt opt for Kentucky, they feel he would fit right in with that run-and-gun style of play, as the 6-foot-7 five-star thrives in transition and can hurt opponents on both ends of the floor. I get a Jarred Vanderbilt vibe from his game with a smooth jump shot.
He has recently said that he is “inching toward a decision,” which I don’t think is necessarily good news for Kentucky, but I don’t believe an announcement is imminent.
In a video interview with Tipton Edits, Brooks said Calipari’s message for him is simple: you can achieve your dreams of making it to the NBA and win a national championship at Kentucky. He’s not going to get that with the hometown favorite, Indiana.
“His message is Kentucky isn’t built for everybody, but he feels like I’m built for Kentucky,” he said. “I have an edge about myself. You know, iron sharpens iron, so I just feel like – me going there – I could really achieve my dreams of going to the NBA, and possibly winning a national championship.”
His final six schools in contention are Michigan State, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, UCLA, and Purdue, but this thing will come down to the Hoosiers and the Wildcats.
He certainly has ties to Indiana, and I feel that all of his friends and family are pulling at his heartstrings to stay home, but I think he genuinely likes the idea of playing for a Hall of Fame head coach at Kentucky. What he cares about more is the only question at hand.
The narrative out there is that Florida State is the leader to land the consensus top-three prospect in the class of 2019, and though his recruitment is more open than people seem to believe, I wouldn’t bet against the Seminoles as the end destination if an announcement were to come anytime soon.
Georgia got Edwards’ first official visit, with Florida State, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State also joining the initial list.
Since, though, the five-star point guard cut Michigan State and Duke from his list entirely, adding Kentucky and North Carolina. As a result, I’ve been told it’s likely that the Wildcats will get a visit.
Sources tell KSR the 6-foot-3 point guard has “a ton of interest” Kentucky, with the school’s ability to get players to the NBA as the key reason. If Ashton Hagans takes a major step forward and the staff anticipates he’ll leave by year’s end, I think things can get really interesting. I’d put Edwards in the “want” category for the Cats right now, but if he turns into a “need,” this coaching staff can stretch this thing out and have a legitimate shot when the regular signing period comes around in April.
I’ll give the solid edge to Florida State right now, but if this becomes a marathon instead of a sprint, I like Kentucky’s chances.
I have been told there is absolutely zero concern about Whitney not making it official during the early signing period, and the staff is certain he will still be a Kentucky Wildcat when the 2019-20 season rolls around. End of story.
This afternoon, Whitney confirmed that in an interview with Corey Evans of Rivals.com.
“I am 100 percent Kentucky,” Whitney said. “The whole thing for why I didn’t sign in the fall is because I had scheduled to sign in Chicago in front of my grammar school and everyone would come out so I couldn’t do that because I was not home.”
Last Wednesday, it was announced Kentucky small forward signee Dontaie Allen would miss the remainder of his senior season with a torn ACL following an awkward fall in his game against Cooper on December 22.
The 6-foot-6 small forward made it official on Twitter:
Dear Senior Tour, you’re being cut short. You brought many blessings and hardships to me that I wouldn’t trade for the World. God blessed me with talent and work ethic, but he’s not going to let me stop now.. thank you all!! I will be back & better than ever!!??
— Dontaie A11en (@dontaieallen11) January 2, 2019
It was an extremely interesting situation, as sources told KSR that he was expected to be out for the year when the injury originally happened. When news leaked out that there was optimism surrounding his status and he was eventually listed as day-to-day, it was a “shock” to those around him, but they were certainly ecstatic about the good news. They genuinely felt his return to the floor was imminent.
Unfortunately, his knee stiffened up and his slight limp grew to be a significant one and he needed to be re-evaluated. There, they found the ACL tear and determined he had played his final game at Pendleton County.
But the future is not grim for the player one source compared to NBA sharpshooter Kyle Korver: Allen is expected to make a full recovery and suit up for the Wildcats at some point next season. From there, the staff thinks he can be a special player for Kentucky in the not-so-distant future.
That’s all I have for you today, but I’ll be back next week with more.
I’ll also have some football notes from time to time, so be on the lookout for those, as well.
By Nick Roush on ©January 07th, 2019 @ 1:30pm
Benny Snell ended each of his three seasons at Kentucky in a bowl game. How his second season ended in the Music City Bowl motivated him to finish his career on a high note in the Citrus Bowl.
The Kentucky running back was starting to get into a rhythm on a cold December evening in Nashville when his night was cut short. An official tried to help Snell up off the turf. When Snell shushed away the official’s hands, he took it personal. A flag was thrown and Benny was ejected after only six carries for 15 yards. More than a year later, he’s still not over it.
“It always sticks with me because one of the records I wanted to break was how many yards I could get in a single season,” Snell told Kentucky Sports Radio. “They kicked me out and it just ruined it.”
Instead of contending with Moe Williams’ record, Snell was sidelined, forced to watch from the locker room as his team finished two yards away from a victory. That memory all but ensured he would play in the Citrus Bowl.
“I wanted to play with everything I had in me, how bad I got shorted from a bowl game, I felt like I had no choice but to play in this bowl game.”
Snell ultimately made the decision to play with his teammates. Once Josh Allen and Benny were convinced to play one more game, the entire group of seniors was prepared to get one more win.
“We sat down, talked about it. It was what was best for each guy, so we basically had a vote all across and it was clear, we all wanted to play. It wasn’t that hard of a decision,” he said. “We came in here fighting, so we’re going to end fighting.”
Snell’s fight ended with a record-setting performance in the Citrus Bowl. Up 20-7, Snell was 12 yards away from the end zone and seven away from becoming Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher.
“This is the one right here,” he thought as fans chanted, ‘Benny! Benny! Benny!’
“As soon as I crossed the pylon, I dropped down. I closed my eyes and looked up. ‘God thank you so much. God, it happened.’ I was just praying all before the game. I just had high hopes of finishing what I wanted to do. I’m worried about injury. I’m worried about trying to get the win. I had a whole bunch of things on my mind, but all praise to the most high.”
Benny Snell was denied history once. He would not let it happen again at the Citrus Bowl.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) January 3, 2019
Your University of Kentucky Wildcats dropped five spots in the Associated Press poll following a disappointing loss to Alabama over the weekend. With a 10-3 overall record, Kentucky is now the No. 18 team in the country, according to the AP.
Duke, Michigan, Tennessee and Virginia stayed put atop the Top 25, in that order. North Carolina moved up three spots to No. 12, which is good for the Cats’ resume.
Check out the entire rankings:
Kentucky also came in at No. 18 in the Coaches Poll, down four spots from a week ago.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 05th, 2019 @ 10:30pm
Another day, another breakout game for a Kentucky opponent. And it eventually led to a crushing 77-75 road loss to Alabama, the first time the Cats have lost to the Crimson Tide since 2013.
Alabama forward Tevin Mack, a 29-percent three-point shooter on the year, finished the first half with a ridiculous 20 points on 6-6 shooting from deep. As a team, the Crimson Tide were shooting 34 percent from three going into today’s matchup with the Cats, but somehow managed a clip of 7-11 (64 percent) to close out the first half.
As a result, Kentucky led by just two points at the half, 40-38. And it wouldn’t get any easier for the Wildcats.
Mack’s hot shooting hand would cool off a bit after intermission – he would finish the day with 22 points on 8-12 shooting- but the rest of the Crimson Tide unfortunately found their groove to keep the Wildcats uncomfortable. Kentucky maintained a 51-50 lead with 13:34 remaining in the game, but following a made layup from Alabama’s Kira Lewis Jr., the Cats would fall behind the rest of the way.
Lewis’ bucket sparked an 11-2 run for the Tide, leaving Kentucky without a made field goal between 10:47 to 6:12, a brutal blow to the Wildcats’ chances of a comeback.
After cutting the lead back down to five following a PJ Washington slam, the Wildcats were unable to take advantage, allowing the Tide to score five straight points to push the lead to double-digits. Alabama’s Donta Hall added a follow-in layup with 3:04 remaining to give his team an 11-point lead, giving Alabama what seemed to be an insurmountable lead.
And then a flip switched for the Wildcats on both ends of the floor. Keldon Johnson drilled a three-pointer with 2:20 remaining, followed by a Washington dunk at the 1:21 mark to cut the lead to just six.
Former Kentucky target John Petty, however, responded with a crushing layup on the other end to give the Tide an eight-point lead (74-66) with just 1:01 remaining.
After forcing a turnover on Alabama guard Dazon Ingram, who scored all 11 of his points in the second half, Tyler Herro responded with a three-pointer to cut the lead to five with just 42 ticks remaining on the clock.
Following another Alabama turnover, Ashton Hagans responded with a layup of his own to make it a three point game with 32 seconds left. Kentucky fouled to put Ingram on the line, who drilled both, before Hagans took the ball down the floor to sink another layup to keep the Crimson Tide lead at just three.
With seven seconds left, Hagans forced yet another turnover on Ingram, pushing the ball ahead to Washington for a dunk with just five seconds on the clock, cutting the Alabama lead to just one.
The Tide inbounder got the ball to Petty, who was immediately fouled by Herro on the catch. With a big grin on his face about potentially icing the game, the Crimson Tide sophomore bricked the first and made the second, giving Kentucky one last chance to win the game.
Hagans sprinted down the court, found a wide-open Herro at the top of the key for the win, but the Kentucky sharpshooter couldn’t convert. The Wildcats fell 77-75 to the Crimson Tide to move Kentucky’s record to 10-3 to start the year, handing Calipari just his second loss in the SEC opener since he’s been in Lexington.
Like we saw in the Seton Hall loss four weeks ago, Kentucky missed opportunity after opportunity to overcome a hot shooting performance from the opposition. The Wildcats had the same number of assists (14), had more steals (7-2), fewer turnovers (11-17), out-performed them from the free throw line (82.4 percent to 76.5 percent), and committed fewer personal fouls (15-16). But their flaws elsewhere significantly outweighed those statistical “victories.”
Offensively, the Wildcats finished an abysmal 5-18 from beyond the arc, allowing the Crimson Tide to double their production with ten makes from three (10-23). Immanuel Quickley (eight points, 2-4 shooting from three) was the only Kentucky player to shoot over 33 percent from deep, while three different Tide players shot 50 percent or higher from three.
As a team, the Wildcats shot just 13-35 in the second half, an abysmal 37 percent from field.
Outrebounding Kentucky 40-32 to go with four blocks on the day, Alabama found a way to minimize UK’s success on the interior on both ends of the floor. Coming in as the No. 3 offensive rebounding team in the nation, the Cats managed just six offensive rebounds, compared to seven for the Tide.
And the individual performances weren’t any better.
With 12 points (6-13 shooting) and five rebounds, Reid Travis’ numbers don’t look too bad, but it was easily one of his worst games of the season. On several crucial points down the stretch, the poised veteran leadership we’re used to seeing out of the graduate transfer just wasn’t there. He had a crushing travel called on him in transition late in the game, got his shot blocked during a big run for the Cats, and took an unnecessary three-point jumper when his team needed easy buckets. Typically known as Kentucky’s most consistent player, Travis finished the second half with three turnovers, four missed shots, and just one make, with a final +/- total of -8.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari said what we all thought: it was a rough outing for the veteran big man. But he’s not worried about it in the long run.
“He reverted,” Calipari said. “He tried to gather himself on every catch. I told him, ‘All the work we put in, you got in this game and didn’t trust it.’ But he’ll be fine. He’s the least of our worries.”
Beyond Travis, Tyler Herro and PJ Washington shot a combined 8-22, including a combined 2-9 from three. Washington finished with a team-high 15 points, along with seven rebounds, one assist, and one steal, but he was relatively invisible for the majority of the first half. He struggled immensely on defense, as well.
Keldon Johnson finished with 13 points (5-10 shooting), seven rebounds, four assists, and three steals, one of the best all-around performers for the Cats all day. But unlike the last few games, the star forward didn’t assert himself into the offense and take the game over like he’s capable of. When the team needed a bucket during their drought early in the second half, Johnson didn’t force the issue and be that guy.
Ashton Hagans, who once again proved to be a superstar on defense with some incredible plays down the stretch, finished with a career-high 12 points (5-10 shooting), three rebounds, six assists, and three steals. But with several missed gimmes at the rim, the Kentucky point guard wasn’t able to spread the lead and/or cut the deficit at several massive moments when the Cats needed momentum on their side.
When push came to shove, the Crimson Tide truly wanted it more than the Wildcats. Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said as much during his postgame press conference.
“Our guys poured our hearts out on the floor today,” he said. “Was it beautiful at all times? No. Was it perfect? Absolutely not, especially after we got a ten point lead. Do we have things to work on? Yes. But fans, supporters, this is a huge win for us.”
For an Alabama basketball program that hasn’t beaten Kentucky in six years, Johnson said it was a must-win to get the monkey off their back.
“We talk about it a lot behind the scenes, we’ll let you in on it too, but we needed to beat Kentucky,” he said. “We needed to win the game, we talked about finishing with one more point than Kentucky. No excuses, we’re at home. Yes, some of our fans are out in California (for the College Football Playoff title game), but for the ones who showed up today, we can’t thank you enough.”
Instead of crushing the hearts of Alabama fans in a crucial game for their program, Kentucky let a team that may not even make the tournament have their one shining moment.
For a Wildcat squad looking to play at the Yum! Center in Louisville for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, this is not a good loss.
By Nick Roush on ©January 05th, 2019 @ 8:30pm
Kentucky’s spectacular 2018-19 football season took the program to heights seen only by few. To reach the ten-win milestone, the Wildcats broke records and posted crazy numbers. The following few are the best of the best.
7 — Kentucky’s scoring defense finished seventh in the country, allowing only 16.8 points per game. The UK defense was the only power five unit to allow more than 24 points just once (Georgia). Kentucky was 19th in the country in pass defense, allowing just 186.3 yards per game, and 23rd in total defense at 337.9 yards per game. It’s the first time under Stoops UK’s defense has held opponents under 400 yards a game. All are high watermarks for Mark Stoops’ defense.
7.8 — Penalties a game committed by Kentucky opponents, the fourth-most in the nation.
17 — Josh Allen’s new single-season sack record is the third-most in SEC history, trailing only Derrick Thomas in 1987 and 1988. Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson topped Allen by only a half-sack. Allen was credited with more sacks than 13 FBS teams, including Louisville, who finished the year with 11.
19 — Mike Edwards’ 317 career tackles are the second-most by a defensive back in school history. He finishes 19th all-time and is the first person to join UK’s 300-tackle club since Danny Trevathan.
21.5 — Josh Allen’s tackles for loss were the second most in a Kentucky season, .5 behind Art Still. The National Defensive Player of the Year led the SEC in TFLs and was sixth in the nation. Allen finished his career with 42 tackles for loss. I believe it’s the only Oliver Barnett career record he did not break.
24 — Career interceptions by Kentucky’s five senior defensive backs: Mike Edwards, Derrick Baity, Darius West, Christ Westry and Lonnie Johnson Jr.
I love my squad ? pic.twitter.com/rh0CUqW83D
— 4/7 (@Lonnie30johnson) January 2, 2019
3 — Lynn Bowden was one of three players in the country with two punt return touchdowns. What makes the feat even more incredible is that he scored twice in only five returns. He’s the first UK player since Derek Abney to return more than one punt for a touchdown in a season.
14 — In his first year punting, Max Duff was 14th in country, averaging 44.78 yards per punt. Duffy’s two longest punts of the year, 67 and 65 yards, were in the Citrus Bowl. With a dominant defense and a ball control offense, Duffy’s ability to flip the field directly impacted the scoreboard.
20 — Kentucky’s kickoff coverage was ranked 20th in the nation and second in the SEC. The hidden yards gave UK’s defense another advantage.
4 — C.J. Conrad became just the fourth tight end and 28th player in school history to record more than 1,000 yards receiving. He finished his career with 1,015 and was one touchdown away from tying UK’s career record for receiving scores by a tight end.
67 — Lynn Bowden broke Derek Abney’s record for receptions in a season by a sophomore. He caught 34.5 percent of UK’s passes, the highest percentage in school history. The only UK wide receiver with more receiving yards as a sophomore is Dicky Lyons Jr., who had 822 to Bowden’s 745.
Lynn Bowden @H_Huncho is the best athlete in college football trust me on that. He’s doing it in best conference in the country Sec.
— CoachMarrowUK (@vincemarrow) January 5, 2019
67.2 — Terry Wilson’s completion percentage was the seventh-best among Power Five schools and the second-best in school history, trailing only Tim Couch’s 1998 season (72.3%). Terry Touchdown is the first UK quarterback to accumulate at least 1,500 passing yards and 500 net rushing yards in the same season.
1,449 — Benny Snell ranked sixth in the nation in rushing yards to become Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher with 3,873 career yards. Snell’s 16 rushing touchdowns were good enough to be ranked ninth in America. He now holds just about every UK rushing record. He ranks 12th in the SEC in career rushing yards and third in rushing touchdowns. Snell Yeah.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) January 3, 2019
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 05th, 2019 @ 4:23pm
John Calipari did not make excuses for his team after today’s 77-75 loss to Alabama, but he did like how they rallied to give themselves a chance.
“We didn’t deserve to win the game. We really didn’t. It would have been – we would have run out of here saying, ‘Wow, how did we do this?’ But we didn’t have any business winning that game. We just kind of clawed and made it close and gave ourselves a chance.”
After Kentucky outplayed North Carolina and Louisville in back-to-back wins, the script was flipped in Tuscaloosa. For the majority of the game, it felt like Alabama wanted it more. The Cats were up by two at halftime, but a stretch of errors forced Calipari to yank Reid Travis and Keldon Johnson at the 18-minute mark.
“The biggest thing was, the start of the second half I was so disappointed. Had to sub two guys a minute and a half in. ‘Where was your warm-up? What did you do? Why weren’t you ready for a dog fight? You had to play the first half and know what this game was.’ That really, really disappointed me because it means that guys are into their own realm vs. how we have to be as a team collectively.”
Another issue: missed shots. The Cats’ inability to finish at the rim gave Alabama even more opportunities to pad the lead.
“They outrebounded us because we missed so many shots. We missed, I guessed ten layups. Ten one-footers. That stuff happens.”
If you see a silver lining forming, you’re correct.
“What we did on offense late in the game and what we did on defense late in the game gave us a chance. I want you to think about it. Keldon missed a wide open three in the corner, PJ missed a wide open three at the top.”
Calipari even defended Reid Travis’ three-point attempt when Kentucky was down by nine with 3:35 left.
“If you wonder about Reid’s three? He was supposed to shoot it. I called that in a timeout. You said, you wanted him to shoot that three? Yeah. Because I knew they weren’t going to play him and he could make that shot. Obviously he didn’t and we still had a chance to win that game.”
If we’re depending on Reid Travis threes to spark a comeback, I’m worried, but you’ve gotta admire how Calipari stands behind his players.
Alabama rode a wave of offensive momentum into the second half to defeat Kentucky 77-75 in the opening game of SEC play. Avery Johnson picked up his first win over the Wildcats to snap a ten-game losing streak to Kentucky.
Tevin Mack could not be stopped in the first half. A 29 percent three-point shooter entering the game, Mack hit his first six attempts to score 20 first half points.
The Cats kept up with Alabama during the first 20 minutes, and even had a two-point lead at halftime. UK’s offense fell apart in the second half, thanks primarily to poor shot selection. Kentucky made 13-of-34 shots (38.2 percent) and only three three-pointers in the second half. A late run by the Wildcats closed the gap to one with five seconds to play, but the run began too late for the Cats to complete the comeback.
After two incredible wins against North Carolina and Louisville, nobody expected this kind of performance from Kentucky to start SEC play.
SEC play begins this afternoon in Tuscaloosa. The Roll Tide faithful are gearing themselves up for a national championship game on Monday, but first there is a significant basketball game occurring at Coleman Coliseum.
Avery Johnson is in his fourth season as Bama’s head coach and fresh off his first NCAA Tournament appearance. This year the Tide are scraping and clawing to get back to the Big Dance. After winning nine of their first 12 games to start the season, they’ll be looking for their first marquee win today.
ESPN will be in town for the afternoon tip with Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas on the call. Can Kentucky pick up consecutive road victories to start off 2019?
Nuts and Bolts
Alabama is this SEC’s bell cow on the gridiron, but on the hardwood they have some impressive history. They are second in the league in conference tournament championships and have made eight appearances in the Sweet 16. The most successful coach in this run was Wimp Sanderson.
The plaid jacket wearing head coach took over for C.M. Newton in Tuscaloosa and took the Alabama basketball program to its peak. The Tide made five Sweet 16 appearances and won four SEC Tournaments. Since then it’s been a lot of ups and downs.
Mark Gottfried took Alabama to five consecutive NCAA Tournaments before the bottom fell out. Expectations were high for former Florida assistant Anthony Grant, but he was sent packing after only making one NCAA Tournament in six seasons. Needing a spark, Alabama turned to a former NBA point guard and head coach.
Avery Johnson, the former head coach of the Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets, was doing NBA television for ESPN before deciding to get back into coaching. With the SEC putting a bigger emphasis on coaching, the Tide’s answer was the former point guard who won an NBA title with Tim Duncan and David Robinson.
After making the NIT in each of his first two seasons, Alabama finally made the NCAA Tournament behind one-and-done point guard Collin Sexton. However, even that was a bit of a disappointment despite making the Round of 32. The Tide lost 16 games with a very talented roster. The jury is still out on Johnson at the college level. Alabama had a good non-conference slate, but there are still head scratching losses occurring. The Crimson Tide will have some work to do to make the field of 68. To do that, they’ll probably need Johnson’s best conference record (went 10-8 in 2016-17) to make the postseason.
Today will be the 149th meeting between these two programs with Kentucky holding a 112-37 edge. Alabama has not beaten Kentucky since 2013 and the Wildcats currently own a 10-game winning streak over the Tide. Avery Johnson is 0-7 against Kentucky with three of those losses occurring in the SEC Tournament. John Calipari is 14-2 against Alabama with a 5-0 mark in the SEC Tournament. However, Cal is only 3-2 at Coleman Coliseum.
Out in the desert, Kentucky is a 4-point favorite with a total of 150. That’s a projected final score of 77-73. On the season, UK is 6-6 against the spread but the Cats have covered five of their last six. Alabama is 4-7-1 against the spread, but the Tide have covered three in a row. Alabama is 0-1 against the number as an underdog this season.
Collin Sexton was one of the best point guards in the country last year and losing him to the NBA was a big deal. He left a big hole at point guard and Avery Johnson was going to have to hit the recruiting trail to find a replacement. He did just by locking up Kira Lewis.
The top-40 prospect out of Alabama was a must get for Johnson and he’s playing heavy minutes as a diaper dandy. Lewis has started every game to begin his college career and he’s been very efficient. The skinny point guard is a knock down three-point shooter and is very good from the charity stripe. He leads the team in scoring and assists. He’s the straw that stirs the drink.
Joining Lewis in the backcourt is another blue-chip prospect. John Petty was a big time recruit out of Alabama and nearly ended up at Kentucky. In his sophomore season he has been up and down. The old school two-guard is second on the team in scoring, but he’s only shooting 33.3 percent from three. He’s second on the team in shot attempts and the Tide will force feed him touches in their halfcourt offense.
Off the bench, Dazon Ingram was another big recruiting win for Avery Johnson and he’s a versatile player off the bench. The redshirt junior is this squad’s best perimeter defender, but is very limited offensively. The lefty refuses to shoot from three and wants to attack off the bounce. Look for UK to sag off when he is on the floor.
Due to their roster construction, Alabama will be playing a lot of big lineups. They will be one of the longest teams UK will face all season and their defense will really be able to challenge Kentucky’s offense. In the paint, it starts with Donta Hall.
The 6-foot-9 senior is putting up 11 points and 8 rebounds in his senior season and he’s excellent of the defensive side of the floor. The five is one of the best shot blockers in the SEC and he’s improved in a big way on offense. He’s an excellent screen-and-roll big in addition to having a much improved post game. He’ll be a challenge for UK to handle on the interior.
Herbert Jones was another blue-chip recruit landed by Avery Johnson, and you guessed it, he’s an Alabama native. The 6-foot-7 wing is probably at his best at the four spot, but due to Alabama’s roster he has to play a lot on the wing. He’s a very poor shooter (under 50 percent from three) and really hurts the Tide’s offensive spacing in the halfcourt. However, he’s a force on the defensive end and his length provides plenty of deflections.
Keys to Victory
- Traditionally, Alabama has been very good on defense under Avery Johnson but that hasn’t been the case this season. The Tide have a hard time forcing turnovers and opponents are hitting over 35 percent from three. The Wildcats will have an advantage on offense and they must take advantage. However, Bama is very good on the defensive glass.
- Whenever you go on the road in college basketball, fouls are obviously going to be an issue. Facing a physical team like Alabama that sometimes primarily seeks contact, you must be really aware of how you guard. If this game comes down to foul trouble, the fact that Bama struggles from the line could be a big key.
- One of Kentucky’s biggest strengths this season has been on the glass, but today they’re facing a team that is also very good on the boards. The Tide are long, athletic, and they ferociously attack the glass. Rebounding takes a lot of effort and if UK isn’t playing hard they could get embarrassed in going after rebounds. Whoever wins the battle of the boards will have a great chance to win the basketball game.
By Maggie Davis on ©January 04th, 2019 @ 6:10pm
As if Josh Allen’s year hasn’t been great enough already… He’s officially engaged! Allen just announced the exciting news on his Instagram account. Take a look at that ring:
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A post shared by Father To Wesley DeVon Allen (@joshallen41) on
With his college football career officially over and the NFL draft quickly approaching, Allen must have felt it was the perfect time to pop the question to his long-time girlfriend. The two already share an adorable son, who Allen has frequently called his motivation as well as his reasoning for returning to Kentucky for his senior season.
I’m no ring expert, but based on the size of that rock, I’d say Allen has signed an agent and is already looking forward to making the big bucks. Good for him, and congratulations to the future Mr. and Mrs. Allen!
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 03rd, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Associate head coach Kenny Payne took over the pre-Alabama press conference for John Calipari today, and, as always, had some great insight into what has been a transformational period for this Kentucky Basketball team. What does this group need to do to become a championship-caliber squad? Here’s Payne’s recipe.
Ashton Hagans: Be a “pest”
The freshman guard has flourished in recent weeks, assuming ownership at the point guard position and creating havoc for opposing squads. For Kentucky to go far, Payne said Hagans cannot let up.
“He has to be a pest defensively. He has to get people shots. He has to push the ball in transition and he has to control the offense. That’s his role.”
Payne said the grind of Camp Cal improved Hagans’ conditioning, which is already translating on the court and gives him faith there’s yet another level the pesky freshman can reach.
“The scary part is 50 percent. There’s 50 percent more in him.”
EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards: Spell the other bigs
Whereas Reid Travis and PJ Washington have mostly figured their roles out, EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards require a little more work. Calipari mentioned using EJ as part of a three-big lineup a few weeks ago, but Payne thinks he and Nick are best coming off the bench to give Reid and PJ a breather.
“There was a stretch in the first half of the Louisville game where him and Nick (Richards) were out there together and the lead expanded and it gave PJ (Washington) and Reid (Travis) time to rest. We need that from them because if we’re going to play games and Reid is playing 37, 38 minutes and PJ’s playing 35, 36 minutes, they’re going to wear down. We need them playing somewhere between 28 and 32 minutes. So, that means EJ and Nick really have to be a pivotal part of what we’re doing.”
Nick Richards: Don’t get beat to the ball
Payne knows Nick Richards’ game better than anyone and insists that for Kentucky to make a run, they need the sophomore big man to play well.
“I just think Nick is headed in the right direction. Again, the first half of the Louisville game, he had positive minutes. Something happened where somebody beat him to a ball for a rebound. Well, in the second half of games, when it’s an eight- to 10-point game and can go either way, you’ve gotta have that ball. And we needed him to have that ball. So Coach took him out and told him, ‘These are the pivotal moments where you’ve gotta perform, that you’ve gotta produce. Nobody’s going to outwork you to get the basketball.’ His role is going up. He’s going to be fine.
“We need him. Not we want him. We need Nick Richards to be really, really good for us to go far into the tournament.”
PJ Washington: Defense and rebounding
Consistency isn’t exactly PJ Washington’s strong suit, but in recent games, he’s managed to fill up the stat sheet in other areas when the shots wouldn’t fall, which Payne called a sign of championship basketball.
“We don’t want players here that can go score 30 points a game, get two rebounds and one assist. You can’t help us win a championship with that. Get 15 points, get eight rebounds, get seven assists, get three blocks. When I look at PJ Washington’s defensive numbers and rebounding numbers, two or three steals and four blocks and eight rebounds, I’m saying, ‘Dude, do that every single day of your life and you’ll have a long career.’”
Win on the road
Kentucky did well in its first true road game at Louisville. Payne said how well they respond to the “Everybody’s Super Bowl” tour of the SEC will speak volumes as to how far they go in March (and hopefully April).
“I just think that anytime you’re playing on the road, the true test of a player, the true test of a team is can you go on somebody else’s court and have success? As a player, I wanted to be the player that had better games on the road than I did at home. I hope that we teach these guys that. Because playing at home is one thing, but if you’re going to be a championship team, you’ve got to go into the other team’s home and beat them. Find a way to beat them. And it doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to be a W.”
Saturday in Tuscaloosa sounds like the perfect place to start.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 03rd, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Back on January 23, 2018, tragedy struck at Marshall County High School when a student opened fire on his classmates. Preston Ryan Cope and Bailey Nicole Holt, two 15-year old students at the school, died and nineteen other students were injured.
For the VRBO Citrus Bowl on Tuesday, the University of Kentucky honored Preston Cope, a diehard Wildcats fan, and his legacy by inviting his family down to Orlando, FL for the game.
Mitch Barnhart and the UK Athletics department flew Cope’s father, mother, and little brother down to Orlando to watch Kentucky defeat Penn State 27-24. In the process, they stayed with the players and coaching staff, having all the fun the football team was able to have throughout the week.
WPSD Local 6, a station located down in Paducah, KY, highlighted the family’s trip to Orlando in a segment on their newscast. They were able to interview the family members about what this gesture meant to them, saying their son would have absolutely loved to be here to witness it.
“It’s a roller coaster. You are up one day and down the next,” Brian Cope, Preston’s father, told WPSD. “We felt that way yesterday. We were up, and happy, and I would think about ‘I wish Preston was here to experience this,’ because he would’ve loved it.”
At one point in the trip, the family got to meet Kentucky star running back Benny Snell, where they shared an incredible exchange.
While Snell autographed a jersey for Preston’s brother, the family gave the Wildcat running back a blue bracelet with “#playlikePreston” written around the outside.
“The bracelet is not just a bracelet,” Preston’s mother, Teresa Cope, said. “It is a reminder of our son Preston and his faith and love and God, and sports, and UK.”
Snell actually wore the bracelet during the game, which can be seen in numerous pictures of the star running back.
“People have been sending us pictures all day long with Benny and that record-breaking touchdown. you can see the bracelet on, and it is just… it brought tears to our eyes that Preston was right there in that moment,” Brian Cope said.
Cope’s family wrote the following letter for the world to see, highlighting the kind gestures Mitch Barnhart and the entire UK Athletics department showed following the tragedy down in Marshall County:
For the entire story, head on over to WPSD Local 6 here.
By Nick Roush on ©January 03rd, 2019 @ 10:45am
Eddie Gran haters, prepare to enjoy some humble pie, served up by CBS’ Barrett Sallee.
Following Kentucky’s Citrus Bowl victory, the Cats’ ten-win season surprised plenty of college football analysts across the country. Some of the perplexed pundits are proclaiming that it was a flash in the pan. CBS college football writer Barrett Sallee acknowledges it will be difficult to replace, “arguably the most underrated running back in SEC history,” but he believes Kentucky is on solid ground with Eddie Gran running the Wildcats’ offense.
“Replacing Snell’s going to be tough, but I think the unsung hero of the Kentucky football team is Eddie Gran, their offensive coordinator,” said Sallee. “The way he coaches to his offensive talent makes him one of the top five offensive coordinators in the country right now.
“In terms of quarterback play, they’re always going to be searching for that next difference-maker. It’s always going to be a challenge for Kentucky to find that next guy, whether it be next year or the year beyond that, or last year, trying to figure out how to operate it with a duel-threat quarterback. They always have that sort of problem, but they’re really good at identifying talent moving forward.”
Like most college football play-callers, Gran receives plenty of criticism from fans for his decision-making. Some of that criticism is fair, however, you cannot ignore the offense’s progress year-to-year under Gran.
The running backs coach helped transform Benny Snell into the school’s all-time leading rusher. Under his tutelage, Kentucky has won at least seven games in each season. He changed UK’s offense in the middle of his first season to adapt to Stephen Johnson’s style of play following Drew Barker’s back injury. After two successful seasons, his offense scored more points in the 2018 than in 2017 and won ten games with a first-year starting quarterback.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but face it, Eddie Gran is good at his job.
By Adam Luckett on ©January 02nd, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Beautiful weather. Two passionate fan bases. A couple of top 15 football teams. College football on New Year’s Day in Orlando with ABC on the call.
The stage was set for a great bowl game and that is exactly what Kentucky and Penn State delivered in a big time atmosphere. Luckily for the Big Blue Nation, the Wildcats came out on top.
Behind the best individual quarter of the season and very strong special teams play, Kentucky outlasted Penn State in a thriller at Camping World Stadium. The Wildcats get their first double-digit win since 1977 and ended an historical season the right way.
Kentucky scored three touchdowns, kicked two field goals, and collected 297 total yards (176 rushing, 121 passing) on 57 plays. That’s good for 5.2 yards per play. It was clear entering the game that Kentucky thought they had an advantage with their offensive line creating room for Benny Snell. That is exactly where they attacked.
After a solid first half, Benny Snell came out on fire in the third quarter on his way to setting the all-time rushing record at Kentucky. On his first touch of the quarter, Snell rumbled for 32 yards to get Kentucky rolling. He scored a few plays later with Kentucky well on their way to a dominating 15 minutes of action couple drives later, Snell would break the program’s rushing record on his way to 144 yards on 26 carries. He finished the season with 1,449 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. He finished his career with 3,873 rushing yards. The Westerville, Ohio native is an all-time great. As was much of the case during his three-year career in Lexington, the offense went as Snell went and he answered the bell in his final game.
After two very good performances to close the season, expectations were high for Terry Wilson this postseason. The offense is really going to need him to make a big jump going into next season. Facing a very good Penn State defense, his day was filled with ups and downs. Which is what we should’ve expected after a year filled with peaks and valleys.
In the passing game, Wilson completed 60 percent of his 15 attempts with a robust average of 8.1 yards per pass attempt. However, he took six sacks and looked lost in the pocket with the constant pressure Penn State produced. He chipped in some timely gains on designed quarterback runs, but really didn’t make an impact in the vertical passing game. Most of his production came on short passes with a lot of yardage collected after the catch.
During this season, Lynn Bowden became one of the best slot receivers in the SEC. He’ll enter his junior season with very high expectations. You could consider his production against Penn State a national coming out party.
Bowden impacted the game on special teams (we’ll get to that later) but most of his impact was found in the passing game. The Youngstown native is very dangerous in space and Penn State learned that the hard way. In the third quarter, he provided the offense with multiple explosive plays.
For the season, Bowden collected 67 receptions, 745 yards, and five touchdowns. He will be an All-SEC selection at SEC Media Days in July and a cornerstone of UK’s offense in 2019.
The storyline around the game was going to be who could win it in the trenches. After a dominant first half of the season, UK’s offensive line went through some rough patches to close out the season. They found their mojo during the bowl prep.
Inside, UK’s interior trio of Drake Jackson, Bunchy Stallings, and Logan Stenberg were able to create consistent movement against a very good Penn State defensive line. Darrian Kinnard played a tremendous second half at left tackle. Mason Wolfe gave UK solid snaps off the bench. George Asafo-Adjei did his thing at right tackle.
The big guys set the tone and that had a lot to do with UK’s offensive success in a 10-win season.
Kentucky limited Penn State to 24 points on 76 plays. The Nittany Lions collected 407 total yards (161 rushing, 246 passing) with a 5.4 yards per play average. They had 20 first downs and were just 4 of 14 on third down conversions. Penn State threw one interception and really struggled to find a consistent rhythm until the fourth quarter.
Trace McSorley was going to be playing his final game for Penn State in the Citrus Bowl and slowing him down for 60 minutes was going to be a chore. Despite missing a few plays with an injury, McSorley went out swinging in his final game for the Nittany Lions.
The dual-threat quarterback passed for 246 yards to go along with 104 rushing yards when you take out sacks. The Virginia native caught fire in the fourth quarter and nearly pulled off a crazy comeback with scores on three consecutive possessions. Despite being constantly harassed by UK’s pass rush, McSorley consistently made plays and showed many why he was considered to be one of the top quarterbacks in the country entering this season.
Kentucky was mostly successful in containing Penn State’s senior quarterback. The Nittany Lions only completed 48.6 percent of their pass attempts on a 7.0 yards per pass average. Kentucky’s pass rush caused stress on the Penn State offense all afternoon. Due to the pressure, Lonnie Johnson was able to collect his first career interception in his final game in a Kentucky uniform.
Next to McSorley, Miles Sanders entered the postseason with 1,223 rushing yards and a whole lot of potential. The Pittsburgh native was a five-star prospect coming out of high school and has a lot of tools. After being exposed a bit in their run defense in November, UK responded strongly.
Sanders, who ran for over 100 yards five times this season, collected just 51 yards on 13 carries. His backup, another former five-star recruit, had just 27 rushing yards. Whoever established the ground attack was going to have the upper hand and that is exactly what Kentucky did.
In his final game in the blue and white, it would be wrong if we didn’t specifically point out Josh Allen’s performance. The senior edge defender recorded four tackles, three sacks, and even blocked a kick in the first half. For the season, Allen had ridiculous numbers. The senior collected 88 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 17 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles. He will be just a half sack shy of the FBS lead and just had the best individual season in program history. That jersey should be retired very soon.
The biggest advantage that UK was able to take advantage of in the Citrus Bowl was in the third phase. Dean Hood’s group made impactful plays in multiple ways that allowed Kentucky pull off a victory.
In the return game, Lynn Bowden made the biggest play in the game. With the offense sputtering, UK desperately needed a spark. The defense had Penn State smothered to start the game, but the Wildcats did not have a lead to go with it. That changed when Bowden took the field with the punt return team.
In the kicking game, Miles Butler was perfect on extra points and knocked in a 28-yard field goal on UK’s first possession. Penn State’s Jake Pinegar was just 1 0f 3 with one being blocked. In the kickoff department, Grant McKinniss was able to hit five touchbacks in six attempts to totally eliminate Penn State’s dangerous return game.
Max Duffy was solid on punts with five being downed inside the 20. Penn State’s fake field goal attempt in the first quarter was blown up by UK and gave the Wildcats great field position that would lead to points.
UK was dominant on special teams and that was the biggest reason why they picked up their first bowl win since 2008.
After collecting consecutive bowl appearances, it was going to be vital for UK to make a step forward in 2018 with a very experienced roster. There were huge quarterback, wide receiver and defensive line questions entering the season but UK had answers everywhere else. In year six, Mark Stoops needed to prove he could break some glass ceilings.
Behind star performances from Benny Snell and Josh Allen, Kentucky used a ball control offense teamed with a swarming defense with multiple pros to have their best season in four decades. The Wildcats ended that dreaded streak to Florida, hosted a de facto SEC East title game against Georgia, and played in their first New Year’s Day bowl game in 20 years. It was a storybook season with a storybook ending.
In the Citrus Bowl victory, Benny Snell became the program’s top rusher and Josh Allen had his second three-sack game of the season. The Wildcats stuck to their identity to defeat a very good Penn State team to collect 10 wins in a season for the first time since 1977.
Moving forward, UK is in a very good spot and the future appears to be very bright. This group proved that you can win big at UK and spend most of the season in the top 25. There is some very good young talent on the roster and this staff has shown an ability to develop that talent. Recruiting has remained solid and Mark Stoops has found a winning recipe that he is very comfortable with.
This was a special, special season.
By Maggie Davis on ©January 02nd, 2019 @ 7:00pm
10-3. Soak it in, BBN, because the 2018-19 football season was one for the books. Sure, Kentucky’s season just ended yesterday, but maybe you’re already feeling nostalgic. There were plenty of great moments over the course of the past few months, but I decided to round up some of the very best. These are the moments that changed UK’s season.
Terry Wilson’s run against Florida.
Kentucky’s still-new quarterback had one of his strongest game of the season way back on Sept. 8 against the Gators. He finished with 11 of 16 passes for 151 yards, two touchdowns and just one interception. He rushed for 105 yards and ran in one touchdown of his own. He had great passes to Lynn Bowden and David Bouvier, but it was his scrappy nature that stood out during the Gator hunt. Throughout the game, he hustled his way to first downs and, in this case, even a touchdown.
Terry Wilson with the fake-pitch and touchdown run. (2018) pic.twitter.com/rM5bkC4gPs
— KY Clips (@KY_Clips) September 9, 2018
Wilson’s performance helped carry the Cats to a 27-16 victory which, of course, led to the end of that terrible 31-year streak. In the process, UK got to see Terry Wilson’s potential on full display.
Cats become 5-0… in more ways than one
The Florida streak wasn’t the only one Kentucky improved upon this year. For the fifth straight season, Mark Stoops & Co. defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks. The victory also put the Cats’ record at 5-0, an incredibly-impressive feat when you remember the Vegas line had the over-under line set at 5.5…
South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley was picked off three times by Kentucky – Mike Edwards, Derrick Baity and Darius West all snatched interceptions. Despite a scoreless second half, the then-No. 17 Wildcats held on for the win.
CJ Conrad’s impossible catch
I know you all remember this one.
CJ Conrad’s last-second touchdown catch against Missouri not only won the game for Kentucky, but it also gave the Cats the chance to compete for the SEC East title. Of course, the Cats ultimately fell to Georgia, but they only had that chance thanks to Kentucky’s senior tight end.
As fabulous as Conrad’s catch was, it wouldn’t have mattered were it not for the Kentucky defense. They fought the whole game, at one point even forcing eight straight three-and-outs for the Tigers. Missouri was averaging around 500 yards of offense per game before their matchup with the Wildcats. Against Kentucky, they scored just 14 points.
Josh Paschal’s return
What an emotional year for Josh Paschal. Last season, Josh Allen and Denzil Ware were referring to him as “Baby Blitz.” He was poised to have a break-through year, then Coach Stoops broke the devastating news of Paschal’s diagnosis at media day in August. Shortly thereafter, news of Coach John Schlarman’s own health issues also broke.
The team used these two men as inspiration for a special season.
“What Josh Paschal’s gone through and Coach Schlarman, it keeps things in perspective. This is still just a game,” Stoops said before the bowl game. “Obviously we know how important that is and how many people we affect, but when you start looking at things like that, it keeps things in perspective, and our team has really rallied around those two.”
It was a truly special moment when Paschal made his way back onto Kroger Field. During the final home game of the season, he served as a starter and recorded his first tackle of the season.
Three surgeries, three months of treatment and all of the ?.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) November 17, 2018
Josh Allen’s monster senior day
While Josh Pascal may have had the feel-good moment of the day, a different Josh had a different kind of moment on the field – the record-breaking kind. Against Middle Tennessee State, Allen officially became the school’s leading sacker. And it didn’t take long for the record to be updated inside Kroger Field:
Well this is awesome. Already updated: pic.twitter.com/cv5T0XV1om
— Maggie Davis (@MaggieDavisKSR) November 17, 2018
The record-breaking sack couldn’t have come at a better time: a fourth-and-one play at the UK 32-yard line. A MTSU touchdown here would tie the game. Allen wasn’t going to let that happen.
Then, on MTSU’s final drive of the game, he did it again. This sack broke the record for most QB sacks in a single season. After an already-memorable senior season, it was more than fitting for Allen to finish strong inside Kroger Field.
Oh, No. 41. We’re going to miss you.
Benny’s big moment
It’s a record we’ve been tracking all year: the all-time leading rushing record. From the beginning of the season, Snell had breaking the record listed as one of the goals hanging in his bedroom. Against Penn State, and during his final game as a Wildcat, Snell made it happen.
Of course, the moment didn’t come without some drama. He surpassed the necessary 107 yards in the most “Snell Yeah” way possible – running the ball in for a touchdown.
Of course, there were dozens of other moments that made this season a special one. But it was the combination of it all that led to a 10-3 season, a record (and streak) breaking year and a bowl game victory over a “football school” like Penn State. UK football, thanks for an excellent season.
When’s the next kickoff?