Welcome, Big Blue Nation, to a new series beginning here on KSR. What you are looking at is the first of a weekly three-part series that will come to you on the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of a football game week. Part one will be this: a flashback in time of the history between Kentucky and the opponent for that week. On Thursday will be a head-to-head statistical breakdown of the two teams and how they compare. Finally on Friday, there will be a scouting report of the opponent, detailing matchups and play calling
This first week I will be getting some of the kinks worked out and figuring out exactly how I want to do this for the next twelve (or thirteen) games, so bear with me. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
Without further ado, let us take a step back in time and revisit the history between Kentucky and Western Kentucky…
The term “history” in this instance is used loosely. Western Kentucky has only been a member of the FBS for a handful of years, but the progress the Hilltoppers’ program has made in such a short time has been astounding. In 2008 WKU began play as a full-fledged Division-I FBS member after nearly 100 years playing in Division-II and FCS. Now, just five years later, the program is looking in the rearview mirror of a monumental bowl berth and is poised to upgrade to the newly remodeled Conference USA, leaving the Sun Belt behind.
Undoubtedly Western Kentucky owes much of its success to the host of non-conference opponents played over the years, including Alabama, Florida, Virginia Tech, and of course Kentucky, among others. Without the exposure and financial stability those games offered the WKU program would have never launched. And that goes back to why losing this UK-WKU series — at least for now — will be such a shame. Kentucky helped Western become what it is today, and that is really cool. Yes, the two schools are “rivals” on the gridiron, but when it’s not game day; does anybody honestly root against the Tops?
The date was September 15, 2012. The place was Commonwealth Stadium; a feeble 53,000 fans filled the stands, thanks in part to a strong Toppers contingent. Joker Phillips and his Wildcats already on the brink of destruction, taking on Willie Taggart and his Hilltoppers team with nothing to lose. It was a perfect storm for the opposition.
WKU opened up a 17-0 lead through the first quarter-and-a-half before the Wildcats ever sniffed the end zone, and WKU was feeding off the momentum. The largely ugly half ended well for UK, thanks to Jonathan George and Craig McIntosh, helping to make it 17-10 heading into the locker room with the Cats regaining some positive vibes.
Western answered first in the 3rd, a 13-yard pass from Kawaun Jakes made it 24-10. But Max Smith fired right back with a deep pass of his own, making it 24-17 with a little more than a quarter to play. It wouldn’t be until the final ticks of the 4th quarter that Max Smith connects with DeMarcus Sweat from 22-yards out to make it 24-23, and McIntosh delivers the PAT to tie the game.
Overtime saw George carry it in for a score on just the third play, giving the Cats its first lead of the ballgame. But Western came in playing for keeps, and following an Antonio Andrews touchdown, Taggart busted out a trick play for the two-point conversion and that was that.
The biggest victory in WKU football history.
The victory last year gave Western its first win in the brief series with the Wildcats, who own the series record 3-1 in just four games played. The 32 points scored by WKU was the most it has ever scored in the series going back to 2008. Kentucky had won the first two games by a combined score of 104-31, but scored just 14 points in 2011 and, of course, suffered the loss in 2012.
Kawaun Jakes (WKU) — Jakes will be remembered best in this short series for his performance last season in Commonwealth Stadium. He collected 160 yards through the air with a .727 completion percentage. In the series Jakes is 34-for-64 with 350 yards passing. His six interceptions look ugly, but his play against the Cats in 2012 is enough to put him in the conversation where “history” is rather limited.
Antonio Andrews (WKU) — Head coach Bobby Petrino will be looking to Andrews as a leader and a key component to the Hilltoppers offense this season. Against the Cats, Andrews has piled up 119 rushing yards on 37 carries with three touchdowns. He will surely make an imprint this weekend.
Jonathan George (UK) — If not for the efforts of George last year the Wildcats would have never made a game of it. His line in the box score is not pretty, just 51 yards on 13 carries, but in a game where the Cats found it almost impossible to move the ball on the ground, George was clutch. He scored three times in the game.
BIGGEST MOMENT FOR UK
In a series with such little background and all-in-all very few “good games” — even the close one in 2011 was an unpleasant affair to watch — the best moment for Kentucky must be the two minute drill led by Max Smith last year. Down by a touchdown with 2:14 remaining, Smith reels off a 12-play 77-yard drive to even the score with 24 seconds left.
Joker Phillips’ final year was a grim one, and even though the Wildcats lost that game in the end, you would be hard pressed to find a better drive by the UK offense than what was demonstrated there.
It seems after the 14-7 nail biter in 2011 in Nashville, and the Tops victory last year in Lexington, the momentum in the series has shifted well into the hands of WKU. The Cats obviously have a big boost with the coaching staff over last year — but the same could be argued with the Hilltoppers.
Regardless, the future of this series, for now, is nonexistent. This Saturday we bid farewell to our Bluegrass brethren in Bowling Green, as they go on to play Illinois, Navy, Indiana, and Miami (OH) in the coming years.
If nothing else, take solace in the fact that, no matter what, Kentucky will still own the series lead for the foreseeable future.