Cat Scratches
Interactive Twitter Facebook

Almost two years into his Kentucky tenure, Mark Stoops has become famous for his fire.

That passion, one of the driving forces behind the progress of the UK program, is most often seen on the sideline on Saturday, but this week it made an earlier appearance.

Stoops, at his regular Monday press conference, minced no words in evaluating his team's performance in a loss over the weekend and spoke in no uncertain terms about what the Wildcats need to do over the final month of the regular season.

The gathered media, noting his frustration, wondered what Stoops would be like when he met with his team later in the day.

"You can stand out in the street and you'll hear," Stoops said.

Stoops isn't angry for the sake of being angry either. He sees a UK team that has fallen to 5-4 (2-4 Southeastern Conference) but still has every opportunity to address the discipline issues that plagued the Cats in a deflating 20-10 loss at Missouri.

"I feel like our players and our coaches, starting with me, we have a choice in that matter," Stoops said. "We either choose to be disciplined or we choose to be undisciplined. We either choose to be a trained football team and us as a coaching staff need to train them."

To Stoops, that all comes down to details.

"If you're supposed to run a six-step out, run it six, not eight," Stoops said. "If you're supposed to follow the guard on a run play, follow the guard, not just run anywhere you want to run. That's what I mean by 'untrained.' It's creating those habits and training to play when you're under pressure. When we're under pressure, our habits come right to the surface and they're bad habits."

In the midst of three straight losses, the mood around UK football is much different than it was after a 5-1 start that generated talk of the Cats contending for the SEC Eastern Division crown. But just as things weren't as good as they seemed three weeks ago, they aren't as bad as they seem right now.

"We just need to be better," Stoops said. "We're inconsistent. The wheels aren't falling off; we barely had them on."

UK, in other words, is still very much in development mode.

"We've got to scratch and claw and fight and dig down for everything that we get," Stoops said. "To think that you're going to go out there and hope that they happen, we're mistaken. I constantly talk about that. We cannot wait for our moment. We've got to train to go take it and make our moment."

The Cats have three chances left to make their moment in the regular season, starting with a Senior Day matchup against No. 17 Georgia at noon ET on Saturday. The Bulldogs (6-2, 4-2 SEC) suffered a 38-20 defeat at the hands of Florida over the weekend, but remain a major challenge for any opponent.

"They bring a very good football team," Stoops said. "I think they bring a power running team that we know has hurt us in the past as well. They can run the heck out of the football. They're very talented. They can throw it. They're very balanced. They're playing great defense."

Georgia is the only team to rank in the top four in the SEC in both scoring offense and scoring defense, relying on a ground attack that averages 265.9 yards and a rushing defense that allows just 105.1 yards per game.

"Georgia is going to present a real problem to us because, first of all, they're not going to give you anything," Stoops said. "They're one of those aggressive defenses. They're very well coached. They're not going to give you anything easy. So you've got to go earn your yards. You have to win your one-on-ones."

In the wake of an offensive performance that saw the Cats gain just 258 yards, schemes and play calls have been popular topics, but not as much for Stoops. Of course the UK staff will work hard to craft a game plan that will position the Cats for success, but that's not the priority this week.

"There's no magical little scheme or anything like that," Stoops said. "You got to win. You got to block some people, get open, throw good footballs."

Depth chart update: Williams the new starter at running back

  • Following a game in which he accounted for 97 of UK's 258 yards from scrimmage, true freshman Stanley "Boom" Williams has moved by himself to the top of the depth chart at running back. Braylon Heard, Mikel Horton and Jojo Kemp follow him.
  • At wide receiver, there are numerous changes. Garrett Johnson is now listed as a starter at one of the four spots, along with Demarco Robinson, Javess Blue and Ryan Timmons. Joey Herrick has moved into a backup role behind Timmons, while T.V. Williams and Rashad Cunningham are no longer listed.
  • At quarterback, Drew Barker is no longer listed as a backup. Stoops confirmed on Monday the reason for that is it's too late in the season for the true freshman to burn his redshirt.
  • In the secondary, Fred Tiller and Blake McClain are still starters at cornerback and nickelback, respectively, in spite of suffering injuries at Missouri. Stoops said both are expected to be "fine" for Saturday.

Tennessee kickoff set for 4 p.m.

UK's SEC finale on the road against Tennessee on Nov. 15 will kick off at 4 p.m. ET on the SEC Network. Tickets in the UK section are available now.

UK football depth chart -- Georgia week

| No TrackBacks | Add a Comment
Offense

Tight end
80 Ronnie Shields, 6-5, 254, Sr-3L
85 Steven Borden, 6-3, 246, Sr-1L

Left tackle

77 Darrian Miller, 6-5, 292, Sr-3L
76 Teven Eatmon-Nared, 6-7, 339, Sr-2L

Left guard
75 Zach West, 6-4, 318, Jr-2L
68 Nick Haynes, 6-5, 319, Fr-RS

Center
72 Jon Toth, 6-5, 301, So-1L
57 Zach Myers, 6-3, 287, So-Sq

Right guard
69 Ramsey Meyers, 6-5, 300, Fr-RS
74 Cole Mosier, 6-6, 348, Fr-RS

Right tackle
70 Jordan Swindle, 6-7, 306, Jr-2L
73 Kyle Meadows, 6-5, 294, Fr-RS

Wide receiver
9 Demarco Robinson, 5-10, 158, Sr-3L
6 Blake Bone, 6-5, 198, Fr-HS

Wide receiver
1 Ryan Timmons, 5-10, 195, So-1L
87 Joey Herrick, 6-1, 197, Jr-1L

Wide receiver
8 Javess Blue, 6-0, 191, Sr-1L

Wide receiver
19 Garrett Johnson, 5-11, 176, Fr-HS
2 Dorian Baker, 6-3, 197, Fr-HS

Quarterback
14 Patrick Towles, 6-5, 238, So-1L
12 Reese Phillips, 6-2, 218, Fr-RS

Fullback

39 D.J. Warren, 6-0, 251, Sr-3L
10 Jeff Witthuhn, 6-3, 246, So-Sq

Running back
18 Stanley "Boom" Williams, 5-9, 200, Fr-HS
5 Braylon Heard, 5-11, 189, Jr-Tr
4 Mikel Horton 6-1, 230, Fr-HS
3 Jojo Kemp, 5-10, 194, So-1L

Defense

Defensive end
94 Za'Darius Smith, 6-6, 263, Sr-1L
91 Farrington Huguenin, 6-4, 275, Jr-2L

Defensive tackle
90 Melvin Lewis, 6-4, 320, Jr-JC
69 Matt Elam, 6-7, 375, Fr-HS

Defensive tackle

50 Mike Douglas, 6-4, 288, Sr-3L
67 Cory "C.J." Johnson, 6-3, 299, Jr-JC or 96 Regie Meant, 6-4, 286, Fr-RS

Defensive end/Linebacker
47 Jabari Johnson, 6-1, 276, Jr-1L
6 Jason Hatcher, 6-3, 242, So-1L

Defensive end/Linebacker
2 Alvin "Bud" Dupree, 6-4, 264, Sr-3L
41 TraVaughn Paschal, 6-4, 257, Sr-2L

Middle linebacker
45 Josh Forrest, 6-3, 236, Jr-2L
41 TraVaughn Paschal, 6-4, 257, Sr-2L

Weak-side linebacker
33 Ryan Flannigan, 6-2, 225, Jr-JC
22 Khalid Henderson, 6-1, 228, Jr-2L

Nickelback
24 Blake McClain, 5-11, 194, So-1L
29 Kendall Randolph, 6-0, 168, Fr-HS

Cornerback
3 Fred Tiller, 6-0, 170, Jr-2L
11 J.D. Harmon, 6-2, 201, So-1L

Safety
5 Ashely Lowery, 6-1, 220, Sr-3L
15 Marcus McWilson, 6-0, 210, So-1L

Safety
1 A.J. Stamps, 6-0, 199, Jr-JC
28 Eric Dixon, 5-11, 193, Sr-3L

Cornerback
16 Cody Quinn, 5-10, 172, Jr-2L
21 Nate Willis, 6-0, 168, Sr-1L

Special teams

Long snapper
59 Kelly Mason, 6-3, 223, Jr-2L
56 Matt Howard, 5-10, 208, Fr-RS

Holder
13 Jared Leet, 6-3, 196, Jr-2L
12 Reese Phillips, 6-2, 218, Fr-RS

Kicker
99 Austin MacGinnis, 5-10, 168, Fr-RS
95 Miles Butler, 5-9, 160, Fr-HS

Punter
9 Landon Foster, 6-1, 198, Jr-2L
93 Bryan Kirshe, 6-0, 155, Fr-HS

Kickoff returner

18 Stanley "Boom" Williams, 5-9, 200, Fr-HS or 11 J.D. Harmon, 6-2, 201, So-1L or 5 Braylon Heard, 5-11, 189, Jr-Tr or 9 Demarco Robinson, 5-10, 158, Sr-3L

Punt returner
9 Demarco Robinson, 5-10, 158, Sr-3L
1 Ryan Timmons, 5-10, 195, So-1L

Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points in UK's exhibition win over Pikeville on Sunday. (Elliott Hess, UK Athletics) Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points in UK's exhibition win over Pikeville on Sunday. (Elliott Hess, UK Athletics)
More than once, John Calipari has commented publicly that Kentucky was in for a reprieve when the season finally came.

With all the talent on the floor in practice and the reduced workload on the Wildcats playing in a two-platoon system, Coach Cal said games would be easier.

With one exhibition in the books, he might be right.

"When Coach says the practices are way harder than the games, it's true," Willie Cauley-Stein said. "You really felt it tonight. Like, I feel like I was fresh all the time."

Cauley-Stein and the Cats looked it too.

With no player on the floor for more than 20 minutes and 10 playing at least 16, Kentucky overwhelmed NAIA foe Pikeville in a 116-68 victory in front of 21,036 at Rupp Arena on Sunday night. Karl-Anthony Towns led UK with 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting in just 18 minutes and the Cats racked up 29 assists and shot 65.3 percent as a team.

"We played really well," Towns said. "The team did a really good job. I'm really happy with the assist totals, really. It shows we're moving the ball. Such a talented team, you don't expect a lot like that. We did a great job as a team. We ran the floor, we contested a lot of shots, but we have a lot of things we need to work on. That's what we're going to start back on tomorrow."

The performance led Pikeville head coach Kelly Wells to declare UK "the most talented team in the country" and potentially the most talented in program history, but the visiting Bears hung around in the early going. When K.K. Simmons buried a jumper at the 14:04 mark for two of his game-high 28 points, Pikeville pulled to within 22-18.

Against this Kentucky team, with its mass substitutions every four-to-five minutes, it simply wasn't sustainable. By the end of the first half, UK led 67-40 on the strength of a 21-0 run.

"What you saw is Pikeville came out of the gate and they were flying, and then each sub I made, each time by the third sub and then the fourth sub, all of a sudden you see them missing eight straight shots," Calipari said. "They were making every shot for a while. We left them open and they made it. And that's the whole point of what we're trying to do. Play fast, don't be in a hurry, though we're playing fast."

Fast may be an understatement.

Running off of turnovers generated in both the press and half-court, missed shots and even makes, the Cats scored 26 of their 36 fast-break points in the first half. On the strength of all those easy baskets, UK scored 1.523 points per possession and took, on average, just 8.88 seconds attempt its first shot.

Cauley-Stein has been through everything from a first-round NIT loss to a trip to the national championship game, but he's never seen anything quite like this.

"Way faster, just because the platoon system you can play up and down and you don't have to worry about getting extremely tired or slowing the ball down and playing a half-court game," said Cauley-Stein, who had 10 points and six rebounds. "Now you've got five in, five out every four or five minutes that you can just run and run and run. You just wear people down."

Sunday's exhibition was played with an experimental 30-second shot clock, but UK rarely needed those extra  five seconds. The game featured 80 total possessions, nearly 14 more than last year's national average and three more than UK's 2013-14 season high.

"If we can score quick, we will," Calipari said. "If not, let's create a good shot."

Good shots were all UK got, especially in the first half. The Cats shot a blistering 27 of 33 (81.8 percent) from the field in the first 20 minutes.

"They don't ever settle," Wells said. "They don't settle. I've never been a part of a team where we gave up 80 percent field goals in the first half. They don't settle for anything but dunks and layups. You and I make a conventional bounce pass and chest pass and every time they're throwing lobs and we look like middle-school kids out there at times because they're just so big."

Among UK's historically tall frontcourt, Dakari Johnson (13 points), Poythress (12 points) and Trey Lyles (10 points) joined Towns and Cauley-Stein in double figures. The Cats also held a 49-25 rebounding edge and outscored Pikeville in second-chance points by a margin of 35-15.

Devin Booker (16 points on 6-of-9 shooting) was the only UK guard to crack double figures, but Andrew Harrison may have been the most valuable player. The sophomore point guard scored five points on just two field-goal tries, but piled up nine assists against zero turnovers in a performance Coach Cal called "ridiculous."

"Andrew was excellent," Towns said. "He was really taking control of the game as a floor general. He's improved so much since last year. I think everyone can tell the difference in his game from last year to this year. He's a true leader on the court too."

Harrison is setting the tone for a UK team embracing a new platoon system. The result of that system, even though its original purpose is to allow 12 players deserving of playing time to see the floor, is a faster style of play that figures to fluster even the most talented opponents.

"Having a platoon system really makes us--allows us, actually, to expend more energy at given times and then regain a lot more quicker," Towns said. "I feel bad for the players last year having to regain all the energy back in about a minute timeout. This time they get to maybe rest for five-and-a-half, five minutes and really get their legs right back under them."

So, what does UK, which has a week off before a second exhibition next Sunday against Georgetown (Ky.), do for an encore to a lightning-quick debut?

Go faster.

"For us, we still have to push the tempo a little more," Towns said. "I think it was a little too slow. I think we would like it a lot faster, but that's a good start."

Live Blog Men's basketball vs. Pikeville (exhibition)
 

Seeking to fill a football head-coaching vacancy nearly two years ago, Mitch Barnhart did his due diligence.

He met with candidates and evaluated many more. He called references and solicited the help of Tim Couch, the quarterback and former No. 1 overall pick who was there for some of Kentucky's best years. For more than three weeks, Barnhart worked behind the scenes to find the right man for the job.

Through it all there was one coach who stuck out, and it was his plan that differentiated Mark Stoops.

Then the defensive coordinator at Florida State, Stoops met with Barnhart and presented his blueprint for success at UK at a meeting in Atlanta. It covered everything from recruiting to an innovative High Performance program and the detail was incredible, such that it almost seemed too good to be true.

Twenty-three months later, it's become clear that Stoops' plan was no fairytale.

"He has followed that to a t," Barnhart said. "Everything he said he was going to do, he has done, and it's on schedule and on task."

For executing his ambitious plan, Stoops was rewarded on Friday with a contract extension that will keep him at Kentucky through the end of the 2019 season, adding another year to a deal that was first extended in May.


The new contract bumps Stoops' average base salary to $3.575 million. The deal also includes a $250,000 incentive for each win beginning with the seventh win each season, as well as incentives for postseason appearances, winning the Southeastern Conference or national championship and team academic performance. New deals for UK's assistant coaches are also forthcoming.

"Mark is guiding our program in the direction we all want it to go and we are proud to reward that," Barnhart said in a release announcing the news. "I was confident Mark was right for this job when I hired him, but he has exceeded my expectations. From leading a group of young men, to recruiting, to fundraising, to becoming an important part of the Lexington community, Mark has embraced and excelled in all facets of being Kentucky football head coach."

In doing so, Stoops led a renaissance of the UK program. Immediately, Stoops made waves on the recruiting trail and awoke a fan base hungry for football success. The wins didn't come as quickly, as the Wildcats managed just a 2-10 season in his first year.

This season, however, has been another story. UK is 5-3 entering a trip to Missouri for a game at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, exceeding its win total from the previous two years combined. The Cats also have a pair of SEC wins after going nearly three years without one.

"I am excited about the progress our team has shown on the field, but this is as much about the next five years as it is the last one and a half," Barnhart said.  "As I've said before, I believe we can compete at the highest level in the toughest conference. Mark is the coach to take us there."

Stoops' work at UK has already caused some national pundits and fans to connect his name to jobs that aren't even open yet. The contract extension curtailed some of that talk, but this was always about something deeper than that.

"This is about our relationship, and I don't ever want it -- I think people, when you start worrying about other folks, that's when you get distracted," Barnhart said. "And Mark is really good about not worrying about other people, and I want to make sure we don't get all hung up on worrying about other people."

It was Barnhart who initiated the talks and Stoops was receptive, mostly because he is "not interested in going anywhere."

"I want to show my commitment," Stoops said. "If you know anything about myself, about my family, past history -- whether it be with my brothers and different people -- loyalty's a pretty big thing with us."

Loyalty, when it comes to Stoops and UK, is a two-way street.

Since that initial meeting in Atlanta, Stoops and Barnhart have built a strong working relationship that's the foundation for that loyalty.

"Fairness is what I think Mark is really all about, and I love that," Barnhart said. "And I love the fact that I feel like he wants to for a good job for the University of Kentucky for all the right reasons. He's a solid, obviously, really solid, great football coach. I really love what he's doing with our football program, but more than that, he's just a great person."

"I just felt like it was always very easy conversations with myself and with Mitch, and I think we're both the type of people (that) what we say is what we mean," Stoops said. "I just felt very comfortable, and that's part of having any kind of success is just having good instincts on people and what you believe."

Relying on that shared relationship, Stoops and Barnhart have gone to work.

Beyond the results on the field and on the recruiting trail, UK's football facilities are being addressed in a big way. Stoops has helped pave the way for a $120 million stadium renovation that will be completed before next season and a new $45 million practice facility project that will break ground in January.

"Mark has energized our fan base, exhibited by the crowds we've been having at Commonwealth Stadium and the response we're getting in the seat reallocation process as we build into our new stadium for next year," Barnhart said. "That's exciting for us. He's been extremely helpful to our program in the fundraising area as we build our new football training center. We break ground on that in January. He's done a tremendous job in the fund-raising area as well and I'm appreciative of that."

As exciting as the future of Kentucky football is with the facility upgrades and his new contract, Stoops was a bit ill-at-ease standing at the podium on Friday. With a bus waiting outside to take him and the team to the airport for a flight to Columbia, Mo., as soon as his time with gathered media was done, it's understandable that his mind may have been elsewhere.

"Looking forward to getting on this plane and going to Missouri and trying to get this win," Stoops said.


Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart announced on Friday that Mark Stoops has signed a contract extension that will keep him at Kentucky through the end of the 2019 season. Barnhart and Stoops will talk about the news at 2 p.m. ET.

Arin Gilliland and her fellow seniors won their home regular-season finale against Alabama on Thursday, 2-1. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Arin Gilliland and her fellow seniors won their home regular-season finale against Alabama on Thursday, 2-1. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Arin Gilliland has battled through indescribable adversity in her four years as a Wildcat to cement herself as the best player in the history of the Kentucky women's soccer program.

With all that in mind, Gilliland deserved a winning sendoff.

But 13 minutes into a Senior Night match against Alabama, UK yielded a tying goal.

"We gave up the goal on my mistake," Gilliland said.

As disappointed as she was in herself, allowing the goal only served to turn her final regular-season home match into more of a fairytale finish. In the 86th minute, Cara Ledman's corner kick found Kaitlin Miller, who headed the ball for a goal and a 2-1 victory for No. 24/18 UK (13-5, 8-3 Southeastern Conference).

"My team backed me up and they picked the team up and they got another one," said Gilliland, whose run toward goal forced the corner kick. "They found a way. Those are the kind of games that I live for, when my team finds a way to win in a tough situation. That's why this win is so special to me."

Making it even more special is the fact that UK almost certainly would have lost this game had it been played six weeks ago.

"It wasn't an aesthetically pleasing game, but sometimes you gotta find a way to grind it out," head coach Jon Lipsitz said. "These are the exact wins earlier in the year that were losses. We just didn't grind out the difficult ones and I think that's part of our big change."

Before the "big change," UK had lost four times in six matches. The Cats entered the season with high hopes, but were all of a sudden perilously perched on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Since then, UK has won six matches in a row to secure the No. 3 seed in the SEC Tournament and make a strong case for a national seed in the big dance.

For that reason, Senior Night was hardly a farewell for this class of Gilliland, Stuart Pope, Emma Brown and Maddie Lockridge.

"It feels great, but I'm not sending them off," Lipsitz said. "We've got a lot more to do."

That starts in next week's conference tournament at 3:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday against an opponent to be determined.

As decorated the winningest class in school history is, these seniors have never won a game in the SEC Tournament. Gilliland is going to do everything in her power to change that.

"I never give for-sures, but I'm going to give everything I have and I know my team is going to do the same because they have a completely different attitude this year," Gilliland said. "They have this aggression about them. They have this really tough mentality and they want to win."

Lipsitz credits Gilliland and her fellow seniors for creating that toughness.

"What I right now love about this group is when things were hard we buckled down and we found a way," Lipsitz said. "That's what our program's about and that's the legacy these four are leaving us."

Recent Comments

  • Berdj Rassam: Booker will be a key part of whether or not this team will be successful this season. read more
  • Tom Moore: Since Tubby 98 and 2003-2004 team which should've won it all, Kentucky fans ( I am true blue ) have read more
  • John Mylant: Kentucky verses Kansas I am a UK fan but bringing this into perspective, this was just one of those games. read more
  • Catherine: We have the Blue Platoon and the White Platoon, I say we should name the rest team "The Closers"! read more
  • Sandy: Great game. I couldn't take my eyes off in the second half. Proud of all of you. I thought Epps read more
  • Jeff Schrembs: I just wanted to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to the parents, guardians, relatives, etc. of each of the players. read more
  • D.K. West: I am sooooooo ready for the Big Blue. I loved the effort of last years squad, especially in the tournament read more
  • Nah: Please can we run more than 2-4 offensive plays? As a spectator, I'm seeing the team gain more ground in read more
  • Paige Keller: Congratulations for all of your hard work. You deserve this award. You guys work hard to provide use with a read more
  • larry: our first test will be kansas read more