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November 12th, 2018

Cats and Cards to kick off at night

The game time for Kentucky’s regular season finale at Louisville was announced Monday afternoon and it’s a night game for the first time in a long time.

Normally a nooner, this year the Cats and Cards will kick off at 7 p.m. on November 24. The game will be televised on ESPN 2.

It’s the Mark Stoops-Lorenzo Ward coaching showdown we’ve all been waiting for. Cats and Cards. Governor’s Cup. Let’s go.


LIVE: Mark Stoops’ Monday press conference

Tune in now to hear what Mark Stoops has to say about the loss to Tennessee and what’s ahead for Middle Tennessee State week.


5 reasons for Kentucky fans to be positive after a bad week

It’s been a rough week for Kentucky fans, but it’s Monday, which means it’s time to turn the page and get over the Big Blue funk. Things may seem grim right now, but there are still plenty of reasons for optimism; I came up with five.

1. Senior Day is Saturday

Sixteen seniors will play their final game in Kroger Field on Saturday, including Josh Allen, Mike Edwards, Darius West, CJ Conrad, and Bunchy Stallings. It’s likely Benny Snell’s last home game as well. The last few weeks have been disappointing, but fans owe it to the seniors — many who passed on the NFL to return to Kentucky and help the program take the next step — to show up early to give them a proper sendoff.

2. We’re still probably going to a great bowl

So a New Year’s Six bowl is out. Arizona is too far away anyways. Most bowl projections have Kentucky playing in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando on January 1, a dream too big for most of us before the season. Hello, 70-degree weather and sunshine. Don’t mind if I stay an extra day and check out Disney World and Harry Potter World.

If Kentucky loses another game…well, let’s not go there. This is a positive post.

Photo via UK Athletics

3. UK Soccer is having a historic season

The men’s soccer team won the Conference USA Tournament for the first time in program history yesterday after clinching the regular season title last week. The Cats have won seven matches in a row and will enter the NCAA Tournament with a record of 17-1-1. We’ll find out their seed later this afternoon. We’ve been let down a lot by our top ten Cats recently, but the No. 3 men’s soccer team is legit.

4. UK Volleyball is undefeated in the SEC

The volleyball team moved to 20-4 yesterday with a 3-0 win over Alabama, its sixth straight sweep. Junior Leah Edmond tied her own record with 21 kills, the most in a three-set conference match by any SEC player this season. Craig Skinner’s squad is ranked 11th in the country and is in total control of the SEC with a 14-0 conference record. You can watch them play at Arkansas on ESPNU Wednesday night at 6 p.m.

5. Basketball has…time to get better

Look, finding a positive for Kentucky Basketball after last week wasn’t easy. These Cats are clearly way behind where we thought they would be, but the one thing they’ve got is time to put things together before their next big test. Six straight home games vs. beatable teams will give John Calipari ample opportunity to experiment with lineups and play the players who earn minutes. Why one of those games has to take place at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday is beyond me, but hey, at least there’s no Friday night game this week.

See, there are positives; you’ve just got to find them.


Brohm: “It’s important for me to not comment”

Jeff Brohm is at the top of Louisville’s list of head football coaching candidates. You can even say Jeff Brohm is the list of coaching candidates for the Cards.

On Monday, Brohm was asked about the new job opening at his alma mater during his weekly press conference at Purdue. He responded, “I’ve heard the noise just like anyone else. It’s important for me to not comment on any speculation. We’ve got work to do. And a lot of it.”

That’s not a denial, and Purdue fans can’t love it.

If Brohm remains in West Lafayette, other names of interest for the job include Charlie Strong and Lane Kiffin, which is funny.

You can even bet on who will get the gig:

Jeff Brohm -200
Chip Long +250
Ryan Day +300
Charlie Strong +350
Brian Brohm +400
Lane Kiffin +450
Field +150

Good luck, baby bro.


Dontaie Allen to sign this Friday

Twitter | @MustangsMatts

College basketball’s early signing period begins Wednesday and one of UK’s three commits has already announced his plans.

In-state star Dontaie Allen will sign his official Letter of Intent on Friday in a ceremony at Pendleton County High School. The event is not open to the public. Sorry.

Allen’s fellow commits, Tyrese Maxay and Khalil Whitney, are expected to sign this week too.


UK Football superfan Beatty recaps his trip to Tennessee

UK superfan Beatty London was Kentucky’s good luck charm at Florida and then at Missouri earlier this season, so he went down to Tennessee to see if he had any more luck for the Cats. Unfortunately, his luck ran out as the Cats were unable to beat the Vols. Here’s his story from the trip.


The writing was on the wall…

Thursday night before the Tennessee game, I met a UK football staff member and his friends at KSBar. He was giving me 3 tickets to the game. Earlier in the week I had sent a text message to two UK Football coaches that said something like: “Hey Coach, this tough loss in no way changes the fact that this is still an amazing season and I look forward to my 1st trip to Neyland Stadium to watch the CATS whoop UT.”

Unfortunately neither of those coaches responded so I was excited to get some scoop about the CATS from a “man on the inside.” I congratulated the staff member about Wandale and he told me how Wandale and his friends were scrambling at the last minute to reshoot his video so that it would show UK instead of Nebraska. He also hinted to some very promising news of a future recruit that he really didn’t want to let the word get out because he wanted the kid to have his moment. I couldn’t help but notice that he looked exhausted and one of his friends said, “This is the first time in a while I’ve seen you off work before 10 pm.” Even though he was noticeably tired, I had to ask him about the morale of the team after the Georgia loss so I said,

“Has the team bounced back from the Georgia loss? Are they focused and ready to beat Tennessee?”

He replied with the usual “coach’s answer” saying yes the team was ready but his body language told a different story. I know that no SEC team should be overlooked but I didn’t get the feeling that he or the staff was confident about the game. I made the remark “this could be the first time we beat Florida, Tennessee, and Louisville in the same year” and he quickly replied “Let’s hope so” while at the same time knocking on the wooden dinner table. Hmmm? Oh well, I shrugged it off because I knew how happy he was to have a break from work.

Saturday morning…

I left Lexington at 11 am with my stepson Jordan and his friend Keola. Due to 40 degree weather and the fact that I didn’t have a parking pass, I decided to attend the Knoxville UK Alumni Club pre-game event at Scruffy City Hall in Market Square and take a $10 shuttle to the game. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the Cat Walk so I convinced my good friend Jason (who I’ve known since middle school) and his wife to go. They had a parking pass and were spending the whole weekend in Knoxville. Market Square in downtown Knoxville is a neat cluster of shops, a park, restaurants, and bars. There was a farmer’s market closing up when we arrived at 1:30 pm and fans of both teams were enjoying the atmosphere. Scruffy City Hall was an interesting place. It had a small bar upstairs with a patio and downstairs there was another small bar and eating area, and in the very back was a stage that had theatre style balcony seating. I asked some KY fans about the pizza and they said it was thin crust and delicious. I was hungry and eager to get something in my stomach before drinking. I asked the boys if they wanted pizza and instead they chose Subway which was just across from us. I didn’t mind because instead of paying for drinks I could now pour my Blanton’s (that was tucked away under blankets in my clear UK Bag) in a fountain cup. The line was long, the wait was long, but my footlong Spicy Italian and brown water more than made up for it!

Off to the shuttle…

We arrived at the stadium at 3:04 pm. Remember the scene in the movie Gladiator when Russell Crowe and his legion of gladiators first rolled up to the Coliseum? That’s how I felt when I first saw Neyland Stadium. I saved the last shot of Blanton’s for my friend Jason and immediately asked him “How was the Cat Walk?” He was kind of disappointed and explained how the set up could have been better. He told me how most of the UK fans were at the top of the hill when 5 busses pulled in and drove down the hill. The first 3 busses had the players but unfortunately were the farthest from the fans. The last two busses had boosters and VIP so most of the players exiting the bus went straight into the stadium and didn’t really interact or acknowledge the fans. I asked my stepson to take a pic of us before we went in. A drunk UK fan stumbled up and put his arm around me and tried to get in the picture. I convinced him he wasn’t appreciated. I was proud to see so many UK fans make the trip. We were ready to end the losing streak at Neyland Stadium. The game wasn’t a sell out but there had to be at least 85,000 in attendance. Our seats were in the UK section directly behind the UK Band and to the side of the end zone. Jason and his wife sat front row, in Tennessee territory, directly behind the same end zone. We located each other rather easily. I made a game prediction of 14-0 hoping UK’s defense would shut Tennessee out so I wouldn’t have to listen to them sing Rocky Top. When it comes to sound systems, Tennessee probably has the biggest set of speakers in the nation, as you could feel the bass when they played music. The sun started to shine on our section and the 40 degree weather didn’t feel that cold after all.

Kick off…

It turns out I was sitting in front of one of the UK defensive coaches’ sons. I didn’t ask who his dad was but I heard one of his friend’s say ” Your dad is screaming at the defense.” I enjoyed talking about the game with those young fellas. Beside me were some VIPs and Boosters who had field passes and other friends of the UK staff member who gave me tickets. I knew Tennessee was desperate for a win and since their coach just left Alabama, he would have that team motivated with the right mind state. I didn’t mind hearing Rocky Top after their opening field goal as I told the people around me “as long as we don’t give up any touchdowns.”

The second quarter was much more disheartening. We were trying to figure out why the guys were playing so flat. Even though we weren’t in contention for the SEC championship, I was hoping the guys would continue to have the “MIND STATE OF A CHAMPION.” After Tennessee scored their first touchdown, one of the friends of the UK staff member told me that the team didn’t have good body language at the Cat Walk and they didn’t look hyped up for the game. His friend beside him echoed the same sentiment which made me wonder if the CATS were really ready to compete.

I was dumfounded that we didn’t target CJ Conrad in the first half. One of the same guys said that he was talking to CJ recently and Conrad had made a comment like “I asked the coaches to start looking for me more.” I agreed with the statement wholeheartedly. I mean the kid is going to be a big time draft pick, looking for him at least once or twice in the first half seems like a no brainer.

Tennessee’s touchdown to end the half shocked me. We weren’t looking like the #12 team in the nation at all. Down 17 points at halftime I decided to go meet up with my friend Jason and talk about the game.

Halftime…

This felt different than Missouri. Tennessee fans were much rowdier and much louder. I knew I couldn’t lose faith but I just couldn’t understand why we couldn’t put up any points in the first half. I know Stoops tried to downplay the losing streak but it is what it is. I know for a fact the team was thinking about the Florida streak before that game because every time I would see a player on campus and mention that I wanted to witness the streak end, their eyes would light up and they would get hype. How could that be too much pressure? We have too many seniors on this team and we are the #12 team in the country. The streak coupled with this amazing season we are having should be enough motivation to come out fired up. I was puzzled to say the least. While waiting on Jason, a girl from my high school recognized me and we shared our concern for the game but both assured each other UK would pull through. I struck up a conversation with another cat fan nearby. She told me that she and her hubby had been season ticket holders since 1985. We both shared our displeasure of the first half performance. She said that they had been to every game this year and that she wanted the football team to have success more than basketball. I agreed with her, after all, the basketball team has a long history of success, but we have to really relish football seasons like this because they have been so rare. By this time Jason shows up and tells me how he can’t believe our defensive backs didn’t try to knock the ball down instead of trying to intercept that last touchdown before halftime. He was sitting in Tennessee section and was becoming annoyed by all the trash talkers. I asked the lady what her name was, in which she replied “Pam” and I introduced myself as Beatty. With a big smile on her face she says “Beatty from the KSR articles?” I said yes ma’am as she expressed her gratitude for me sharing my fan experiences. We hugged and I asked Jason to take a pic of us and her husband John. Pam then asked me if I wanted some bourbon and since I wasn’t in any position to say no, I went to the nearest concession, got a cup, and her husband whipped out a flask. Boy do I love my fellow Wildcat fans!

Second half…

Fueled up and ready for the start of the second half, I started telling the fans around me “the defense will get some turnovers, we’re going to be fine but we need to play with urgency.” I started yelling some of the same things from the Florida game “WHAT’S IN YOUR HEART KENTUCKY?, YOU GOT TO BELIEVE!!” I knew Stoops would get the troops motivated and make adjustments. I began to reiterate that we have to get Conrad involved in the game. It was now or never. I wanted so badly to beat Tennessee at their stadium. Everyone around me was fired up. I would wait for the stadium to quiet down and I would scream at the ref “Tennessee is holding #41 on every play!” Unfortunately it wasn’t enough. Tennessee’s running back broke down our sideline for a huge gain. Josh Allen got held and the boys behind me pointed out that some one else on our defense was held or blocked in the back. We looked up at the replay and were disgusted, two holds right in front of the referees! That run set up Tennessee’s third touchdown. Some UK fans started leaving. The teams body language was worsening. I can take losing, but being blown out as the #12 team in the country just didn’t make sense. I felt like the refs were serving up some good home cooking but that’s no excuse for not being able to score. Can we at least make the game respectable? And sure enough, at the end of the third… we scored!

The guys behind me said “You called it, they went to Conrad.” I thought to myself, “Stevie Wonder could see we needed to be using Conrad more.”

Once the fourth quarter started, I knew the defense was due a turnover, so I started screaming “Strip the ball, FUMBLE, TURNOVER!” I was praying that the defense would score or Lynn Bowden would run one back. We were running out of options and more importantly out of time. We didn’t capitalize on the two fumble recoveries and after Gunnar threw the last interception I told the boys it’s time to leave.

As we were walking out I watched Tennessee down the ball and let time run out. I didn’t even bother to find the same gate we entered because it was too difficult to fight the crowd so I followed the mob to the nearest exit. I heard a UT fan tell his girlfriend, “That’s the best game of the season.” I told the boys we may have to walk back because I couldn’t find the shuttle pick up after exiting on the other side of the stadium. It was dark and I couldn’t tell which way was downtown so I asked a nearby group of Tennessee fans and told them where I was parked. They told me I was headed in the right direction and to follow them. One of the guys in the group was listening to a Tennessee postgame show on his phone when he paused and gave me clear directions. I thanked him and then a girl in their group says to me, “You mean you aren’t going out to celebrate?” I thought to myself “Ha,Ha” then she says “Im just joking, we don’t win too often.” I told her it’s all good and me and the boys headed back. Later I called Jason and he said Tennessee fans were talking trash calling us a basketball school and bringing up the Duke game. I was glad he was with his wife Sunny because he isn’t the type to back down but I knew she wouldn’t let him get too worked up. I thanked him for meeting up with us at the game and told him to enjoy the rest of his weekend. I was eager to hear Matt’s postgame show and hear the fan reactions. Matt said something that really hit home when he talked about a great team doesn’t lose that game but a really good team, even if they lose, shouldn’t get dominated and that’s what was so frustrating.

I’m still proud of Kentucky Football and what the future holds… I’m just mad I can’t get this damn Rocky Top song out of my head at the moment. ?

GO CATS!


KSR Show Thread (11/12): Group therapy

It’s time to unite and cheer up as a fan base with Monday’s KSR radio show. Matt and Ryan will discuss what went wrong in the loss at Tennessee and how concerned we should be moving forward, but they’ll also try to bring some life back to Big Blue Nation.

Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080 or send a text to the KSR Texting Machine at (859) 300-3264.

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Big Blue Monday: 10% off at the KSR Shop!

Come get your week started at the KSR Shop with Big Blue Monday! When the ‘Cats score, you win.

Head to ShopKSR.com to receive 10% off your items. With the colder temperatures, now is a perfect time to pick out a fleecy KSR sweatshirt, UK jacket, and more. Sale ends at midnight.

[Big Blue Monday at the KSR Shop]


Today On KSR: Moving on from an ugly weekend

(Photo: Randy Sartin-USA Today)

Tennessee is not a good football team. The Vols are still fighting for bowl eligibility with only two games left in the season, and scored only one offensive touchdown against Charlotte, at home, in the game prior to Saturday’s meeting with Kentucky. Yet, Kentucky still lost to Tennessee and it wasn’t even close. The Cats were never in it and dropped the game as a six-point favorite, 24-7, in yet another bad performance by the offense. Big Blue Nation is not pleased.

So, now it’s gut check time for UK. With two very winnable games ahead to close out the regular season, the Cats need to get back to playing the football it played in wins against Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina earlier in the year. If things don’t get better offensively, it will be an embarrassing back-half of the season, something we’ve seen too many times from the program. Things must improve or it will be a very disappointing best season.

 

Mark Stoops will chat with the media at noon.

After a day to reflect and watch film and not think about the check for $250K he missed out on, Mark Stoops will talk to the media in his Monday press conference luncheon. Stoops will step up to the microphone at noon o’clock and we will have a live stream here on Kentucky-Sports-Radio-dot-com.

Cats dropped eight spots in the AP poll.

Kentucky football hasn’t looked good in several weeks, but Stoops still has a top-20 team in Lexington. The Cats came in at No. 20 in the new AP poll, down eight spots from the No. 12 ranking of a week ago.

Kentucky opened as a 14-point favorite over Middle Tennessee State.

With Kentucky’s abysmal offense and a two-game losing streak, Las Vegas has the Cats laying only 14 points against non-Power 5 opponent Middle Tennessee State this week. A few weeks ago the Sagarin predictor rankings had this spread at 25 points, but things have changed since then.

Bobby Petrino is no longer Louisville’s head football coach.

As expected, Louisville gave Petrino his pink slip on Sunday following the Cardinals’ trash performance in the loss at Syracuse. It’s the right move to salvage the imploding program, but it will still cost the school $14 million for Petrino’s buyout.

UofL’s secondary coach, Lorenzo Ward, will take over as the team’s interim head coach for the final two games.

It’s too bad Petrino got out before Mark Stoops and Kentucky got a chance to close the casket on his time at Louisville in the final game of the regular season.

JaVonte Richardson is coming back to play for the Cats.

Some big news on the football recruiting front: JaVonte Richardson will return to UK after a year away in JUCO. Richardson signed with Kentucky as a four-star wide receiver in the Class of 2017, but academic issues forced him to leave Lexington last spring. He landed at Iowa Western C.C. this fall and is ranked as the No. 2 wide receiver in the JUCO ranks as he re-commits to Kentucky.

He will arrive on campus in January and will have three years of eligibility.

Army played Duke closer than Kentucky did.

Duke played its second basketball game of the season on Sunday, a 94-72 victory over Army in Cameron Indoor. Duke’s big three combined for 75 points (more than Army’s whole team) with Zion Williamson leading the way with 27 points, 16 rebounds, six blocks and four assists.

This was one of his blocks:

He good.

The new college basketball polls will be released today.

How far will Kentucky fall? And will Duke take over the No. 1 spot ahead of Kansas?

We’ll find out this afternoon.

The Tennessee Titans are going to win the Super Bowl.

Titan up!

Reminder: KSBar and Grille offering half-priced entrees to all veterans and active duty military today.

Happy Veterans Day to all men and women who have served or are currently serving in the military. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for your service and sacrifice.


November 11th, 2018

Cats get outplayed and embarrassed in Knoxville

© Randy Sartin | USATSI

Well, that wasn’t any fun.

A week after the tough loss to Georgia, UK was facing a schedule with three opponents they were clearly better than to close the season. If the Wildcats were able to win out, they were going to have double-digit victories and be in the top 10 heading to a New Year’s Six Bowl. It was a going to be a monumental achievement for this program.

That is out the window now.

On Saturday at Neyland Stadium, the Wildcats were outhustled, outschemed, and outwilled by an inferior Tennessee football team. The game played out like so many UK-UT games have in the past, but this year should’ve been different. The Wildcats were allowing explosive plays that they haven’t given up all season and the offense remained in a total funk. It was an all systems failure.

Offense

This result continues a brutal five-game stretch for the Wildcats. After scoring at least 24 points in each game to start the season, UK has only produced seven offensive touchdowns in the last 22 quarters. That is embarrassing, incompetent, and should not be tolerated.

Yesterday in Knoxville, the Wildcats collected just 262 total yards (77 rushing, 185 passing) on 73 plays. That’s good for 3.6 yards per play. Only the performance against against Texas A&M was worse for the Wildcats.

Once again, when Kentucky was able to put drives together they had a horrible time finishing them with scores. The Wildcats crossed midfield multiple times and only came away with seven points. On their first scoring possession of the day, a dropped snap and dropped pass forced a makeable field goal into a 51-yard attempt. Chance Poore missed and Kentucky went scoreless. This set the tone for the game.

Little mistakes continue to hamper the offense, but their inability to create explosive gives this group no room for error. The Wildcats are a run first team and every opponent they’ve face outside of Vanderbilt in this stretch has been totally able to shut down that ground attack. I think it’s fair to wonder if the guys upfront are being hampered by injuries or if UK’s style of play has just worn them down.

When you aren’t able to block at the point of attack that makes life very difficult for your quarterback. In only his fourth career road start, it was a very inconsistent day for Terry Wilson. The junior college transfer completed over 60% of his passes for the eighth time this season but the completions are not going anywhere. For the seventh time this year, Wilson’s yards per attempt average was under seven yards and that’s just not going to get the job done.

Wilson was constantly under pressure in the ballgame and was sacked five times. UK’s offensive line was incompetent all game long and they made life really difficult for the young quarterback. After running for at least 50 yards in four of the first seven games, the quarterback run has totally been eliminated by defenses in the last three. Taking away Wilson’s running ability eliminates a significant alternate weapon to Benny Snell.

Speaking of the junior tailback, it was a rough afternoon for UK’s star offensive player. It was clear that the gameplan was to get him rolling early, but Tennessee did a great job in keeping him contained. In the first quarter, the Vols stuffed Benny Snell on a third and short. 

The junior from Ohio collected 81 yards on 20 carries. If you take out the Vanderbilt game, he hasn’t recorded over 100 yards since rumbling through Mississippi State. If you’re looking for the biggest reason this offense is struggling look no further. UK’s identity is to pound the rock with Benny Snell and teams have totally eliminated it. Kentucky does not have a counterpunch in its arsenal and it is severely holding back this football team.

At receiver, the same issues are showing up. We saw bad drops on Saturday and this is now becoming a trend for this year’s offense. Outside of Lynn Bowden (six catches, 57 yards) no one is able to consistently create separation. UK is desperately looking for answers. In the last two games we’ve seen Zy’aire Hughes and Ahmad Wagner both receiving snaps and vertical targets in the passing game. Dorian Baker was nowhere to be found yesterday and the coaching staff is still unable to create plays for C.J. Conrad on a consistent basis.

It’s easy for us to say that UK needs to pass more but the coaches and players on this end need to produce when their number is called.

Defense

With the offense struggling like it did, Kentucky would need another flawless performance by its defense. Matt House’s unit was able to come through on the road at both Texas A&M and Mizzou to give the Wildcats a chance to win it in the fourth quarter. They were unable to do the same at Tennessee.

The Vols put up 412 yards (215 rushing, 197 passing) on 60 plays for a 6.9 yards per play average. That yardage total was the highest output in an SEC game this season for Tennessee. The one thing UK couldn’t allow was explosive plays and UT got a ton of them on Saturday.

After being one of the best defenses in the country at limiting big plays, both Georgia and Tennessee have been able find them against Kentucky the last two weeks. In the air is where the Vols did most of their damage.

Jarrett Guarantano only threw the football 20 times but they were effective. The redshirt sophomore completed sixty percent of his attempts and averaged just under 10 yards per throw. The biggest one occurred right as the second quarter expired to put UT up an insurmountable three scores.

The Vols were able to consistently create separation vertically down the field. Things improved for the Wildcats when Darius West returned in the second half, but Tennessee’s wide receivers outplayed UK’s secondary. However, this wasn’t the most disappointing part of the performance.

Tennessee entered the game as the worst rushing offense in the SEC and their yards per carry averaged ranked 117th in the FBS. A week after being exposed by Georgia on the ground, the Wildcats weren’t able to iron out their issues in just one week.

The Vols ran for 215 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Tennessee was able to get UK’s front moving horizontally and the running backs were quick enough to burst through the line of scrimmage and consistently come away with productive gains. At times, UK was able to produce tackles for loss but they weren’t enough to prevent Tennessee from having one of their most productive rushing performances of the season.

The Wildcats did make some solid adjustments in the second half and were able to keep it close enough for their offense to have plenty of chances to mount a comeback. But for the second week in a row, UK gave up over 20 points and six yards per play. Neither of those happened in the first eight weeks of the season. After carrying the offense for most of the season, it could be that this group is starting to wear down.

If you’re looking for some positives, UK had some young guys really perform well. Chris Oats looks like he belongs and he’s going to be a star at linebacker for this defense. He deserves more playing time. Marquan McCall also contributed and it’s clear he can be a dominant force at nose. UK will be losing a lot of this year’s defense but there is definitely young talent waiting for their turn.

Special Teams

Saturday was another disappointing performance for Dean Hood’s unit.

Max Duffy has been excellent all season and he boomed a 50-plus yard punt out of the endzone when UK desperately needed it. However, when his punts are returnable, UK’s coverage team is getting shredded. Another big return this week gave Tennessee great starting field position and this resulted in a field goal. With the way UK plays, they cannot afford to give up short fields.

The kicking woes continue for the Wildcats as Chance Poore missed his first career kicks. The first one came from 51 yards and had the leg but was just wide. The next was from 30 yards and was blocked. On the kick it appeared that the ball came out extremely low and that cannot happen. If UK makes it, then it becomes a two score game in the fourth quarter.

For the season, the Wildcats are now just 5-for-11 on field goal attempts and there’s been quite a few occasions where Mark Stoops has decided not to kick because of UK’s place kicking issues. We’ve talked ad nauseam about UK’s inability to finish drives and kicking field goals has a lot to do with it. UK is reeling from the loss of Austin MacGinnis and not having a reliable kicker is just another thing hurting this offense.

Outlook

Before we go into the obvious offensive issues that need to be pointed out, I think it’s only fair to point out each level’s ineffectiveness on Saturday. The defense allowed the worst rushing offense in the SEC to roll up over 200 yards and the secondary consistently got beat vertically down the field. The pass rush had a very difficult time getting home and it was blatantly obvious that this defense missed Darius West in the first half. In the kicking game, UK’s punt coverage still is giving up far too many big returns and the place kicking issues are wasting solid drives the offense puts together.

But at the end of the day, you cannot score just a touchdown and expect to keep it close against anyone. This was the third time this season that an SEC opponent has limited Kentucky’s offense to just one offensive touchdown. That is inexcusable and must be fixed.

This may be rock bottom.

The Wildcats need to get through the season but once this year is over, Mark Stoops is going to have to make a difficult decision. Under Eddie Gran’s watch, the offense has declined in production each season. The passing game has been nowhere to be found and without an all-time great place kicker this group doesn’t have someone to bail them out when things are going bad.

At Cincinnati, Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw utilized an offense that went with tempo and threw the ball around the yard. Balance was key but scoring was never an issue. UC put up over 30 points per game each season with Gran. At Kentucky, however, Mark Stoops has made it clear he wants an offense to limit possessions, be physical, and put his defense in good spots. They are doing that but you have to score points too.

This style of play may have wasted what could’ve been an all-time great season for UK and I think its fair to take a step back and consider adjusting the offensive philosophy.


Quick Hitters from Tonight’s UK Hoops Win

Via @KentuckyWBB Twitter

Good Sunday night friends! Are we all still sad about yesterday? Yes? Cool, me too. How about reading about a winning game?

After a thrilling 52 point victory against Alabama State Wednesday, UK Hoops’ journey continued tonight with a 91-41 50 point victory over Southern University. Since I couldn’t be at the game due to some lovely winter sickness, I became an armchair reporter and watched the game from home to write tonight (I’m devoted, I know).

Here are a few quick observations via my couch about tonight’s game:

This is the Program’s 800th Win

Now, let’s get 801, 802, 803…..

Rhyne Howard is a shooter

The freshman from Tennesee may be one of Mitchell’s best players, and it’s only her second game.

In the first half, Howard was hot on the 3, making four of six and scoring 16 of the Cats 50 points in the first half. At one point she had as many points as the Southern team. Howard finished with 29 points, four rebounds and four assists.

She good y’all, she real good.

We force the turnovers…and it works for us.

Like on Wednesday, we really forced Southern to turn the ball over. 29 times to be exact. Out of those 29, we scored 41 points on them…the total amount of points they scored. Ouch. That’s gotta sting.

On Wednesday in the post-game press conference, Taylor Murray said she thought the defense was “sluggish” at first, tonight that was not the case. You can tell Mitchell worked on defense this week in practice and it paid off.

Overall, we stacked up really well on the boards. See for yourselves:

 

This team is fun

You can see it on the court and on Matthew Mitchell’s face. This team is having FUN together. It’s only been two games but it already feels different than last year, I’d say we’re in for a good season.

KeKe McKinney tweeted this out earlier today, you know it’s a good team when this happens.

As someone who covered and sat through the brutality of last season, I for one am LOVING the start to this season. Seriously, now is the time to get on this train!

 

UK Hoops takes on the University of Virginia on Thursday at 8:30 in Memorial. At the game, Coach Mitchell plans on paying one student’s spring tuition, so students: GET IN THERE. Come on out and support this team! Go Cats!

 

@savannahpattKSR 


BBNBA: Early Season Award Race Updates

(Photo via Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images North America)

Even though we aren’t even one month into the 2018-19 NBA season, there has still been enough action, drama, and storylines for an entire year’s worth of news. We have a big *enough* sample size of roughly 13-14 games from each team that we can put together some ideas of which player stands where in an early look at the award races.

There are three players in particular who have shown out in the early stages of the season and earned the right to hear their name mentioned in the following categories.

Anthony Davis for Most Valuable Player, Willie Cauley-Stein for Most Improved Player, and Julius Randle for Sixth Man of the Year.

Let’s start with Anthony Davis.

Despite missing three games to a nagging shoulder injury, Davis is still in the early MVP conversation. He’s not a top-3 candidate at the moment. Steph Curry, Giannis Anteokounmpo, and Joel Embiid have quickly separated themselves from the pack, but Davis is right behind them.

So far this season, Davis is averaging 24.6 points, 12.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 3.1 blocks per game. If not for the three games he missed and another other two in which he played through the injury, these numbers could be even more impressive.

But Davis has still been a monster this season, despite not being fully healthy.

He was my preseason pick for MVP and I continue to stand by it. The Pelicans got off to a hot 4-0 start before Davis’ injury aided in them losing six straight, but a quick bounce back and two straight wins have helped get them back on track.

If the shoulder pain subsides completely, we won’t see nearly as many 17-18 point games on sub-40 percent shooting from him as we have over the previous weeks. 32 points against the Chicago Bulls followed by 26 points against the Phoenix Suns is a terrific way to get both himself and the team back on track. He’s going to force himself into the MVP conversation all season, the wins column is where he’s going to have to separate himself – an enormously difficult task in the Western Conference.


Now for Willie Cauley-Stein, who has been as impressive as any former Kentucky player this season.

WCS struggled with constant inconsistency last season, especially with his overall effort.

This season has been the complete opposite.

Cauley-Stein has bumped up his overall numbers in nearly every statistic and looks like a player who wants to go out and dominate every second he’s on the court. Along with De’Aaron Fox, the two former Cats have sparked a surprising start to the Sacramento Kings season.

WCS is averaging 16.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 57.9 percent from the field. He’s added multiple post moves and appears much more confident at attacking the rim even if a larger defender is placed in front of him.

He made it a point in the offseason that he’s looking to get paid this summer. He had shown little in his first three seasons that proved he was worth it, now we’re wondering just how much the Kings might be willing to offer him.

There have been some excellent candidates for MIP so far this season. Caris LeVert looks like a budding star in Brooklyn. Tobias Harris is excelling as the go-to scorer for the Los Angeles Clippers. This is going to be one of the more interesting and exciting award races of the season. There are a ton of players who have taken their game to the next level this season and WCS is right there at the top.


And lastly, Julius Randle.

He’s the third piece to the Pelicans three-headed frontcourt monster that features himself, Davis, and Nikola Mirotic. One of those three had to come off the bench and it’s been Randle for most of the season. In this role, he’s playing the best basketball of his career and loving every second of it.

Randle was the Los Angeles Lakers best player last season before they let him walk in favor of Rajon Rondo and the rest of the current Meme Team in LA. I would imagine that front office is kicking themselves right now, considering Randle’s success and how little money he accepted to take on this current role.

He’s averaging 18.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists on 55.6 percent shooting from the field.

He’s known for his bully-ball style of play and he’s been punishing defenses all season with that mantra. Of the three players featured in this article, Randle might be the one who is leading their respective race.

There isn’t any shot Randle won’t take – and make – when he’s within five feet of the basket. There are maybe a handful of players in the entire league who can push him back when he lowers his shoulder and goes up for a shot – and none of them can keep up with his quick feet if he decides to pump fake and slip around them.

We’re seeing a fully optimized version of Randle. He’s shooting 33 percent from three. His playmaking as a forward has been unmatched. It’s impossible to stop him when he brings the ball up the court with a head of steam coupled with that vicious spin move. This award is already his to lose. The only thing preventing him from expanding on his early lead is the health of the man who starts in front of him, Mirotic, who missed the Pelicans previous game with an ankle injury.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan