Football Season Coverage
By Drew Franklin on ©October 17th, 2019 @ 10:30pm
Kentucky may be a huge underdog in Athens this weekend, but this video from Kentucky Wildcats TV will make you forget all about the point spread out in the desert.
Watch it and then tell me it doesn’t get you fired up for a potential upset against the 10th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.
The game is less than 48 hours away!
Clevan Thomas took the long route to the end zone. When the redshirt sophomore wide receiver finally reached it last Saturday vs. Arkansas, he was overwhelmed with emotion.
“It was special,” Thomas said shortly after the game concluded.
His first career touchdown came from a peculiar place. The 10-yard back-shoulder fade to Thomas was delivered by one of his closest friends, Lynn Bowden.
“It was really special because my freshman year it was me and Lynn. Lynn always had my back,” Thomas said. “Lynn knew what I was capable of and for him to throw me my first touchdown, it brought me to a tear.”
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) October 13, 2019
For years Bowden filled the role Thomas expected to play. As an early enrollee in 2017, coaches heaped praise upon Clevan throughout spring practice, culminating with a score in the Blue/White Game. That fall, finding a spot in the slot rotation became more difficult when Bowden arrived on campus. Thomas saw action in eight games as a true freshman. The following year, his playing time dwindled. He opted to use the opportunity to redshirt, while others encouraged him to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
“I had some family and friends say you should leave there, etcetera, etcetera, but my heart’s here,” Thomas said. “I bleed blue. My family loves it here. I just kept my mental, my hard work and when my time came, I showed up.”
Bowden knew Thomas was prepared to make the play when his number was called.
“A lot of guys, they get anxious, they want to play. They think leaving is something to do,” Bowden said. “Once we meet with each other and started bonding, it just spread, the love. You could see it on the sideline and on the field. Our juice went straight up. With Clevan, he’s hard on himself, so if he makes a mistake he can get down on himself. With that play right there, it can boost his confidence the rest of the year.”
After the game in the locker room, Mark Stoops used Clevan as an example for the rest of the young players who are paying their dues.
“It was really big,” Stoops recalled in his postgame press conference. “Clevan has been working for years and doesn’t always get the opportunity. It’s too easy in this day and age for guys just to chuck it in and throw in the towel or pout and all those type of things. It’s really good to see guys grind their way through and when they get their opportunity make the most of it.”
By Nick Roush on ©October 17th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
We all remember the time Stevie Got Loose and the time he caught a game-winning touchdown in the third overtime to defeat top-ranked LSU, but people forget that Stevie Johnson was lyrically gifted.
Before Kentucky opened the 2007 season, the UK wide receiver dropped some bars in the locker room to get the Wildcats fired up for football. It’s only slightly different than Jacob Tamme’s pregame speech before UK upset Georgia in 2006.
It must have worked. Andre Woodson threw three touchdowns and Tony Dixon rushed for two more scores as the Wildcats blew out Eastern Kentucky 50-10 to open an unforgettable season.
By Nick Roush on ©October 17th, 2019 @ 3:30pm
Last weekend was Kentucky’s homecoming at Kroger Field. This week it’s a homecoming for more than a dozen Wildcats when the team travels to Georgia.
Kentucky’s roster features 14 players from the state of Georgia, trailing only Florida (18), Kentucky and Ohio (23 apiece). Two players from the Peach State have become stars on Kentucky’s defensive line, Calvin Taylor Jr. and T.J. Carter.
“It’s gonna be fun going back home,” Carter said Thursday afternoon. “They’re a good team. They’re a highly-ranked team. That’s enough motivation itself. But definitely going back to the home state, a team that missed on recruiting you, obviously I’m glad I came here, but there’ll definitely be extra fire going back there.”
An under the radar recruit from Mableton, Ga., the late-riser’s only other offers came from Memphis, Samford and Wyoming. Carter has played since he arrived on Kentucky’s campus. One of his best early performances came as a true freshman in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl. Now a true senior, he’s recorded 13 tackles, three for loss and a sack in 2019. This week he’ll go toe-to-toe with one of the best offensive lines in the nation.
“They’re a very physical o-line. On tape they look like one of the most physical teams we’re going to play. But I feel like our defensive front is physical too and we can come out and play with anybody. We just gotta come in and be stout like we have been all year and make sure we’re playing the run, playing our gaps and staying solid,” said Carter.
Taylor embraces the challenge.
“It’s always fun because you know what you’re going to get. It’s just straight, smash-mouth football,” he said. “They got some real good guys up front, so it’s exciting to go back close to where I live at. It’s always fun and gives you a little extra motivation.”
Taylor has arguably been Kentucky’s defensive MVP to this point in the season. He has 17 tackles, four for loss, three sacks and three pass break-ups. Two of Taylor’s best plays came on back-to-back snaps in the closing minutes against Arkansas, recording a sack on third down before batting down a pass on fourth down to give the ball back to Kentucky.
Like Carter, Taylor was not recruited by Georgia. The overlooked, raw prospect has transformed into a future NFL Draft pick. He may have been overlooked by the Bulldogs, but his family from Augusta is not overlooking the opportunity to see him play close to home.
“There’s a lot of ticket requests, far more than I can fill, but we’re going to try to make it happen,” Taylor said with a smile.
Wildcats from the state of Georgia
- LB Marquez Bembry, Stone Mountain
- LS Blake Best, Duluth
- DL T.J. Carter, Mableton
- S Yusuf Corker, McDonough
- LB Jamin Davis, Ludowici
- DB Taj Doson, Union Grove
- CB Jordan Griffin, Riverdale
- DE Shawn Lawson, Jonesboro
- DL Qua Mahone, Jordan City
- DE K.D. McDaniel, Tifton
- S Quandre Mosely, Brunswick
- RB Chris Rodriguez, McDonough
- DT Calvin Taylor Jr., Augusta
- LB Tra Wilkins, Lithonia
By Nick Roush on ©October 17th, 2019 @ 1:30pm
The honors have poured in for Lynn Bowden all week. Even though the Georgia game is only two days away, another award has fallen into his lap.
Bowden won the honor of Manning Award Quarterback of the Week after the wide receiver completed 7-of-11 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown along with 24 carries for 196 yards on the ground including two touchdowns. His 51-yard run on the final drive secured Kentucky’s first SEC victory of the season and snapped a three-game losing streak.
What makes this award feel better than most? He secured just enough online votes to beat out Louisville quarterback Evan Conley. Click here to see the full release.
For the third time in the last five weeks, Kentucky will head on the road and this time the Wildcats will be making the trip to Athens. The Dawgs are fresh off a stunning home loss to South Carolina and need to get back on track quick before a colossal matchup with Florida at the Cocktail Party on November 2nd.
Nuts and Bolts
In 1980, a freshman running back by the name of Herschel Walker bursted onto the scene. In Vince Dooley’s 17th season as the head dog, UGA would run the table thinks largely to Walker’s 1,616 rushing yards. The Dawgs would beat Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl and were crowned national champions. Nearly 40 years later, this program is still looking for its next national title.
In that time, UGA has won five SEC titles and had some really high points over the years. Dooley would run the program from 1964-1988, winning 201 games in 25 seasons. The most popular coach in program history finished in the top-10 seven times and laid the foundation for what would come next.
After a mediocre run for a decade, UGA decided to make a move. Mark Richt was the offensive coordinator for Bobby Bowden at Florida State for seven seasons before leaving. Under his watch, the Seminoles had some of the best offenses in college football and it made a ton of sense for UGA to tag him as their next football coach. Richt would spend 15 years in Athens and achieved a lot.
In that run, the Bulldogs a .740 winning percentage, finished in the top-10 seven times, and won two SEC titles. However, he could never get the big one despite coming close many times. After giving up play-calling duties and seeing the offense stall, the Bulldogs decided to part ways following an uninspiring 9-3 season in 2015. The goal was to compete for national championships.
Immediately, Georgia called alum Kirby Smart home to run the program. Nick Saban’s right hand man for many years was always a hot commodity who took his time before taking a head coaching gig. It seemed like a perfect fit from the start and the results have been pretty good to this point.
After a rough 8-5 finish in year one, the Bulldogs won the SEC and played for the national championship in year two before falling to Alabama. Year three saw UGA go 11-1 before narrowly losing to Alabama in the SEC title game. The Dawgs came out hot again this season before falling to South Carolina last week. However, they still control their own destiny and are 29-6 since 2017. Add in the fact that Smart might be the best recruiter in the country and the future seems very bright.
This will be the 73rd meeting between the two programs with UGA owning a dominant 58-12-2 advantage. The Bulldogs have won nine in a row in the series since UK knocked off the Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium in 2009. Since Kirby Smart arrived, UGA has averaged 34.3 points per game with UK never scoring more than 24. UK only has one win in Athens since 1978.
Out in the desert, Georgia is a 24.5 point favorite with a total of 48. That’s a projected final score around 36-12. UGA is 6-9-1 against the spread as a 20-plus point favorite under Kirby Smart. UK is 3-3 against the spread as a 20-plus point dog under Mark Stoops. The Wildcats are 0-6 against the spread against UGA under Stoops.
After losing Jim Chaney to Tennessee in the offseason, UGA promoted James Coley to offensive coordinator. The South Florida native worked with Mark Stoops at Florida State and was the play-caller at Miami the last three seasons of the Al Golden era. Despite some experience and familiarity with the roster, many were skeptical about the decision.
Through six games this season, the Bulldogs have some lofty national rankings. They rank in the top-25 in scoring, yards per play, yards per carry, yards per pass, sacks allowed, tackles for loss allowed, red zone, red zone touchdown rate. However, the Dawgs have had troubles with big play rate (73rd in 20-plus yard plays) and are struggling to find answers at receiver. That’s where they were exposed in the loss to South Carolina.
Not only did they lose their play-caller, but UGA also lost their top five pass catchers from last season and they are struggling to replace the production. In the wide receiver room, the Bulldogs have four former top-200 recruits in the rotation, but three are freshman. The offense is leaning heavily on a pair of transfers (Lawerence Cager, Demetris Robertson) and the former was knocked out of the South Carolina game and is doubtful for this weekend. This offense is fishing for answers on the outside, but there is one that who has a chance to be a great.
George Pickens was a huge late recruiting win in February and he is one of seven former five-star recruits that sees playing time on offense. Pickens leads the team in receiving and is fresh off a performance that saw him put up 98 yards on seven grabs. With Cager out, the top target will be the rookie.
The man delivering the ball has started 34 consecutive games and is on the verge of some passing records. Jake Fromm was a top-5o prospect out of Warner Robins, Georgia and after taking over for former five-star Jacob Eason in 2017, he beat out and forced former five-star Justin Fields to leave the program. The pro-style quarterback has completed 70 percent of his throws and is averaging 8.5 yards per attempt in 2019, but is fresh off his worst game as a college quarterback.
Fromm made 51 throws last week and three turned into interceptions. He completed just 54.9 percent of these attempts on 5.8 yards per attempt. Georgia is 0-4 when he throws at least 30 passes so the goal for every opposing defense should be to get him to that number. The problem is that the Dawgs are a very run heavy offense and more often than not they are passing for balance. It helps when you have three former top-50 recruits among your four-man rotation at tailback. Remember what D’Andre Swift did last season?
The Bulldogs ran for 331 yards in the de facto SEC East championship and Swift was a big reason why. In his junior season, the former five-star recruit is putting up 6.44 yards per carry and is fourth in the SEC in rushing yards on less than 15 carries per game. He has a chance to be the first back off the board in the upcoming NFL Draft, but he’s not the only one in the stable.
Brian Herrien is the primary backup and is averaging 6.28 yards per pop on 40 attempts. Five-star redshirt freshman Zamir White missed last season after tearing his ACL, but he is averaging 6.37 yards per carry on 38 totes. UGA has a plethora of talented options at tailback.
We’re used to talking about just how talented Georgia is at running back each season, but what was suppose to separate this team was the offensive line. Sam Pitman is known by many as one of the best line coaches in football and he has built one talented unit. Thanks to great size and really good recruiting, the Bulldogs should manhadle almost any opposing defensive front they face.
Andrew Thomas is the best tackle in college football and he’ll likely be a top-1o pick. Former five-star Isaiah Wilson has been a starter since last season and is a huge human being (6-foot-7, 340 pounds). Trey Hill could be the best center in the SEC and he’s only a sophomore. Left guard Solomon Kindley and his 25 career starts will likely be out of the lineup due to an ankle injury, but in steps in five-star true sophomore Cade Mays.
UGA’s depth, which was perhaps their biggest strength, has been put to the test recently and it’s likely their two top left guards (Kindley and Justin Shaffer) will not be available. However, this is a group that was beat most of the day by a very talented South Carolina front. They’ll be looking for a bounce back effort against a porous UK run defense.
On the other side of the football, Georgia also lost a coordinator with Mel Tucker leaving to become the head coach at Colorado. On this side of the ball, Smart also decided to promote by making Dan Lanning the new defensive play-caller. At only 33 years old, he’s one of the youngest coordinators in football.
In Lanning’s first season, the UGA defense is playing really well. The Dawgs rank in the top-3 in a ton of statistical categories in the SEC and have a handful of areas where they rank top-1o nationally. No defense in the league gives up fewer yards per carry than the Dawgs and they have yet to allow a rushing touchdown. In the 3-4 scheme, there’s not a lot of star power in the front seven but there’s a ton of depth.
UGA will play at least 14 players regular snaps in the front seven and the Dawgs have a nice mix of upperclassmen and young talent. Junior Monty Rice leads the team in tackles from his Will linebacker spot, but is only at 38 stops. The Dawgs have 13 players who have recorded at least 10 tackles this season. Inside, defensive tackle Tyler Clark leads the team in non-sack tackles for loss with 3.5 while redshirt freshman Jack linebacker Azeez Ojulari leads the team in sacks with 3.5. This is a talented group where the strength is in the numbers, but the star power is found in the secondary.
J.R. Reed started his career at Tulsa before transferring to Georgia and since becoming eligible, he has been a starter. The Frisco, Texas native was a preseason first team All-SEC selection and he has played to the hype. Reed is second on the team with 31 tackles and had a crazy good interception against Notre Dame. He covers a lot of ground, but his running mate might be just as good.
Richard LeCounte was a five-star prospect in the class of 2017 and the Riceboro, Georgia native has an insane amount of closing speed. With him and Reed on the backend, UGA might have the best safety duo in the country. However, the secondary’s most productive player was a former three-star recruit.
Eric Stokes is tied for third in the SEC in pass break-ups (7) and is more than willing to come up and tackle. Despite some big time blue-chippers, there are a few unheralded recruits making a big impact for the UGA defense.
Special Teams Breakdown
When talking about UGA’s third phase, you must start with the man they call Hot Rod.
The most popular player on the team, who rocks a beautiful pair of goggles, Rodrigo Blankenship entered this season as one of the nation’s top kickers and was perfect on the season before missing two attempts last week. Despite that, he is still a star. Most of his kickoffs go in the endzone, but when they don’t, UGA is great in coverage.
Despite not being used much, Jake Camarda is much improved from last season and is averaging over 45 yards per attempt. The Dawgs have only allowed two punt returns this season so expect some fair catches from Josh Ali. In the kickoff return department, UGA has been pretty pedestrian but Tyler Simmons is putting up near 17 yards per punt return. UK will need Max Duffy to be on this game.
Keys to Victory
- UGA has one of the best rushing attacks in the country and they rank sixth nationally in yards per carry. This week they are facing a UK defense that ranks 113th in yards per carry allowed. It certainly seems like it could get ugly for Brad White’s unit and the last two seasons we’ve seen UGA rush for over 300 yards in both meetings. However, UGA ranks just 43rd in 20-plus yard runs. UK must find away to limit the big play and then you can live with the constant efficiency.
- Georgia has one of the best big play prevention defenses and most importantly they do it on the ground. The Dawgs have only allowed two 20-plus yard rushes from opponents while UK ranks sixth with 17 20-plus yard runs. If Kentucky is going to have any shot at success of offense, they must find a way to create chunk plays on the ground.
- In the first five games, UK forced nine takeaways and was one of the more opportunistic defenses in the FBS. However, they haven’t produced a turnover in the last eight quarters. Fresh off a four turnover game, UK must hope the ball security issues are still there for Georgia.
- If you have some gadget plays, Saturday would be a great time to use them. If it’s close in the second half, UK can’t be afraid to let it rip. Consider onside kicks, fake punts, and unconventional fourth down attempts. Carry that swagger over from last week and bring some of that juice to Athens.
The 11 Personnel team is hitting the road this week to watch the Cats and Dawgs play some football “Between The Hedges”. Nick Roush and I will in Athens covering the game and mingling in some watering hole on Friday night. Make sure you check the latest episode of the pod as we wrap up the Arkansas win, preview the Georgia game, and tell you why UK still needs to roll with Lynn Bowden, Jr. at quarterback full-time.
We’ll be out on the town checking out the Blue-White game in addition to Pittsburgh-Syracuse, Northwestern-Ohio State, and Astros-Yankees. If you’re making the trip to Athens, holler at a player when you see him in the streets.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 17th, 2019 @ 11:00am
Lynn Bowden and Max Duffy continue to pull in the accolades. ESPN’s Chris Low and Mark Schlabach put Bowden and Duffy on their midseason All-American Team, Bowden for his performance as an all-purpose threat.
“Bowden was one of the sport’s most versatile players, even before injuries forced him to start at quarterback in last week’s 24-20 win over Arkansas. Bowden has 295 rushing yards, 348 receiving, 53 yards on punt returns and 200 yards on kick returns. After injuries to three quarterbacks forced Bowden under center, the former high school QB completed seven of 11 passes for 78 yards and one touchdown while running 24 times for 196 yards and two scores. He joined Antwaan Randle El and Julian Edelman as the only FBS players since 2000 with at least 20 rushing attempts, 10 passes and one punt return in a game.”
“Duffy is the latest Australian punter to invade college football, and the 26-year-old has been one of the best from down under. Duffy leads the FBS with a 50.4-yard average on 26 punts. The Wildcats are No. 1 in net punting, with only 30 return yards. Against South Carolina, Duffy averaged 51.1 yards on nine punts with four downed inside the SC 20. He averaged 54 yards against Toledo and had a 63-yarder against Florida.”
So far, Duffy has been named a Midseason All-American by CBS Sports, the Associated Press, and The Sporting News. Bowden received the honor from the Associated Press, while The Sporting News went with Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell and CBS Sports UCLA’s Demetric Felton at the all-purpose/athlete spot.
By Maggie Davis on ©October 16th, 2019 @ 10:00pm
Two more former Wildcats will be joining the latest professional football league. Jordan Jones and Farrington Huguenin have been selected in Wednesday’s round of the XFL Draft.
Jones, who participated in the 2019 NFL Combine but ultimately went undrafted, was selected by the DC Defenders. The Defenders also picked up former Cat Jon Toth.
Huguenin, who played for Kentucky during Mark Stoops’ first three years with the Wildcats, went to the St. Louis BattleHawks. The defensive end originally went undrafted in 2016 before bouncing around through various NFL practice squads. He was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last month.
Jones and Huguenin join former UK kicker Austin MacGinnis in the fifth and final round of the inagural XFL Draft, while Toth and Jeff Badet were selected during earlier rounds Tuesday.
The XFL league has announced its season will begin Feb. 8, the weekend after the NFL season ends with the Super Bowl.
Before Nick Roush and Adam Luckett hop on I-75 for an 11 Personnel road trip, KSR’s resident football guys talk about Kentucky’s victory over Arkansas, what makes Georgia so good, and…
— UK found its formula with Lynn Bowden.
— A lesson A.J. Rose needs to learn about making chicken salad.
— South Carolina took disrespectful to a new level at Sanford Stadium.
— Georgia loses when Jake Fromm airs it out.
— New Georgia is the old Bama.
— Please, stop deferring.
— Luckett’s new best friend.
By Maggie Davis on ©October 16th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
Kentucky’s Josh Paschal is the latest nomination for the 2019 Capital One Orange Bowl FWAA Courage Award. One player from across college football earns a nomination each week, and a committee of writers from the FWAA will vote on the winner at the end of the season.
The requirements for nomination include displaying courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster or living through hardship. The Wildcat linebacker was nominated following last year’s diagnosis with an aggressive form of skin cancer -malignant melanoma – on the bottom of his foot. He underwent three surgeries before beginning immunotherapy and taking medications.
Now, he’s a redshirt sophomore who has started in all six of Kentucky’s games this season. He is currently UK’s co-leader in tackles for loss (five), along with one sack, one fumble recovery, one pass breakup and 19 total tackles. Paschal also recorded one stop for a loss in Saturday’s 24-20 win over Arkansas.
We won’t know if Paschal is a winner until the end of the season. The overall winner of the Courage Award will be included in festivities during Capital One Orange Bowl week and will receive his trophy during an on-field presentation. Best of luck to Josh Paschal!
By Maggie Davis on ©October 16th, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Kirby Smart met with the media down in Athens Tuesday afternoon, and he provided some insight into Georgia’s preparation for their matchup with Kentucky this Saturday. UK’s questionable quarterback situation creates a week of “tough prep” for the Bulldogs, according to their head coach.
“We don’t know what the quarterback situation is really going to be. They could use both of them, and they have a third component – which is the wildcat component – so there’s really three things there.”
Smart went on to describe the Wildcats as a “good, physical football team” with a defense that is “really big up front.”
The Bulldogs’ coach certainly has a point about Kentucky’s quarterback situation. Although Eddie Gran, who also met with reporters Tuesday, said both UK quarterbacks are available and practicing at “full speed,” Georgia still has to spend time preparing for both Sawyer Smith and Lynn Bowden. That means extra time is required of their coaches in the film room, as well as extra time spent by the team’s defense preparing for two different styles of play.
Bowden’s particular style of play has impressed Smart, who compared the Wildcat quarterback/wide receiver/punt returner to a great NFL player and, conveniently, a former Bulldog: Hines Ward. The Steelers selected Ward in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft, and he went on to become the team’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yardage and touchdown receptions. Ward was voted MVP of Super Bowl XL. At the time of his retirement, he was one of 11 NFL players to have at least 1,000 career receptions.
As for Smart, he sees streaks of Ward in Bowden’s athleticism and ability to create plays.
“It reminds me of Hines Ward… You forget the guy back there is always open,” Smart said. “Probably the most dangerous plays [Bowden] has as a football player are when he has the ball in space. Every play at quarterback is that. He’s sitting there with seven lanes in front of him where he can take off and run.”
Bowden’s ability to make such a play in critical moments for the Wildcats also stands out, according to Coach Smart.
“Some of [Bowden’s] most explosive plays the other night [against Arkansas] were third downs [or] were drop back passes. It makes you just play the game so different – it’s unusual. In college football you are not used to playing that kind of game, so it makes you call the game differently.”
Maybe – just maybe – forcing Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs to call Saturday’s game differently is exactly what Kentucky needs.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©October 16th, 2019 @ 4:30pm
University of Kentucky student-athletes managed to break one graduation rate school record and tied another.
According to an annual report released on Wednesday by the NCAA, UK’s Graduation Success Rate (GSR), a four-year composite statistic for the freshman classes of 2009-10 through 2012-13, was 91%. That rate tops the previous school record of 88% set last season, continuing Kentucky’s streak of breaking or tying the mark every year since the NCAA began tracking the statistic in 2005.
“Our student-athletes make us proud in the way they pursue an education and a degree at our world-class institution while competing at the highest level of college athletics,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “It is our responsibility to equip them with the resources they need to do that. I am thankful for the commitment our student-athletes make to academics and the support our coaches, staff, and CATS counselors and tutors provide along their path.”
The GSR includes all student-athletes who are on scholarship during their first semester of enrollment. Athletes who transfer or depart for the professional ranks in good standing do not count against the school’s GSR.
“These outstanding graduation rates highlight a foundational component of the Kentucky student-athlete experience, and serve as evidence of our commitment to comprehensive excellence,” Executive Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Experience Jason Cummins said, via UK Athletics. “Our students learn from a world-class faculty in the pursuit of life-changing knowledge, one of our Department’s five core values.”
Here are UK Athletics’ GSR scores in the 15-year history of the measure.
Year NCAA GSR
Kentucky also tied its own previous record set last season in the Federal Graduation Rate, a four-year composite statistic for freshman classes from 2009-10 through 2012-13, with a mark of 61%.
According to UK Athletics, in the FGR, “student-athletes who transfer or depart early for the professional ranks count as non-graduates, regardless of their academic standing or subsequent graduation from another institution. Incoming transfer students, from junior college or four-year schools, who graduate at UK are not counted as graduates. These factors account for the difference between the FGR and the NCAA GSR.”
99 Wildcats walked across the stage and received diplomas during the 2018-19 academic year, with 49 of those individuals graduating with honors.
By Nick Roush on ©October 16th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
Kentucky’s punting phenomenon is rolling in midseason honors.
This morning Max Duffy was selected to the Sporting News Midseason All-American Team. One of five publications that will qualify a player as a consensus All-American, Duffy was the only Wildcat to receive the recognition.
Duffy leads the nation in yards per punt, booting the ball an average of 50.4 yards per attempt. For some reason, the AP still considered him the second-best punter in America. This proves the Sporting News > Associated Press.
See all of the Sporting News’ selections here, if you feel so inclined.
Lynn Bowden was 12 years old the last time Kentucky defeated Georgia. It was 2009 in Athens and a guy many people compare to Bowden starred.
Rich Brooks’ Wildcats scored first, but fell behind 20-6 to conclude the first half. Once Georgia exited the halftime locker room, things began to unravel. The Bulldogs fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Two plays later Randall Cobb ran 12 yards for a touchdown as UK’s wildcat quarterback. It was the first of two Cobb rushing touchdowns that were preceded by Georgia turnovers. The Bulldogs turned it over four times in the second half Between the Hedges.
Morgan Newton did not have to throw it a lot, but when he did, they turned into big plays. La’Rod King caught a post for a 21-yard touchdown before Derrick Locke made the play of the game. He caught a screen pass, stumbled and nearly fell, before regaining his balance to sprint 60 yards into the end zone to tie the game with 12 minutes to play.
Shane McCord intercepted a screen on the following drive to set up Cobb’s game-winning score. Georgia had a chance to punch it in and tie the ball game, but fumbled inside the UK ten-yard line.
These guys knew how to celebrate.
It took a little bit of luck for Kentucky to take down Georgia in 2009. There have been a few close calls since, but the Cats have failed to capitalize on each opportunity. Maybe Bowden can borrow some of Cobb’s magic this Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
By Bryan the Intern on ©October 16th, 2019 @ 10:00am
This has already been a very interesting season for Kentucky football and certainly not one that was predicted at all coming into the year. Even the most pessimistic person was thinking 7-5 was a reasonable ask of this UK team, considering good returning pieces and a schedule that showed that many wins pretty easily. But then Terry Wilson and Sawyer Smith got hurt, the Florida game collapsed, Kash Daniel has been underwhelming as the leader of the defense, and suddenly 6 is not in the bag.
However this season finishes, the offseason will be one of a variety of opinions from journalists, commentators, and fans. So let’s say Kentucky goes 6-6, you will get:
UK Homers: Cats make it back to another bowl without a legitimate quarterback playing. What a tremendous amount of courage shown by this group to fight through that adversity.
UK Haters: We told you that 10 win season was a fluke. Stoops did a horrible job preparing his other quarterbacks. The talent level clearly isn’t where they hype it to be. 6 wins a huge disappointment.
Neutral Observers: UK is better off than they were 5 years ago but they regressed back to where “they belong” this year. The SEC is too strong for them. Benny and Josh Allen were fluke, once in a generation talents that the Cats won’t see again. Mediocre season.
And you will have opinions all in between that as well. But what I wonder is in a season where 8 wins was the expectation by many, and considering the things that have occurred, do we get to move the goalposts on what a good season looks like or do we look foolish not calling a spade a spade if the season is truly subpar.
Personally, the loss of Terry Wilson and injury to Sawyer Smith has to always be considered when evaluating this season. Whether or not Kentucky wins against Florida, USC, or Mississippi State with Terry at QB we will never know. But the offense would certainly have not been as limited as they were.
On the other side, some of the other healthy pieces have been disappointing. Until the Arkansas game, Lynn Bowden had not really made a serious splash in a game. Kash Daniel has had a nightmare senior season, not only with the ankle twisting incident, but the multiple off-field moments but no real impact on the field. The whiff on the tackle Saturday, even in a win, was a good symbol of the season he’s had. The running backs have been inconsistent and the defensive line as well. Point being, those have been non-injury performance issues that have also plagued the Cats.
Nobody is going to agree, barring a turnaround to 8 wins, that this season has been great. It’s been a struggle to watch at times both on and off the field. The win against Arkansas at least gives fans hope that something magical could happen. The effort and performance this weekend against Georgia, even against huge odds, will be a good determining factor if the fans remain with this team moving forward. But I think it is OK to shift the goalposts a little from what the pre-season expectations were for the Cats, admitting what the injuries have done, while also saying those have not been the exclusive reason the Cats have been underwhelming this year.
A couple of Wildcats were honored when the Associated Press released its Midseason All-Americans today.
Lynn Bowden, Kentucky’s star wide receiver/punt returner/kick returner/starting quarterback, earned a First Team selection from the AP, landing a spot on the team as an All-Purpose player. I haven’t seen everyone in college football this year, but I can’t imagine anyone fits the All-Purpose bill more than Bowden has through six games this season, so his selection comes as no surprise.
The other Wildcat receiving honors is punter Max Duffy, whose Second Team selection is a bit of surprise. The sophomore is putting up record numbers as the nation’s best in punt average, but Texas A&M’s Braden Mann earned the nod over Duffy on the AP’s First Team.
Other notable Midseason All-Americans include LSU quarterback Joe Burrows and Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas on the First Team, and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama offensive tackle (and Lexington native) Jedrick Wills, Georgia senior cornerback J.R. Reed, and Georgia senior kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, and Missouri junior tight end Albert Okwuegbunam on the Second Team.
The SEC had 18 players across the AP’s two All-American teams, which can you see here.
By Nick Roush on ©October 15th, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Kirby Smart’s coaching staff will have to watch film on two Kentucky quarterbacks ahead of Saturday’s matchup between the hedges. Days after Lynn Bowden led the Wildcats to a victory over Arkansas, Eddie Gran said Sawyer Smith returned to practice.
“We’ve got both quarterbacks ready now at full speed. Both are available, so it’s really a good situation for us,” Kentucky’s offensive coordinator said after Tuesday’s practice. “It was practice as usual. He (Smith) was full-speed and everybody was full-go. We’re good to go now, which is a nice thing.”
The coaches said Smith practiced some last week and was prepared to play in case of an emergency. Luckily, that emergency never occurred, giving Smith a few extra days to heal.
“I thought he came out and practiced well. His reads were really good and he threw the ball well. You could see some zip on the ball for the first time, so the time off has really helped,” said Gran.
More from Tuesday’s practice…
Are skill-position recruits worried about UK’s offense? The offensive struggles primarily stem from UK’s injuries at quarterback. Gran is confident recruits understand the situation. “They’re pretty smart. It’s a tight-knit group.”
Gran-isms — Every once in a while Eddie Gran will drop a football idiom that makes me bite my tongue to keep a straight face. “When the bullets are flying” is my personal favorite. Today he unleashed a new one when asked to grade his offense’s performance so far this season.
“We haven’t been a rolling ball of butcher knives. We’re trying to improve each and every day.” I would love to see what a rolling ball of butcher knives looks like.
Landon Young Practiced — Kentucky’s left tackle was in full gear for Tuesday’s practice. I get the feeling he did not participate the entire time, but he says he will be good to go this Saturday.
“It’s doing well. It took a little bit of time over the weekend to get it healed back up, but we’re getting back out there and going full-bore. I’ll be out there Saturday,” Young said.
A.J. Rose will leave the QB duties to Bowden — Like Bowden, the UK running back played quarterback in high school. He may get a “pass” or two off of shovel passes in the wildcat, but he’s going to leave the rest to Lynn or whoever else may be taking snaps.
RIGGS! The UK tight end talked about what was going through his head when he bulldozed a few defenders for a huge gain against Arkansas.
By Drew Franklin on ©October 15th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
In this week’s updated Odds Watch, we learn the numbers don’t think too highly of Kentucky’s chances in its next two games. The odds are very slim when the Cats travel to Athens to meet Georgia this coming Saturday, which is no surprise, but now the Sagarin predictor system sees Kentucky as an 11-point underdog at home the following weekend against Missouri. The same system had that game as a Pick ‘Em only four weeks ago.
After that, Kentucky is projected to be the favorite in its last four games, although the spread in that Louisville game keeps shrinking.
See how things have progressed through six games:
As usual, here’s a glossary in case you’re lost:
Sagarin Predictor — Jeff Sagarin’s College Football Ratings provide predictions for upcoming games by comparing the two Sagarin ratings for each team, plus an additional amount of points for home field advantage. For example: In Sagarin’s Week 2 ratings, Kentucky has a 76.06 rating; Eastern Michigan is a 61.52; and he sets home field advantage at 2.25 points. So you add home field (2.25) to Kentucky’s rating (76.06) and subtract Eastern Michigan’s rating (61.52) to get a difference of 16.79 points. Round to the nearest half-point to find Sagarin’s predicted point spread is Kentucky favored by 17 over the visiting Eagles.
ESPN FPI — Kentucky’s win probability in each game, using ESPN’s Power Football Index.
Actual Score — The actual score of the game, obviously.
Opening Line — The opening betting line on the game, via VegasInsider.com.
Closing Line — The betting line on the game at kickoff after taking into account the number of bets and money on each side.
Kentucky is fresh off their first SEC win of the season and this past weekend at Kroger Field we saw a new look offense from the Wildcats. With two scholarship quarterbacks lost for the season due to injury and grad transfer Sawyer Smith extremely banged up, UK decided to turn to the best playmaker on its roster.
Lynn Bowden, Jr. was a star quarterback for Warren G. Harding in Youngstown, Ohio during his prep career and we have seen him used as a wildcat quarterback multiple times in his college career. Entering the Arkansas game, UK installed an entire offense for the wide receiver to run and the results were great.
Kentucky put up their highest yards per play total in an SEC game since last year’s win at Florida and ran for over 300 yards in the win. Bowden was the main reason why and he was named SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week for the remarkable performance. He was able to have this success due to the option and read elements that Eddie Gran and his offensive staff were able to install in just two weeks.
One concept we saw UK use on Saturday over 10 times was what is known as a power toss read. In it, the offensive line blocks for a typical power play while the running back runs a toss sweep action. The quarterback reads an individual defender and that determines whether he keeps it for the QB power run or toss it to the back for a perimeter run. Kentucky ran this look multiple times, but also inserted a couple passes off of the look and one would result in the biggest passing play of the night.
This week on Inside The Play, we’ll take you inside the KSR Film Room and show you just how UK used this play to their advantage and why it will be a key play for the offense moving forward.
One of the first looks UK flashed with this concept got the slot receiver involved. Right guard Mason Wolfe pulls so you can see the QB power develop while Kavosiey Smoke carries out the pitch action. Lynn Bowden, Jr. is reading Mike linebacker De’Jon Harris (No. 8) and he immediately bites on the run action. As that is happening, Allen Dailey, Jr. is able to cross the face of Will linebacker Bumper Pool (No. 10) who is in coverage in the slot. The results is an easy completion on the slant and a first down. UK planted this play early in hopes of successful runs later in the game.
Later in the game, we see the QB power in action. This time there is no pass element involved because you see both Ahmad Wagner and Justin Rigg engage in blocks. A.J. Rose is on the toss action and this time Bowden is reading Bumper Pool (No. 10). The linebacker takes the bait on the toss and that means Bowden follows right guard Mason Wolfe (No. 77) in the gap scheme run. The result is four yards that sets up a third-and-short. This was a successful play that should only get better with more reps.
The toss appeared to be the most popular look tan from this action with Kentucky looking to use the speed of A.J. Rose and Kavosiey Smoke on the perimeter. Both tight end Justin Rigg and wide receiver Bryce Oliver block while the playside defensive end is left unblocked. You see right tackle Naasir Watkins (No. 66) block down while Justin Rigg heads outside and eventually meets the Mike linebacker. Bowden makes the right read and a better block from Oliver probably leads to a bigger play. Either way, Smoke gains five yards for a successful play on first down.
The biggest play for the concept happened on Kentucky’s first scoring drive. UK runs the same action as we’ve shown you above, but this time Justin Rigg leaks out. Bowden is again reading the Mike linebacker similar to the last pass. He bites on the run action and that leaves a wide open tight end in the area just below the free safety. Rigg gets some very nice yards after catch to big up a chunk play for the offense. The power toss read was good to Kentucky against Arkansas.
On Saturday we saw the power toss read, speed options, typical zone reads, draws, inverted veer, and other option looks. What is good about all these is that there can be pass elements baked into most of them because of RPO utilization in college football. With Kentucky planning on expanding the passing game for Bowden, don’t be surprised to see UK to take some deep shots off these actions now that opposing defenses have multiple things to be aware of when recognizing these concepts.
By Bryan the Intern on ©October 15th, 2019 @ 10:00am
Run: 15 rushes for 87 yards, 1 TD
Pass: 4-9, 28 yards
Combined Season Statistics
Run: 87 rushes for 414 yards, 6 TD (1 fumble recovery)
Pass: 55-84, 608 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 2 sacks (1 fumble recovery)
Breakdown: All in all, not a bad performance from the Cats defense here. The rush defense not as strong, giving up over 5 yards per carry but they did avoid too many big plays.
Run: 9 rushes for 98 yards, 1 TD
Pass: 3-10, 55 yards
Combined Season Statistics
Run: 72 rushes for 447 yards, 6 TD
Pass: 25-53, 315 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT, 4 sacks
Breakdown: When you take out the 74 yard run on the 2nd play of the game, UK was fantastic on 2nd down. The other 8 carries went for just 24 yards and the 10 pass plays went for 55 yards. Those 18 plays netted Arkansas just 79 yards. Solid production on 2nd down, a down where the Cats have been strangely good all year.
3rd Down and Long (6 yards or more)
Run: 1 rush for 0 yards (converted 0 of 1)
Pass: 2-2, 9 yards, 1 sack (converted 1 of 3)
Combined Season Statistics
Run: 11 rushes for 155 yards, 2 TD (converted 5 of 11)
Pass: 19-28, 177 yards, 4 sacks, 1 fumble recovery (converted 11 of 32)
Breakdown: While not facing a ton of these situations in 3rd and long, Cats were great. They’ve been pretty good here most of the year, especially in SEC play.
3rd Down and Short (5 yards or fewer)
Run: 2 rushes for 17 yards (converted 2 of 2)
Pass: 3-4, 30 yards, 2 sacks (converted 3 of 6)
Combined Season Statistics
Run: 14 rushes for 118 yards (converted 9 of 14)
Pass: 9-14, 123 yards, 5 sacks (converted 9 of 19)
Breakdown: Mixed results on 3rd and short but getting 2 big sacks ending drives was huge. And for the season, the pass defense in this situation has been really good.