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Thank You Letter To Stephen Johnson

Thank You Letter To Stephen Johnson

Dear Stephen Johnson,

Thank you.

Thank you for transferring to the University of Kentucky for the final two years of your collegiate career.

Thank you for being a great quarterback during your time here.

Thank you for being an even better person.

Thank you for being a great ambassador for the UK football program.

Thank you for giving your time and your care to the children in our hospitals.

Thank you for speaking in our churches.

Thank you for inspiring others, by sharing your own story of adversity.

Thank you for all that you’ve done in our entire community, most of which we’ll never know about.

Thank you for beating Louisville. It had been too long for us.

Thank you for saying, “I love this —-,” before you did.

Thank you for outshining the Heisman trophy winner on his own turf. 338 yards passing, 83 yards rushing, and three touchdowns… not bad.

Thank you for beating Tennessee. We don’t see that very often around here.

Thank you for sprinting out of the tunnel to return to the game. That was so awesome.

Thank you for diving into the end zone for the game-winning score. Also awesome.

Thank you for running for 54 yards on 3rd-and-8 in a one-possession game at South Carolina.

Thank you for sticking your tongue out when you did.

Thank you for every time you’ve tucked it on third down and picked up the first.

Thank you for winning 14 times in two seasons. You sure you can’t stay longer?

Thank you for getting us back into a bowl game for the first time since 2010.

Thank you for getting us back into a bowl game again this year.

Thank you for being one of the best we’ve seen, although you’re still under-appreciated.

Thank you for being our quarterback.

 

— Big Blue Nation


UK Football’s Five Keys To Beating Louisville Again

UK Football’s Five Keys To Beating Louisville Again

Kentucky has a fight on its hands tomorrow afternoon when the Lamar Jackson Cardinals come to Kroger Field for revenge. Louisville is currently a 10-point favorite in the game and you’ll have a hard time finding any national analysts or experts backing the Cats.

I too worry about the outcome of the game, but I don’t understand why everyone is completely writing your Wildcats off. Here are five things they will need to do to beat the Cards for a second straight year as double-digit dogs.

 

1. Force turnovers.

Lamar Jackson had three meaningful turnovers last year, and Kentucky will need to force him into more of the same in the spirited rematch.

If Kentucky can’t win the turnover battle, it will be tough to win the game.

2. Convert third downs.

If Kentucky’s offense can convert third downs, it means Benny Snell is successfully moving the ball against Louisville’s defense. The Cats were unable to do that against Georgia, and currently rank 40th in NCAAFB with a 40.15% conversion rate on the season.

3. Keep Lamar on the bench.

Adding to the importance of third down conversions, Kentucky will need to run the ball and the clock to keep Lamar Jackson off the field. As long as the Cats’ offense is on the field, Lamar Jackson is not. And if Lamar Jackson is not on the field, he can’t do Lamar Jackson things to beat you.

Win. Time. Of. Possession.

4. Slow down Lamar when he is on the field.

I don’t know how you do that, but Kentucky will have to do it. Jackson is pissed off about fumbling the game away last year, so maybe he’ll try to do too much and make costly mistakes again. They’ll have to limit his playmaking if he isn’t coughing it up.

5. Score touchdowns.

It sounds like an obvious point of emphasis, but it is especially true for a team that has settled for too many field goals when in scoring position this season. Austin MacGinnis, we love you, but we don’t want to see you unless its a PAT.  Kentucky has to find the end zone when it finds itself in scoring territory.

 

Beat Louisville.


Scouting the Louisville Cardinals

Scouting the Louisville Cardinals

Pic by The Sun Sentinel

The Louisville Cardinals will travel to Kroger Field coming off a convincing 56-10 home-win over Syracuse with the reigning Heisman Trophy winning quarterback that will be seeking vengeance from last year’s Governor’s Cup loss. Kentucky enters Saturday fresh off a disappointing road-loss to Georgia, beaten up, and with a group of prideful 25 seniors that will playing their last game on Kroger Field. Both teams are 7-4. The Wildcats are a 10-point home-field underdog.

There’s one overbearing reason that the Cardinals are favored; quarterback Lamar Jackson. I watch lots and lots of college football. In my humble opinion, Jackson is the best player in America for the second consecutive season. I really don’t think there’s a close second. Adding to the game’s projection is a new-found running game by non-Jackson ball carriers and an improving/healthy defense that held Syracuse to 10-points a week ago.

The Cardinals best win is over Virginia (6-5). The victory over UVA is its only win over a team with a winning record. Conversely, Kentucky defeated 8-win South Carolina in Columbia as well as Southern Miss in Hattiesburg (7-4) and Missouri (6-5) at Kroger Field.

 

2017 Schedule-Results

Purdue W 35-28
@North Carolina W 47-35
Clemson L 21-47
Kent State W 42-3
Murray State W 55-10
@NC State L 25-39
Boston College L 42-45
@Florida State W 31-28
@Wake Forest L 32-42
Virginia W 38-21
Syracuse W 56-10

OFFENSE

Louisville ranks third in the nation by averaging 560 total yards per game: 319 passing and 241 on the ground. The UofL offense starts and often finishes with QB Lamar Jackson. Jackson has accumulated 4,560 yards and 40 TDs through eleven games. The Cardinal offensive line was an obvious liability a year ago but has shown vast development under former UK OL coach Mike Summers. Of note: Summer’s unit includes three freshmen. Surprisingly, Louisville is averaging 30:31 time of possession compared to its opponent’s 29:29. One driving factor for increased time of possession is that its converting 45% on 3rd down.

Kentucky has faced three teams with upper-level receivers in 2017: Ole Miss, Southern Miss, and Missouri. Make that four as of Saturday. Cardinal pass catchers can be categorized in the same class as the aforementioned. WRs Jaylen Smith, Dez Fitzpatrick, Seth Dawkins, and Traveon Samuel are fast, skilled, large, and well adapted to Lamar Jackson’s frequent scrambling to maximize the width and length of the football field.

QB Lamar Jackson is the team’s top NFL prospect. This Louisville offense can manufacture a tremendous amount of pressure on the Kentucky through its speed, tendencies to spread the field, ability to quickly obtain the edge in both the run and pass game, and; well Lamar. Running quarterbacks have given the Cats fits throughout the years. Defensive coordinator Matt House is set to face the most elusive QB I’ve seen in 40-years. 

Projected Starters

Quarterback 8 Lamar Jackson 6’3, 211 Jr.
Running Back 7 Reggie Bonnafon 6’3, 212 Sr.
Tight End 80 Charles Standberry 6’3, 241 Sr.
Left Tackle 74 Geron Christian 6’6, 315 Jr.
Left Guard 79 Kenny Thomas 6’6, 322 Jr.
Center 75 Robbie Bell 6’5, 305 Fr.
Right Guard 66 Cole Bentley 6’3, 316 Fr.
Right Tackle 73 Mekhi Becton 6’7, 340 Fr.
Receiver 1 Traveon Samuel 5’7, 170 Jr.
Receiver 5 Seth Dawkins 6’3, 214 Soph.
Receiver Jaylen Smith 6’4, 220 Jr.

 Top Performers

Rushing QB Lamar Jackson 190 carries, 1287-yards, 17 TDs
Passing Lamar Jackson 226/378, 3273-yards, 59.8%,
Receiving Jaylen Smith 47 catches, 798-yards, 5 TD

Offensive Results

Scoring 38.5 points per game ACC-1st
Rushing 241 yards per game ACC-2nd
Passing 319 ACC-1st
Total 560 ACC-1st
3rd Down 45% ACC-2nd
Red-Zone 85%, 29 TD’s ACC-6th

DEFENSE

Pic by Scout.com

Out goes Todd Grantham to Mississippi State and in comes defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon from Mississippi State. Grantham got the better end of the personnel swap. Charlie Strong’s defensive recruits have mostly moved on which has left Sirmon with fewer explosive athletes than Grantham has at his disposal in Starkville. The Card’s new defensive leader has been a polarizing figure within the Louisville fan base, message boards, and talk radio. Early season injuries and personnel deficiencies seemed to be as contributing to inefficiencies as coaching and scheme. Its responded as of late with impressive and vastly improved home performances against Virginia and Syracuse.

Cornerback Jaire Alexander is elite and the defense’s top NFL prospect. Alexander is a shutdown cornerback. Freshman linebacker Dorian Etheridge leads the Cards in tackles (69) and is followed by two safety Chuckie Williams (68). LB Stacy Thomas was on my 1st Team All Opponent squad from 2016; heck of a football player.

Defensive end James Hearns is playing at a high level and has recorded 13.5 tackles for loss and 7 quarterback sacks. Opposing offenses have experienced more success throwing the football (allowing 244 ypg) than on the ground (147.2). Boston College was the exception as the Eagles rushed 59 times for 364-yards and recorded 5 rushing touchdowns. Wake Forest experienced the most accomplishment in the passing game vs. the Cardinals: 28/34, 461-yards, 5 touchdowns.

Projected Starters

Defensive End 91 Trevon Young 6’4, 254 Sr.
Nose Tackle 94 G.G. Robinson 6’3, 305 Soph.
Defensive End 99 James Hearns 6’3, 248 Sr.
Defensive Tackle 14 Drew Bailey 6’3, 294 Sr.
Linebacker 32 Stacey Thomas 6’1, 242 Sr.
Linebacker 17 Dorian Etheridge 6’3, 227 Fr.
Linebacker 21 London Iakopo 6’0, 223 Jr.
Cornerback 10 Jaire Alexander 5’11, 192 Jr.
Cornerback 15 Trumaine Washington 5’10, 181 Sr.
Safety 24 Zykiesis Cannon 6’0, 185 Sr.
Safety 22 Chucky Williams 6’2, 216 Sr.

Top Performers

Tackles Dorian Etheridge 69
Tackles for Loss James Hearns 13.5
QB Sacks James Hearns 7
Interceptions Trumaine Washington 4

Defensive Production

Scoring 28 points per game ACC-11th
Rushing 147.18 ypg ACC-5th
Passing 244 ACC-11th
Total 391.2 ACC-9th
3rd Down 40.4% ACC-11th
Red-Zone 87.10%, 23 TD’s ACC-12th

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker Blanton Creque 12/14-FG
Punter Mason King 44.1 per
KO Return Traveon Samuel 18.5 per
Punt Return Russ Yeast 3.3 per

Blanton Creque is the top ranked placekicker in the ACC and St. Xavier product Mason King is averaging 44.1 yards per punt.


What does all this mean?

How to stop Lamar Jackson is the million-dollar question that has led to many sleepless nights for opposing defensive coordinators. The answer is simple; you don’t. Kentucky must control the other two phases of the game in order to limit the reigning Heisman Trophy winner’s number of offensive possessions.

For the Cats to Win

— Win time of possession by more than 5 minutes.

— Average 60% plus on 3rd down conversions. Move the chains, run the clock, keep Jackson off the field.

— 100% in the red-zone with 75% coming from touchdowns, not field goals! This has been an issue for the Cats in its four losses.

— Create a special team’s explosive play: force a turnover, long return in punt/kickoff, or block a kick/punt.

— Take advantage of scoring situations. Kentucky failed to do so a week ago in Athens by dropping touchdown passes, overthrowing scoring opportunities, etc.

— Tackle. UK was not efficient in this category in its last outing vs. an athletic Louisville offense; tackling will be vital.

— Maintain edge and gap integrity. Cannot afford to consistently allow Lamar Jackson to run freely down the sideline or up the middle due to vacated rush lanes.

— Be creative. This accounts for offense and defense. TE CJ Conrad is out. Greg Hart and Justin Rigg are also banged up. Eddie Gran will be forced to become creative in personnel groupings, motions, formations, and play-calling. Defensively, Matt House will call a mixture of coverages and blitzes in an attempt to keep Lamar Jackson off balance. Again, stopping Jackson is darn nearly impossible. Limiting the quarterback by outside factors was the winning formula for Mark Stoops in 2016.

*The Louisville media kit provided at the Monday press conference did not contain depth charts. The listings above were gathered from outside sources.


Holiday Special: Louisville’s Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

Holiday Special: Louisville’s Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

Take your Thanksgiving feast up a notch by trying some of the University of Louisville’s favorite Thanksgiving recipes!

It’s your classic Thanksgiving menu items, but with a little Cardinal flavor!

 


Lamar’s Heisman Turkey

Prep Time: 30 m | Cook Time: 4 h | Ready In: 17 h

INGREDIENTS

– 1 (18 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
– 2 cups kosher salt
– 1/2 cup butter, melted
– 2 large onions, peeled and chopped
– 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
– 4 stalks celery, chopped
– 2 sprigs fresh thyme
– 1 bay leaf
– 1 cup dry white wine

DIRECTIONS

1. Rub turkey with kosher salt. Place in a large stock pot, and cover with cold water. Place in the refrigerator and allow the turkey to soak in the salt and water mixture 12 hours, or overnight.

2. Do the Heisman pose.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Thoroughly rinse the turkey, and discard the brine mixture.

4. Do the Heisman pose.

5. Brush the turkey with 1/2 the melted butter. Place breast side down on a roasting rack in a shallow roasting pan. Stuff the turkey with 1 onion, 1/2 the carrots, 1/2 the celery, 1 sprig of thyme, and the bay leaf. Scatter the remaining vegetables and thyme around the bottom of the roasting pan, and coat with the white wine.

6. Do the Heisman pose.

7. Roast uncovered 3 1/2 to 4 hours, until the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 180 degrees F (85 degrees C). Carefully turn the turkey breast side up about 2/3 through the roasting time, and brush with the remaining butter. Allow it to stand about 30 minutes before carving.

8. Do the Heisman pose.

9. Drop the turkey while carrying it to the table.


Squirt-To-The-Ceiling Cranberry Sauce

Prep Time: 0 m | Cook Time:  10 m | Ready In: 10 m

INGREDIENTS

– 12 ounces cranberries
– 1 cup white sugar
– 1 cup orange juice
– baster

DIRECTIONS

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the orange juice.

2. Stir in the cranberries and cook until the cranberries start to pop.

3. Remove from heat and load sauce into baster for squirting.


Breaking Cardinal Rolls

Prep Time: 40 m | Cook Time:  20 m | Ready In: 1 h 30 m

INGREDIENTS

– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 envelope Fleischmann’s® RapidRise Yeast
– 2 tablespoons sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup milk
– 1/4 cup water
– 2 tablespoons butter
– 750 ML Ciroc Pineapple
– 4 ounces of glitter, assorted colors
– 1 sm. bottle Calvin Klein Euphoria

DIRECTIONS

1. Combine 3/4 cup flour, undissolved yeast, sugar, salt and glitter in a large bowl.

2. Heat milk, water, Ciroc Pineapple and butter until warm. Add to flour mixture.

3. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add 1/4 cup flour; beat 2 minutes at high speed.

4. Stir in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

5. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces; shape into balls. Place in greased 8-inch round pan. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

6. Bake in preheated 375 degrees F oven for 20 minutes or until done. Remove from pan; brush with additional melted butter; spray with Calvin Klein Euphoria.

7. Serve as “side deals.”


Cash Potatoes

Prep Time: 5 m | Cook Time:  15 m | Ready In: 20 m

INGREDIENTS

– 5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
– 1/2 cup butter
– 2 cups Parmesan cheese
– 1 cup chopped fresh chives
– 1 1/2 cups cream cheese
– 1/2 medium head garlic, peeled and minced
– 1 pinch salt and pepper to taste
– $100,000 cash, provided by Adidas

DIRECTIONS

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes; cook until tender but still firm. Drain and return to stove over low heat to dry for 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Add butter, Parmesan cheese, chives, cream cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper. Use a potato masher to mash until smooth.

3. Stuff with cash.

4. Serve to family of a five-star recruit.


Jurich’s Five-Course Thanksgiving Spread

Prep Time: 0 m | Cook Time:  0 h | Ready In: 0 h 0 m

INGREDIENTS

No ingredients.

DIRECTIONS

1. Walk over to the University of Louisville’s Thanksgiving dinner on campus.

2. Steal all of the food for yourself.

3. Leave the university to starve with no food of its own.


Petrino’s Pumpkin Pie

Prep Time: 15 m | Cook Time:  55 m | Ready In:  1 h 10 m

INGREDIENTS

– 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
– 1 (14 ounce) can EAGLE BRAND® Sweetened Condensed Milk
– 2 large eggs
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
– 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust
– Wake Forest’s Thanksgiving cookbook

DIRECTIONS

1. Steal Wake Forest’s Thanksgiving cookbook to see how it makes its pumpkin pie, then do that.

2. Slice pie down the middle, forming two half pies.

3. Serve one half at family Thanksgiving; serve the other half to the volleyball team.


Louisville Tailgate Cider

Prep Time: 15 m | Cook Time:  3 h | Ready In: 3 h 15 m

INGREDIENTS

– 10 apples, quartered
– 3/4 cup white sugar
– 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
– 1 tablespoon ground allspice
– 1 hot bag of trash (recommend: beer cans, dip spit)

DIRECTIONS

1. Place apples in a large stockpot and cover with water. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, and allspice.

2. Bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, for 1 hour.

3. Cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours.

4. Serve directly through the hot bag of trash.


Pitino’s 15-Second Gravy

Prep Time: 0 s | Cook Time:  15 s | Ready In:  15 s

INGREDIENTS

– 5 cups turkey stock with pan drippings
– 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
– 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
– 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
– 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
– 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
– 1 cup milk
– 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS

1. Mix turkey stock and soup in saucepan over high heat; season with poultry seasoning, pepper, seasoned salt, and garlic powder.

2. Stir, briskly.

3. Pour through left pant leg.


 

Enjoy!


10 Things I’m Thankful For This Year

10 Things I’m Thankful For This Year

Today is Thanksgiving, so I spent some time this week reflecting on the events of the past year. Despite some March heartbreak, we have a lot to be thankful for as Kentucky fans. Here are the ten things I’m most grateful for this year.

 

1. 41-38

Last year’s win over Louisville is easily my favorite memory from the past year. Not only was Kentucky a three-touchdown underdog, they managed to upset the Cards in their own stadium thanks to a fumble by Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. The sheer joy after that win is rivaled only by our most thrilling basketball wins, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for a program on the rise.


2. University-6

Okay, so celebrating other people’s failures isn’t exactly in the spirit of Thanksgiving, but considering who those people were, I can’t help but put this on the list. Louisville’s involvement in the college basketball bribery scandal was the most surprising moment from the past year, and the aftermath led to some of KSR’s biggest traffic days ever. Rick Pitino and Tom Jurich were finally shown the door, a satisfying end to years of corruption and scandal. The fallout is far from over, but on this Thanksgiving Day, I am grateful for an arsenal of comebacks should any Louisville fan dare to use the phrase “Paypal Cal” again.


3. Benny Snell

Every once in a while, there’s a Kentucky football player that makes you sit back and say, “Wow.” In my lifetime, that’s been Tim Couch, Jared Lorenzen, Randall Cobb, and now, Benny Snell. After a brief sophomore slump to start the season, Snell has been unstoppable, dragging defenders to first downs as he rewrites the record books. After a dominating performance vs. Vanderbilt, Snell became only the third player in SEC Football history with 1,000 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in his freshman and sophomore season alongside Herschel Walker and Knowshon Moreno. Even better, when he sat down with the media afterwards, the first thing he did was thank his offensive line. Somehow, Benny pulls off humble and swaggy all at the same time. This clip of him staring at the SkyCam during a review of one of his touchdown vs. South Carolina may be one of my favorite Kentucky football moments of all time:


4. Malik’s 47-point performance in Vegas

Kentucky may have lost to North Carolina in the Elite Eight, but we’ll always have Malik Monk’s 47-point performance vs. the Tar Heels in Vegas. I took that game off and watched as a fan from T-Mobile Arena, and it will go down as one of my favorite UK Basketball memories ever. Monk could not be stopped, and when he hit three to put Kentucky up for good with 20 seconds left, I thought the roof was going to come off the gym. The jubilation as fans poured out of the arena and onto the Strip will always bring a smile to my face, as will the memory of skipping through the Tropicana with my husband, Fake Barney, and his wife (a UNC fan) as we sang “Grove Street Party” at the top of our lungs.


5. Kentucky’s win over UCLA in the Sweet 16

Malik had 47 vs. UNC, and later that season, De’Aaron Fox put up 39 on Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16. That win perfectly encapsulated the mood of the BBN at the time. Not only was Kentucky clicking on all cylinders, Fox got the best of Lonzo Ball again to advance Kentucky to the Elite Eight. The mood around Memphis that night was giddy as this team’s potential and charisma began to be fully realized. Regardless of what happened a few days later, I’ll always look back on this night fondly because it was the first time I had been truly excited about Kentucky basketball since the Wisconsin game.


Todd Bennett | Getty Images

6. Stephen Johnson’s toughness

Our love for Stephen Johnson is well documented at this point. The junior college transfer stepped in last year after Drew Barker’s injury and led the Cats to a monumental upset of Louisville and their first bowl in five years. This year, it’s been more of the same. You can’t say enough good things about Johnson, especially after the beatings he’s taking down the stretch. With Senior Day coming up on Saturday, will he go down as the most talented quarterback in UK history? No. But he might be the toughest.


7. Beating Tennessee

Kentucky doesn’t beat Tennessee very often, so this year’s win was sweet, even it was a little too close for comfort at the end. How embarrassing would it have been to be the only SEC team to lose to Tennessee during their dumpster fire of a season? Thankfully, we avoided that fate. With Butch Jones out, the Vols will rebuild, but at least the Cats got the best of them this year.


8. Going behind the scenes with the Peabody ducks

I’ve been a fan of the Peabody Ducks since my dad took me to see them on the way home from a Kentucky/Ole Miss game growing up, so the chance to go behind the scenes of the famous duck march was pretty cool. I wasn’t an honorary duckmaster like Matt, Ryan, Shannon, or Drew, but I did get to follow along to go get the ducks from their home atop the Peabody Hotel and accompany them into the lobby. Maybe we’ll get to see them again next month?


9. The shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s

Why is the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s one of the ten things I was thankful for this year? Because it was the only thing that cleared out my sinuses when I was sick during the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. A nasty head cold had me on a cocktail of Mucinex, Zyrtec, and cough drops, but nothing cleared the fog better than the horseradish-heavy crustacean cocktail served up by famous steakhouse St. Elmo’s in Indianapolis. If not for that shrimp cocktail, I might not have been able to help Drew Franklin out of the whole Lynn Marshall mess the next day. Remember her? She’s crazy.


10. The KSR Family

You didn’t think I’d get through this without a little bit of sap, did you? It hasn’t been the easiest year for my family, so I want to give special thanks to my KSR family for helping me get through it. This job may seem like fun and games — and it is — but it is also a whole lot of work. Without Drew, Nick, Freddie, and Jack on the website; Matt, Ryan, and Shannon on the airwaves; and Maria on the business side, I’m not sure I would have made it. So, thanks guys.

I’ll also take this opportunity to brag on everyone. With quality features, editorials, up-to-the-minute news, and podcasts rolling out constantly and complimented so beautifully by Dr. Mike’s amazing photos, KSR is better than ever. Thanks to everyone for their hard work, and most of all, thanks to you guys for continuing to support us.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Karl-Anthony Towns says Wisconsin loss was “the one that got away.”

Karl-Anthony Towns says Wisconsin loss was “the one that got away.”

PHOTO: Jack Pilgrim, Kentucky Sports Radio

While most Kentucky fans were watching the Wildcats take on Fort Wayne in Rupp Arena last night, I had the opportunity to watch one former Cat put up yet another impressive performance in the NBA.

The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Orlando Magic 124-118, where Karl-Anthony Towns managed 18 points and 13 rebounds in the team’s eleventh win of the season.

After the game, I sat down with Towns to talk about his time at Kentucky, what he learned from John Calipari, the Wisconsin loss, and the relationship he has with his former Wildcat teammates.

When asked about his team’s historic run in 2014-15, the former Wildcat star said the Wisconsin loss in the Final Four to end the “perfect” season still lingers in his mind.

“Hell yeah it’s on my mind. It’s on my mind all the time. That’s the one that got away from me in college. I didn’t have another chance to do it again. It’s the biggest game I lost, and it was the only game I lost,” he said.

Despite the loss, Towns’ Kentucky team will go down in the record books and the minds of Wildcat fans forever. When I asked about what it means to play for one of the most historic basketball teams in school history, Towns jumped in and corrected me.

We weren’t just one of the most legendary teams in the history of our school, but in NCAA history too,” he said.

Towns said they were able to accomplish what they did because of the team’s seasoned veterans and how they took the freshmen under their wing to become one cohesive unit. With that, they all learned how to play winning basketball, and the rest is history.

“We were one of the most experienced Kentucky teams (during the Calipari era.) We had Willie (Cauley-Stein), Alex (Poythress), Aaron (Harrison), and Andrew (Harrison), all guys who had been to a Final Four and a National Championship,” he said. “They understood, and we were very fortunate to ride on their coattails with their experience of games.”

With a team as talented as theirs, playing for the name on the front of their jerseys instead of the back was crucial for reaching their goal of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The individual stats may not have been like they were in high school, but they grew as a team and got better as a result.

“We understood early that not everyone is going to be “the man” every night. We all came from backgrounds where we were “the guys” for our high school teams and our respective programs. We all had that alpha dog mindset,” said Towns.

Former players have talked about John Calipari and the lasting impression and advice he leaves on them after heading to the NBA. For Towns, the biggest takeaway from Coach Cal was to appreciate the historic team they had and live in the moment.

“Play in the present. He always had that on our wall going into the film room,” he said. “He understood how rare and special our team was. We all knew it, but he didn’t want us to take it for granted. He always told us to play in the present, play in the now, and to not have any regrets.”

As a team, they took that mentality to heart, as they knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity they would never get to experience again as a collective unit.

“We took that to heart as a team because we understood that after that year, there was no way that all of us would be together again and we had to make the most of that opportunity. There wasn’t going to be another chance,” said Towns. “Unfortunately we came up short, but I can definitely say that we cherished every single moment that we had with each other and that’s why our bonds now are so strong.”

With those bonds, Towns says he keeps up with his former Kentucky teammates on a regular basis, and that he gets “choked up” every time he sees them.

“I love all of them. Every time I see them, it’s almost like I choke up a little bit because that time was so special to me,” said Towns. “I try to keep up with them all the time. I was just talking to Derek (Willis) the other day, now he has a beautiful wife, he’s doing well. I talk to Alex (Poythress), talk to Willie (Cauley-Stein), talk to (Devin) Book(er), talk to Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee, I try to talk to everyone. Even the guys that didn’t get much playing time like Tod Lanter and Sam Malone.”

When he sees not only his former Kentucky teammates, but all former Wildcats thriving in the NBA and making names for themselves, Towns said there is only one explanation for it all.

It must mean Coach Cal is doing something right. That’s an easy question to answer. Cal is doing something right. You can’t make any excuses for his success, it’s written down on paper, it’s written in stone.”


Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR


BUMP: The KSR Football Podcast Celebrates a Governor’s Cup Victory

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Producer’s Note: This Thanksgiving, be thankful of Kentucky’s 2016 Governor’s Cup win.  One of the greatest upsets Kentucky football fans have ever seen, relive that amazing moment with the KSR Football Podcast. 


Kentucky 41, Louisville 38.

Some are still shocked, but the Cats did it.  They beat No. 11 Louisville with a Heisman frontrunner on their home field. In this special edition of the KSR Football Podcast, we walk you through the emotions of UK’s upset victory in the Governor’s Cup, with the help of the UK Sports Network.  Highlights include:

—  What Freddie and Jared saw from Stephen Johnson on the first play.

—  Drew asks two questions.

—  The Ten Best Things I saw at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium

—  Jared goes in on James Quick.

—  A celebration that included, “I want to taste your tears.”

—  That time Keith Bogans crossed over Jared.

To listen, just subscribe to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes, stream on Podbayor listen on the Podcast Addict app for Android.


UK vs. Fort Wayne recap: Nick Richards was a beast

UK vs. Fort Wayne recap: Nick Richards was a beast

Coming into this game, all Kentucky fans wanted was an easy win. Tonight, they finally got one as the Cats pummeled the Fort Wayne Mastodons 86-67, advancing to 5-1 this season. Let’s go over it before we break for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Nick Richards came out with something to prove

For the second game in a row, Nick Richards played with something to prove, but tonight, he carried that effort over to the second half. Richards finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds, leading all scorers and all rebounders. More importantly, he accomplished in that in 26 minutes, as compared to the 12 minutes he played Monday night vs. Troy. No one has improved more over the past few games than Richards, and hopefully that momentum carries over to the second half of the non-conference season.

“Nick’s our big guy, right?” Cal joked afterwards. “He was pretty good today.”

Yes, he was.

I was also impressed with Shai Alexander

Alexander was the second leading scorer along with Kevin Knox and Quade Green with 11 points, but I was most impressed with how he used his wingspan. Alexander had four steals tonight to go along with four assists, and although his competition was Fort Wayne, he was disruptive on the defensive end. With a 5-8 clip from the floor, it was nice to see Shai doing it from both ends tonight.

The first half was brutal

I’ll be honest, I started a very different recap at halftime. Fort Wayne kept it close in the first half, and if not for a late run, may have led at halftime thanks to Kentucky’s sloppiness. UK committed eleven turnovers in the first half to Fort Wayne’s three, and whatever Calipari said to them at halftime must have gotten through because they only turned it over five times in the second half.

In what seemed like deja vu from last Friday, Fort Wayne just couldn’t miss early on, hitting eight threes in the first half alone. In what is becoming a pattern this season, we may just have to accept that teams are going to hang around or even have the lead in the first half before fatigue and talent take over in the second. It’s frustrating and at times, infuriating, but that’s the story this season. Before you get too mad, remember that it’s still November.

Kentucky played some zone

Raise your hand if you were surprised to see Kentucky play zone tonight. Me too. Afterwards, Calipari — aka “He who hates the zone” — admitted that it worked vs. the Mastodons.

“The zone looked good, the zone kind of stymied them for a little. It’s nice to know we can go to that if we need to.”

Bad habits are still there

What does Calipari hate more than anything? Say it with me: one-handed rebounds. Cal called Kevin Knox out for a lackadaisical effort tonight, once again lamenting about how far he has to go with this group.

“I am losing my mind thinking we should be farther along than we are,” Cal said, ticking off the numerous errors his squad made tonight.

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Calipari’s got a Thanksgiving challenge for the BBN

Thanksgiving is upon us, and tomorrow, the team will serve dinner to the homeless at the Salvation Army. After his postgame show, Cal issued a challenge to the BBN.

“If you’re having Thanksgiving dinner, there’s got to be somebody in your community you know is alone. Either bring them food, knock on their door, or have them to your house to eat. There’s got to be some woman, some mother, or some person you know they’re alone. That’s the great thing about this state. I’ve never been anywhere that people don’t take the time to make somebody else’s day, take them food, do something neat.”

Great words to end on. Happy Thanksgiving, friends.


Nick Richards shines in 86-67 Kentucky win

Nick Richards shines in 86-67 Kentucky win

Have a night, Nick Richards.

The big fella was a force for the Wildcats with a career-high 25 points and a career-high 15 rebounds for his first career double-double. He went 9-for-10 from the field and 7-for-7 from the line, and did it all in only 26 minutes played.

What a game for him as the Cats rolled past Fort Wayne, 86-67.

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UK Basketball: Five Concerns After Five Games

UK Basketball: Five Concerns After Five Games

Your University of Kentucky Wildcats will play their sixth game of the young basketball season tonight, but before they do, here are five concerns after the first five games.

 

Turnovers.

Looking at you, P.J. Washington.

Washington leads the team with a staggering 20 turnovers, which is a pretty remarkable number considering he is a power forward. Julius Randle had 101 turnovers in 40 games in his one season as the Cats’ power forward, and Washington is well on his way to beating that mark.

As a team, Kentucky has 80 turnovers compared to 76 assists on the year. The 16.0 turnovers per game statistic is the second-worst during Calipari’s tenure in Lexington at this stage in a season, trailing only the 2009-10 team.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a close second to Washington with 17 turnovers this season.

The entire offense.

Outside of Kevin Knox, Kentucky does not have one reliable and consistent scoring threat. Hamidou Diallo is next in line in the scoring column, but it may be the case that Quade Green is the next best option for offense behind Knox, which isn’t ideal because he is the team’s only ball-handler.

This past game when Kentucky blew a huge second-half lead to Troy, the Cats made only two baskets in the final 10 minutes of the entire game, and both were scored by Kevin Knox.

Free throw shooting.

At a measly 62.7 percent from the line, this team would be John Calipari’s worst at Kentucky if things don’t change. Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander get a pass because they’ve been excellent, but everyone else needs to improve.

The three players with the most trips to the line — Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo and P.J. Washington — have all been horrible. Knox is 13-for-21 (.619); Diallo is 12-for-19 (.632); and Washington is 8-for-20 (.400).

Isaiah Briscoe was better than all three, if that tells you anything.

Rebounding (maybe).

Until Kentucky dominated Troy on the glass, rebounding was a real issue. But Monday’s game was much better and the Cats out-rebounded Troy, 53-30.

Another game like that tonight, and we can put the rebounding concerns to bed.

Effort and desire.

I’ll throw ‘killer instinct’ into this category as well. After the Cats got off to a great start against Troy, they should’ve kept their feet on the gas and blown their opponents out of Rupp Arena. What should’ve been a 40-minute drumming of a far inferior team, turned out to be an eight-point victory in the end. It’s concerning that Kentucky hasn’t played a full 40-minute game against any opponent, and its average margin of victory over the four non-Kansas teams is under 10 points.


An in-depth guide to all the Thanksgiving college basketball tournaments

An in-depth guide to all the Thanksgiving college basketball tournaments

Congratulations, you’ve made it! It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, meaning that –whether you’re actually done with work or not – you’re officially in vacation mode. It’s time to kick back, relax, half-heartedly text your friends about that 5k you promised to run tomorrow (even though you know you won’t) and get ready to gorge on enough turkey and mashed potatoes over the next four days to kill a baby rhinoceros.

Honestly, how great is Thanksgiving?!?!

Of course as great as Thanksgiving always is, there is one added bonus besides the food and booze: More college basketball than you can possibly handle. That’s right, over the next four days, virtually every important team is in action, often times for several days in a row, in what can only be described as the most action-packed part of the college basketball season until March. Feast Week is here, and with so much college hoops on TV, it’s fair to ask: What are the games you need to watch?

Thankfully, that’s what I’m here for. As KSR’s national college basketball analyst (frankly, I didn’t know that was my title until Matt told me it was, so let’s just roll with it) I feel it my responsibility to get you caught up on everything going on in college hoops this weekend, from the interesting to obscure and everything in between.

Here’s your guide to Thanksgiving hoops.

Maui Invitational Final (Wednesday night)

Teams to watch: Wichita State, Notre Dame

This is the only tournament in this preview that is actually underway (although the Battle 4 Atlantis starts today) so if you haven’t been watching, you’ve missed some good basketball. Among the big storylines was LSU – and first-year coach Will Wide – pulling an upset in Round 1, and basically looking like a completely different team from last year (somehow making the Johnny Jones era look even worse in the process). Also, former Kentucky guard Charles Matthews has looked awesome for Michigan, averaging 25 points in two games in Hawaii.

However with the opening rounds done, we’ve now reached the final, where we get a fun matchup between Wichita State and Notre Dame. Both are legitimate Top 15 teams and both threats to make a deep tournament run (although if we’re being honest, we all know what Wichita State’s future holds – they’re going to get matched up with Kentucky in the second round and lose a heartbreaker. That’s what always happens to the Shockers).

On the court, both teams are led by guards. For Wichita it’s Landry Shamet and Notre Dame it’s Matt Farrell. Skip the bars on Wednesday night and stay in for this one. I promise it will be worth it.

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How Kentucky Will Adapt Without C.J. Conrad

How Kentucky Will Adapt Without C.J. Conrad

One week ago, C.J. Conrad said: “I’ve been here for three years now, the past four games is the best the tight end group has played all-around.”  Today, Kentucky is out of tight ends.

How time changes everything.

Today Conrad had surgery to repair a broken left foot.  While taking the injured Conrad’s reps in the Georgia game, redshirt freshman Justin Rigg sprained his ankle and is now in a boot.  Greg Hart played sparingly with a cast on his right hand.  He got that cast taken off, just to put another one on his left hand.

“We’re all banged up,” Hart said.  “We’re still doing some things, truckin’ along, just trying to figure it out.  With us banged up, there’s obviously some limitations, but it is what it is.”

Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran is still not entirely sure how the offense will change.

“I don’t know yet,” Gran said.  “We’ve been pretty good at 10-personnel.  We’ve been pretty good in two-minute drill.  We’ve been pretty good at that, so whatever we got, we’re going to play with it.  We’re going to make it work.”

Kentucky was having success running the ball in formations that featured multiple tight ends.  The personnel groups are divided into a numbering system.  10-personnel means UK is using one running back and zero tight ends, compared to the two tight end 12-personnel package that has brought them recent success rushing the ball on the edge.

Gran makes the lives of defensive coordinators difficult by throwing a ton of different personnel groups onto the field.  Without the tight ends his options are limited, but it also creates an opportunity to show Louisville stuff the Cards have never seen before on film.

“I can’t tell you all of that,” Vince Marrow said with a big-barreled laugh when asked how the offense will change without healthy tight ends.

“But I can tell you this: our guys are ready to play.  We do some good things in 10-personnel, but we also got other tight ends.  I can tell you this: all of them guys are going to be ready to play.  Whether we’re in 10 personnel or 12 or 11, those guys are going to play hard for C.J.  He means that much to a lot of guys on this team.”

 

Hart is dedicating his final game to the guy who’s been by his side since he arrived at UK.  Despite his health, Marrow has already seen Hart respond.

“Greg has miraculously looked very good out there, because he was kind of banged up.  All of those guys are banged up.”

We don’t know what UK’s offense will look like without a healthy group of three tight ends, but we do know Conrad’s Kentucky teammates will rally around him.

“I think what happened to C.J. has added more energy,” Marrow said.  “You see all the support for him.  I just think everybody’s going to play hard for the young man. I really believe that.  You don’t get too many — you don’t recruit too many guys like that.  I got very close with the young man.  He’ll be back, but you miss him in the room.  It was the first time he wasn’t in that room today.  I think our guys are going to play hard for him.”


Lamar Jackson Did Not Forget That Fumble

Remember that time Lamar did the Heisman pose, then fumbled?  I know you remember how that game ended, and unfortunately, so does Lamar Jackson.

The 2016 Heisman Trophy Winner has never been a colorful orator at the podium, leading many observers to wonder, ‘How much does he care?’  A take many Kentucky fans have pondered this week as Jackson adds to his NFL résumé, I regret to inform you that Lamar does in fact care.

After Jackson racked up 381 total yards and 4 touchdowns in a route of Syracuse, Jackson told reporters he still thinks about the fumble that led to Kentucky’s game-winning drive.

“I’ve waited a whole year for this game,” Jackson said. “Because I fumbled last year and we lost.  I don’t like that, so it’s going to be a good game.”

Against Kentucky Jackson accounted for 452 of Louisville’s 561 total yards and 4 touchdowns, but none of it mattered because of that one fumble.  A fumble that will live in infamy, a fumble that has been immortalized in the rivalry’s lore is now Jackson’s motivation.

They say, “what goes around, comes around.”  Kentucky fans can only hope karma does not rear its ugly head this Saturday at Kroger Field.


UK-Troy Game Recap: Cats should’ve won big, but didn’t

UK-Troy Game Recap: Cats should’ve won big, but didn’t

Kentucky moved to 4-1 on the year and 2-0 in the Adolph Rupp Classic with a 70-62 win over the Trojans of Troy University in a game that was much closer than it should’ve been in the end.

Kevin Knox was the Cats’ leading scorer with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, while Quade Green and Wenyen Gabriel joined him in double figures with 13 and 12 points scored.

Let’s hit the major storylines from the rest of the game…

 

The Cats were rolling, and then they weren’t.

The first half was some of the best basketball Kentucky has played all year. They were really firing on all cylinders and took a 16-point lead into the break with a 32-17 edge on the glass. Finally! A start-to-finish blowout win on the way!

So we thought.

The early part of the second half was more of the same, but things went way south with about eight minutes to go. Troy quickly turned a 21-point Kentucky lead into a single-digit deficit in a span of five minutes. With a little more time, who knows, maybe the Cats get upset in a choke job of epic proportion.

Let’s just be glad the clock ran out before it got any worse. I’m still kind of shocked it happened, to be honest. The offense completely disappeared.

Nick Richards started with a bang.

After taking criticism for his quiet night against East Tennessee, Nick Richards came out strong to begin the game. He got the nod over Sacha Killeya-Jones in the starting five (against many fans’ wishes), and quickly proved he deserved the spot by scoring the first basket of the game and grabbing four rebounds in the first three minutes. Richards finished with his best outing as a Wildcat: eight points and eight rebounds in only 12 minutes played.

Why in the world does P.J. Washington turn it over so much?

Washington did some good things, but he’ll never get credit for any of them until he stops turning the ball over. He had four turnovers tonight, which is right in line with his season average through five games. At least it’s not as bad as the six turnovers he had Friday night against East Tennessee, right?

The victory cigar was lit in the first half, which was way too early.

We were treated to a surprise Brad Calipari sighting when Coach Cal’s baby boy checked into the game with 10 minutes to go in the first half. It’s the earliest Brad Calipari appearance I can ever remember, and it’s unclear why he was subbed in. Is Cal in trouble at home with Ellen? Or, maybe it was an early birthday present for her? Whatever the case, Kentucky’s victory cigar was lit before halftime, and it almost backfired.

Kevin Knox is the only player who can go get a bucket.

When the Cats were struggling to make a basket in the second half, Kentucky went to Kevin Knox out of a timeout and Knox ended a six-minute draught without a field goal. It’s sad, but Kentucky only had two made field goals in the final 10 minutes of the entire game, and both were by Knox.

Offense is a real problem.

Rebounding was much better.

Of all the reasons to be frustrated after almost blowing a game against the 148th-ranked team in the BPI, rebounding is not one of them. Kentucky finally dominated its opposition on the glass, hauling in 53 total rebounds to Troy’s 30.

Hamidou Diallo led the way with a career-high 10 boards, followed by Nick Richards and P.J. Washington with eight apiece.

Free throw shooting was better, but not good.

It wasn’t the 3-for-15 night of a few days ago, but Kentucky missed some big free throws and finished with a 15-for-23 clip. The team’s two offensive stars were the problem: Kevin Knox (2-5) and Hamidou Diallo (2-6). Those two have to be better because they’re going to take the most trips to the line.

It may be time for a second “come to Jesus” chat with the team.

As Matt Jones told you on the radio show, John Calipari had a spirited heart-to-heart with his team ahead of Monday’s game, essentially telling them to get their rear-ends in gear if they really want it. After seeing the way his team squandered a big lead, it may be time to have that talk again and emphasize finishing.

The first talk did enough to get them to play inspired early Monday night, but it wasn’t enough to get them to play a complete game. This was the first real opportunity to beat a team for 40 minutes, and they couldn’t do it.

Up Next: Fort Wayne

Will it be more of the same or will Kentucky finally pound someone into the ground?

We’ll know Thanksgiving Eve.


Kentucky fights off late Troy comeback to win, 70-62

Kentucky fights off late Troy comeback to win, 70-62

Things were going so well and Kentucky was coasting to a blowout victory over Troy, but Troy had other plans. The visiting Trojans clawed back from a 21-point deficit with only eight minutes to go in the game, and might’ve been able to do the improbable if they had a little more time.

Kentucky won in the end, 70-62, for yet another unimpressive final score.

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