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September 2010 Archives

2011 SEC Tournament tickets on sale Friday

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for SEC LOGO UK BLUE.jpgRelease from the Southeastern Conference ...

Tickets for the 2011 Women's and Men's SEC Basketball Tournaments will go on sale to the public beginning at 8 a.m. CT Friday, Oct. 1. Tickets for each event will be available online at www.SECsports.com or by calling 1-800-732-4849.

The Women's SEC Basketball Tournament will take place March 3-6, 2011, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. Reserved books are available for $90 and general admission books are $60. Both books provide one ticket for each of the six sessions of the tournament. Single session tickets for the women's tournament will go on sale beginning Monday, Feb. 28.

The Men's SEC Basketball Tournament is scheduled for March 10-13, 2011, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga. Reserved books are available for $325, $275 and $250. Books provide one ticket for each of the six sessions of the tournament.

Fans break last year's tent count

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IMG_3998.JPGBig Blue Nation has outdone itself again.

At Thursday's afternoon tent count, approximately 435 tents crowded the Memorial Coliseum and Joe Craft Center lawn, with more tents springing up on Stoll Field every few minutes.

Last year's tent count was 420 on the Friday evening before Big Blue Madness tickets were distributed.

UK Hoops took the evening shift, handing out some Qdoba chips, salsa, and drinks to the Big Blue Madness campers. After checking out the video above, take a look at the photos in the photo gallery.

Big Blue Madness campout video

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Warning ahead of time, I am in no way an expert at video. But I hope this gives those of you that aren't in Lexington an idea of the madness (no pun intended) going on outside.

The Game Plan: Joker Phillips' keys to the game

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Gameday Information
Game Notes UK Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UK Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
UM Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Saturday, Oct. 2
12:21 p.m
Coverage TV: SEC Network
Radio: BBSN
GameTracker
Online Audio listen
Online Video via ESPN360
Location Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Oxford, Miss.
Gameday Information
Ole Miss Rebels at a Glance
Head Coach Houston Nutt
Record at School 20-10 (Third Season)
Record 2-2, 0-1 SEC
Ranking NR
Series Record Ole Miss leads 26-13-1
Last Meeting UK defeated Ole Miss 31-14 in Lexington in 2006
2010 Team Stats UK UM
Rushing Offense 206.3 237.3
Passing Offense 254.8 216.8
Total Offense 461.0 454.0
Scoring Offense 36.8 36.0
Rushing Defense 155.0 113.5
Passing Defense 154.8 233.3
Total Defense 309.8 346.8
Scoring Defense 25.5 32.0
Turnover Margin +0.75 -1.50
2010 Stat Leaders
Rushing UK: Derrick Locke (84 rushes, 475 yds, 5 TDs)
UM: Brandon Bolden (53 rushes, 410 yds, 4 TDs)
Passing UK: Mike Hartline (75-114, 922 yds, 6 TDs, 2 INTs)
UM: Jeremiah Masoli (48-77, 733 yds, 3 TDs, 5 INTs)
Receiving UK: Chris Matthews (13 catches, 228 yds, 4 TDs)
UM: Markeith Summers (10 catches, 235 yds, 2 TDs)
Tackles UK: Danny Trevathan (27 total, 6 for loss)
UM: Jonathan Cornell (39 total, 8 for loss)
Sacks UK: Luke McDermott (2.0)
UM: Jonathan Cornell (3.0)
Interceptions UK: Three with (1)
UM: --

Each and every week prior to a Kentucky football game, Cat Scratches will talk with head coach Joker Phillips for about his plan of attack. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Phillips will tell us his keys to the game, a key matchup and who Kentucky has to look out for on the opposing team.

Offensive keys - Make big plays down the field, but don't forget about the run: "We've got to continue to execute when we've got a chance to make big plays. We can't have any near misses. We can't have any foul balls. We've got to make plays when we have chances to make big plays, and there will be opportunities. In every game there are opportunities to make plays, and we've got to have our playmakers make them and a couple of guys who haven't made plays make them. ... We've got guys on the perimeter making plays for us. But when it gets down to it and you're on the road, the team that runs the ball the best is usually the team that wins. Do we have to throw the ball? There is no question about that, but we've got to start with our running game, which then gives us a chance to throw the ball down the field. We can't just drop back and throw the ball down the field. It becomes really hard if you're a straight drop-back passing team. We've got to do some play action, and to do some play action you've got to start with the run."
Cat Scratches' take: Ole Miss' secondary is a potential area UK could attack Saturday, especially with the Cats' emphasis to throw the ball down the field to wide receiver Chris Matthews. The Rebels are allowing 232.2 yards per game, have allowed eight touchdown passes and haven't recorded an interception in four games this season. To boot, Ole Miss could be without a pair of defensive backs in strong safety Johnny Brown and cornerback Jeremy McGee, who are battling injuries. Having said all that, UK's two most dynamic playmakers - Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke - are best utilized on the ground. Locke has rushed for four straight 100-yard games, the first time a Kentucky tailback has accomplished that feat since Artose Pinner in 2002.

Defensive keys - Drive through on tackles: "We've got to tackle. We've got to play fast, play physical and we can't miss tackles. We've got to rally to the ball. If a guy does miss a tackle, there's got to be somebody there to clean it up for us. ...  You've got to get people to the ground where they're just not running through tacklers, through defenders. In tackling you've got to try to come out the back end of somebody. You can't think that I'm going to make a tackle from me to you and leave my feet. It just doesn't happen that way. You've got to step on people's toes. We're not stepping on people's toes and running through tackles. ... We didn't work them as much full speed tackling (in practice as we would have liked this week), but we did work on putting our face and feet on people, which I think will help us."
Cat Scratches' take: Florida gashed UK for 466 total offensive yards last week. Some of it was UK's defensive schemes, some of it was a good Florida offense, but a lot of it was just poor tackling. Chip Cosby from the Lexington Herald-Leader has more on the Cats going back to basics in tackling.

Key matchup - Containing Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli: "You'd like to keep him in the pocket. You've got to put an edge on your defense. If this guy circles your defense and gets outside of you, he creates problems. In open space, he's tough to tackle. He's probably a little harder to tackle than (Tim) Tebow because Tebow is not a guy that has great moves. He bounces off tackles, but Masoli is a guy that makes you miss clean, which gives him a chance to get to the next guy quicker. With Tebow, he's a guy that tries to run over you. You can at least slow him down until somebody can rally to him. This Masoli kid in space is real shifty."
Cat Scratches' take: Masoli became the first Ole Miss player since Archie Manning in 1969 to pass for and run for at least 100 yards in a win over Vanderbilt earlier this year. That, my friends, is what we call a dual-threat quarterback, a type of player that has killed UK over the years. Phillips has compared him to former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow on multiple occasions this week. While not as accomplished as Tebow, let's not forget that Masoli was starting in the Rose Bowl last year for Oregon. Had he not transferred after going through some off-the-field problems, he likely would have been a preseason Heisman candidate for the Ducks. And though Masoli is a "shifty" quarterback, he's not small either, weighing in at 220 pounds.

Ole Miss player to watch for (other than Masoli) - Linebacker Jonathan Cornell: "Their staring linebacker is leading the league in tackles. He's a player that we have to be concerned with. He'll be a force that we'll have to know where he's at all the time."
Cat Scratches' take: Cornell is officially tied for the league lead in tackles with 39, averaging 9.8 stops per game. The middle linebacker is also second in the Southeastern Conference in tackles for loss with eight in addition to three quarterback sacks. A team captain, Cornell has started 23 games in a row and is the centerpiece of the Rebels defense.
Potential UK breakthrough player - Wide receiver La'Rod King: "La'Rod King is close. He's a guy that is starting to make plays for us. He's got to be more consistent in his playmaking ability. He had a couple of drops last week that would have been big first downs. He's just got to play consistent. If he can put it all together, he's definitely a guy that could be a big-play guy for us."
Cat Scratches' take: King tied a career high with four catches against Florida for 44 yards. Through four games, King has 13 catches for 152 yards and a score. If he can provide UK with another deep threat the way fellow receiver Matthews did last week against Florida, it should open up the middle and slot for Cobb.

UK_UL_firsthalf_RB_26.JPGUK player that has to step up - Linebacker Danny Trevathan: "The thing we've got to talk to Danny about is he's got to be in there for four quarters. He's the leader of the bunch. He was in there for three quarters last week. He's got to do the right things if he's going to be the leader and be the guy, the spokesperson for the linebackers. He's got to do the right things. Having him in there for quarters definitely helps."
Cat Scratches' take: Trevathan was suspended for last week's first quarter because of a violation of team rules. Without Trevathan, Florida zoomed out to a 14-0 lead and pounded the Cats for 155 first-quarter yards. When Trevathan entered the game in the second quarter, the Kentucky defense settled down. Florida did not score an offensive touchdown in the second quarter and totaled just 36 yards. Trevathan still leads Kentucky with 27 tackles.

Kentucky strength - O-line continues to impress: "Our offensive line has been protecting our quarterback well. They've only given up one sack, which was late in the game last week, and our back gave away the other sack. So, we only have allowed two (total) sacks on the season. I feel good about our guys being able to protect the passer, and a lot of that has to do with the quarterback, too, understanding the protections and where his problems are. Mike (Hartline) has done a good job of that."
Cat Scratches' take: Ole Miss lost a key part of its defensive line last week when defensive end Kentrell Lockett was knocked out for the season with a season-ending injury. Still, the Rebels enter the game with one of the SEC's best pass rushes, totaling 13 sacks through four games, second best in the league. Despite fielding four new starters at the beginning of the season, Kentucky's offensive line has been near flawless. The Cats have surrendered just two sacks on the season, tied for 13th fewest in the nation. For more on the offensive line, check out Wednesday's Cat Scratches feature.

Joker's biggest concern - Consistency: "If we play like we practiced today, it will be ugly (against Ole Miss). When we go against scouts for 50 minutes on Thursday, everything should be clean. Assignments should be cleaned up. ... When we go against the scouts, we can't bring our level of play down to the scouts. We didn't execute a lot of little things. Little things are what gets you beat on the road. I'm worried about it, but we've got to press ahead. The good thing is we've got time. We've got the rest of today for guys to get in the film room. Tomorrow we've got walkthrough. Starting Thursday, it's mental. You're not trying to get them physically ready. It's all mental with assignments, first steps and those types of things."
Cat Scratches' take: Last week UK had bad practices Tuesday and Wednesday before a good one Thursday. This week the Cats had "upbeat" practices Tuesday and Wednesday but stumbled Thursday. Clearly, whether it's an issue of focus or not, there are consistency problems. One of the glaring issues, as Phillips said, is playing down to competition. Four games into the season, Phillips said he's not taking youth as an excuse.

Final injury report: A day after being upgraded to probable, offensive guard Stuart Hines has been downgraded to questionable. Phillips said Hines re-aggravated his sprained ankle in practice and did not do much in practice Thursday. Senior defensive end DeQuin Evans also hurt his ankle earlier in the week but Phillips is hopeful both can go Saturday.

Tent count nearing 400, last year's number

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As of the 10 a.m. count, the number of tents outside Memorial Coliseum and the Joe Craft Center is up to approximately 395.

Since the last tent count Wednesday evening, tents have made their way down Rose Street, leaving no more lawn space on the Memorial Coliseum/Joe Craft Center lawn area. Tents were beginning to spill over to Stoll Field on Thursday morning.

Last year's final tent count on Friday morning was 420.

Men's basketball delivers

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IMG_4094.JPG

...breakfast, that is. Campers were greeted early this morning with coaches and players from the men's basketball team delivering biscuits and coffee from McDonald's.

Photo Gallery

Live blog: UK men's soccer vs. No. 6 Louisville

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Tweet poll: What's your favorite tent city name?

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Tent count reaches 360

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2009v2010.jpgPhoto gallery

It's only day one, but approximately 360 tents have already set up shop on the Memorial Coliseum and Joe Craft Center lawn.

Last year's final tent count on Friday afternoon was 420. UK fans look like they're well on their way to surpassing that number. For more perspective, last year's tent count on the first afternoon was 205.

During UK's 4 p.m. tent count, fans packed the sidewalks around and in front of Memorial Coliseum, playing cornhole, talking to students or just enjoying the weather. The forecast looks to be pretty favorable for the fans camping out for Saturday's ticket distribution, with sunny skies and high temperatures in the 70s expected.

Despite the construction in front of the Joe Craft Center, mentioned in an earlier post, fans hardly seem to notice the loss of precious lawn space. With the help of UK Event Management's painted lines, tents are squeezed closer together than they were last (as illustrated in the picture above).

As of 4 p.m., tents started springing up down Rose Street. Once that line fills up, fans will be directed on to the Stoll Field lawn across from Memorial Coliseum.

Check out a complete photo gallery of the action so far.

Offensive line protecting its pride, quarterback

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UK_UL_secondhalf_RB_008.JPGThere's something about the pride of an offensive line worth admiring.

Though the offensive linemen don't get to soak in the shower of praise their brethren shine in, they don't complain.  They're the guardians for their quarterback and the bulldozers for their running backs. They take pride in keeping jerseys clean and don't care if they're left out of the spotlight when a tailback gets 100 yards or a quarterback throws three touchdowns passes.

But every man's pride has its breaking point, and the offensive linemen felt like they were shunned and overlooked in the preseason. With the loss of four starters and a new offensive line coach coming in, there were major questions from fans and media alike as to how well a new and restructured line could hold up on an offense stocked with returning skill players.

"I'm pretty sure they (heard the questions)," offensive line coach Mike Summers said. "I'm pretty sure their coach did too."

Their pride was a bit wounded.

"We came out and were determined to not be the weak link on this team," junior offensive guard Stuart Hines said. "People said that we were going to be the weak link, and we told ourselves that we were going to prove them all wrong and not be the weak link. So, we worked our butts off to become the leaders of the team and be the group teammates look to and see how hard we are working and rally to work that hard. And that's what we strive to do, be role models for the rest of the team."

They've answered the questions by becoming arguably the most consistent and reliable position group on the team. Kentucky has allowed just two sacks through four games, tied for 13th fewest in the nation.

"Our offensive line is playing really well, communicating well, playing physical," head coach Joker Phillips said. "We've got to try to get more up to the second level this week. We didn't get to the second level as much as we'd like, but I thought we did a good job on the down four (linemen) last week."

Summers credits much of the line's success to the players' mentality to want to prove people wrong.

"I think that any time that you perceive yourself as a weakness, if you are a competitor, you try to do anything you can to not let that be a weakness," Summers said. "These guys have rallied together as best they can to try and develop a cohesive group, and I've been really proud of them."

But mentality alone doesn't win the battles when you're going against 300-pound Southeastern Conference defensive linemen. Although Kentucky's offensive line had seen marked improvement over the last two seasons, Phillips wanted an offensive line this year that was known for its physicality and "nastiness."

Phillips didn't have to look far for a man that could install that play into UK's line, bringing back a former staff member in Summers, who served as a graduate assistant at UK from 1980-81. Phillips said he really liked how Summers' offensive lines at Arkansas and the Atlanta Falcons "got off the ball."

Last year at Arkansas, Summers helped the Razorbacks' to the nation's 20th-best offense, and in 2007 with the Atlanta Falcons, running back Michael Turner accumulated the second-most yardage in the NFL behind Summers' line.

"The physicality of this offensive line is a lot higher than it has been," Hines said. "I think overall strength and athleticism may be higher on this line, so we have enough talent to have one of the best offensive lines in the country."

That's why it should come as no surprise that with Summers leading the offensive line, Derrick Locke has rushed for four straight 100-yard games, the first time a UK back has accomplished that feat since Artose Pinner in 2002.

"That is something we definitely take pride in is rushing yards," Hines said. "That (and protecting our quarterback) is our two big things because the offensive line doesn't really have stats."

The line wouldn't have been nearly successful this year without the players' willingness to accept new roles. The transition from the defensive line to offensive tackle has been "very difficult" for junior Chandler Burden, according to Summers, but Burden has performed above expectations after the Louisville game. Junior Billy Joe Murphy has earned the role of the swing guy, UK's first lineman off the bench and most versatile lineman in terms of positions.

Last week at Florida, with Hines out with an ankle injury, the 294-pound Murphy slid inside from his normal position of offensive tackle to offensive guard.

"It shows (Murphy's) character and love for Kentucky football because he has the attitude that if we tell him to go do it, he'll go do it," Summers said.

But the chances the line would have been as successful as it has been this year without Hines would have been very rare. As the only returning lineman with significant starting experience, Hines was thrust into a leadership role.

Even though he's a quiet-natured player, Phillips has called Hines the "emotional leader" of the group.

"I feel like my teammates can turn to me now and talk about anything," Hines said. "Last year there were four seniors on the line, so I wasn't that person last year. Now I feel like I'm in more of a position to help the younger guys. Even when I'm not able to practice, I'm still out talking to the guys and giving them answers to questions they have about what the defense does, and just being there for them in that aspect."

Hines missed last week with a sprained ankle and sat at home as Florida rolled Kentucky 48-14.

"It was really tough," Hines said. "I felt like I was seriously depressed for it because, first of all, you have to miss the game, and on top of that, you have to miss playing against Florida at The Swamp. Being a leader, you miss being and playing with guys. It was a big bummer."

Both Hines and Phillips said he should be able to go this week against Ole Miss. He will certainly be needed against arguably Kentucky's stiffest defensive line test to date.

Ole Miss lost one of its starting defensive linemen, Kentrell Lockett, to a season-ending injury last week, but the Rebels rank second in the SEC and are tied for 13th in the country with 13 sacks.

"They come from everywhere and don't give you the same look two times in a row," Summers said. "It will be a huge challenge for us to stay in front of them. Their proof is in their stats. They are very good pass rushers even when you number up and get engaged with them, they win the one-on-one battles and it makes it very tough."

Reported by Business First ...

NBC Sports' Ryder Cup telecast will force Louisville affiliate WAVE-TV to move Saturday's broadcast of the University of Kentucky football game.

The Wildcats will face Southeastern Conference rival the Ole Miss Rebels.

The game will be shown at noon on WAVE-TV's broadcast digital channel 3.2. It also will be shown on the following cable TV channels:

- Insight digital cable channel 194;

- Bardstown, Ky., digital cable channel 902;

- Cinergy digital cable channel 296 or 820;

- Comcast digital channel 216;

- Comcast digital cable channel 247 in Seymour, Ind.;

- And Inside Connect digital cable channel 114.

  

 

Video: Hines expected to play; team holds meeting

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Just a brief update from football practice Wednesday:

Junior offensive guard Stuart Hines, who missed last week's Florida game with an ankle injury, is expected to play this week at Ole Miss.

"Stuart's moving around well," head coach Joker Phillips said. "He'll be fine."

I'll have more later on the health of Hines, who I talked to Wednesday after practice.

Also, reporter Dick Gabriel asked Phillips about a team meeting that was called by Moncell Allen and some of the older players. Phillips said he didn't know a meeting was called but was pleased that it was.

"I didn't know they did that, but we definitely need that," Phillips said. "It's not the Randall (Cobb) and Derrick Locke show. We've got to be a team. I like the fact that they did get together."

IMG_3996.JPGOnly three hours since fans could officially line up for Big Blue Madness tickets, approximately 290 tents have already packed the lawn around Memorial Coliseum and the Joe Craft Center.

Despite construction in front of the Joe Craft Center, fans have managed to find every inch of land to squeeze in and set up their tents, all in hopes of getting their hands on the coveted Big Blue Madness tickets.

Tents have already surrounded Memorial Coliseum and the Joe Craft Center, starting in front of the Joe Craft ticket center, wrapping around the front of Memorial Coliseum and down the far side (the Rose Street side). After the construction, the line picks back up in front of Wildcat Lodge around the blue basketball courts.

7.jpgOnce the space around Memorial Coliseum has been completely filled, fans will be directed to set up on Stoll Field, across from Memorial Coliseum. Fans will be directed to set up their tents on the numbered lines.

Though fans couldn't officially get in line for Big Blue Madness tickets until Wednesday at 7 a.m., a large group of Kentucky fans started lining up on Lexington Avenue for the line to get tickets as early as Tuesday afternoon. 

Yes, you read that right. Fans were lining up just to get in line (somewhere John Calipari is saying, "You fans are crazy.")

Fans were not allowed to officially line up on the property of Memorial Coliseum until Wednesday morning.

Control cards will be issued to those camped out on Friday at 2 p.m. with tickets set to be distributed Saturday at 7 a.m.

I will have more tent counts as the week progresses, along with some pictures of the action outside. UK estimated more than 420 tents surrounded Memorial Coliseum last year.

Can the Big Blue Nation break the record this year?

 

Performances of the Week: Sept. 26

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Sept. 26:

Volleyball: Stephanie Klefot

Sophomore Stephanie Klefot was outstanding for UK in the back row in a tough 1-1 weekend on the road in the SEC. Klefot has led the Blue and White in digs in 13 matches this season - including both this weekend. She also tallied the most digs in the match in both of UK's matches this weekend. Against Auburn she had a match-high 17 digs, and then totaled a match-high 21 in a win over Georgia. The 21 digs against the Tigers is the sixth time in her career - and fourth time this season she has tallied over 20 or more scoops in one contest. For the season she averages 3.90 digs per set to lead the Wildcats. In just two seasons, Klefot has 552 career digs - more than halfway to the century mark.

Football: Chris Matthews

Wide receiver Chris Matthew caught, six catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

Men's tennis: Eric Quigley

Junior Eric Quigley, ranked eighth in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association preseason singles poll, went 3-0 in group play to advance to the championship match of the USTA Wildcard Shootout before falling to No. 9 Alex Lacroix from Florida. Quigley advanced to group play with a 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4 win over Raymond Sarmiento from Southern California. The native of Pewee Valley, Ky., won his quarterfinal match in the shootout over USTA junior Alexios Halebian 11-9 and then took down No. 26 Dennis Nevolo of Illinois in the semifinals 10-5 to advance to the championship. The ninth-ranked Lacroix defeated Quigley 10-6 in the championship. Quigley went 5-1 over the weekend.

Volleyball: Lauren Rapp

Senior Lauren Rapp continues to be a presence in her new position at middle blocker for the Wildcats. Rapp has started every game for UK this season and was simply spectacular this weekend in UK's 1-1 tough road swing in SEC action. Rapp struck for 27 kills on a blazing .438 hitting clip. In 48 attempts, Rapp committed just six errors. For the weekend she averaged 2.70 kills per set as a middle blocker and then was also sensational at the net. Kentucky's leading blocker for the season, Rapp posted eight turn-backs including five in the win at Georgia. Rapp helped UK's defense force a combined 49 attacking errors by Auburn and Georgia in the two matches. Rapp earlier went over 1,000 kills for her career and this weekend struck for her 1,100th. She also moved into third all-time in UK history with 371 block assists - just 29 shy of the 400 mark.

Men's soccer: Ellis Vienne

Kentucky freshman Ellis Vienne had a breakout week for the Kentucky men's soccer team, helping UK take Michigan to overtime on Wednesday and helping the Wildcats post a 2-1 double overtime win over Evansville on Sunday ... In just his third career collegiate game on Wednesday at U-M, Vienne charted a heroic goal with just 46 seconds left in regulation, evening the game at 2-2 and sending it to overtime ... On Sunday, Vienne got UK on the board with a goal in the 25th minute, setting the stage for UK's win over Evansville, the NCAA's top scoring offense entering the game ... In just for games, Vienne has netted two goals to lead UK in scoring, firing seven shots - four coming on goal.

Video: Collins previews Louisville match

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New bats could affect college baseball season

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BSB 09_10 UK_FL Game3 Web 15.jpgA very interesting story below worth reading from Aaron Fitt of Baseball America that I've posted below on the new NCAA-certified bats, which every Division I baseball team will be required to use this spring.

The NCAA has implemented a new testing method to make the metal bats perform more like wood than they did under the previous testing method, which measured the ball's speed off the bat. The new BBCOR testing -- which stands for batted ball coefficient of resolution -- measures how lively the collision is between the bat and ball.

Early reports of the new bats, according to Fitt's story, show significantly decreased performance. It's thought that the once homer-happy game of college baseball could be reduced to pitcher-friendly game.

That could be good news to the 2011 UK baseball team, which is expected to be pitching dominant and power lacking. Though Cliff Hagan Stadium has a very short porch in right field, it's no short poke out to left or center field.

Brent Ingram, UK's sports information director for the baseball team, said he's seen a pretty drastic decrease in power in the team's first few days of fall practice, which began Friday. Though it could reduce the power numbers in college baseball in 2011, it could be a break for the Cats.

Having said all that, it's still a very ongoing story and there are still months left until the baseball season. Check out an excerpt below from Fitt's story and read the full story at Baseball America.

Texas' UFCU Disch-Falk Field is the quintessential pitcher's park, with high fences, deep dimensions and slow turf. So ordinarily, a lack of home runs during the Longhorns' fall practice season would hardly raise any eyebrows.

This fall, however, the power outage in Austin has been noteworthy indeed.

The reason? Texas is using the new NCAA-certified bats, which every Division I baseball team will be required to use this spring. The NCAA has implemented a new testing method to make the metal bats perform more like wood than they did under the previous testing method, which measured the ball's speed off the bat. The new BBCOR testing--which stands for batted ball coefficient of resolution--measures how lively the collision is between the bat and ball.

How noticeable is the difference in the new bats?

"It's significant," Longhorns coach Augie Garrido said. "I think every coach kind of goes, 'Whoa.' It is recognizable from the very first batted ball. When you hit it on the sweet spot, it still goes. Whereas we might have hit 15 or 20 balls out in batting practice before, we're now hitting five or six balls out in BP. So it is a significant change--I think every coach will tell you that."

And its impact will be sweeping.

"I think it's going to change the complexion of college baseball," Oregon coach George Horton said. "We've been using it in BP and scrimmages, and I can tell you it's made a big difference. Coach (Andrew) Checketts is throwing a party--I told him he's a better pitching coach than he used to be. Some of those big, strong guys have gotten into some balls pretty good, and they're not going over the fence."

The reports are the same across the country, wherever the shipments of new bats have arrived. As of late last week, many schools, such as Oregon State and Michigan, were still awaiting their shipments, while others like Louisiana State have received just a few bats, but without labels.

At Virginia, only the team's strongest players, including Steven Proscia and John Hicks, have even been able to hit balls out of the park in batting practice with the new bats. But the lack of power isn't what stand out most to Cavaliers coach Brian O'Connor.

"I wouldn't say that it's going to impact the home runs as much as just the way the ball comes off the bat, even on ground balls," he said. "Just consistently, the ball doesn't come off as fast. I think when you square the ball up, it's still going to go, you'll still hit home runs and doubles. But under the old bats, you could get jammed and still hit a home run. You didn't have to hit the ball square on the sweet spot to hit it good. Now with these new ones, that's what you have to do. You have to really square it up to hit it through the infield or hit a home run."

Read the full story   

Men's soccer on pace to break OT record

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The Kentucky men's soccer team has only played eight games this season, but it might seem like 10 or 11 with all the extra minutes the team has put into the season.

Entering Wednesday night's rivalry game with Louisville, Kentucky (3-4-1) has already played in five overtime matches this season, an extraordinary amount considering the season hasn't even reached the halfway mark. The five overtime games have come in the last six matches.

With 10 games left and the entire conference season still to be played, the men's soccer team is on pace to break the number of overtime games set in 2005. During that year, UK went into overtime in eight of its matches.

Kentucky is 2-2-1 in overtime matches this season after defeating Evansville on Sunday in double overtime with a golden goal, but you have to wonder what the psyche of the team is considering the amount of youth on the roster.

Only seven players on the 32-man roster are juniors or older and 16 players are freshmen. One more overtime game Wednesday night will tie the school record for most consecutive overtime games at four, which was set in 2005.

Will all the overtime games add up? Does both the heartbreak and elation that overtime golden goals bring tear at the youth?

Maybe I'm being a little too analytical, but for you UK men's soccer fans out there, it's an interesting tidbit worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.

Reminder that we'll have a live blog on here Wednesday night as the Cats take on archrival Louisville at 7 p.m. at the UK Soccer Complex.

From the Pressbox: Sept. 28

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UK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 13 years and 10 years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Tom offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography.

===

In college football, with a week to work on problems between games, a lot can change in a short amount of time. That's important to remember in the wake of a disappointing showing by the Wildcats at Florida. 

The program is in much better shape now than it was in the middle of the 2006 campaign when the Cats were thumped 49-0 at LSU. I bring that up because two weeks after that performance, Kentucky was upsetting Georgia at Commonwealth Stadium on the way to launching a run of four straight bowl trips. But prior to that attention-grabbing upset, there was a defining moment in Mississippi, where the Wildcats gutted out a three-point win at Mississippi State to get back on track. This year's team has a similar opportunity in that same state this Saturday at Ole Miss.

Win that game and Kentucky comes back home to face a nationally ranked Auburn team.  Get those two in a row and suddenly the showing at Florida is off the table. But if you lose at Ole Miss this weekend, the pressure on these players is going to be very intense when they start that three-game home stretch. Saturday's game in Oxford, Miss., is not the make-or-break for this season -- there are too many games left to say that for sure -- but to say a win would be huge would be an understatement the size of Shaquille O'Neal.

= = =

Year in and year out, the best college football preview magazine, for my money, comes from Phil Steele. He analyzes the numbers better than anyone else and usually comes up with some surprising stats to offer either encouragement or apprehension for the upcoming season for one's team. 

When I talked with Steele prior to this season, he had some of those interesting numbers to discuss for Kentucky.

"I think a couple that would be troubling for this year would be that with just 11 returning starters, the 27 lost lettermen is the most in the SEC," Steele said. "And then last year, they were outgained by 90 yards in SEC play, which was No. 11 in the conference. Also, they are number 87 (nationally) in tackles returning. They only have 57 percent of the total tackles from last year back and that would be the tough side.
 
"On the good side of the ledger, they have 34 starts lost to injury last year. They were in the top 10 of the NCAA (in that stat) and my findings show that teams that suffer a lot of injuries one year tend to play a lot better the next year. I will go back to 2007 for example. Utah finished 7-5 and lost a ton of players to injury. Then in 2008, they ran the table and went on to beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and even drew some votes for No. 1 at the end of the year. Since Kentucky was so beat up at the end of the year last year due to injury, it will actually help them this season. Players that didn't expect to play (were pressed into service) and now enter this year with experience."

Overall, Steele is bullish on the Wildcats for this season but tempers that feeling with the reality of the league -- and division -- in which they play.

"I think that the biggest challenge is the SEC itself," Steele said. "The SEC is the toughest conference in college football and Kentucky is competing with the premier teams in the country on a year-by-year basis. With that said, I think that Kentucky can get there. I think Rich Brooks did a tremendous job getting this team to four straight bowl games and doing well in the bowls. They went 3-1 (in those bowls). They laid a great foundation that has brought a lot of success to Kentucky. We haven't seen four straight bowl games in quite some time and I think Joker Phillips steps into a good situation."

Report: Former UK great Blanda dies at 83

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blanda_george.jpgFormer Kentucky football quarterback, kicker and NFL great George Blanda died on Monday, according to reports. Blanda was 83.

Blanda, who played at UK from 1945-48, started under legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.

Junior wide receiver Randall Cobb, who is making an argument to become one of the greatest football players in UK football history, tweeted, "RIP to the greatest football wildcat George Blanda." 

Blanda's obituary from the Associated Report is below.

UK release with quotes from Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and UK football coach Joker Phillips can now be found here.

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- George Blanda, the seemingly ageless Hall of Fame quarterback and kicker whose 26-year career was best remembered for a remarkable run of late-game theatrics with the Oakland Raiders, has died. He was 83.

The Raiders confirmed the death Monday and issued a statement saying "we are deeply saddened by the passing of the great George Blanda. George was a brave Raider and a close personal friend of Raiders owner Al Davis."

Blanda retired a month shy of his 49th birthday before the 1976 season, playing longer than anyone else in pro football history. He spent 10 seasons with the Chicago Bears, part of one with the Baltimore Colts, seven with the Houston Oilers and his final nine with the Raiders.

He scored 2,002 points in his career, a pro football record at the time of his retirement, kicking 335 field goals and 943 extra points, running for nine touchdowns and throwing for 236 more.

But it was a five-game stretch for Oakland in 1970 that is the lasting imprint from his career. As a 43-year-old, Blanda led the Raiders to four wins and one tie with late touchdown passes or field goals.

Later that season, he became the oldest quarterback to play in a championship game, throwing two touchdown passes and kicking a field goal in Oakland's 27-17 loss to Baltimore in the AFC title game. His performance that season earned him The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.

Blanda joined the Oilers of the new American Football League in 1960 and played 16 more seasons before hanging it up for good following the 1975 campaign.

Blanda led the Oilers to the first two AFL titles, beating the Chargers for the championship following the 1960 and '61 seasons. He nearly won a third straight title when he led the Oilers back from a 17-0 halftime deficit to the Dallas Texans in the 1962 title game before losing in double overtime.

Confidence hasn't wavered after Florida loss

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100925uk gators094.jpgKids these days, as Kentucky football head coach Joker Phillips said it, have a way of forgetting things.

"I feel like they're over (the Florida loss)," Phillips said. "Kids get over it quicker than coaches. ... As soon as you touch down in Lexington, the phones are starting to blast, the headsets, they're listening to Nelly and Kanye West."

"(The pain) lasts a little bit longer for coaches, a lot longer actually than it does for players."

Having a short memory isn't such a bad thing after all. Not even 48 hours after suffering a disappointing 48-14 loss to Florida, the UK players were in high spirits at Phillips' weekly news conference Monday.

The consensus among the team is that Kentucky really wasn't that far off against Florida. A couple of mistakes were magnified because of the opponent.

As the Cats put the Gators in the rearview mirror and turn their attention forward to their first meeting with Ole Miss since 2006, there is a consistent belief that the 3-0 start was legit and that the huge goals that existed a week ago are still very much alive.

"We've just got to look past Florida," junior safety Winston Guy said. "We lost. We can't have the burden on our back, so we've just got to go out and get ready for Ole Miss and correct the mistakes we made and be more consistent."

While a reality check was in store in the postgame locker room Saturday, the team's confidence has not wavered. The foundation of belief that was built during the first three wins has been shaken, but it is far from crumbling.

"We didn't lose any confidence," senior offensive tackle Brad Durham said. "We know that we can move the ball and we know that we can stop people on defense. We just had a couple of flaws in the game and it cost us the game. We're going to get that corrected this week and go all out against Ole Miss."

Shielding the team from outside opinions has been a challenge for UK this season. Phillips said he reminded his players after they started 2-0 that they weren't 0-2. Talk radio shows, message boards and public opinion had altered the way the Cats felt about their perfect start.

In that same respect, Phillips said he wants the team to treat the loss the same way. Echoing the thoughts of two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells, Phillips said Kentucky is what it record says it is.

"We're 3-1," Phillips said. "We've still got an opportunity to have a great season and do something special, but we can't do anything special if we don't take care of business and go down there and come away with a victory."

Neither Phillips nor his players shied away from calling the Ole Miss game a huge game and an "opportunity." To have a great season and make it to a bigger bowl game this year, the Cats believe they need to win at Ole Miss and make sure one heartbreaking loss doesn't snowball into a losing streak.

"The SEC is a tricky conference," senior wide receiver Chris Matthews said. "Somebody can all be high and mighty and then they can lose one game and they're down at the bottom. Florida is a good team, but they might lose a game or two. We're still in the running for the SEC championship."

If Kentucky is to rebound from the loss and remain in the hunt for a favorable Southeastern Conference finish, Phillips said his team will have to cut down on the mental mistakes, the most costly of which was poor tackling. With the help of missed tackles, Florida gashed UK for a season-high 466 yards.

"You've got to get people to the ground where they're just not running through tackles, through defenders," Phillips said. "In tackling, you've got to try to come out the back end of somebody. You can't think that I'm going to make a tackle from me to you and leave my feet. It just doesn't happen that way. You've got to step on people's toes."

After going through some tackling drills the week before the Akron game, UK will revisit some full-speed tackling sessions this week in practice to try to slow Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

In leading Oregon to a Rose Bowl appearance last year as a Heisman Trophy candidate, Masoli threw for 2,147 yards and 15 touchdowns in addition to 668 yards and 13 scores on the ground. After a highly scrutinized transfer to Ole Miss, Masoli has emerged as a leader and the team's starting quarterback.

Through three games, Masoli has passed for 733 yards, ran for 219 and led Ole Miss to the nation's 25th-best offense. Masoli has even drawn comparisons to Heisman winner Tim Tebow, with Phillips calling him "more athletic" than the former Florida star.

"This guy, once he gets out in space, he's like a running back," Phillips said. "He's not trying to run through you, he's trying to run around you. But he's also been throwing the ball pretty well."

Through, around or in the air, UK will have to concentrate on getting whoever has the ball down to the ground better than it did last week. Contrary to the score, Phillips said his team wasn't that far off from competing with Florida.

How far off, we'll find out this week at Ole Miss.

"We didn't want to lose games this year," Matthews said. "We lost to Florida. We're going to look past that and we're going to try to go 11-1."

Madness tickets available to students Monday night

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Kentucky students will have a chance to get their hands on the coveted Big Blue Madness tickets before anyone else.

A limited number of student-only Big Blue Madness tickets will be distributed Monday night in a lottery at Memorial Coliseum. Tickets are available to full-time UK students and full-time KCTCS students who have paid the athletics fee.

Doors at Memorial Coliseum will open at 8 p.m. with the lottery set to begin at 9 p.m. Tickets are free but students must have a valid UK student ID.

The general distribution is Saturday. Fans can start lining up for the general distribution Wednesday at 7 a.m.

Video: Cats hope to bounce back against Ole Miss

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Senior wide receiver Chris Matthews


Junior safety Winston Guy


Junior defensive tackle Luke McDermott

Head coach Joker Phillips

UK-Auburn set for primetime on ESPN or ESPN2

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Warm the lights back up at Commonwealth Stadium. The Kentucky football team has another primetime football game on the way.

The UK-Auburn game on Oct. 9 has been picked up by ESPN or ESPN2 (to be decided at a later date) for a 7:30 p.m. start. The game will be UK's fourth primetime affair and third at home.

Below is a schedule of the Southeastern Conference TV schedule for the next two weeks.

UK takes on Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday at 12:21 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.

Saturday, Oct. 2

Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn (11 a.m. CT) (ESPNU)

Alcorn State at Mississippi State (11 a.m. CT) (FSN / ESPN3.com)

Vanderbilt at Connecticut (12 p.m. ET) (Big East Network)

Kentucky at Ole Miss (11:21 a.m. CT) (SEC Network / ESPN3.com)

Tennessee at LSU (2:30 p.m. CT) (CBS Sports / CBSSports.com)

Georgia at Colorado (7 p.m. ET) (FSN)

Florida at Alabama (7 p.m. CT) (CBS Sports / CBSSports.com)

Sunday, Oct. 9

Tennessee at Georgia (12:21 p.m. ET) (SEC Network / ESPN3.com)

Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Arlington, Texas) (2:30 p.m. CT) (ABC Sports)

Alabama at South Carolina (3:30 p.m. OR 7:30 p.m. ET) (ESPN, ESPN2 or CBS Sports)

LSU at Florida (3:30 p.m. OR 7:30 p.m. ET) (ESPN, ESPN2 or CBS Sports)

Eastern Michigan at Vanderbilt (6 p.m. CT) (ESPNU)

Auburn at Kentucky (7:30 p.m. ET) (ESPN or ESPN2)

Mississippi State at Houston (7 p.m. CT) (CBS College Sports)

Notebook: Matthews plays up to potential

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Matthews.jpgDespite suffering the first loss of the season on Saturday at Florida, there were a few positive signs to come out of Gainesville, Fla., most notably the play of Chris Matthews.

The senior wide receiver totaled career highs in catches (six), yards (114) and touchdowns (two) Saturday night in the 48-14 loss to the Gators.

"Yesterday was probably his best game, there's no question about that," head coach Joker Phillips said Sunday on his weekly teleconference. "He competed for the football and he blocked. He didn't have a missed assignment last night."

Because of Matthews' 6-foot-5 frame and ability to beat people deep, Phillips has pointed to Matthews as a potential breakthrough playmaker. Matthews entered the game with two touchdowns but had been limited to just seven catches in three games until Saturday.

"He shows those types of flashes in practice," Phillips said. "We've been waiting to see that type of performance. I think he's played pretty consistent throughout the season. He had more opportunities last night."

Against the smaller defensive backs of Florida, Matthews continually used his height to his advantage, especially on a career-high 42-yard catch down the right sideline.

"The thing I've always said is, when you're 6-foot-4 and you're matched up against a 5-9, 5-10 corner, that's open," Phillips said. "No matter how close he is to you, that's open. If we throw it up, we expect to Chris to come down with it. He came down with a couple of them last night."

Loss disheartening, not demoralizing: Saturday's loss ranked right up there with some of the infamous heartbreaking losses in Kentucky's 24-game losing streak to Florida because the Cats entered the game with a genuine belief that they could beat the Gators.

But Phillips said the disheartening loss will not affect UK's confidence as it enters the second quarter of its season.

"I don't think this will affect our confidence in any way ... because I really like the way we fought," Phillips said. "It was a physical game, and (the Gators) have some bumps and bruises, too. I remember watching a play come on our sideline and our back, Derrick Locke, lowered his shoulder and ran through a tackler. Our guys are fighting, there's no question about that. We've just got to play a little smarter and play with better technique."

Phillips pointed to four mental errors that doomed UK: penalties, drops, tackling -- which Phillips called "horrendous" -- and turnovers.

"Those are mental penalties that you cannot have in games in the SEC East, especially on the road," Phillips said. "We've got to get those things corrected."

Hartline still has Phillips' endorsement: Just as quickly as quarterback Mike Hartline shook off the doubters with a sizzling three-game start to the season, the pessimists reappeared from the shadows Saturday.

Hartline threw two costly interceptions in the second quarter against Florida, one of which was returned 52 yards for a score.

"I don't think Mike played bad," Phillips said. "Did he play great? No. Just like any quarterback, a couple of bad plays and it makes you look like you played horrible. I don't think Mike played horrible."

Hartline finished the game 21-of-39 for 242 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. The senior quarterback, after winning a three-man quarterback competition in the offseason, entered the game with the nation's eighth-best passer rating.

That ranking plummeted to 28th (147.59) after Saturday's two picks.

"The first interception in the red zone was not good," Phillips said. "He's got to drop that ball off. The second one, I would like for him to go to the field, but (Jeremy Brown) made an unbelievable play, unbelievable break. He made a break on the ball before we were even three yards out of our route. It was a great play by the defensive guy."

If there was any hint of a quarterback controversy after Hartline's first average game of the season, Phillips nipped those questions.

"Mike gives us the best chance to win," Phillips said.

Phillips stands by decision to bench Trevathan

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FB08_09 UK_GA web 59.jpg

A lot of second-guessing is going on the day after the Kentucky football team was drilled by Florida, maybe none more so than Joker Phillips' decision to bench leading tackler Danny Trevathan for the first quarter for a violation of team rules.

With the starting weakside linebacker, who entered the game as UK's leader in tackles and tackles for loss, Florida zoomed out to a 14-0 lead and pounded the Cats for 155 first-quarter yards.

When Trevathan entered the game in the second quarter, the Kentucky defense settled down. Florida did not score an offensive touchdown in the second quarter and totaled just 36 yards.

Phillips was asked after the game if Trevathan's absence had a negative effect on the slow start.

"It's like an injury," Phillips said. "In Danny's situation, he violated a team rule and sat out a quarter. But it's a like an injury. We expect the next guy to step up."

Phillips did not elaborate on what rule Trevathan violated but said it served as a valuable learning opportunity for Trevathan and his team.

"Our players have got to understand, you can't be selfish and put yourself ahead of the football team," Phillips said. "Danny will learn from this. We've got to teach these kids more than football, there's no question about. This was a chance to teach Danny a lesson."

Trevathan is not the first starter to miss time this season because of a violation of team rules. Defensive end DeQuin Evans and safety Winston Guy did not start the season opener against Louisville because of a violation of team rules.

 

Phillips faced with first adversity of coaching career

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Phillips.jpgJoker Phillips' first career loss as a head coach came in familiar fashion in the growing streak of losses to Florida.

Kentucky made it more respectable than the last two years -- at least for a while -- but Florida ultimately ran through the UK football team again in a 48-14 rout in Gainesville, Fla., defeating the Cats for the 24th straight time behind five Trey Burton touchdowns. 

In facing defeat for the first time as the head man of the program, what does Phillips take from the loss? He took no consolation in any moral victories Saturday night.

"To win on the road, especially in environments like this, you have to do (the little things)," Phillips said. "You can't have 5-yard penalties, you can't have turnovers (and) you can't have turnovers for touchdowns."

Kentucky did all of the above, once again dashing high hopes of ending the notorious streak. Though the Cats were hit in the mouth from the start, falling behind 21-0, Phillips said his team was not intimidated by the challenge or by the environment.

"We talked about poise coming in here," Phillips said. "We talked about not being intimidated. I don't think our guys were intimidated. I looked at every one of them when they come off the field. I looked into their eyes, and our guys were not intimidated. We lost our poise at the end. We had two 15-yard personal fouls. That cannot happen. That's not Kentucky football."

While it's clear Kentucky has closed some of the talent gap with Florida, the Gators returned the Cats to earth after the 3-0 start to the season. Despite cutting the score to 27-14 midway through the third quarter, ghosts of Florida past returned in Gainesville.

Florida jumped all over UK in the first quarter, Mike Hartline threw a costly interception that was returned for a touchdown in the second quarter, the defense was gashed up the middle by Florida's speed and crossing routes (often on third downs), and just for old times sake, the Gators blocked a field goal in the fourth quarter.

Phillips, however, wasn't buying that Florida is still leaps and bounds ahead of UK in terms of athleticism and talent.

"I think we got out-leveraged," Phillips said. "We were stopping our feet looking in the backfield. Those are things you cannot do against superior athletes. We've got some superior athletes in the backfield also, but you can't stop your feet with your eyes in the backfield. ... Our guys fought, there's no question about that. We went toe-to-toe."

But toe-to-toe against Florida wasn't enough for the 24th time in a row. A slow start, mistakes, missed tackles and 7-of-11 third-down conversions made sure it wasn't very close for the third year in a row.

Now what does Phillips do? After such a positive first three weeks of the season -- regardless of the opponent, Kentucky was off to a fantastic start -- all momentum has been halted and early season dreams have come crashing back down to reality.

How does Phillips get the proverbial train back on the tracks after the annual Florida derailing? The adversity will be the first true test of his head-coaching career.

"We've got to learn from it," Phillips said. "We go on the road again next week. Those are the things we have to get corrected. We can't turn the football over, we can't commit stupid penalties and can't give up big plays in any three areas (offense defense and special teams)."

Saturday's loss was as disheartening as any loss to the Gators in the past, but at 3-1 and with a road game at Ole Miss next week, it's important the Cats -- and its fans -- not to jump ship after one loss. 

"We've just got to bounce back," junior wide receiver Randall Cobb said. "We've got Ole Miss next week. We've got to put this in the past and move on."

The following is a statement from University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart on the report released from the Birmingham Board of Education on Friday:

"Eric Bledsoe was a part of our normal institutional process, the NCAA's normal eligibility cycle and a more extensive secondary review by the NCAA eligibility center as well. We maintain our reliance on the high school, university and NCAA eligibility center for initial eligibility and will continue to do so. At no point was the University of Kentucky under investigation by the NCAA nor had any reason to believe we were ever under investigation."

Live blog: UK women's soccer vs. No. 7 Florida

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Huge, huge game for the UK women's soccer team Friday night. Having already surpassed last season's win total of five wins, the 6-2 Cats will open Southeastern Conference play at home against No. 7 Florida. Metz Camfield will be at the UK Soccer Complex to live blog all the action:

What you need to know for Saturday's game (Florida)

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UK_WKU_16_cw.JPGTime: Saturday at 7 p.m. ET


Location:
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.

TV coverage: ESPNU, Clay Matvick, Mark Schlereth and Elizabeth Moreau

Radio coverage: Big Blue Sports Network with Tom Leach, Jeff VanNote and Dick Gabriel (630 WLAP-AM in Lexington); Check for an affiliate in your area 

Satellite radio: XM 199; Sirius 220 (you must have the "Best of XM" package to hear the game on XM 

Digital coverage: Cat Scratches' live in-game blog; Gametracker; Twitter updates

Game-time weather: 85 degrees, isolated thunderstorms, 30 percent chance of precipitation

Arrive early: Fans are highly encouraged to arrive at the stadium early to avoid parking delays and also to enter the stadium early to avoid long entry lines at the stadium gates. Directions and traffic into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Parking: Parking information can be found on UF's Gameday site

Cat Walk: The "Cat Walk" will resume Saturday at 4:45 p.m. Fans wishing to participate in cheering on the Wildcats as they enter the stadium Saturday should be near Gate 15 off Stadium Road. The team bus will arrive at approximately 4:45 p.m., when the team will unload the bus and walk to the stadium. Guests are asked to line up on each side of the "Cat Walk" to allow for ample space for the team to walk from the buses to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. View a map of the "Cat Walk." Fans are encouraged to participate in the "Heartbeat" clap.

*All information on Saturday's game with Tennessee can be found at UK's official Gameday site.

From the Pressbox: Sept. 24

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UK alum Tom Leachhas been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 13 years and 10 years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Leach offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography

= = =

If Thursday's practice was any indication, then the Cats are ready for the challenge they'll face at Florida on Friday night.

"I'm excited about what I saw," head coach Joker Phillips said. "It was total focus. Special teams, the offensive and defensive periods were really crisp. I'm excited to take this team down there."

Phillips said the success the Cats enjoyed on the road last season (they've won their last three Southeastern Conference road games) should be beneficial to their preparation this weekend.

He said it's a business trip, not a sleepover.

= = =

Special teams have been a key element to Florida's success against Kentucky the last two years and that's been crucial to the Gators' success so far this season, as well as creating turnovers.

Of Florida's 36 offensive drives, 22 of them have started at the 40-yard line or better and UF has scored on 10 of those drives, so it will be important for the Wildcats to make the Gators have to start from the inside their own 30-yard line for any scores they get.

= = =

The ability to run the ball will be important to Kentucky's chances for an upset. In the Urban Meyer era, Florida has lost five of the seven games in which the opponent had more rushing yards. Florida is 58-5 when it wins the rushing battle.

Tony Barnhart of CBS and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was a guest on my radio show in Louisville and he said teams often get impatient when trying to run the ball on the Gators and give up on it too soon. He said teams must stay commited to the run because it will often pay off in the fourth quarter. (Go tomleachky.com to hear podcasts of the radio show).

= = =

Jeff Piecoro is on assignment with the Cincinnati Reds' TV network this weekend so Jeff Van Note, the UK Hall of Famer, will serve in the analyst role on the Big Blue Sports radio network.

"Note" and I worked together from 1997-2000.

= = =

What was once an empty Mike Hartline bandwagon is getting pretty full after the quarterback's play in the first three weeks.

"Mike is doing a phenomenal job right now," wide receiver Chris Matthews said. "He is throwing balls that he would never throw last year. He feels more comfortable with us going down the field and throwing into tight coverage."

Matthews said the receivers are playing their best football in part because of the work new WRs coach Tee Martin has done with them.

"He is a great coach and if anybody really was coached by him, they would up their game tremendously," Matthews said. "I know I did. He has taught me a lot from when I first got here until now. Coach Joker did a good job but was still managing the (whole) offense. Now that we have a receiver coach that can go with us one-on-one and show the techniques that we have now, it is just amazing (the improvement we've made)."

Matthews said Martin has given the receivers goals to meet in order to challenge them to elevate their games.

"It is never a moment wasted in (the film room)," Matthews said. "He wants us to take in things and make it better. It could be something so small as lining up and seeing what is the other guy going to do. We try to beat each other on how many pushups or what coverage it will be and so doing things like that is opening up our eyes to what is going on. We are already getting a presnap read and getting a lot faster. Coach Martin has done a phenomenal job with us. He has elevated all our games to another level and if we keep doing what we are doing, the sky is the limit for all of us."

Notes and links: Cal on Lexy, Krebs' first book

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Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari, who will be featured at the 2010 Greater Louisville UK Alumni Club Tip-off Dinner at 7 p.m., spoke Lexy earlier Thursday about his team's progress as it begins team skill instruction.

Calipari said he's been trying to teach the team that the team's goal is bigger than each player's individual role. He said he told them the most important thing is where they're trying to take the team at the end of the year. Calipari said last year's team understood that by the end. Will this year's?

Listen to the full audio in the application above.

- I'm sure most of you have already heard that former men's basketball player Mark Krebs has been writing a book on his time at UK and his mother's fight against breast cancer, among other things. Well, in a very short amount of time, Krebs is already done and ready to release the book. According to a story in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Krebs will release the book Oct. 1. Check out Richard Skinner's story in Cincinnati Enquirer to find out more details about the book and read what Krebs has to say about it.

The Game Plan: Joker Phillips' keys to the game

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Gameday Information
Game Notes UK Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UK Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
UF Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Saturday, Sept. 25
7:00 p.m
Coverage TV: ESPNU
Radio: BBSN
GameTracker
Online Audio listen
Location Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Gainesville, Fla.
Gameday Information
Florida Gators at a Glance
Head Coach Urban Meyer
Record at School 60-10 (Sixth season)
Record 3-0, 1-0 SEC
Ranking No. 9 AP/No. 8 Coaches
Series Record Florida leads 43-17
Last Meeting Florida defeated Kentucky 41-7 in Lexington last season
2010 Team Stats UK UF
Rushing Offense 242.0 168.3
Passing Offense 255.3 150.7
Total Offense 497.3 319.0
Scoring Offense 44.3 34.3
Rushing Defense 148.0 92.3
Passing Defense 109.7 184.3
Total Defense 257.7 276.7
Scoring Defense 18.0 14.3
Turnover Margin +1.33 +2.33
2010 Stat Leaders
Rushing UK: Derrick Locke (61 rushes, 372 yds, 5 TDs)
UF: Jeffery Demps (45 rushes, 310 yds, 2 TDs)
Passing UK: Mike Hartline (54-75, 680 yds, 5 TDs, 0 INTs)
UF: John Brantley (49-79, 452 yds, 5 TDs, 0 INTs)
Receiving UK: Randall Cobb (12 catches, 160 yds, 2 TDs)
UF: Deonte Thompson (13 catches, 162 yds, 0 TDs)
Tackles UK: Danny Trevathan (25 total, 6 for loss)
UF: Ahmad Black (24 total, 2.5 for loss)
Sacks UK: Luke McDermott (2)
UF: Jaye Howard (2)
Interceptions UK: Luke McDermott, Mychal Bailey (1)
UF: Ahmad Black (3)

Each and every week prior to a Kentucky football game, Cat Scratches will talk with head coach Joker Phillips for his game plan of attack. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Phillips will tell us his keys to the game, a key matchup and who Kentucky has to look out for on the opposing team.

First key to the game - Use the Gators' speed against them: "You've got to be ready to pick up all the blitzes and all the jumps they do. You've got to make them pay sometimes when they do it too. When they blitz, we've got to throw and catch, we've got to get hats on hats because, when they do blitz, there are creases in the run game. If we can get a hat on a hat in the pass game, there should be some receivers running open. We've got to beat one-on-one coverage."
Cat Scratches' take: Florida's speed entices the Gators to gamble a bit on defense. Though Charlie Strong, the former defensive coordinator, is no longer in the Sunshine State, the Gators still like to blitz - and blitz a lot they do. Florida has averaged three sacks per game, tied for 22nd in the nation. Meanwhile, UK quarterback Mike Hartline has been brought down just one time this season, tied for second in the country. If Kentucky's offensive line can keep up with the speed rushers on the outside and give Hartline enough time to throw the ball down the field, UK should have some one-on-one matchups on the outside. The key, as Phillips said, is taking advantage of them. Florida's fast, but a ball in the air is faster.

Second key to the game - Win the turnover battle: "It's a great matchup. I was looking at the conference stats, and we're second in the league in turnover margin. We haven't turned the ball over. They're first. They turned it over five times, which means they're pretty darned good at taking it away. Taking it away 12 times, that's a plus-seven turnover margin. You would think a team that hasn't turned it over in three games would be top in the conference, but we're not because they've created a lot of turnovers."
Cat Scratches' take: Something has to give this weekend. UK is the only team that has played three games this yet that has yet to turn it over and one of only two teams (Oregon State) without one. The only problem is Florida is tied for first in the nation in takeaways with 12 through three games. The Gators rank second nationally in turnover margin at plus-2.33.
 
Third key to the game - Confidence: "We have addressed about not being intimidated by The Swamp and the atmosphere and the (Florida) helmet, but we haven't talked about the streak. This is a different team. A lot of them don't even know there is a streak, especially a lot of the young guys. We've been focusing on not getting caught up in the atmosphere and not letting the atmosphere intimidate you."
Cat Scratches' take: Until Kentucky takes down Florida (and Tennessee, for that matter), the infamous losing streaks are always going to be a hot topic with UK football. And until fans stop showing up to watch Florida football (they won't), playing in Gainesville, Fla., will always be one of the most intimidating environments in the country. It was a concern two years ago when the Cats were run out of Florida, 63-5. Phillips doesn't anticipate it being the case this year. With the help of director of strength and conditioning Ray "Rock" Oliver, UK has worked on overcoming mental barriers that have plagued the team in the past. Many of the skill players that took the 2008 beating remember the environment. They should know how to overcome now.

Florida's strength - Speed, speed and more speed:  "Speed is always the key when you play this team here. This bunch runs well at every position. That's what they do. When Urban (Meyer) took over the job, he said they wanted to recruit the fastest team in America. He probably has done that. We've got to try to match that. You match their speed sometimes by being physical."
Cat Scratches' take: Player for player, there is no team in the nation that can match the Gators at each and every position. Florida boasts the fastest player in the nation in running back Jeff Demps. The Florida track star, who led the Gators to a national track championship in the spring, ran a scorching 9.96 in the 100-meter dash. Even UK running back Derrick Locke, who backs down from just about no one when it comes to a race, gave Demps the edge in speed over 40 yards. If Demps gets in the open field Saturday, look out.

Matchup to watch for - UK's special teams coverage: "In big games, you always stress special teams. It's usually the difference, and it's been the difference in our game the last couple of years. We've got to go toe-to-toe, our special teams versus their special teams. ... (Joe Mansour) has improved in kickoffs, no doubt about that. Last week he was outstanding. He kicked a few of them in the end zone. I think he kicked half of them in the end zone. If he can kick half of them in the end zone and then kick the other half exactly where we want it, we feel good about our ability to cover. ... All of our coverage teams have to cover well. We have to cover well on our kickoffs and we have to block well on our punts, which means you can't get a punt blocked. I think those are the matchups that will be major in this game."
Cat Scratches' take: Demps is first in the Southeastern Conference and sixth nationally in kickoff return average at 36.8 yards per return. He's helped Florida rank first in the SEC in kickoffs and fifth nationally. That could pose serious problems for UK, which continues to have problems covering kickoffs. UK ranks 112th in the nation out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, surrendering an average of 27.92 yards per return. Also, Meyer-coached teams have blocked 47 kicks since he became a head coach in 2001. Kentucky has been the victim of three punt blocks against Florida the last two years. The Cats can't have one blocked in The Swamp and expect to win.

Florida player to watch for - Florida DBs, Demps: "They've got a safety and a cornerback in the defensive backfield in (Ahmad) Black and (Janors) Jenkins that you always have to have an eye out for. ... There won't be games that you'll see this year with as many dynamic players on offense as you'll see Saturday. We think there are three (Demps, Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke) because we feel like Locke is one of those guys too."
Cat Scratches' take: Black already has three interceptions on the season and is tied for sixth on the school's all-time list with 11 career picks. If Black or Jenkins pick it off, UK better wrap up quickly. Jenkins, who leads the league with six passes defended, returned an interception 67 yards in the season opener, and Black has returned three of his career picks for 40 yards or more.

Kentucky players to watch for - Mike Hartline, safeties: "Hartline has to play well for us to have success offensively. And then our two safeties have to be outstanding for us to have a chance in this game."
Cat Scratches' take: Hartline just keeps chugging along. The senior signal-caller is 54-of-75 this season for 680 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. His pass efficiency rating of 170.1 ranks No. 8 in the country and fourth in the SEC.

Final injury report: Tight end Nick Mellilo will miss his third straight game. Offensive guard Stuart Hines will not make the trip with a sprained ankle. Fullback Moncell Allen (hamstring) will make the trip to Florida but is questionable. Danny Trevathan, who suffered a broken left hand against Akron, will play with a cast on.

Big Blue tweets on and from the Big Blue Nation

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Twitter1.pngFor many Kentucky coaches, players, journalists and fans, Twitter has become a part of their everyday lives. With that in mind, Cat Scratches will select a handful of topics from around the world of Kentucky sports and highlight some of the best of what those coaches, players, journalists and fans are communicating to their followers on Twitter.

UK football prepares for road matchup with No. 8 Florida 
On Saturday at 7 p.m., the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats will take on the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU as UK looks to end a near quarter century losing streak against Florida.

Larry Vaught, Danville Advocate-Messenger (@vaughtsviews) - Cat Walk at the Swamp. Fans should gather by 4:45pm near Gate 15 off Stadium Rd.

Running Back Derrick Locke (@locke20) - "Preparation for Florida"

Matt Jones, Kentucky Sports Radio (@KySportsRadio) - "Danny Trevathan broke his hand against Akron and kept playing. Will have cast on his hand versus Florida"

Linebacker Danny Trevathan (@DTrevathan22) - "Being strong and wrapping it up like my role model @PatrickWillis52 ..time to take it to the swamp!! Preparation been started!! Godspeed"

Men's Basketball prepares for Big Blue Madness, Blue-White Game
The UK men's basketball team will tip-off the upcoming 2010-11 season in October with the annual Big Blue Madness on Oct. 15 and tge Blue-White Game on Oct. 26. This week, details regarding the sale of tickets to both events were announced.

The official Twitter of UK Athletics (@UKAthleticsNews) - "Tickets for Big Blue Madness will be available Oct. 2, at 7 a.m. at the Memorial Coliseum ticket windows on Euclid Avenue and online. Tickets are free again this year and there will be a limit of two tickets per person at Memorial Coliseum. Online orders at UKathletics.com and Ticketmaster.com will have a minimal service fee attached, limit of two tickets per household. Fans lining up ahead of time at Memorial Coliseum are asked to do so no earlier than 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 29. http://bit.ly/bWYm09"

The official Twitter of Rupp Arena (@Rupp_Arena) - "Who's excited for Big Blue Madness in 23 days? We can't wait to host another season! #RTL"

Sydney Hiance named SEC Player of the Week
On Monday, senior goalkeeper Sydney Hiance was named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week. Hiance registered two shutouts last week in wins over Evansville and South Alabama. The two shutouts brought her career total to 19, good for third place in school history. The award was also Hiance's sixth conference award of her career, best in school history.

The official Twitter of UK Athletics (@UKAthleticsNews) - "Women's soccer GK Sydney Hiance has been named SEC Defensive Player of the Week, her sixth career SEC award: http://bit.ly/cxOC3P"

Women's soccer head coach Jon Lipsitz (@UKCoachLipsitz) - "Congratulations to Sydney Hiance for earning SEC defensive player of the week" UK Athletics Works with

God's Pantry
God's Pantry is a food bank that works to fight hunger across central and eastern Kentucky. UK Athletics is proud of the work that players and coaches do in conjunction with God's Pantry. Visit this link to support God's Pantry.

John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) - Got some recruiting travel later in the weekend but I was very happy to be able to join our players today as we visited elementary schools in conjunction w/God's Pantry. I absolutely love getting out in the community w/our guys & stressing the importance of educ. 2 youngsters. Huge credit goes to our AD, @UKMitchBarnhart, for making events like these possible for all our student-athletes. It's really what being part of the UK family is all about.

The official Twitter of UK gymnastics (@UKGymnastics) - "Video and Photos from the UK Gymnastics team's work with God's Pantry BackPack Program tonight: http://bit.ly/bt3ndE"

UK Hoops assistant coach Matt Insell celebrates Birthday
On Wednesday, third year assistant coach Matt Insell celebrated his 28th birthday. His players and fellow coaches offered him well wishes on his big day. That's really one of my favorite things about Facebook and Twitter -- it's a whole lot easier to remember people's birthdays.

The official Twitter of UK Hoops (@UKHoopCats) - "Happy Birthday to UK Hoops assistant coach @minsell We hope you have a great day! Go Big Blue!"

Head coach Matthew Mitchell (@UKCoachMitchell) - "Happy Birthday to @minsell! He's a great friend and I hope he has a great day!!"

Assistant coach Kyra Elzy (@CoachLZ) - "Happy Birthday to my little brother - Matt Insell. We will celebrate when you get back. Today is a BIG work day....LOL."

Point guard Amber Smith (@A_Smith_24) - "Happy Birthday to my Coach @minsell !!"

Programming note: Cobb, Phillips on national TV

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Kentucky football star Randall Cobb and head coach Joker Phillips will be on national television Thursday on ESPN's family of networks.

Cobb, who was featured on Chris Low's Southeastern Conference blog on ESPN.com on Wednesday, will be interviewed on College Football Live on ESPN. The show is scheduled to air at 3:30 p.m.

Also, Phillips will appear on SportsCenterU on ESPNU at 6:30 p.m.

ESPN has circled the UK-Florida game this weekend as a potential upset special through its various media outlets this week. Game time is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.

Head coach Joker Phillips said after Thursday's practice that offensive guard Stuart Hines, who is battling an ankle sprain, will not make the trip to Florida. Junior offensive guard Billy Joe Murphy will slide inside to play guard.

"It hurts you a little bit, but those other guys are slowly becoming part of that heart and soul (that Murphy had), especially for the guys that have been around," Phillips said. "I'm not worried about those guys."

The good news on the injury front is fullback Moncell Allen, who was previously listed as doubtful earlier in the week, will make the trip to Florida and could be available to play

"We worked Moncell a little bit today," Phillips said. "He's close enough that two days might help him."

Wide receiver Chris Matthews has been sporting a cast this week because of a sprained thumb. Phillips said the cast is precautionary and said Matthews will have it removed for the game Saturday.

Linebacker Danny Trevathan will play with a cast on his broken left hand.

"He should be fine," Phillips said. "He's played with it most of his career."

Hiance, Beadle holding it together between pipes

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UK_Marshall_womens_soccer_RB_014.JPGWhen Jon Lipsitz took over as head coach of UK's women's soccer team before the 2009 season, he brought with him the mentality that his team would start with defense. 

"We really see the game as building from the back," Lipsitz said. "If you're not strong in the goal, you're going to have a big problem starting out."

In just his second season on the job, Lipsitz's philosophy and system are already beginning to pay dividends. UK enters Southeastern Conference play this week against Florida having already surpassed last season's win total (five) with a record of 6-2-0. 

One of the key reasons behind UK's strong start has been the play and leadership of senior goalkeeper Syndey Hiance, who this week was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season and a school-record sixth time in her career. Hiance and a stingy Wildcat defense posted their second and third consecutive shutouts against Evansville and South Alabama to close out non-conference play with two wins. Kentucky, with Hiance's help, has yet to allow a goal at home this season.

Hiance's position is one that naturally calls for leadership, since goalkeepers are typically responsible for communicating with the coaching staff, making key defensive calls and aligning defenders. 

"It makes sense for me to lead the team and help organize (as a goalkeeper)," Hiance said. "It's really easy for me to see everything that's going on because it's all directly in front of me."

However, leadership is not a quality that comes instantly and easily for everyone. Hiance started at keeper her first two years on campus and was successful in the role. Lipsitz, though, upon taking over, immediately recognized that Hiance was capable of taking her game to the next level.

"Sydney has been a tremendous leader for us, but when I first got here, she struggled to take a leadership role," Lipsitz said. "Now, she's really embraced it. I've really pushed her to not just be a keeper."

Goalkeepers are often thought of as separate from field players, occupying a position that call them to be in correct position and make a few saves a game. Lipsitz observed that mentality in Hiance and, having manned the keeper position in his playing days, encouraged her to shed that attitude.

"When (the new coaching staff) got here, she was not very fit," Lipsitz said. "She saw herself as someone that sort of stood back there and made saves. What she did in the offseason this year was get herself very fit. That gives confidence physically and also mentally."

That growth in confidence has been instrumental to Hiance's growth as a leader, allowing her to assert herself much more freely. Additionally, confidence goes a long way for a keeper because the position is not one for the faint of heart.

"You have to be not afraid of getting hurt; confidence is huge," Hiance said when asked about what it takes to be a successful keeper. "If you go out there looking like you're scared, the other team is going to exploit you right away."

Lipsitz sounded much the same when he talked about the most important trait of a goalkeeper.

"You have to have a presence in the box," Lipsitz said. "The other team has to know that if the ball gets to you, you're coming for it."

Hiance's blend of fitness and confidence makes her one of the best to ever play at UK. Her two shutouts last week brought her career total to 19, good for third on the school's all-time list with more than half her senior season left. Her goal against average of 0.63 is a career low, besting her average of 0.69 last season.

"A lot of my improvements have come along with the new coaching staff," Hiance said. "We are focusing on a different style of play than I played my first two years and it's allowing me to be much more successful. I really give credit to my goalie coach Aaron Rodgers. His instruction has been incredible."

Hiance also cites the on the job experience she gained during her first three years on campus as a major factor in her development.

"I remember as a freshman not knowing what was going on at all," Hiance said. "I've been there before, so I know 'Oh, this is what's going to happen.' It makes my job a lot easier and I have a lot more fun because I'm not caught off guard."

uk_lmu_second half-overtime_bm0008.JPGIronically, Tyler Beadle is in the exact same position as Hiance three seasons ago. Beadle is the starting goalkeeper for UK's men's soccer team in his freshman season, replacing departed all-conference performer Dan Williams. 

However, Beadle had the benefit of spending a season watching Williams from the sideline in 2009 during a redshirt year, something that Beadle partly credits for winning a four-man preseason battle for the starting keeper position.

"The redshirt year helped a lot spending a year behind Dan," Beadle said. "It really helped me get used to the speed of the game in college."

Only six games into his college career, Beadle has shown a great deal of talent playing for a team that is young across the board. He has posted shutouts in three of his seven outings, with a goals against average of 1.29. The majority of the goals he has allowed came in a loss to No. 6 Connecticut last weekend and a 3-2 overtime loss to Michigan on Wednesday in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Beadle, though inexperienced, is gaining confidence in his role as leader of UK's defense. 

"I am getting more comfortable with with the leadership role," Beadle said.  "It's a process of gaining my teammates' respect and building a comfort level with them."

The next challenge for the youthful Wildcats is a stretch of four road games out of five, which began Wednesday in Ann Arbor against the Wolverines. Beadle had four saves and Ellis Vienne scored a 90th-minute goal to send the game to overtime before Michigan scored an overtime goal.

The loss is UK's second overtime defeat in a row and third of the season. There have been close calls throughout, but Beadle is excited for the rest of the year.

"We are a young team," Beadle said. "I look for us to click better and better as the season goes along."

Meyer: UK's personnel in upper half of SEC

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Consider Florida coach Urban Meyer a follower of Kentucky football's recent improvement in the Southeastern Conference.

During Wednesday's SEC teleconference with the league's 12 coaches, the Florida Gators coach was asked to assess how UK has turned the corner since he arrived in the league. Meyer said it all comes down to the increase in talent the program has recruited.

Just a couple days after admitting his staff missed out on Kentucky's Randall Cobb, Meyer called the Cats one of the better teams in the SEC in terms of personnel.

"Personnel-wise, from 2005 to where they are now, they're an upper echelon SEC team," Meyer said. "I don't believe they were that way in '05 when I remember watching them on film. Defensive front and secondary, that's where I spent a lot of time watching, and I just didn't feel they were (in 2005). I feel right now that they're certainly in the upper half or even higher than that as far as personnel. I think they've done a great job with Rich Brooks and recruiting and Joker (Phillips)."

Meyer was also asked about the 23-game winning streak Florida owns over Kentucky.

"That is mind boggling, and that's why we don't speak of it much here," Meyer said. "We just go about our business because whatever happened 20-whatever years ago has no bearing on this Kentucky team coming in here right now."

Trevathan to play with cast on: Linebacker Danny Trevathan told reporters Wednesday after practice that he broke his left hand in the second quarter of the Akron game. Trevathan will play against Florida with a cast on his arm.

Trevathan played through most of last year with a cast on his right arm to heal a fractured wrist bone.

The third-year linebacker leads UK in tackles (20) and tackles for loss (six).

Upset difference makers: Something has to give

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If Kentucky is going to pull off an upset Saturday at Florida, the Cats are going to have to hope several things outside of just offense and defense go their way. Usually the two biggest difference makers in an upset are special teams and turnovers, two areas Florida has excelled at this year.

In fact, when both teams face off Saturday in Gainesville, Fla., the two teams will be at the opposite end of the spectrum in turnovers and special teams. As the old cliché goes, something has to give.

Turnovers - UK is the only team that has played three games this year that has yet to turn it over and one of only two teams (Oregon State) without one. The only problem is Florida is tied for first in the nation in takeaways with 12 through three games. The Gators rank second nationally in turnover margin at plus-2.33.

"It's a great matchup," UK head coach Joker Phillips said. "I was looking at the conference stats, and we're second in the league in turnover margin. We haven't turned the ball over. They're first. They turned it over five times, which means they're pretty darned good at taking it away. Taking it away 12 times, that's a plus-7 turnover margin. You would think a team that hasn't turned it over in three games would be top in the conference, but we're not because they've created a lot of turnovers."

Kickoff coverage - Everyone knows about the speedy Jeff Demps, very likely the fastest player in the nation. Demps is first in the Southeastern Conference and sixth nationally in kickoff return average at 36.8 yards per return. He's helped Florida rank first in the SEC in kickoffs and fifth nationally.

That could pose serious problems for UK, which continues to have problems covering kickoffs. UK ranks 112th in the nation out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, surrendering an average of 27.92 yards per return.

"It is a concern, there is no question about that," Phillips said. "The thing that we have to do is kick the ball in the right place so we only have to cover a third of the field. When we kick the ball in the right direction, we have covered it (well) and cut the field into a third and get people around the ball and on the ground. I'd like to see (Joe Mansour) kick it in the end zone so we don't have to cover it, but if he doesn't he at least needs to kick it in the right direction."

Florida to test UK's stingy pass defense

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UK_UL_2ndHalf_cw_03.JPGBeing stuck on an island alone can be scary for anyone. Surviving on an island by yourself in the open waters of a college football field can be downright terrifying, especially when the ball is in the air.

"I think that's probably one of the hardest plays in football is having a man one-on-one," junior cornerback Randall Burden said. "When you're pressing a guy and he beats you on a deep ball, you just pray and hope he doesn't catch it."

Welcome to the worlds of Martavius Neloms and Burden. In an effort to shore up a leaky run defense that was giving up nearly 190 yards per game entering last week, the Kentucky football coaching staff decided to put its cornerbacks on an "island" from time to time to free up extra players in the box.

The so-called island is short for one-on-one coverage.

Defensive coordinator Steve Brown said they haven't emphasized one-on-one coverage anymore this year, but there were multiple plays last week where cornerbacks Burden, Neloms, junior Anthony Mosley and sophomore Cartier Rice were by themselves on the outside.

"(We) kind of really put them on a big-time island last week because we really wanted to stop the run in certain situations where you necessarily wouldn't have to be (in one-on-one)," Brown said. "We were committing nine to the run a lot of times in certain personnel groupings."

The plan worked, as UK held Akron to just 67 rushing yards and 105 passing yards (on 6-of-24 attempts), but Brown expects Florida to test the pass defense more this week, especially after some near misses in coverage against Akron.

On three different occasions last week, an Akron receiver broke free of the Kentucky coverage and ran wide open on a deep pass. Kentucky dodged bullets all three times as the Zips failed to complete the pass by either dropping it, overthrowing it or under-throwing it.

"(Teams are) going to come after them for the next eight or nine weeks we have left," Brown said. "It's always good to have a lesson learned after a victory. It could have been ugly had they completed some of those balls. But you've got to learn. We've got a lot of different guys playing. We've got to put that in the memory bank."

Even if the secondary has been largely untested (UK's three opponents have thrown the ball 68 times for 28 completions), the pass defense has been very good in the wake of former standout Trevard Lindley's departure for the NFL. Teams don't hold opponents to 109.67 yards per game, ranked fourth nationally, just because the other teams are emphasizing the run.

A defense without Lindley was frightening to imagine for many UK fans when Lindley and cornerback Paul Warford went down before the South Carolina game last year. The Gamecocks carved up Kentucky's pass defense for 233 yards and three touchdowns through the air against the likes of first-year players Neloms and Rice.

But the trial by fire last year might have actually benefited the Cats in the long run. Kentucky's young corners received invaluable experience that is paying dividends this season.

"You can practice all you want out here and you can give guys repetitions out here all you want, but it really doesn't matter until you get in the game," Brown said. "It's a different setting and a different environment. To have those guys have the ability to go and experience what they had to experience - good or bad - during the course of a game is vital for their development."

Allowing a cornerback to cover one-on-one gives a team more players to load in the box to stop the run. UK would like to continue to do that this week to slow the run offense of the Gators, but Brown said they won't be able to do that nearly as much against quarterback John Brantley and the speed receivers of Florida.

"We'll be able to play some zone coverage and some things and get people to see the ball and do things," Brown said. "We'll do some things so the corners don't always feel like they're on an island. We've got to find out where (Jeff Demps) is all the time, and if they throw the ball, they've got a lot of guys they can throw it to. We've just got to play assignment football."

As a former collegiate and NFL cornerback, Brown was asked if he liked the challenge of playing one-on-one with a receiver.

"It just depends," Brown said. "Man is one thing where you've got help. Man with no help is a scary feeling. ... (But) there are times where you've just got to earn your wages and play."

Though it can be a tall task defending some of the nation's best receivers in the Southeastern Conference one-on-one, Burden said they sometimes relish for the opportunity.

"It gives us a lot of confidence knowing that (the coaching staff) is putting a lot of trust in us to keep our guy from catching the ball and scoring a touchdown," Burden said. "That really brings our confidence up."

Sept. 21 From the Pressbox

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UK_UL_1stHalf_cw_02.JPGUK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 13 years and 10 years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Tom offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography

= = =

One of the keys for Kentucky to have a chance to upset Florida this Saturday is for the players who were on the field at The Swamp two years ago to erase the memory of that 63-5 drubbing. That's especially true for quarterback Mike Hartline, who lost his starting job after that game.

Now it's worth noting that Hartline and company had just lost Derrick Locke and Dicky Lyons to season-ending injuries in the two weeks that preceded the game in Gainesville, Fla. And getting two punts blocked on the way to a 28-0 first-quarter deficit was a prescription for disaster.

But these Wildcats say they believe they can win at Florida, and it's certain Mike Hartline is different quarterback than the one that took the field that day.

His brother, Brian, knows that as well as anyone. And Brian Hartline, the former Ohio State wideout who now plays for the Miami Dolphins, wants to see his little brother take a "I'll show you I'm better than that" mindset into Gainesville.

"Knowing Mike and the type of guy he is, there is a part of him that wants to prove that 'Hey, this is the guy I really am,' and there is nothing wrong with that," Brian Hartline said. "That is the type of guy he is and the type of guy I am. I hope he has that attitude in him. It will help with his focus throughout the week, it will help prepare for the hostile environment of playing in the Swamp and it will help knowing that this is a whole new year and a whole new team. They have a new coaching staff and they are a whole different organization to this point and have proven that. It is the same with Florida. Florida is a different team as well and it is a great test to see where UK is at and see if they can make a great start and a good stamp early in the season with what team they are going to be."

This summer, Mike Hartline traveled to South Florida to spend some time with his older brother. Brian Hartline said he quickly noticed some significant improvement in Mike's game.

"It was his motion and his high release point," Brian Hartline said he observed. "It was a more fluid motion and I could see that from playing catch with him. I know he had a lot of work with that because it is great to be 6-foot-6, but if you don't throw up above your head, then it is kind of worthless, so he was thinking about that and working on different things. I think the coaches over at UK have been working with him and Mike has always been a coachable guy, so it doesn't surprise me with the growth he has had but it's big with the coaching staff and himself."

Some fans gave up on Mike Hartline after that game at Florida two years ago and their criticism still surfaces from time to time. How do parents and family members handle that?

Brian Hartline said they try to avoid the message boards and call-in shows and they do their best to keep Mike Hartline focused on the good things that are happening for him.

"What is really most important is how (Mike) feels because in our eyes -- me, my brother , my sister -- our own expectations are higher than anyone else's," Brian Hartline said. "In the end, if we know what we are doing and giving it our all then we can sleep at night. But we have always been raised on there is only one place and it is first place. That is always our mindset and there are times where mom and dad have their protective instincts if they hear something in the stands and I have to calm them down if I can. ...

"You might stumble across something every now and then (in terms of critics). The booing in the stadium and different things like that, which is utterly ridiculous, you can't avoid, but in the end, Mike has done a great job. He is doing great in school, he is doing really whatever has been asked of him and when he shows frustration, that is really just what you want sometimes and that isn't always a bad thing. He has that fight in him and he has done a great job. It is amazing to see the growth he has had."

Brian Hartline said Mike followed him as the quarterback of their high school team and the younger brother was a bit of a "late bloomer."

"He was a guy that jumped from position to position," Brian Hartline said. "He couldn't run very well. He was always my backup. I played quarterback up until he took my job. He was always Brian's little brother -- he was never Mike. So the opportunity to go to Kentucky and create his own path was awesome. The lights came on for Mike his sophomore year. He grew six inches and could run hurdles, compete with me and that is where we created a great relationship because we had sports in common and that is how we do things."

So who's the best at the Madden Football video game?

"He is, no doubt," Brian Hartline said.

Links: Wyndham trying to move past Tebow hit

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I probably won't write about it this week, but Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Mark Story talked to Taylor Wyndham on Monday about his legendary hit on Tim Tebow in last year's UK-Florida game. The hit knocked Tebow out for the game and sent him to UK Hospital with a concussion.

Wyndham told Story it was a "good, clean hit," but Wyndham said he expects a pretty hostile reaction from The Swamp in Gainesville, Fla.

Also interesting to note, Brett Dawson from the Courier-Journal has a blog post on the hit last year in which Wyndham says he's hoping to become more than just the guy that knocked Tebow out.

You can check out Dawson's post here and Story's column here.

 

Performances of the Week: Sept. 21

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Sept. 19:

Football: Mike Hartline

Completed 21 of 29 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

Football: Derrick Locke

Had 17 carries for 166 yards and two touchdowns; also caught three passes for 29 yards.

Women's soccer: Sydney Hiance

Hiance recorded her third and fourth shutouts of the season on the week. Her shutout against South Alabama was the 19th of her career moving her to third place on Kentucky's all-time shutout list, one shy of second. Hiance and the Wildcats' defense have recorded three straight shutouts and have yet to allow a goal at home this season in five matches.

Volleyball: Elizabeth Koberstein

Freshman setter Elizabeth Koberstein made her first career start in a victory over South Carolina. Koberstein was sensational in her first complete action, dishing out a UK season-high 48 assists and leading UK to a season-best .328 hitting percentage. UK's 58 kills in the match are the most in a four-set match this season. Four UK attackers registered over 10 kills and two players posted .330 hitting clips or better. Koberstein was also terrific in her dispersal of the ball as all four players with 10 or more kills had between 26 and 28 total attempts. Koberstein saw limited action in the third set against No. 3 Florida where she was effective in dishing out six assists during the later portion of the stanza.

Cross country: Chelsea Oswald

Chelsea Oswald and the Kentucky women's cross country team claimed victories at the 2010 Br. John "Paddy" Doyle/Iona Meet of Champions in Bronx, N.Y., on Saturday. Oswald breezed through the six-kilometer course winning the race by nearly 13 seconds with a time of 21:41.68 to take the women's individual title, the second of her career. The team followed suit winning the meet with 62 points in a much tighter contest between the Wildcats, Brown and LaSalle. The top three teams were separated by only three points with Brown and LaSalle divided by a single tally. Two weeks ago in San Francisco, Oswald finished second with the team paralleling her performance with a runner-up finish.

Volleyball: Lauren Rapp

Senior Lauren Rapp led the Wildcats to a 1-1 week to open SEC action. The middle blocker from Indianapolis recorded 24 kills for the weekend on a sizzling .447 hitting percentage. She also paced the frontline defense with 11 total blocks for 1.38 blocks per frame as UK totaled 10 or more blocks in both matches this weekend. Rapp led the Wildcats in blocking in both matches. She also had a season-high 16 kills on a dazzling .500 hitting clip in the victory over South Carolina, UK's seventh straight in that series. Her 3.81 points per set is well above her 3.17 average for the season, and her hitting clip was nearly over .200 points higher than average.

Football: Danny Trevathan

Led team with eight tackles, including a tackle for loss.

Meyer wishes he would have nabbed Cobb

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Florida head coach Urban Meyer doesn't miss on many players, but he'll admit that his coach staff swung and missed on Cobb.

At his weekly news conference Monday, Meyer admitted they didn't get Cobb because they didn't even look at him. 

"I am trying to find out whose recruiting area that was that year," Meyer said. "I would fire them if they were still here, but they are probably gone."

Meyer expressed little doubt in his assessment of Cobb playing in the NFL.

"I think he is a dynamic player and he is going to play at the next level and I can't wait until he gets the heck out of this league," Meyer said. 

FB 09_10 UK_FL  WEB 076.jpgKentucky has been down this road before with Florida.

Expectations are high. Hopes of an upset are brewing. Talk of ending the streak is strong. But before UK can blink, Florida has blitzed the Cats so fast in the first quarter the last two years that the game has been over before the band has warmed up.

In 2008, Florida hung 28 points on Kentucky in Gainesville, Fla., and led 42-3 at halftime. Last year was just as ugly, as the Gators chomped UK's upset bid with 31 first-quarter points.

If the Cats are looking for a key to ending the 23-game losing streak to Florida on Saturday, they need to look no further than getting off to a fast start, an imperative irony given UK's slow start last week and last year.

"You cannot come out and be not focused, not be intense, not be able to match their speed for the first quarter," head coach Joker Phillips said. "If you do that, you could be down 14 points in a heartbeat or be down 21 points, and we've been there - down 28 in the first quarter.  If you don't match the intensity, don't match the excitement, if you allow the things that The Swamp brings to intimidate you, you could be down 28 points, no question about that."

Following Saturday's win over Akron, some of the players suggested they've been playing against the tradition of Florida instead of the players.

But senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin isn't agreeing with his teammates. He believes the blowouts fall on the Kentucky players. Like a prizefighter in the ring, Lumpkin said they have to withstand the first punch and not let it be a knockout blow.

"We've played Auburn and we've beat them," Lumpkin said. "We've played Georgia and beat them. I just think it's us. We're not doing the right things that it takes to win against that team. You can't have mistakes against Florida. Florida is a good team that capitalizes on your mistakes."

And the Cats have committed the ultimate sin against the Gators, allowing two punts to get blocked in the 2008 first quarter and another one in the 2009 first quarter. Intimidation has followed and the mistakes have snowballed into a suffocating avalanche.

"I feel like if we don't have blocked punts and things like that, then we can go toe-to-toe with those guys," senior running back Derrick Locke said. "If we go out there and have blocked punts then we will lose. It's hard to come back like that. You give them that momentum and the game is over."

Intimidation will not be a factor, said Phillips, who chose not to reflect on the beating in The Swamp two years ago when he was asked about it Monday. Phillips said an offseason of overcoming mental toughness barriers and the attitude instilled by director of strength and conditioning Ray "Rock" Oliver has prepared the Cats for Saturday's big game.

Phillips mentioned UK's ability to improve from eight gassers in the offseason to 26 as one of the mental hurdles the players have torn down.

"Everything that we did this offseason was competing against each other, competing against someone every drill," Phillips said. "We didn't have a drill that we didn't want some type of competition."

The first-year UK coach isn't shying away from calling Saturday's test a big game either.
"This is what you come to Kentucky for," Phillips said. "You come to play in big games.  We sign up because we want to play in SEC games." 

Despite a 3-0 start, national recognition has not followed Kentucky, the only 3-0 team in the Football Bowl Subdivision yet to receive a vote in either the Associated Top 25 or the USA Today Poll. Florida offers a chance at respect.

"It's a great opportunity for us to put a huge stamp on this program and on this football team, to show the character, show the maturity of this football team," Phillips said. "It's a great opportunity for us."

Florida has struggled in its three wins this season, almost looking like a shell of its national title teams of 2006 and 2008, but Phillips isn't buying any of that.

"They're still Florida," Phillips said.

And they're still fast; quite possibly the quickest team in college football.

Running back Jeff Demps, a track star, ran the 100 meters in 9.96 seconds in the spring in winning the national championship. Even Locke, the self-proclaimed fastest man on UK's team, conceded to Demps' speed.

"I'm smart, now," Locke said. "I'm not going to come out here and talk senselessly. He's one of the fastest guys in the country in the 100."

Keeping up with the speed of Florida should be more manageable for UK than it was in years past when the team had just a handful of guys who ran sub-4.5 40-yard dashes. Florida has also transitioned to a much more conventional offense post-Tim Tebow.

"Every year we try to recruit guys who have speed at their position, and not only do we have speed, we have depth with our speed at the different positions," Phillips said.

Instead of just having speed at the skill positions (running back, wide receiver, etc.), UK has speed at linebacker, on the line and in the secondary. In the fastest league in the country, Kentucky is bridging the gap.

"We do have a lot of speed this year," sophomore defensive end Taylor Wyndham said. "People may look at us and think we're a little bit smaller, but we're more athletic and faster. I think that's good, especially when you're in the SEC because it's the fastest and the best."

But keeping up and playing catch up are two different things. Kentucky hopes to avoid the latter this season.

UK volleyball hanging on in AVCA poll

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The Kentucky volleyball team continues to hang on the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 Poll. This week UK checks in at No. 24 despite a 7-5 record. A non-conference schedule that has included the likes of Nebraska, Iowa State, Kansas State and Florida State is to thank for that.

UK has been ranked in 31 consecutive polls dating back to the sixth week of the season in 2008 when the Cats first entered the polls at No. 25. Only 15 other schools in the country have been ranked during the same 31 weeks. 

Rank

School (First-Place Votes)

Total Points

2010 Record

Last Week 

1

Stanford (59)

1499 

9-0

2

Penn State (1)

1428

10-1 

2

3

Florida

1359

8-1

3

4

Nebraska

1301

10-1 

4

5

Hawai'i

1233

10-1

6

Southern California

1220

10-0

7

Washington

1124

11-0 

9

8

California

1062

10-0

10 

9

Illinois 

1038

8-2 

5

10

Iowa State

920

8-2 

11

11

UCLA

845 

9-1 

13

12

Texas

830

6-4

8

13

Florida State

707

9-1

15

14

Minnesota

675

10-2

12

15

Oregon

583

12-0

16

16

Northern Iowa

542

10-2 

17

17

LSU

506 

11-0

19

18

Colorado State

478 

9-2

14

19

Dayton

406

9-3

20

20

Tennessee 

392

9-2

18

21

San Diego

356 

8-3 

23

22

Michigan

320

11-1

21

23

Long Beach State

173

9-3 

24

24

Kentucky

120

7-5 

22

25

Cincinnati 

112

10-3

NR

Senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin


Senior running back Derrick Locke


Sophomore defensive end Taylor Wyndham

Hines, Allen doubtful for Florida

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FB 09_10 UK_EKU web 95.jpgKentucky football could be without a pair of key players for Saturday's game at Florida.

Head coach Joker Phillips announced that junior offensive guard Stuart Hines (ankle) and senior fullback Moncell Allen (fullback) are doubtful for the game. Both would be huge losses for a stout running game that ranks 15th in the Southeastern Conference and third nationally at 242.0 yards per game.

Asked if there was a chance Hines would play Saturday, Phillips said "probably not." Junior offense tackle Billy Joe Murphy is expected to fill in for Hines, who has registered 16 starts in his career at UK.

"Stuart is the emotional leader up front, there's no question about that," Phillips said. "But we've got enough leaders on offense that if one goes down, we feel like we've got enough that we can overcome one not being with us."

Just two weeks ago, Allen drew the praise of Phillips for his punishing blocks in the win over Louisville. Phillips even compared him to former fullback John Conner, who is quickly earning a reputation with the New York Jets as one of the league's best blockers.

But Allen could be on the bench Saturday with a hamstring injury. If Allen is shelved, Phillips said it will hurt Kentucky's two-back running game.

"We'll have to use two tight ends a little bit more to create some two-back running games," Phillips said. "One of the guys will be off, and the motion guy will be (tight end) Jordan Aumiller. He'll be a guy that will be a move guy. When the tight end is the move guy, he's nothing more than a fullback and gives you a two-back running game."

Junior strong safety Taiedo Smith is also questionable. Senior defensive end DeQuin Evans and senior running back Derrick Locke are day-to-day but should be able to go Saturday.

UK-Ole Miss at 12:21 on SEC Network

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Kentucky football's primetime streak of three games will come to an end with the UK-Ole Miss game on Oct. 2.

The UK-Ole Miss game in Oxford, Miss., has been picked up by the SEC Network for a 12:21 p.m. ET broadcast. It will be the Cats' first day game since the season opener at Louisville.

This week's UK game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start on ESPNU.

Live blog: Phillips' weekly news conference (Florida)

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Women's soccer team may be for real

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Maybe one of Kentucky's worst teams in 2009 is turning out to be one of its best in fall 2010.

Not even halfway through the season, the Kentucky women's soccer team (6-2-0) has already surpassed its entire win total from last year (5-9-4). UK eclipsed last season's win total with a dominating 2-0 victory over South Alabama on Sunday at the UK Soccer Complex.

The wins have gone up this year thanks to an increase in offense. After scoring 11 goals all of last season, UK already has 12 this year. The Cats have been led by first-year players Kelsey Hunyadi (four goals), Caitlin Landis (three goals), Natalie Horner (two goals, one assist) and Taylor Parker (one goal, five assists).

Just watching the Cats this year, they look faster, more aggressive and more confident under second-year head coach Jon Lipsitz.

There is still plenty of soccer to be played and a considerably tougher Southeastern Conference season to go (league opener is Friday night at 7 against Florida), but the UK women's soccer team could be one of the feel good UK stories of 2010.

Below is a video of Lipsitz talking about the victory over South Alabama:

UK football not getting respect in polls

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Despite a top-15 offense and racking up three straight wins to open the season, the Kentucky football team has yet to garner a vote in either the Associated Press Top 25 or USA Today Poll.

Kentucky is the only 3-0 team in the Football Bowl Subdivision that hasn't received a vote in either of the two major polls and one of only two undefeated FBS teams that haven't garnered a single point (2-0 Indiana is the other).

A non-conference schedule that has included Louisville, Western Kentucky and Akron (combined record of 1-8) is part of the blame, but what will it take for UK to earn a little more respect in the polls? What if the Cats take Florida down to the wire Saturday in Gainesville, Fla.? Do they earn a vote or two then?

Kentucky ranks No. 40 in the Sagarin ratings with a schedule ranked as the 173rd toughest, which includes Football Championship Subdivision teams.  

As of Sunday, UK is among some of the top teams in the nation statistically. The Cats rank in the top 15 in rushing offense (15th - 242.0 yards per game), total offense (13th - 497.33 ypg), scoring offense (11th - 44.33 points per game), pass efficiency defense (seventh - 85.66), total defense (257.67), pass defense (fourth - 109.67), passing efficiency (sixth - 178.98) and sacks allowed (second - 0.33).

Video: UK rolls Akron for third straight win

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Head coach Joker Phillips


Senior quarterback Mike Hartline


Senior running back Derrick Locke


Defensive coordinator Steve Brown

All systems go after non-conference tune-ups

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FB 09_10 UK_FL  WEB 029.jpgWith about three minutes left in the first quarter and Kentucky's offense plodding out of the gate, head coach Joker Phillips went with a rather rare approach to hit the alarm button and wake up his snoozing team.

Following a false start penalty on fourth and 1, which followed three key drops in the first half, Phillips called timeout and gathered each and every one of his 100-plus players and coaches on the sideline and asked them to huddle at the 50-yard line. The message was clear and simple: Wake up, focus on the task at hand (Akron) and forget about next week's Southeastern Conference opener with Florida.

"We looked like we were sleepwalking during the warm-up, during the pregame," Phillips said. "I challenged them before the game. You've got to play with intensity, you've got to play with excitement and you've got to play with passion. I didn't see that out of us the first quarter. We didn't do that.  I wanted to pull them up and give them a reminder of what we had just talked about in the locker room. ... We cannot relax. 

"And they will see next week, you can't relax. You play like that, like we did in this quarter next week, you'll be down two or three touchdowns. We cannot relax and not play with excitement, not play with passion, not play with enthusiasm."

UK responded to its coach, scoring 44 unanswered points until a late Akron touchdown for a 47-10 rout of the Zips at Commonwealth Stadium. With the win, UK opened the season 3-0 for the fourth time in the last 10 years, setting up a huge and much-anticipated matchup with the Florida Gators next week in Gainesville, Fla.

"I wasn't thinking about them," Phillips said. "We talk about playing, living in the moment, and the moment was playing Akron." 

The talk leading up to next week's game will likely be about the slow-to-start Gators. Through three games, Florida has been a shell of its former Bowl Championship Series-winning self, struggling in wins over Miami (Ohio), South Florida and Tennessee.

Whatever. Florida is Florida. It's the same team that has beaten UK 23 straight years. Florida is not the point for Kentucky next week.

The key for next week heading into the game is that UK has done all it can in an obviously very manageable non-conference schedule. The Cats beat Louisville at their rivals' newly renovated house and easily dispatched Western Kentucky and Akron.

Quarterback Mike Hartline, often questioned throughout his career, has played at an All-SEC caliber level through the first three games of the season, throwing for 680 yards on 54-of-75 passing with five scores and zero interceptions (he's thrown 106 straight passes dating back to last year without throwing a pick).

Hartline entered the week with the 13th-best passer rating in the country. That should only increase after Saturday's cruise.

Randall Cobb had a pedestrian game by his standards because of a case of heartburn, but everybody, Florida included, knows what to expect from him next week. Whether teams punt to him or not, he's one of those guys that always have to be accounted for. That presence alone UK has not had for some time.

And tailback Derrick Locke has been outstanding (372 yards on 61 carries and five touchdowns), becoming the first player to rush for three straight 100-yard games since Rafael Little in 2007 after churning out a career-high 166 yards against the Zips.

Philips said they have been stressing to Locke about "hugging" his blocks, taking on tacklers one-on-one and "stepping on their toes."

"If he hugs the block, is really close to the block, it's harder for the defender to get off the blocker in time," Phillips said. "He has worked really, really hard on that aspect of his game. I asked him to go - I'm not sure if he has done it, but I asked him to go watch Mark Ingram at Alabama. (He) does a real good job of pressing the line of scrimmage and hugging his blocks and coming off the heels of the blocker. (Ingram) steps on the heels of the blocker, therefore, the defender can't get off in time to make the play."

Locke listened to his coach's advice and watched Ingram Saturday. The results were pretty evident in the UK win.

"I respect his game," Locke said. "I watched him today. It was awesome. I have to give him his respect. He stepped on toes and did exactly what he needed to do - make guys miss. That's something I've got to develop and do more of. If I want to be the back I want to be, I've got to step on people's toes and make them miss."

With the exception of a handful of missed tackles in the first two games, a lull in Saturday's first quarter and some missed field goals, what else as a fan can you ask for? In the past, UK would have found a way to make one of the last two games close (see Middle Tennessee State in 2008 or Louisiana-Monroe in 2006). Even the most cynic of pessimists has to be somewhat happy through the first three games.

"We did get some questions answered," said Phillips, who knocked on the table when he was reminded that Kentucky had yet to turn the ball over this season.

Entering Saturday's game, it was fair to criticize the Kentucky rush defense. Louisville and Western Kentucky had combined to gash the defense for 377 yards in the first two games.

Against Akron, after a week full of tackling drills and an emphasis on gang tackling, those issues were resolved. UK wrapped up at the line of scrimmage and held the Zips to 67 rushing yards and 172 total offensive yards.

"We had a lot of people going to the football, a lot of guys attacking the run," defensive coordinator Steve Brown said. "I think we did an excellent job of reading our keys and playing assignment football really consistently."

DeQuin Evans answered a week full of scrutiny with a solid performance Saturday. After failing to record a tackle in the season's first two games, Evans promptly answered with a game-opening tackle at the line of scrimmage. He finished with three tackles and a sack.

The Cats also held Akron quarterback Patrick Nicely to just 57 yards on 4-of-19 passing.

"I just wanted to see them play 60 minutes consistently," Brown said. "I think that was compliment to them. We stayed on them as coaches and they stayed on each other as players. They said, 'Listen, we're not going to let up no matter who is in the game, no matter who is playing. We're not going to let up. We're going to keep up fighting.' For the most part they did it.

"Most importantly, we're 3-0."

Say what you want about Kentucky's non-conference schedule - and by all means, some of the gripes are legitimate - but the Cats took what they were given and performed about as well as they could have.

When asked about the 3-0 start heading into conference play, Phillips offered an interesting anecdote from his playing days under head coach Jerry Claiborne. Phillips said they would count to 10 when stretching, but Claiborne would only begin counting once he thought the players were deep into the stretch.

"He would wait five seconds and say, 'Now we start,' " Phillips said.

Whether it's been a mirage of cupcakes to begin the season or the perfect tune-up to a big season, we'll have to wait and find out. But as Phillips said it best, the true test begins Saturday in Gainesville.

"Now we start," Phillips said. "Conference play starts and it's going to be one of those battles that you can't relax. You cannot relax and be distracted, not be focused at any point in the game.  You cannot come out and sleepwalk through a quarter. You can't do that because you'll be down 14, 21 points."

Live blog: UK football vs. Akron

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From the Pressbox: Sept. 17

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UK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 13 years and 10 years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Tom offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography

= = =

When Joker Phillips addressed the UK Alumni Association's annual kickoff luncheon in Louisville last month, he was asked to identify which area of the team would be most improved this season.

The UK coach probably raised a few eyebrows when he said "the offensive line" because that unit played pretty well last fall. But through two games, it looks like Phillips' prediction was right on the money.

Veteran O-line coach Mike Summers, the son-in-law on ex-UK men's basketball coach Joe B. Hall, brought a solid reputation with him to the Kentucky program and it's only been enhanced thus far.

Center Matt Smith said you cannot underestimate the impact Summers has had on the guys in those trenches.

"He knows everything about the game, so much more than even we need to know as the offensive linemen," Smith said. "He knows things that we are not reading in the defense and knows what is coming as far as defensive line, with what they do instead of just knowing what we are going to do. We can pick things up that way and he has been great as far and not only a coach but a friend. We can talk to him about anything and we have not had that in the past."

Phillips said this offensive line is getting to the second level, i.e. the linebackers, better than any group he's seen in his time back at UK.

= = =

Craig McIntosh was the surprise winner of the competition in practice this week to get the role of kicking extra-point attempts and field goals against Akron.

McIntosh walked on last season when coach Rich Brooks was lamenting the loss of Tim Mastay in the kickoff role, and McIntosh soon solidified that position.

With Ryan Tydlacka missing two relatively short field-goal tries in the first two games, the coaching staff let the kickers know the job was up for grabs. McIntosh prevailed because of his consistency.

As for his range, special teams coach Greg Nord said 45 yards is probably the outer limit but he might be able to hit a 50-yarder with the adrenaline flowing. Phillips said yesterday that freshman Joe Mansour might get the call if the Wildcats are in position to try a long field goal.

= = =

Derrick Locke is poised to become the seventh member of the 2,000-yard rushing club at UK if he gains at least 63 yards against Akron. And that's despite missing the second half of the 2008 season with a knee injury that some thought might be a career ender.

Phillips has seen Locke mature as a person and as a running back.

"You see him being a little more patient now," Phillips said. "On the zone plays, you have to slow down a little bit and now, he's understanding how to hug blocks and get every inch out of every run.

UK featured on ESPNU's Midnight Madness coverage

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I'm off today, but I wanted to pass along some information regarding ESPN's Mignight Madness coverage, of which UK basketball will be featured. Here is the news release from ESPN:

ESPNU will televise a four-hour ESPNU Midnight Madness special featuring extensive whip-around coverage from top college basketball programs around the nation Friday, Oct. 15, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU HD. ESPN platforms have been covering Midnight Madness events since 1993, with this season marking the fifth consecutive year on ESPNU.  

Coverage will focus on several men's programs including defending national champion Duke, and NCAA Championship participants Kentucky, Memphis, Gonzaga and Kansas State. The Connecticut women's program - the two-time defending national champion, which is riding a 78-game winning streak (10 short of the UCLA men's record for consecutive victories in NCAA Division I basketball) - will also be featured. The Huskies will be the first women's team to be showcased during Midnight Madness.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for espn_logo.jpgESPNU Midnight Madness locations:
 
Connecticut, Gampel Pavilion
Duke, Cameron Indoor Stadium
Gonzaga, McCarthey Athletic Center
Kentucky, Rupp Arena
Memphis, FedEx Forum
Kansas State, Bramlage Coliseum

ESPNU anchor Lowell Galindo will host this year's coverage. For the third straight year he will be joined by ESPN.com senior college basketball writer Andy Katz and analyst and former University of Maryland standout Adrian Branch, who played for former Terrapin legend Charles "Lefty" Driesell, the founder of Midnight Madness. The studio team will provide analysis between look-ins to each Midnight Madness event. ESPNU will also have commentators (to be named at a later date) at each Midnight Madness site location.

ESPNU's coverage will also tap into Midnight Madness events throughout the country including ESPNU's Campus Connection, allowing students to contribute a unique all-access perspective. 

ESPN.com's Katz has all five men's programs featured during ESPNU Midnight Madness ranked in his early men's preseason top 25 poll - No. 1 Duke, No. 5 Kansas State, No. 9 Gonzaga, No. 13 Kentucky and No. 19 Memphis. The Connecticut women are expected to be ranked in the top five nationally heading into the 2010-11 season.

ESPNU will begin its coverage of live college basketball games for the ESPN family of networks Monday, Nov. 8, with two matchups from the 2K Sports Classic benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer. Tipping off the season is NIT semifinalist Rhode Island at Pittsburgh at 7 p.m., followed by Navy at Texas at 9 p.m. ESPNU will air more than 300 men's and women's basketball games combined, including action from more than 25 NCAA Division I conferences.

What you need to know for Saturday's game (Akron)

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UK_WKU_03_abA.JPGTime: Saturday at 7 p.m. ET


Location:
Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky.

TV coverage: Fox Sports South with Bob Rathbun, Tim Couch and Jen Hildreth

Radio coverage: Big Blue Sports Network with Tom Leach, Jeff Piecoro and Dick Gabriel (630 WLAP-AM in Lexington); Check for an affiliate in your area 

Satellite radio: XM 201; Sirius 218 (you must have the "Best of XM" package to hear the game on XM 

Digital coverage: Cat Scratches' live in-game blog; Gametracker; Twitter updates

Game-time weather: 75 degrees, sunny, 0 percent chance of precipitation

Arrive early: Fans are highly encouraged to arrive at the stadium early to avoid parking delays and also to enter the stadium early to avoid long entry lines at the stadium gates. Directions and traffic into Commonwealth Stadium.

Parking: Parking information can be found on UK's Gameday site

Game-day operations changes: UK event management staff has announced several changes to game-day operations on Saturdays at Commonwealth Stadium this fall. The changes will affect several aspects of game-day operations, including tow-behind trailers, guests' golf cart use, adjustments to parking and tailgating along Cooper Drive, closure of Hospital Drive on game days, and backpacks entry into Commonwealth Stadium. Read about UK's game-day changes.

Cat Walk: The "Cat Walk" will resume Saturday at 4:45 p.m. Fans wishing to participate in cheering on the Wildcats as they enter the stadium Saturday should be between the corner of Jerry Claiborne Way and College Way outside of Commonwealth Stadium gate one. The team bus will arrive at approximately 5:15 p.m., when the team will unload the bus and walk to the stadium. Guests are asked to line up on each side of the "Cat Walk" to allow for ample space for the team to walk from the buses to Commonwealth Stadium. View a map of the "Cat Walk." Fans are encouraged to participate in the "Heartbeat" clap.

GuestAssist service now available: "GuestAssist" is a communications service that enables one-to-one text messaging between Commonwealth Stadium guests and stadium operations personnel.

Fans can ask questions about game-day information and/or report concerns regarding behavior through the convenience of their cell phones. Stadium operations personnel will monitor and respond to guests' game-day inquiries on a real-time basis and if needed, dispatch support, security, etc. to the guests' location. Fans wishing to utilize the service should text, "CATS, your message and your seat location" to 78247 (CATS must be the first four characters in the message body. Standard text message rates apply).

"GuestAssist" is not intended for emergency use. In the event of an emergency, guests should contact the nearest stadium event staff and/or dial 911.

*All information on Saturday's game with Tennessee can be found at UK's official Gameday site.

The Game Plan: Phillips' keys to the game (Akron)

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Gameday Information
Game Notes UK Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UK Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
UA Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Saturday, Sept. 18
7:00 p.m
Coverage TV: Fox Sports South/Fox Sports Southwest/Sun Sports
Radio: BBSN
GameTracker
Online Audio listen
Online Video via ESPN360
Live Blog
Location Commonwealth Stadium
Lexington, Ky.
Gameday Information
Alron Zips at a Glance
Head Coach Rob Ianello
Record at School 0-2 (First Season)
Record 0-2, 0-0 MAC
Ranking NR
Series Record First Meeting
Last Meeting First Meeting
2010 Team Stats UK UA
Rushing Offense 218.0 139.5
Passing Offense 256.0 138.0
Total Offense 474.0 277.5
Scoring Offense 43.0 20.0
Rushing Defense 188.5 151.5
Passing Defense 112.0 259.5
Total Defense 300.5 411.0
Scoring Defense 22.0 33.5
Turnover Margin +2.00 +1.00
2010 Stat Leaders
Rushing UK: Derrick Locke (44 rushes, 206 yds, 3 TDs)
UA: Nate Burney (29 rushes, 157 yds, 0 TDs)
Passing UK: Mike Hartline (33-46, 430 yds, 3 TDs, 0 INTs)
UA: Patrick Nicely (26-56, 276 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT)
Receiving UK: Randall Cobb (7 catches, 117 yds, 1 TD)
UA: Jeremy LaFrance (14 catches, 163 yds, 1 TD)
Tackles UK: Danny Trevathan (17 total, 5 for loss)
UA: Mike Thomas (24 total, 0 for loss)
Sacks UK: Four players with (1)
UA: Shawn Lemon (2)
Interceptions UK: Luke McDermott, Mychal Bailey (1)
UA: Brian Wagner, Manley Waller (1)

Each and every week prior to a Kentucky football game, Cat Scratches will talk with head coach Joker Phillips' for his game plan of attack. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Phillips will tell us his keys to the game, a key matchup and who Kentucky has to look out for on the opposing team.

Offensive keys - Continue to take care of the football: "It's always the key. If you take care of the football, your percentages and chances to win go up tremendously. That's the reason we've been as successful as we have. We haven't given up any opportunities offensively. When you fumble, that's more plays you could have run."
Cat Scratches' take: Astoundingly, UK has yet to turn the ball over this year, one of only six teams in the nation yet to commit a turnover. No coincidence that those six teams have a combined record of 9-1. Kentucky is also tied for seventh in the nation in turnover margin, with a plus-two clip per game.

Defensive keys - Tackling better, getting DeQuin Evans involved: "We defended the pass well because teams haven't passed it. That's a statement that people have made about us. We've got to get people in the box, and we have been. Once we get there, we've got to tackle. We've got to show up and then gang tackle. We had a full-speed live period tackling for the defense for about 10 minutes (earlier in the week). We want those guys to come up and wrap up. I think we've gotten away from putting our face on people and trying to arm tackle too much. We wanted to make sure we were getting in really good position and exploding through people. ... I think DeQuin, he's not playing horrible. He's not playing great either, but he's not a guy that's freelancing, too. He just hasn't made as many plays as he or we would have liked. I just want DeQuin to play within the defense and not start pressing."
Cat Scratches' take: It's been no secret that tackling has been an early season issue for Cats, as the defense has surrendered an average of 188.5 yards per game. But don't be too quick to pick on the defensive line and players up front; some of the blame falls on the linebackers and secondary. Too many times this season, an opposing tailback has broken through the line and a defensive back in support has whiffed the tackle. Much has been made about Evans' zero tackles through two games, but as Phillips said earlier in the week, defensive linemen don't rack up a ton of tackles anyway. When they do, they often come in spurts (Evans went through a four-game stretch last year without recording a sack).
 
Akron's strength - Another solid run team:  "It concerns you when they are able to run off the ball like they have with a team like they have. I've worked with their line coach before. He does an unbelievable job with the guys up front and they understand how to run the football. They take advantage of numbers. Sometimes you're outnumbered, but you've still got to get people to rally to the ball and make plays. They also do a good job of when they don't have the numbers, that back makes that extra guy miss. We cannot allow that. If we've got a free hat, a free safety that comes down and is unblocked, he's got to make the play. ... That's going to be the difference in this game - who controls the line of scrimmage on that side of the ball. I really like our offensive line's chance. They'll win the majority of the battles there. Our defensive line has got to win the majority of battles on their side."
Cat Scratches' take: Coincidentally, UK has run into three straight solid rushing teams to begin the season. Akron will be no different, as two of their players, running backs Nate Burney and Alex Allen, are coming off 100-yard games. Burney carried the ball 17 times last week for 119 yards, and Allen totaled 114 yards on 20 attempts.

Matchup to watch for - UK's special teams coverage: "I like our personnel. One thing we tried to do was focus on getting our best personnel on the field. I like where we are personnel-wise. We've still got some guys that are beat up that we couldn't put on there, but I like what we have available. We're trying to hold (Martavius) Neloms and (Randall) Burden and those guys because they've been beat up a little bit, but we do get a couple of guys back like Dakotah Tyler and guys like that, defensive guys who are familiar with tackling. On one return (last week), we had seven offensive guys, wide receivers and running backs."
Cat Scratches' take: UK's special-teams coverage, a staple of former coach Rich Brooks' teams in the past, have struggled through the first two games. After giving up a touchdown to Western Kentucky, the Cats rank 115th nationally in kickoff coverage, surrendering more than 30 yards a return. Changing personnel should help, but as Phillips has mentioned several times, UK has to kick the ball to the side of the field that the coverage is designated for.

Akron player to watch for - tailback Alex Allen: "Their running back is a really good player, No. 10. He does a really good job for them. We've just got to keep them contained."
Cat Scratches' take: Four of Akron's touchdowns this season have come on the ground. Three of those have came courtesy of Allen.

Kentucky players to watch for - Trevathan, Cobb, Locke and Matthews: "Danny Trevathan shows up a lot on defense. Those two dynamic guys (Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke) on offense. And I look for Chris Matthews to have a big game also. He's had a really good week, and so have our tight ends."
Cat Scratches' take: Phillips' choices should come as no surprise, as all lead their respective position groups. Trevathan has 17 tackles, five for a loss, Locke has posted 206 rushing yards, Cobb has 342 all-purpose yards and four total touchdowns, and Matthews is averaging 17.6 yards per catch.

Final injury report: Tight end Nick Melillo and strong safety Taiedo Smith are both out. Free safety Dakotah Tyler is expected to see his first action of the season.

2M7V3701.jpgEntering the 2010 season, the Kentucky women's volleyball team faced the challenge of replacing much of the nucleus that had led Kentucky to one of the most successful seasons in program history in 2009.  However, UK was hardly in a unique situation compared with other top programs nationally. 

"Penn State (ranked No. 1 preseason) has a turnover of three starters," UK head coach Craig Skinner said. "Texas (number two) has a lot of new faces on the court; Stanford (number five) as well. Those top teams have new players and different systems." 

That national youth movement paved the way for a season of parity, and, for the first time in 109 matches and nearly three years, previously top-ranked Penn State lost a match. The Nittany Lions' winning streak was ended this past weekend at the hands of the Stanford Cardinal in straight sets.

Heading into UK's Friday matchup against the third-ranked Florida Gators in Lexington, Skinner recognizes the end of Penn State's record-breaking streak as a sign of the times - parity rings true in women's volleyball in 2010. 

"It's the most wide open year in college volleyball since three, four years ago, and I think that goes the same for the SEC," Skinner said. "There are teams that any night can beat anybody and I think that makes for an exciting year."

Having concluded nonconference play, No. 22 UK has already experienced the wealth of college volleyball talent around the nation with the promise of more to come entering its Southeastern Conference schedule.

Kentucky faced a nonconference slate that Skinner has called the most challenging of his tenure at UK, and it did not get off to a rousing start with losses to then-No. 2 Nebraska and then-No. 9 Iowa State to open the year. The youthful Cats rebounded, winning six of their next eight matches, including a five-set thriller against rival Louisville and back-to-back wins against VCU and Kansas State to close nonconference play.

In spite of the challenges his team faced, Skinner is quick to point out that difficult early games presented opportunities for his team to learn about itself. 

"Now we know we are capable of playing at a high level," Skinner said. "We just have to be more consistent. We have to continue to iron out the system we will play aiming for success in the long term."

One of the reasons why UK entered this season ranked 14th, its highest preseason ranking since 1983, is Skinner's track record of recruiting talent that can step in and contribute early. The latest example is outside hitter Whitney Billings, who was named SEC Freshman of the Week after averaging 3.28 kills per set last weekend in the UK Invitational.

"You have to have freshmen capable of playing early if you want to have long term success," Skinner said. "If you don't have recruits that are able to contribute early, you're going to take some setbacks."

Billings has started nine of 10 matches this year, thanks largely to the redshirt season she spent at UK in 2009. Billings cited the year she spent on the sidelines as a major factor in her early success. 

"(The redshirt year) made me stronger, more fit," Billings said.

"Probably one of the most beneficial things we've been able to do is redshirt some people over the years," Skinner said. "That year under their belts of training, getting stronger really helps them prepare to be successful right away as opposed to losing some confidence if they play right out of high school."

UK sports four major contributors who have redshirted in their UK careers (junior outside hitter Ann Armes, sophomore setter Christine Hartmann, freshman middle blocker Alexandra Morgan and Billings).  Particularly with Morgan and Billings, a year of watching from the sidelines has prepared them well for the ups and downs of a full college season.

A conference opener against Florida affords UK with yet another opportunity to see where Skinner's young squad stacks up with the nation's elite. 

"I look for our team to be excited about the opportunity to play against a great team," Skinner said.  "Our team usually ramps it up against the better teams."

Although there is parity in college volleyball this season and in the SEC, Florida appears to have returned to its familiar roost atop the conference (the Gators won 18 straight conference titles from 1991 to 2008). UK, Florida and Tennessee were the preseason favorites to win the league, but after the first few weeks of play, including a Florida win over Nebraska, Skinner tabbed the Gators as the team to beat once again.

"Tennessee was picked to win the SEC, but after the preseason so far, I think Florida gets the nod as to being the favorite," Skinner said.

In a match with potential league championship implications down the line, Billings is one player Skinner will not have to worry about motivating for a matchup with Florida. Billings chose the Wildcats over the Gators, noting the "open" atmosphere of the UK program and campus.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Kentucky has developed a bit of a rivalry with Florida in its rise to national and conference prominence. UK and Florida have split their regular-season meetings each of the past two seasons. In light of Florida's near two decade stranglehold on the SEC championship that ended last season, that stands as a testament to the rise of Skinner's Wildcats.

Now, Skinner is hoping to keep his team there.

"We played three top 15 teams and had chances to win against two of them," Skinner said. "Florida is a great team, but the expectation is to put ourselves in a position to win."

McIntosh to kick FGs against Akron

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In the ongoing open competition at placekicker, sophomore Craig McIntosh has won this week's battle and will serve as the team's placekicker against Akron.

"If we went today, I think we might go with McIntosh," Phillips said.

Junior Ryan Tydlacka, who signed at Kentucky as the team's punter, missed a pair of field goals in the first two weeks of play in addition to an extra-point attempt. Tydlacka will continue to serve as the team's punter. On long field goals, freshman standout Joe Mansour might get a shot, Phillips said Thursday after practice. Mansour will also continue to handle kickoffs.

McIntosh, who played just one year of football in high school, his senior season at Lexington Christian Academy, tried out for the team last year as won a place on the squad as the team's kickoff specialist.

Though he's never kicked a field goal in college, he made a career-long field goal of 48 yards in high school.

"He's a warrior," Phillips said. "He's a warrior that doesn't get down. He responds to your coaching. We opened up the competition up, which we have every week, and he was the most consistent guy this week."

Phillips said he expects for the highly touted Mansour to continue to compete for the job.

"If we didn't think that he could win the job, we wouldn't have signed him," Phillips said. "He does have a strong leg. He is going to be a great kicker in this league some day. It's just not today."

Trust in receivers leading to faith in deep ball

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UL_UK_BW_05.jpgLa'Rod King made an interesting comparison Monday at the weekly Kentucky football news conference when asked about the success of the receivers in the first two games of the season.

"Randall (Cobb) and Chris (Mathews) are two of the hardest working guys I've ever seen in my life, so working with them is like the 1990 Bulls," King said. "Randall is (Michael) Jordan and we're the rest of the players."

For historical perspective, the 1990-91 Bulls won the NBA championship with the likes of NBA legends Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and a host of other NBA studs.

So maybe the comparison is a little far-fetched for King, but there's truth behind his comment. King and the UK receivers are more confident this season because of Mike Hartline's ability to throw the ball down the field. In two wins over Louisville and Western Kentucky, the UK pass offense is averaging 256.0 yards per game, ranked 36th in the nation.

After a lack of big-play production a year ago, head coach Joker Phillips made it a point in the offseason to throw the ball deep.

"That was a big emphasis that we had going into this year was can we really go down the field and throw the ball," senior wide receiver Chris Matthews said. "This summer, we worked real hard, even when the coaches weren't on the field and we weren't practicing. We would just go out there during days that we didn't have anything to do to work on the deep balls. I think now we have that confidence."

It's paid off in two games, with seven passing plays of 20 yards or more.

"When you start repping it a lot and start practicing it more than other throws and you become confident that that is a good throw to make to these guys, it comes better out of your hand and you have more confidence in throwing it," Hartline said. "When you have those guys up front that are solid and are giving you enough time to throw it, it's not that difficult to do."

Maybe the biggest criticism of Hartline the past few years was his supposed inability to not only throw the deep ball accurately but to throw it all. Some wondered if Hartline had the arm strength to make 30-, 40- and 50-yard throws.

Hartline quieted those doubters on the very first play of the season with a 38-yard pass to King and further silenced them in the win over WKU with a perfectly thrown 35-yard touchdown bomb to Cobb.

Phillips called the touchdown throw to Cobb "the best throw I've seen around here in a long time."

"Right now he has as much command of the ball as any quarterback I've ever been around," Phillips said. "He's seeing what's going on. He's been very accurate, especially on the deep balls."

Part of the success has been a breakthrough in trust. Whether it was a nasty habit of dropping easy balls or a receiving corps that lacked multiple playmakers, UK simply did not take a lot of shots down field the last two years.

Now, Hartline has faith in tall targets like Matthews, 6-foot-5, and King, 6-4, in addition to Cobb.

"You're more confident in throwing balls up to these guys, wherever they're at, just to give them a chance," Hartline said. "Even if they don't come down with the ball, it's a good try. It's a good opportunity to try to make a big play down the field. We know we can't stop doing that. We always have to give them a chance to make plays."

Phillips said Hartline believes more than ever in his ability to throw the ball into increasingly tight windows where only his receivers can catch the ball. It took Hartline some time to understand, but there is a difference between high school, college and the pros as to when the separation is enough to be "open."

"When you are 6-4, 6-5 and you have a 5-8 defensive back on you, that's open," Phillips said. "We expect Chris to go up and take it. We expect La'Rod to go up and take it. If you have a small guy versus a big guy, we expect those guys to go up and take the ball. It's a rebound. We ought to be able to out rebound a 5-8 guy every time."

Don't dismiss Hartline's increasing leadership role either as one of the boosts in the passing game. Since being named the starter, Phillips and the players have agreed that Hartline has carried himself differently in practices, meetings, in the games and off the field.

"You can see he has the weight off his shoulders," Phillips said. "The competition that he had at quarterback, he had stronger competition with those two young, talented guys. You could see once it was announced that Mike accepted even a bigger role in leading."

Inside the huddle, King and Matthews said Hartline has learned to shut out the criticism and concerns of fans and turn all of his attention to leading the team.

"He's taking more initiative in the huddle," Matthews said. "Last year, we were more let's let Randall calm us down, and now Hartline is taking control of the offense. That's how it should be. Quarterbacks are supposed to take control of the team because he's the guy we all depend on."

A number of other factors have helped the pass game improve this year, including the emergence of Matt Roark as a fourth receiver, the tight-end position, the running game and the increased confidence of Matthews off the line of scrimmage.

The combination has turned a once plodding passing game and re-evoked memories of the pass happy offense of Andre Woodson, Keenan Burton, Steve Johnson and Jacob Tamme of 2007.

"What a difference a year makes," Phillips said.

WTEN 09_10 UK_LSU 21.jpgCarlos Drada didn't realize the significance of the date, but it was fitting that the day he became an official citizen of the United States was just a day before the nine-year anniversary that nearly prevented him from staying in the country.

Nine years ago, Drada, now the head coach of the Kentucky women's tennis program, was fresh off a decorated collegiate career at UK and out in the business world as a financial adviser at the prestigious financial firm Merrill Lynch in New York City.

Since emigrating from Colombia at age 11 and earning a scholarship to go to a budding tennis academy in Florida when he was 14, Drada realized the United States was where he wanted to live for the rest of his life.

Drada went to college at UK and blossomed into the 2000 NCAA Singles Championship runner-up under head coach Dennis Emery, but the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, temporarily derailed Drada's immediate dreams to become a citizen of the U.S.

"September 11, I remember the lawyer telling me with the kind of curriculum and regimen you have you should have no problem," Drada said. "For some reason, I had a feeling that something was going to get complicated."

Drada's premonition was right. Soon thereafter, national policies and laws were enacted that directly affected immigration, and Drada's visa to permanently work in the U.S. was denied. 
For the next several years, Drada fought the paperwork battle to try to stay in the U.S. On two different occasions, it looked as if Drada might never end up at UK as a tennis coach or even stay in the country.

"I was falling through the cracks," Drada said.

At one point, Drada was forced to go back to Colombia for an interview to get a temporary work visa. Just years earlier, Drada's sister left the country in a similar fashion and was denied re-entry without being given a fair reason for denial. When Drada left, he worried he would not be able to return to the country.

"Not only am I not going to have a way to stay in the country, now I'm probably going to be indefinitely away from the country," Drada said.

Drada returned to Colombia and remembers about 100 applicants applying for the work visa permits. Somehow, Drada said he was the only person that received a visa.

The re-entry back into the States gave Drada a little peace of mind, but he only had a small window to stay permanently.

To obtain a green card, which grants immigrants residence in the U.S. for up to 10 years and is one of the final barriers in becoming an official U.S. citizen, Drada thought his best chance would be to return to the same tennis academy in Florida where he trained as a teenager back in the 1990s.

Drada was offered a chance to work with Maria Sharapova, now a tennis superstar and three-time Grand Slam winner. It seemed like a no-brainer to move to Florida.

"I had everything packed in my car ready to go," Drada said.

And then he got a call from then-UK women's tennis head coach Mark Guilbeau asking if he would be interested in accepting an assistant coaching job at his alma mater. Though Drada never considered coaching in the collegiate ranks, the chance was too good to pass up.

"I always tell my dad and myself that I ended up becoming what I needed to become," Drada said. "You always have goals and you try to excel at whatever you do ... but I'm excited about where I am and what I can do. I love what I do. I told my assistant the other day, I love coming to work every day. Every day I'm thinking, 'Gosh, I'm working at the university I got to train.' I couldn't wrap my mind around coaching anywhere else."

Fast forward to 2010, and Drada is now in his fifth year as head coach of the Kentucky women's tennis program. Drada eventually received his green card five years ago and became an official citizen of the United States Friday, the day before Sept. 11, nine years since he was denied a visa.

In a ceremony inside a courtroom in Ashland, Ky., Drada, along with approximately 50 people from 27 different countries, listened as the judge explained the importance of becoming an American.

"A lot of kids nowadays don't understand how special it is to be a part of this country," Drada said. "That's why so many people outside of this country are trying to come in. Everybody has the right to a future. ... A lot of countries around the world, if you were born in a certain spot or if you have a certain last name, you don't have a lot of opportunity. Furthermore, you don't have many of the freedoms that Americans see as a right, and I believe those are great privileges passed down from our predecessors. Here, you have the hope that if you work hard that things will get better not only for you but your family."

Calling it one of the biggest moments in his life, alongside the first time he came to the U.S. and making it to the finals of the NCAA Singles Championships in 2000, Drada said he could hardly compose himself.

"I didn't realize what an amazing feeling it was going to be," Drada said. "As an athlete, you're trained to hold your emotions and be really centered under pressure, but I couldn't contain so many emotions as I was so excited. It was one of the highlights of my life."

From the time Drada entered the country at 11 and struggled with a completely new language, to his brief stint at the top of the business world at Merrill Lynch, to battling to stay in the country, finding a head coaching job at Kentucky and now his citizenship, it's been a long road for Drada.

"It's not an easy process," Drada said. "It took a lot of work. I'm grateful. This road helped me remember that when you follow a path which is sometimes harsh and painful, it allows to appreciate that you stuck to the process and you came out a better stronger person at the end.

The fifth-year head coach said he had a "30-second temptation" when he was denied in 2001 to "do it the wrong way." Drada knew people getting married just to obtain a green card, but Drada said his "dream was to always follow the right steps." 

"I wouldn't have it any other way," Drada said. "I knew I would find a way. Even if I had to get out, I would have found a way. ... My family had always taught us that if you start with the right seeds, you will yield the right fruit. It is that simple."

Drada is hoping to use his battle for citizenship as a model for his team this year. After struggling through an uncharacteristically down year a season ago, the program's first losing season since 1997, Drada has rebuilt a very differet roster. The only returnees are seniors Megan Broderick, Lauren Meier, Nicole Scates, and junior Elle Coldiron.

Success might not happen immediately this year, but Drada said the keys are dreaming and taking the first step. He said he would have never learned that without his new appreciation of becoming a United States citizen.

"I'm not at all happy where we are, but the beautiful thing is I know there's hope and I am certain of where we are going," Drada said. "As long as you're working hard and there's a structure, things will be better."

Podcasts with the Cats

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Looking for something to listen to on the way to work? Sitting at your computer bored at work? We've got a solution for you.

For those of you that aren't aware -- admittedly, I wasn't until just recently -- UK has free podcasts available for fans to get their daily fix of UK Athletics. The podcasts include Wildcat Sports Updates from Neil Price, the Joker Phillips Call-In Show and the John Calipari Call-In Show.

More podcast options should be available as we move through the year.

Fans can visit UK's podcasting page at UKathletics.com to get the latest podcats.

Also, make sure you're tuning into the latest video on UKTube at http://www.ukathletics.com/allaccess/. Fans can view highlights, watch archived coaches' shows, daily interviews, etc. on UKTube.

From the Pressbox: Sept. 14

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FB 09_10 UK_Bama WEB 21.jpgUK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 13 years and 10 years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Tom offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography

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Through two games, Mike Hartline has done nothing to cause any fan to question Joker Phillips' decision about the starting quarterback position at Kentucky. The Wildcats do not yet have a turnover and the yards per attempt -- a measure of a team's ability to incorporate a vertical passing attack into its plan -- is more than eight yards, on pace for the best mark since 2006.

Former UK quarterback Dusty Bonner is not surprised.

Bonner quarterbacked the Wildcats to an unexpected Music City Bowl bid in 1999. He didn't have NFL-caliber arm strength but he was accurate, he minimized turnovers and he was a leader for his team. That sounds like a pretty good script for Hartline to follow in his senior season, and Bonner likes the way Hartline is doing the job.

"I think we saw that last year before he got hurt," Bonner said. "I think that maybe there are some people who don't want to see it because they don't want him at quarterback and they will yell for somebody else. But Mike did a really nice job at the beginning of last year before he got hurt and he was really hitting his stride as a quarterback. I keep trying to remind people that last year, he was a junior in the SEC (and) quarterbacks aren't really good until they get to their junior years because the defense is so advanced and so good.

"You get a few guys like a (Tim) Tebow that can come out as a freshman and (excel) but a true dropback quarterback, they don't blossom until they are juniors and seniors. It is one of those things where, and this may sound crazy, but when you are in your first two years, and I remember this myself, you don't throw to the running backs that much out of the backfield. Then, all of a sudden in my third year, it was a like a light bulb went off in my head and I started using those guys all the time. It is one of those things and repetition and soak it in for four years as a quarterback in this conference. Mike was hitting his stride in his junior season and that was when I expected him to hit it. For him to come out and play like (he has), I am not shocked by that at all."

Bonner said the ability to make a 60- or 70-yard pass is not the key to a quarterback's success. Bonner said Hartline just needs to make sure that he doesn't get caught up in trying to prove anything to his doubters rather than just doing what he needs to do for this team to succeed.

"If he tries to go out there and be a Brett Favre, it is not going to work just like it wouldn't have gone well for me to go out and be exactly like Tim (Couch) because Tim and I were different," Bonner said. "Tim had more talent than I had and had a stronger arm and could do things I couldn't do, so I had to make up for that by doing things I could do that he couldn't. In this conference, in the SEC, you look at the teams that win and compete for a national title and Alabama has a quarterback that is a game manager -- and that is a dirty word around here because people don't want that -- but really that is what the teams that win it all win with."

In Hartline's first season as a starter, his top two playmakers, Derrick Locke and Dicky Lyons, were both injured midway through the season. But now, he is blessed with an abundance of big play guys in Cobb, Locke and Chris Matthews and up-and-comers like La'Rod King and Matt Roark.

"In the last couple years, Mike has been in a tough position," Bonner said. "If you don't have a speed guy split left and split right that the defense respects, you are a sitting duck. Nothing against the recievers that we have had, but it takes a lot of time to get ready. You don't go from high school and all of a sudden be a superstar. Very few people can do that, and people like Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke can do it, but they are one-in-a-million-type guys.

"You get a guy to the left and right that is fast, now defenses can't match up with that guy. They have to play zones or double cover and do things like that and (it opens) the middle of the field up for the tight end. That is why, this year, we need a tight end to step up because defenses will have to respect those guys and put a safety or a linebacker to cover a tight end. One-on-one and at this level, a tight end should beat a safety and beat a linebacker."

Video: Cobb a Heisman candidate?

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Junior Randall Cobb, who is already starting to emerge as one of the most talented players to ever put on a Kentucky uniform, may deserve consideration for another lofty title - Heisman Trophy candidate.

Crazy, huh?

But after returning a punt for a touchdown, catching a touchdown and throwing one for a touchdown, all while solidifying his role as Kentucky's "jack of all trades," Cobb has put up numbers in the first two games to warrant a serious consideration for at least some Heisman consideration.

Cobb has totaled 342 all-purpose yards in two wins, scoring touchdowns through the air (one passing, one receiving), on the ground (one) and on special teams (one punt return). Total, he has four touchdowns in two games.

With stats like that, WLEX reporter Alan Cutler posed an interesting question to head coach Joker Phillips after Tuesday's practe. Cutler asked Phillips if a player like Cobb played for a program like Florida and had a game like Cobb's on Saturday, would there be more talk surrounding him for the Heisman Trophy at this point in the year.

"I don't know about that," Phillips said. "We are who we are. Really, when people say that, that's a slap in the face to me and our program. I don't like to think anything like that. We're trying to get to where we want to get to."

Asked if it was a fair question, Phillips said, "It's not fair for me to say. It might be fair for you to say. ... The Heisman, to me, is the best football player in the country. You make the decision whether he's the best. He's the best football player I've been around."

With that said, let's take a look at where Cobb stands in comparison to the Heisman leaders on ESPN.com:

Quarterback Denard Robinson (Michigan) - 138.3 passer rating, 430 passing yards, two touchdowns, 69.4 completion percentage; 455 rushing yards, three touchdowns, 8.0 yards per carry
Quarterback Kellen Moore (Boise State) - 134.1 passer rating, 215 passing yards, three touchdowns, 60.5 completion percentage
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor (Ohio State) - 158.7 passer rating, 480 yards, four touchdowns, 55.8 completion percentage; 130 rushing yards, one touchdown, 4.6 yards per carry
Quarterback Ryan Mallett (Arkansas) - 184.6 passer rating, 701 passing yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions, 73.1 completion percentage
Wide receiver Randall Cobb (Kentucky) - 106 rushing yards, one touchdown, 13.2 yards per carry; 34 passing yards, one touchdown; seven catches, 117 yards, one touchdown, 16.7 yards per catch; 44 punt-return yards, one touchdown; 75 kick-return yards

Cobb's statistics stack up pretty favorably with the country's best players with the exception of two things. For one, you'll notice every leading candidate ESPN.com lists is a quarterback. Tradition indicates a QB has the best shot of winning it. Secondly, UK doesn't have the tradition or big-name appeal in football as most of those other programs have.

What would Cobb have to do to get himself into consideration?

"As we continue to win and he continues to play the way he's played, maybe he'll get some consideration," Phillips said.

Cobb has some support from within his team. Senior quarterback Mike Hartline, who was once Cobb's competition for the starting quarterback position two years ago, believes Cobb deserves some recognition.

"When he can score three different touchdowns in a game, it's an incredible thing to do, not just for him but for anybody in the country," Hartline said.

Hartline spoke for Cobb, though, in saying that the Heisman Trophy is the least of Cobb's concern right now.

"If he keeps doing what he's doing, I'm sure there's no question he'll get some attention," Hartline said. "Everybody's running the hype for Mark Ingram, who won it last year. He's still a great player. There are still great players out there. It's all about where our Kentucky program is right now. We still have to prove ourselves, and I think Randall believes he still has to prove himself."

Check out the video above to see Phillips talk about Cobb's early Heisman chances.

Volleyball hanging on in AVCA poll

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Despite four losses, the Kentucky volleyball team remained in the American Volleyball Coaches Association top-25 poll, checking in at No. 22. UK is the only team with four losses in the top 25, a pretty good indicator as to how the rest of the nation feels about Kentucky's young talent.

UK plays No. 3 Florida on Friday to open Southeastern Conference play. Be on the lookout for a feature later on in the week.

Rank

School (First-Place Votes)

Total Points

2010 Record

Last Week 

1

Stanford (58)

1498

7-0

2

Penn State (2)

1426

7-1

3

Florida

1331 

6-1

4

4

Nebraska

1287

8-1

7

5

Illinois

1248

7-1

3

Hawai'i

1169

8-1 

6

Southern California

1143

7-0

8

8

Texas

1090

5-3

5

9

Washington

1060

8-0

9

10

California

964

7-0

10

11

Iowa State

901 

7-1 

11

12

Minnesota

847 

8-1

12

13

UCLA 

753 

7-1

13

14

Colorado State

701

8-1 

15

15

Florida State

625

8-1 

17

16

Oregon

484

8-0 

19

17

Northern Iowa

464 

8-2 

18

18

Tennessee

452 

8-1

14

19

LSU

432

9-0 

21

20

Dayton

373

6-3

20

21

Michigan

320

8-1 

22

22

Kentucky

248

6-4

16

23

San Diego

189

4-3

25

24

Long Beach State

153

6-2 

23

25

Ohio State

74

9-1

NR

UK trying to get a wrap on its tackling

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UK_WKU_17_cw.JPGWrap up and pile on.

Whether we're talking about the actual improvements the Kentucky football defense needs to make in its tackling technique or the growing criticism of UK's missed tackles through the first two weeks of the season, it's all relevant.

In wins over Louisville and Western Kentucky, the most glaring concern surrounding UK (2-0) is its inability to tackle consistently. The Wildcat defense has allowed an average of 188.5 yards in its first two games with a pair of explosive Akron runners headed to Commonwealth Stadium this week.

"We're not wrapping up," head coach Joker Phillips said. "We're hitting way too high. Guys are carrying us for extra yardage."

In the 63-28 rout of Western Kentucky, tailback Bobby Rainey scampered for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Enter Akron (0-2), which had a pair of running backs, Nate Burney and Alex Allen, each run for 100 yards last week.

"They'll be a big test for us," Phillips said. "They know how to run the football."

Will the Cats learn how to stop it this weekend before opening up Southeastern Conference play?

The first solution in solving the issue is identifying the problem. Phillips has pointed to over-pursuit and a lack of group tackling.

"We can't run under blocks," Phillips said. "We run under a block on the perimeter and a guy goes 59 yards untouched. We can't do that. (We have) got to force the ball back to the pursuit. We go around, under a block, he gets out. Those things can't happen." 

When a UK defensive player is getting to the ball, too much watching is going on. Sophomore defensive end Collins Ukwu said he and his teammates need to break the mentality that one player is going to bring a player down.

"It's wrapping up and getting everybody to the football and not thinking one person is going to take this running back down or this quarterback," Ukwu said. "Everybody should be there."

The solution is gang tackling.

"Today's backs are squatty (and) thick legged," Phillips said. "It's hard to get your arms around them sometimes.  We've got to gang tackle once we get them wrapped up."

Defensive coordinator Steve Brown stressed patience with his defense after Saturday's game, pointing to the experience and leadership UK had to replace from last season. In order for Kentucky to make up for the losses of key players like Micah Johnson, Trevard Lindley and Sam Maxwell, leaders like defensive linemen Ricky Lumpkin and DeQuin Evans are going to have to step up.

Unfortunately for UK, at least so far, the duo has combined for only three tackles. Phillips did not seem concerned about their lack of statistics at his weekly news conference Monday.

"They're not doing anything different," Phillips said. "Defensive linemen do not make a lot of tackles.  Corey Peters had something like 56 tackles last year. Defensive linemen just don't make a lot of tackles."

Phillips has been pleased with Lumpkin's ability to fill gaps, but he would like to see more from Evans, a Kentucky defensive captain who has yet to register a tackle this year.

"He's not getting any more attention (by the offense)," Phillips said. "He's doing his job. He's doing his job by turning plays in when he needs to. He hasn't been out of place.  He just hasn't made as many plays."

The defense has played well in spurts. With the exception of a handful of big plays against Louisville, UK held the U of L offense in check for most of the day. In the second quarter against WKU, the Hilltoppers mustered just two yards of total offense. And, after holding Western Kentucky quarterback Kawaun Jakes to 95 passing yards Saturday, the Kentucky defense is holding opponents to an average of 112.0 yards per game, second in the SEC.

"I thought we smothered them after the first series in the first half," Phillips said. "As I went and looked at the game, they were going backwards, which is what you want your defense to do to an offensive team."

The key going forward, Phillips said, is gaining consistency, as the Cats have let up in the second half in both of its early season victories.

"I think we're playing dominant defense up until the second half," Phillips said. "I think our kids relaxed. That cannot happen. ... Those are the things that are discouraging that our guys are relaxing. That's the thing we talked about at halftime:  Let's show how mature this football team has become in a week. We let up. We didn't keep the pressure on."

Volleyball update from Skinner

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Thumbnail image for Skinner.jpgHead coach Craig Skinner spoke at the weekly football news conference Monday to update the media on the Kentucky volleyball team. Here is what Skinner had to say:

Skinner: We are 6-4 so far in, without question, the toughest pre-conference schedule we have had since I have been here at Kentucky. I think our average RPI opponent going into this weekend was roughly 32. (We have) four losses to arguably top-25 teams, but it exposed a lot about us and I think it really showed a great deal about where we need to be, things we need to improve as we start getting into conference play. Also, we've seen some fantastic things as well. we had chances to win those games we lost except for Nebraska. As long as we smooth some things out and get them going, I think there will be a lot of great wins ahead of us. I kind of look at this group as 50 percent - it's 50 percent youth and 50 percent experience. And not necessarily youth as in age, but in being in a new position on this team. At times we've had three freshmen on the court, a brand new setter, and our seniors have really stepped up at times and so have our freshmen. I think that shows a lot of encouragement at least in our staff's mind as to where we can be as the season progresses. The SEC starts this weekend. Tennessee was picked to win the SEC, but after the preseason so far, I think Florida gets the nod as to being the favorite. They are currently ranked fourth in the top 25 and probably will be ranked third this weekend. Florida is who we start with on Friday night, but it's going to be an extremely intriguing conference season this year. There will be a lot of very close matches, and I know our team is excited to get going and what a way to start it with Florida on Friday night.

Question: How would you describe your chemistry this year?
Skinner: I think it's actually very good. We have had a few different lineups and people going out of matches. I think the support, work ethic and commitment to each other is probably as good as it has been in the last couple years. That's definitely a positive sign for this group.

Question: What exactly do you mean by physical play and are you getting it?
Skinner: We are very terminal - we terminate and make errors, but our attackers are hitting the ball hard and probably one of the most encouraging things, in terms of physical play, is our blocking numbers. I don't think any team has out-blocked us, with the exception of Nebraska. If we can continue to block like that and serve the way we do, then it puts us in position to be successful against most teams.

Question: What about Penn State losing? Did they just slip up or will this year be more wide open nationally?
Skinner: It is wide open. Penn State has a turnover of three starters. Texas has a lot of new faces on the court; Stanford as well. Those top teams have new players and different systems. It's the most wide open year in college volleyball since three, four years ago. And I think that goes the same for the SEC. There are teams that any night can beat anybody and I think that makes for an exciting year.

Question: With all the newer players in your lineup, how would you compare the communications on court during matches to a month ago?
Skinner: The information being given I think is a lot more constructive than a month ago. They have some matches under their belt. The information is actually relevant to what is going on during the matches. I think the volume of excitement and energy isn't as high as it was a month ago and that needs to improve. But in terms of relevant information, it's very good.

Question: Is this a good time to have a week off, between what you have been through in the nonconference and getting ready for the SEC?
Skinner: I kind of need to evaluate how we schedule. Each week we've had a match midweek and I think it really showed on Tuesday against Cincinnati, and they're a great team. But we had 19 serving errors. I think it's tough mentally to play back-to-back weeks with matches being scheduled in the middle of the week. We gave them yesterday off and today off with some cardio involved, so I think we'll be more refreshed when we come into practice on Tuesday.

Video: Cats look forward to Akron

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Head coach Joker Phillips


Senior wide receiver Chris Matthews

Sophomore wide receiver La'Rod King

Sophomore defensive end Collins Ukwu



UK-Florida on ESPNU at 7 p.m.

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The Kentucky-Florida football game on Sept. 25 has been slated for a 7 p.m. ET start on ESPNU. The game, which will be Kentucky's Southeastern Conference opener, will be the team's third primetime game in just four games.

This week's UK-Akron game on Fox Sports South is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Phillips' weekly news conference (Akron)

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Jury's still out on UK's defense

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UK_WKU_12_jw.JPGIf you're a glass half full kind of person, allowing 601 offensive yards in two games with a defense that had to replace the likes of Micah Johnson, Trevard Lindley and Sam Maxwell isn't all that bad. In fact, it's pretty respectable.

But if you're a glass half empty kind of person, there's a bevy of question marks surrounding the defensive side of the ball, even after two comfortable wins.

One week after head coach Joker Phillips hammered his team about limiting big plays, UK's defense let up in the second half by giving up two long, methodical Western Kentucky drives. Both spanned 80 yards over nine plays and resulted in touchdowns.

"On defense, two 80 yard drives cannot happen," Phillips said following Kentucky's 63-28 win over Western Kentucky. "Those are things that cannot happen ... especially if you want to be a great defense."

For the second game in a row, the Kentucky defense allowed a sizeable chunk of yardage on the ground, surrendering 187 yards just a week after giving up 190 rushing yards to Louisville. Most of this week's damage came from the legs of tailback Chris Rainey, which could be disturbing when one considers that stopping him was one of the sole keys of the game for the defense.

"My hat's off to Rainey," UK defensive coordinator Steve Brown said. "I think he's a (heck) of a player. He's a good back. He can play in the SEC."

Even so, Phillips and Brown were not happy with some of the tackling in the second half.

"We've got to tackle better," Phillips said. "We tackle a guy, he's continuing to move for five, six, seven yards. We've got to get guys on the ground. The guy is a really good back, but no back rushes for 180 something yards against us. For us to be the type of team we want to be, have the type of season we want to have, you can't allow anybody to run for that many yards on you."

Senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin said some of the missed tackles had to do with focus and technique.

"At times we're a great tackling team and at times we look like a high school team out there tackling, having people break runs off because of the tackles," Lumpkin said. "It's something that we have to fix. Keep our head up, wrap our arms and drive through them."

After Rainey bounced through a couple of tackles on his way to an opening-drive 59-yard touchdown run, UK's defense tightened up in the first half.

In the second quarter alone, the Wildcat defense allowed two total yards. Joined with Danny Trevathan's continued solid play (six tackles and a sack) and the almost unbelievable emergence of walk-on defensive tackle Luke McDermott, who recorded his first career interception in his second start a week after getting his first career sack, there are positive signs worth pointing to.

"The thing about (McDermott) is he is a guy that if you pay close attention to his work ethic and to his desire to be good, he is a great role model to his teammates, not only on defense but as a team," Brown said. "Here's a guy that puts in a lot of work, and it's paying off for him. Other guys should follow suit and work hard like he does."

The jury is still out on the UK defense, but remember this unit is young and learning. If the Cats can learn from McDermott, as Brown hopes, and continue to improve, this could be a very balanced UK football team.

"There are a lot of guys that haven't played a lot of football," Brown said. "You're trying to get them all as one unit. When you put in guys in there all of a sudden, it's not as stout as you'd like it to be. They're getting a chance to play, they're finding out where they fit, where they need to work, how hard they need to continue to work. It's always good to have something like this happen with a win."

Video: Cats roll over WKU in home opener

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Head coach Joker Phillips


Junior wide receiver Randall Cobb


Senior quarterback Mike Hartline


Junior defensive tackle Luke McDermott

Cobb, Hartline continue to shine in young season

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UK_WKU_14_cw.JPGSuperman Randall Cobb caught a touchdown, threw for one and returned another for a total of three scores Saturday night in Kentucky's 63-28 cruise over Western Kentucky.

Sunday morning, he'll be there to deliver your paper, walk your dog, and if you ask nicely, cook you breakfast. There is little Cobb can't do these days.

He's doing so much, head coach Joker Phillips is thinking about pulling the reins back on him a bit before he starts picking up a headset.

"He said he wanted to be a head coach," Phillips said. "I'm worried he'll take my job."

Though it was over a fledgling Western Kentucky program still trying to get acclimated with the big boys in the Football Bowl Subdivision, one can't dismiss the game Cobb had Saturday in UK's home opener at Commonwealth Stadium.

Cobb amassed 192 total yards in his widespread array of attacking. Coupled with his game at Louisville in week one, the junior do-everything has a touchdown catch, a touchdown run, a touchdown throw and a punt-return touchdown. If you do the math, that's four scores in just two games.

"As long as we're up, we're making more touchdowns and more people are touching the ball and getting into the end zone, I'm not worried about that," said Cobb, who admitted he was nudging the coaching staff to give him one chance to add a rushing touchdown Saturday night and complete the football version of a scoring cycle.

Even more remarkable, Cobb has those four scores in just 24 touches. That means every six times he touches the ball, chances are he's going to find the end zone.

With his ability to do just about everything, he's starting to live up to the preseason proclamation by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. that Cobb could be the best overall player in college football.

Asked if he could long snap - Cobb already serves as the team's holder as well - he said he had never tried but could probably do it. The only thing that appears to scare Superman is kicking the ball.

"That's one thing I can't do for sure," Cobb said.

With 27 scores in his still young collegiate career, Cobb moved into a four-way tie for second place all-time on UK's touchdown list. He'll need just six more in the next two seasons to break Craig Yeast's school record of 32.

It's no longer in question to think he could be the best UK football player of all-time once he leaves the school if his current pace keeps up. But Phillips said Cobb's biggest contribution comes inside the locker room.

"He does a lot of things that you guys don't see, things in the locker room that mean the most to this football team," Philips said. "He's one of the best leaders I've ever been around. He's the guy that gets up.  He's a different person on game day. He doesn't say much during the week, but on game day he's the guy that's vocal in the locker room, getting the guys inspired to play."

Speaking of leaders, can we all agree the starting quarterback position is Mike Hartline's for the rest of the year, barring an unforeseen injury or complete meltdown?

Against the Hilltoppers on Saturday, Hartline passed for a cool 213 yards and three touchdowns on 16-of-20 passing. Though it hasn't been against world beaters, Hartline is 33-of-46 on the season for 430 yards with three scores, a rushing touchdown and no interceptions.

That's an efficiency rate of 171.8.

"Having good stats is one thing, but the win is what we're trying to do," Hartline said. "Statistically, yes, it was a good game for me and everybody on the offense, but the reason we're out here is to win. Whether it's really nice or really ugly, we're out here to get a win. That's all that matters."

After impressing in the Louisville game with his ability to move around in the pocket, Hartline silenced some of those "He can't throw the deep ball" critics with a pair of long balls. After hitting Chris Matthews with a 30-yard pass earlier in the game, Hartline made a veteran audible at the line of scrimmage and hit Cobb perfectly in stride for a 35-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

"I thought Mike Hartline played outstanding," Phillips said. "What did the stats say? You guys had him at four incompletions. ... He says he only had two incompletions."

Regardless, it was another superb game by both Hartline and Cobb. So far so good for the Kentucky two offensive stars through the first two games.

Live blog: UK football vs. Western Kentucky

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We will get started Saturday at about 7 p.m. Also, make sure to tune into the UK volleyball (vs. Florida State) and UK men's soccer live blogs Friday night on our live blog home page.

Game-day links (WKU)

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for cobb td 1 b.jpg- Chip Cosby from the Lexington Herald-Leader writes that UK is not worried about letdown against WKU

- The HL breaks down how UK and Western Kentucky match up at each position

- The HL has a Q and A with cornerback Anthony Mosley

- Lexington's largest daily newspaper also has a pretty cool spread of everything junior Randall Cobb can do

- Brett Dawson from The Courier-Journal takes a look at UK's nonconference schedule

- Darrell Bird of The Cats' Pause writes about defensive coordinator Steve Brown's move to the field

- Associated Press reporter Will Graves on the big role the small running backs will play in Saturday's game

- Nick Baumgardner from the Bowling Green Daily News writes that the Hilltoppers will need better tackle to slow down Cobb.

- Baumgardner on WKU standing up to 'big brother'

From the Pressbox: Sept. 10

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UK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 13 years and 10 years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Tom offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography

= = =

"Really? You're sure?"

That was head coach Joker Philllips' initial reaction last week when defensive line coach David Turner told him Luke McDermott, a walk-on, had earned a start at defensive tackle.

And the play we saw McDermott against Louisville justified the confidence Turner had in him.

"All I got to go on is what I see in practice," Turner said after practice this week. "He comes out here every day, works his tail off and he gets better. He executes the defense and he makes plays. I had confidence and he played exactly like he practiced."

Turner acknowledged McDermott is undersized at 280 pounds, but the Cats' coach also knows few, if any, will outwork the Louisville Trinity High School product.

"He understands leverage," Turner said. "And he works at his craft. He comes out early and works on his technique. He understands he's not the biggest guy or the strongest guy but playing inside, it's a game of leverage."

= = =

There was a time when a .500 season and minor bowl bid were cause for celebration for the University of Kentucky football program. Senior defensive end DeQuin Evans said those days are gone.

"We are definitley raising the bar and the thing with coach Joker is that he doesnt want us to be satisfied with being just okay," Evans said. "He sees the potential in us."

Evans said the players understand they have to work just a little harder than they've worked before and realize that pacing themselves just to get through a practice won't allow them to achieve their goals.

"That will put us over the hump and put us at 10-2 and lead us to those kinds of seasons," Evans said. "He  sees it in us and he wants us to know what he sees in us and that all goes to working hard. We have got to keep working hard and keep pushing each other and keep coming out here every day."

Evans said practices are faster than ever before.

"We get a lot more reps out here and I feel like guys are a lot more hungry than what I have seen at the beginning of the season," Evans said. "I have seen a dramatic change in everybody as far as personalities, the way we play football, the way our bodies look. It was a huge transition."

Evans is starting his second season of big-time college football and he does with a lot more knowledge of what it takes to succeed at this level.

"I learned football more than anything (last year)," he said. "I learned to play at the speed with everyone else in this league, and more than anything. I have learned how to study. I have learned how to study film, learned how to break down and analyze myself and what is going on in my opponents."

What you need to know for Saturday's game (WKU)

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FB 09_10 UK_UL WEB TeamCoyle 003.jpgTime: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EDT


Location:
Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky.

TV coverage: Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast with Matt Stewart, Chris Doering and Allison Williams (additional TV info)

Radio coverage: Big Blue Sports Network with Tom Leach, Jeff Piecoro and Dick Gabriel (630 WLAP-AM in Lexington); Check for an affiliate in your area 

Satellite radio: XM 203; Sirius is N/A 

Digital coverage: Cat Scratches' live in-game blog; Gametracker; Twitter updates

Game-time weather: 76 degrees, scattered thunderstorms, 60 percent chance of precipitation

Arrive early: Fans are highly encouraged to arrive at the stadium early to avoid parking delays and also to enter the stadium early to avoid long entry lines at the stadium gates. Directions and traffic into Commonwealth Stadium.

Parking: Parking information can be found on UK's Gameday site

Game-day operations changes: UK event management staff has announced several changes to game-day operations on Saturdays at Commonwealth Stadium this fall. The changes will affect several aspects of game-day operations, including tow-behind trailers, guests' golf cart use, adjustments to parking and tailgating along Cooper Drive, closure of Hospital Drive on game days, and backpacks entry into Commonwealth Stadium. Read about UK's game-day changes.

Cat Walk: The "Cat Walk" will resume Saturday at 5:15 p.m. Fans wishing to participate in cheering on the Wildcats as they enter the stadium Saturday should be between the corner of Jerry Claiborne Way and College Way outside of Commonwealth Stadium gate one. The team bus will arrive at approximately 5:15 p.m., when the team will unload the bus and walk to the stadium. Guests are asked to line up on each side of the "Cat Walk" to allow for ample space for the team to walk from the buses to Commonwealth Stadium. View a map of the "Cat Walk." Fans are encouraged to participate in the "Heartbeat" clap.

GuestAssist service now available: "GuestAssist" is a communications service that enables one-to-one text messaging between Commonwealth Stadium guests and stadium operations personnel.

Fans can ask questions about game-day information and/or report concerns regarding behavior through the convenience of their cell phones. Stadium operations personnel will monitor and respond to guests' game-day inquiries on a real-time basis and if needed, dispatch support, security, etc. to the guests' location. Fans wishing to utilize the service should text, "CATS, your message and your seat location" to 78247 (CATS must be the first four characters in the message body. Standard text message rates apply).

"GuestAssist" is not intended for emergency use. In the event of an emergency, guests should contact the nearest stadium event staff and/or dial 911.

*All information on Saturday's game with Tennessee can be found at UK's official Gameday site.

Big Blue tweets on and from Big Blue Nation

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Thumbnail image for Twitter1.pngFor many Kentucky coaches, players, journalists and fans, Twitter has become a part of their everyday lives. With that in mind, Cat Scratches will select a handful of topics from around the world of Kentucky sports and highlight some of the best of what those coaches, players, journalists and fans are communicating to their followers on Twitter.

Dr. Lee Todd announces retirement as UK president
After an illustrious and near decade long tenure as president of the University of Kentucky, Dr. Lee Todd, Jr. announced Wednesday that he would retire from his post in June of 2011 at the end of the 2010-11 school year. Dr. Todd led his alumni through very difficult economic times. However, the challenges of recent years prompted Dr. Todd and his wife, Patsy, to make the difficult decision to retire. Under Dr. Todd, UK embarked on a journey to become a top-20 public research institution by the year 2020 and has achieved many milestones along that path of growth. Dr. Todd also took an active role in athletics at UK and will be greatly missed.

The official Twitter account of UK Athletics (@UKAthleticsNews): "After 10 years at UK, President Dr. Lee T. Todd, Jr. announced today he will retire at the end of the academic year: http://uknow.uky.edu/node/11703"

John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari): "Our university president Dr. Lee Todd called me this morning and left a message on my phone. When I listened to it, it made me sick to my stomach because of my confidence in him as a leader. He's maybe my best recruiter. Every player that comes on this campus has a chance to meet him, who went to school here and taught here. On the other side, I'm happy for him and his wife. But it's a big loss. This is not like, Let's just get another guy. This is a big loss."

Rich Brooks, former UK Football head coach (@UKcoachbrooks): "Good luck to Dr. Todd he has done a great job for Kentucky. He was a rock in my 3rd year when things were tough."

Jon Lipsitz, women's soccer head coach (@UKCoachLipsitz): "Sad that President Todd is retiring. Fantastic President and leader for all of us. Going to miss him and Patsy."

Danny Trevathan named SEC Defensive Player of the Week
During Danny Trevathan's sophomore campaign last year, he was looked at as the speedy third linebacker alongside two well established performers in Micah Johnson and Sam Maxwell. However, entering the 2010 season, Trevathan was the veteran of a largely unproven group. He would need to step up in order for UK to continue its recent run of stellar play at the linebacker position. In week one against rival Louisville, Trevathan did just that. He tallied 11 tackles, 3.5 of which were in the Cardinal backfield, en route to being named the SEC's Defensive Player of the Week.

The official Twitter of UK Athletics (@UKAthleticsNews): "LB Danny Trevathan was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week after recording 11 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss, in the win at UofL"

Danny Trevathan (@DTrevathan22): "I'm always gone be humble!! Everybody on the UK team won Sec player of the week, it's not just for me!! We are family."

After the game, Matt May of Cats Pause (@TCPMAY) was asked by a fan who most stood out to him for UK on the defensive side of the ball, he answered "Danny Trevathan. Not even close". Even though UK is fresh off of beating its biggest in-state rival, Trevathan recognizes the importance of this weekend's game against Western Kentucky and is telling his Twitter followers: "2 days left to prepare for this State Championship Game!! We gon make them count babe!!"

UK Hoops continues individual workouts
Matthew Mitchell and his UK Hoops team are in their second week of pre-season individual workouts. The Wildcats are looking to build on last season's Elite Eight run. Tuesday was also the birthday of assistant coach Shalon Pillow and UK celebrated with a solid session of workouts.

Head coach Matthew Mitchell (@UKCoachMitchell): "2nd week of ind work outs got off to a good start today. We need to get better this week"

Assistant coach Kyra Elzy (@CoachLZ): "Excellent day of workouts! I can't wait until we put it all together. They've been a lot of fun thus far! I love these girls."

The official Twitter of UK Hoops (@UKHoopCats): "Hey UK Hoops fans! @UKCoachMitchell has a new video update. Click here http://bit.ly/atgluG or visit facebook.com/UKCoachMitchell to see it. Happy Birthday to UK Hoops assistant coach @spillow aka Shalon Pillow! Hope it's a great day!"

Brandon Knight joins Twitter world
This week, freshman point guard Brandon Knight became the latest Kentucky Wildcat to join the world of Twitter. He was welcomed to Twitter by coaches, fans, and fellow players.

Brandon Knight (@BrandonKnight12): "1st tweet. What's up twitter world!"

John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari): "Everybody welcome @BrandonKnight12 to the Twitter Universe!"

DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins): "Follow my Bruh @BrandonKnight12"

Stacey Poole (@DeucePoole): "Follow my bruh @BrandonKnight12"

Brandon Knight (@BrandonKnight12) "what up twitter people? idk why im still trying to figure out how this twitter works..ill get used to it eventually though"

Thanks to Big Blue Nation's incomparable ability to mobilize, Brandon accumulated over 3,000 followers in just a few days. I'd say that's pretty good for someone who is still trying to figure out Twitter.

UK women's soccer falls at No. 17 Louisville
Coach Jon Lipsitz and his UK women's soccer team traveled to Louisville on Thursday evening to face the nationally ranked Cardinals. Despite creating a season-high 21 shots, the Wildcats were unable to tally a goal. The game was scoreless through 68 minutes, but Louisville was able to score in the 69th and 89th minutes. UK falls to 3-2 on the season, but the Cats still have their eyes on improving.

Jon Lipsitz (@UKCoachLipsitz) - "Just finished watching the game again. We had way too many quality chances to get shutout like that. Time to work hard and get better. We truly appreciate the support from BBN and will continue to work hard building this program into a champion on and off the field. We know losses to Louisville are painful for others also, not just the players and coaches.We WILL keep pushing every day to make you proud!"

Early Friday morning, Coach Lipsitz ready to get back to work with his team and improve: "Back to the lab. Much work to be done."

Video: Be early, wear blue, get loud, one heartbeat

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A message from the Team Wildcat, formerly the Student Athletic Council, for Saturday's UK football home opener:

UK-WKU game available on Insight in select areas

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Rest assured, Kentucky fans of Lexington. Those fans that are unable to attend Saturday's home opener against Western Kentucky will be able to watch the game on Insight channel 14.

To view the game, which will be televised by Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast, Insight customers in Lexington only need basic cable. The telecast will be of no extra charge to Insight-paying customers. 

Insight has also made the game available in Louisville (channel 22 on digital, channel 503 without a digital box), Northern Kentucky (channel 422 on digital, channel 99 without a digital box), Bowling Green (channel 5) and the Evansville/Henderson area (channel 74 on digital, channel 503 without a digital box). 

Viewers with Comcast Cable and New Wave Communications will be able to watch the game, as well as customers with Frankfort Plant Board Cable in Frankfort (channel 77).

The game will be available in selected markets in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.  

Fans can also view the game online at ESPN3.com.

The Game Plan: Phillips' keys to the game (WKU)

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Gameday Information
Game Notes UK Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UK Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
WKU Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Saturday, Sept. 11
7:30 p.m
Coverage TV: CSS
Radio: BBSN
GameTracker
Online Audio listen
Live Blog
Location Commonwealthl Stadium
Lexington, Ky.
Gameday Information
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at a Glance
Head Coach Willie Taggart
Record at School 0-1 (First Season)
Record 0-1, 0-0 Sun Belt
Ranking NR
Series Record Kentucky leads 1-0
Last Meeting Kentucky beat Western Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. 41-3 in 2008
2010 Team Stats UK WKU
Rushing Offense 230.0 179.0
Passing Offense 236.0 120.0
Total Offense 466.0 299.0
Scoring Offense 23.0 10.0
Rushing Defense 190.0 289.0
Passing Defense 127.0 247.0
Total Defense 317.0 536.0
Scoring Defense 16.0 49.0
Turnover Margin +2.00 0.00
2010 Stat Leaders
Rushing UK: Derrick Locke (23 rushes, 104 yds, 2 TDs)
WKU: Bobby Rainey (30 rushes, 155 yds, 1 TD)
Passing UK: Mike Hartline (17-26, 217 yds, 0 TDs, 0 INTs)
WKU: Kawaun Jakes (12-22, 120 yds, 0 TDs, 1 INT)
Receiving UK: La'Rod King (3 catches, 58 yds, 0 TDs)
WKU: Bobby Rainey (3 catches, 36 yds, 0 TDs)
Tackles UK: Danny Trevathan (11 total, 3.5 for loss)
WKU: Jamal Forrest, Thomas Majors (7 total)
Sacks UK: Ricky Lumpkin, Luke McDermott (1)
WKU: Quanteras Smith (1)
Interceptions UK: Mychal Bailey (1)
WKU: --
Each and every week prior to a Kentucky football game, Cat Scratches will talk with head coach Joker Phillips' for his game plan of attack. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Phillips will tell us his keys to the game, a key matchup and who Kentucky has to look out for on the opposing team.

Offensive keys - Minimize turnovers: "We've got to play fast, we've got to play aggressive, but we also have to take away the ball on defense and have to take care of the ball on offense. If you look at some of the huge upsets, that's usually a huge reason why teams get beat by teams like Jacksonville State and North Dakota State. ... We've got to protect the ball. You get a punt blocked or a punt return or fumble and give them a short field, that's what keeps teams like this in the game. It gives them confidence. The longer you give them confidence, the more they feel they're in the game."
Cat Scratches' take:  In the two biggest upsets of the first week of the college football season - Jacksonville State over Ole Miss and North Dakota State over Kansas - turnovers were the story. Ole Miss and Kansas combined for six turnovers in the losses, including a minus-four margin. Western Kentucky forced two turnovers against the highly favored Cornhuskers last week and will be looking to do the same against UK. Kentucky did a good job of holding on to the ball in the win over Louisville last week by not committing a single turnover.

Defensive keys - Eliminate big plays: "Continue to up the level of play and be sound in what they're doing in their fundamentals. We played well, but we got out of gaps a couple of times and gave up a couple of big runs that we cannot do. Nobody rushes for 155 yards on us, and we gave up over 100 yards to one rusher. Nobody runs 80 yards on our defense, and we let that happen last week."
Cat Scratches' take: With the exception of a few big plays, the Kentucky defense actually played very well against Louisville considering the personnel UK had to replace from last year. Of the 317 yards the defense surrendered to U of L, 155 came on five plays (31 yards per play). The other 56 of Louisville's plays accounted for 162 yards (2.9 yards per play). Meanwhile, Western Kentucky's offense was consistent in week one. Of WKU's 62 offensive plays last week, only three went for negative yards. Of those three negative plays, one was a sack, one was a QB kneel at the end of the half and the other was a tipped pass that was caught by an offensive lineman for a 2-yard loss.

Key matchup - UK's defensive line vs. Western's run game: "Our defensive line has to do a good job of holding the point of attack. Our linebackers have to do a good job of fitting in and our safeties have to do a better job of getting down in the box and tackling."
Cat Scratches' take: Much like last week, the spotlight will once again be on a thin UK defensive line and a very good running game. UK will be without the services of defensive tackle Mark Crawford, who is suspended one game for a violation of team rules. Without him, first-year tackles Donte Rumph and Elliott Porter have moved up the depth chart. Walk-on Luke McDermott played well in his first start at Louisville, recording a sack, but can he repeat it again as one of the few interior players with in-game experience? UK allowed 190 rushing yards to the Cards.

WKU's strength - running game: "I like their running game. Anybody that goes into Nebraska and rushes for the amount they rushed for, you've got to be concerned about that. We've got to be able to account for their quarterback (Kawaun Jakes), who is a runner also. They've got a running back (Bobby Rainey) that has rushed for a 150, but you have to account for an athletic quarterback."
Cat Scratches' take: Forget the 49-10 Nebraska-WKU score last week - the vaunted Cornhuskers' defense could not stop the ground game of Western Kentucky as Rainey ran for 155 yards on 30 carries. Phillips has compared Rainey to UK running back Derrick Locke in that he has the perfect blend of shiftiness and power. If Phillips is right, the Kentucky defense could be in for a long day.

Areas of concern No. 1 - overlooking WKU: "We talked Sunday and the first part of Tuesday, but after you see how focused they are, you know that these guys will be ready. I haven't said much since then, but earlier in the week we did talk about it quite a bit. Watching practice, they're focused and they understand what we need to do to get this game underway. ... We have enough good leaders at the top that understand. A couple of years ago, we were a play away from losing to Middle Tennessee. A lot of those guys were freshmen at the time, so they understand that you've got to get up to play for every team. Every team has good personnel, no question about that, and personnel that can beat you on any given day."
Cat Scratches take: It's hardly of consolation for first-year WKU head coach Willie Taggart, but his team played with Nebraska in the second half last week. After Nebraska scored an early touchdown in the third quarter to go up 28-0, the score was 21-10 the rest of the way.

Area of concern No. 2: UK's special teams: "One time we had seven guys on the field (against U of L) where we had mix-up with our punt safe and our punt return team. We can't have those things and we've got to get them fixed. ... We've got to kick it to the right place. The punter did a good job of placing the ball this week, but our kickers are still inconsistent. We want to cut the field down into a third. We're kicking the ball outside a hash. Sometimes we go right, sometimes we go left, but you have to kick the ball to the hash we've designated so that we can cut the field in half and cover it."
Cat Scratches' take: Junior Ryan Tydlacka missed a field goal and an extra-point attempt in his debut as placekicker, prompting Phillips to reopen the kicking battle between Tydlacka and highly touted freshman Joe Mansour. The open competition still appears to lean in Tydlacka's favor, but don't be surprised if Mansour gets a shot late if the game is in control.

UK strength - Hartline-tight end connection: "I think Mike has practiced really good this week. Both the tight ends (Jordan Aumiller and Tyler Robinson), the game has slowed down for those two guys after playing a game for the first time. They look a little bit better this week than they did last week and could have a big game for us."
Cat Scratches' take: The biggest thing to come out of week one was that quarterback Mike Hartline put to rest the lingering questions about Phillips' decision to go with the veteran. Hartline is now one of the unquestioned leaders of the team and can now turn his attention ahead to having a big senior season with another good game. In Aumiller's debut, he recorded two catches for 23 yards, including a 19-yard reception.

Video: UK ready for Western Kentucky

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_AAA0482.jpgThe one constant when you talk to women's soccer head coach Jon Lipsitz is he's huge on changing the culture of the program. But even the most hard-working kids and the most dedicated players need to have something to make them believe.

They need results.

It's taken a year's time, but after the first four games of the Kentucky women's soccer season, the players are starting to see the progress of their work. The Cats are off to a bit of a surprise start heading into Thursday's 7 p.m. match with No. 18 Louisville (Fox Sports Channel).

UK is 3-1 after three weeks of the season, including a 2-1 upset of No. 15 Virginia Tech last weekend in the ACC/SEC Challenge.

"Before, it's all a leap of faith and you are saying this will make a difference, this really will change if we take care of our bodies, if we get more sleep, if our nutrition is better, if we're better teammates, if we support one another and if we work harder on a daily basis," said Lipsitz, now in his second year on the job. "All of these things about being a family at the University of Kentucky will pay off, easy for me to say. But they've totally bought into all of it, they believe it in their hearts and to have success out of that makes it so I don't have a lot to say. They get it."

The difference in the early going has been the offense. After scoring a Southeastern Conference-low 11 goals all of last season, the Cats already have eight through four games thanks to a massive influx of firepower from freshmen and transfers.

"We are much more dynamic going forward, and the irony of course is that my biggest concern right now is that I don't feel like we've been defending our own box well," Lipsitz said. "Last year we spent the majority of games bunkered in and teams were serving our box and we were tremendously good at it.

"One of my concerns as we become better in attacking is we sort of lost a bit of our edge defensively. So you can believe we've talked about that and worked on that a lot this week. Those are still our core roots and if we don't win the ball and defend hard, there is no offense to be played. Let's remember what we're about and then let's attack like crazy out of it."

One of the biggest additions to the team this year has been Kelsey Hunyadi, who leads the team with three goals and six points. The junior forward transferred after two seasons with Louisville, starting all 19 matches for the Cardinals in 2008 with two goals - both game-winners - and two assists.

Lipsitz decided to redshirt Hunyadi and fellow junior transfer Natalie Horner (one goal, one assist) last season to get ahead academically and learn what the program was about. It didn't hurt to save the impact players a year of eligibility during a major rebuilding effort last season either.

So far, the moves have paid major dividends.

"(Hunyadi's) played very well, and one of the things you can count on with Kelsey is even if she's having a rough game, her work is there and her leadership is there," Lipsitz said. "One of the things we talk about a lot is no matter what is going on in the game, how can you impact it? Kelsey, besides being a great player on the ball, is learning how to impact the game more with her runs off the ball and her leadership. She's becoming much more of a well-rounded player rather than just a good player with the ball."

Anytime Kentucky plays Louisville, tensions are high, but imagine when that rival is a former team. Lipsitz said he will have a close eye on Hunyadi to make sure she doesn't get too amped up for her former club.

"She's saying all the right things this week and she plays people on lots of teams that are her friends, she knows people there and she truly respects them greatly," Lipsitz said. "The question for her will be, will she run herself into the ground the first 15 minutes trying to win the game? The important thing for us to do is just keep her on an even keel the same way we keep everybody on an even keel. I think she'll have to go through a little self discovery when she has to find that second wind and then she'll relax and do fine."

Athletics department will miss Todd's presence

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It seemed a little peculiar Wednesday during an athletics department-wide meeting when UK President Dr. Lee T. Tood, Jr. addressed the staff and thanked them for their efforts over the years.

It wasn't out of Todd's personality to thank the staff for what they do for the university - after all, he's been doing it at the annual meeting for years - but Wednesday's tone by both Todd and Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart seemed a little reflective.

It all made sense an hour later when news started to leak out that Todd was announcing his retirement later Wednesday after nine-plus years of presidency at UK. Todd plans to retire June 30, 2011, at the end of the 2010-11 academic year.

"This university is the love of our lives," Todd said in a news release on uknow.uky.edu. "As I have said many times before, this is the only job in higher education I ever wanted because I feel it provides the greatest opportunity to improve the lives of Kentuckians. I believe - indeed, I know - that UK is the soul of this Commonwealth ... I am convinced it is the most important institution in Kentucky, with the greatest capacity to improve the lives of Kentuckians and the condition of our state."

The news, while not directly athletics related, will have a tremendous affect on the university across all departments, including athletics. As Barnhart said repeatedly during his speech to the athletics staff Wednesday, Todd has been one of the biggest supporters of UK Athletics.

Todd has been a huge proponent in transforming UK Athletics into a self-sustaining organization, one of only 14 programs that is completely self-supporting. UK Athletics provides $1.7 million each year to support general academic scholarship programs. 

When others didn't stand behind the UK Athletics department, Barnhart said Todd "didn't blink."

"I'm extremely happy for Lee and Patsy, who have given their heart and soul to the University of Kentucky and the state of Kentucky for the last 10 years," Barnhart said. "It's always great when a person gets to enjoy looking back and seeing all the accomplishments that they have created, and he has certainly done that for the university.

"From an athletics perspective, he has been a great friend and a great proponent of raising the bar of athletics at the University of Kentucky. We're thankful that we could have been a part of that and we're hopeful that we added to the accomplishments that Lee and Patsy will greatly look back upon. We wish them all the best in their retirement. We know that he will continue to make a long-lasting contribution to every facet of life in the state of Kentucky."

During Todd's speech to the athletics department, Todd said Barnhart was one the best hires he's made in his career, calling Barnhart the "total package."

While Todd has made a concerted effort to let athletics manage itself, he said the university could not thrive without the two sides working together. Todd said they received a record number of applications for this academic year thanks to the exposure of UK Athletics.

When Todd and his wife, Patsy, were moving freshmen into the dorms just a few weeks ago, 80 percent of them said they came to UK because they had been Wildcat fans their whole lives. Todd said UK had the athletics staff to thank for that.

Now, in Todd's final year on the job, UK has Todd to thank for a decade of unprecedented growth and expansion and one of the most loyal supporters of the athletics program.

"Dr. Todd called me this morning and left a message on my phone and when I listened to it, it made me sick to my stomach because of my confidence in him as a leader," UK men's basketball coach John Calipari said. "He's maybe my best recruiter. Every player that comes on this campus has a chance to meet our president, who went to school here and taught here. On the other side, I'm happy for him and his wife. But it's a big loss. This is not like, 'Let's just get another guy.' This is a big loss."

Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive weighed in on the loss.

"Dr. Todd has been a tremendous leader for the Southeastern Conference, the University of Kentucky and the state of Kentucky," Slive said in a statement. "His advocacy for the integration of higher education and intercollegiate athletics was a constant theme of his presidency of the SEC (2008-10). During his tenure as league president, the SEC secured contracts that allowed it to become the most widely-distributed televised conference in the nation. All of us in the Southeastern Conference wish Dr. Todd well in his retirement. We will miss him."

Check out the full news release on Todd's plan to retire, including a fact sheet of Todd's accomplishments at UK and a collection of quotes, at uknow.uky.edu.

Additional quotes from UK's staff:

UK football coach Joker Phillips: "The University is losing a great ambassador. Dr. Todd is a tremendous advocate of our University and our state. I'm both happy and sad - happy for him to be able to retire and also sad for our University to see him leave."

UK women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell: "Dr. Todd was an extraordinary leader for this university. The example he set with his leadership was an inspiration to me personally and to all the people in leadership roles at UK. He is a man of great integrity and it is clear to me that his passion for UK is extremely sincere. It's an honor to work under him and I will forever be grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to work at this great institution. He will be greatly missed. I know his legacy will be admired for a long time and he'll be remembered as one of the greatest presidents in UK history."

UK women's soccer coach Jon Lipsitz: "Dr. Todd has worked incredibly hard to create the profile of this university and has been tremendously successful in the push to create both academic and athletic excellence. If he feels it's his time for a rest, he's certainly earned it. We greatly appreciate everything he has done academically and athletically for this university. I couldn't imagine working for somebody that's both a greater president or a greater human being than President Todd.
                                          
"On a personal level, it's been wonderful to meet him and his wife Patsy. As a newcomer to this state and this university to see their passion for the Commonwealth, the university and UK athletics is very infectious. Getting to meet them has certainly had a great effect on my family in our short time here."

UK baseball coach Gary Henderson: "Dr. Todd means a tremendous amount to the state of Kentucky, the University and the entire athletics department," UK head baseball coach Gary Henderson said. "His vision, enthusiasm and passion for the University and the state is a great asset to the athletics department. I have had the pleasure of working at UK for seven years and feel privileged to work with such a wonderful leader and a man of great integrity."

- MiamiDolphins.com has a feature on former Kentucky linebacker Micah Johnson and his early battles to make it to the NFL. The story profiles Johnson's disappointment with not getting drafted, his brief time with the New York Giants and his excitement with making the Miami Dolphins' final roster. Here's what Johnson had to say in the story about finally making it:

"My attitude towards it was kind of like, 'What do I have to lose?' And I just wanted to come out here and perform," Johnson said. "I knew that if the Dolphins would give me an opportunity then I felt like I'd be able to showcase myself because I never really doubted myself as a football player. I think it was evident I could play football based on what I did in college and talking with (General Manager) Jeff Ireland and (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Bill Parcells they said that I would have an opportunity and they gave me that opportunity. So I'm just thankful to the whole organization."

-
He's not expected to have a major impact on Saturday's game, but it is interesting to note that former Wildcat Jacob Tamme's brother will suit up for Western Kentucky. Seth Tamme, a senior out of Danville, Ky., plays wide receiver for the Hilltoppers. Tamme is not listed on the depth chart at wide receiver but is the team's holder on field goals.

- We've got another Twitter addition for those of you on the social network. UK softball coach Rachel Lawson, @UKCoachLawson, just joined the Twitter world. You can follow her by going to http://twitter.com/ukcoachlawson. You must be a registered with Twitter to follow.

- Also, if you haven't seen the HBO "Hard Knocks" video of John Conner and the immediate success he is having with the New York Jets, check out the the YouTube video below (credit to guys over at Kentucky Sports Radio for the find):

 

Video: Phillips says special-teams play must improve

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Head coach Joker Phillips

- One note to take from the video: Senior Brad Durham will get the start at right tackle on the offensive line over junior Billy Joe Murphy, though Murphy and Durham will rotate snaps.

- Phillips said the UK's special-teams play has to improve this week, particularly in the kicking game. Although freshman Joe Mansour won Kickoff Specialist of the Week for booting three touchbacks, Phillips said they have to kick the ball better. "We say put the ball outside the right hash, we expect the ball outside the right hash," Phillips said. "We do not want the ball kicked down the middle. With the way we're covering, that's trouble."

- Former Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson made an appearance at practice Wednesday and struck up a pretty long conversation with current starter Mike Hartline after practice. If you can remember back to 2007, Hartline served as Woodson's backup during his senior season.

Senior running back Derrick Locke

Statement on eligibility process of Kanter

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In light of The New York Times report and the ongoing questions about Enes Kanter's eligibility, UK has released the following statement:

The University of Kentucky is working diligently with the NCAA on this matter and we fully support Enes Kanter and his family through this ongoing NCAA review. We will have no further comment.

UK-WKU available in selected TV markets

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The Kentucky-Western Kentucky football game on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium, which will be aired on CSS, has received clearance to be aired on select outlets in Kentucky.

Viewers with Comcast Cable and New Wave Communications will be able to watch the game, although, according to a report by the Lexington Herald-Leader, a deal has not been struck with Insight Communications, Lexington's primary cable provider.

"We are evaluating options right now," Insights spokesman Jason Keller told the Herald-Leader.

The game will be available in selected markets in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Update: Fans with Frankfort Plant Board Cable in Frankfort can view the game on channel 77.

From the Pressbox: Sept. 7

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FB 10_11 Blue_White Web 09.jpgUK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 13 years and 10 years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Tom offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography

= = =

Long before Rich Brooks made the proposal to the UK administration that Joker Phillips needed to be named as the successor as head coach, Joker Phillips was planning for his dream job.

In our pregame interview for last Saturday's game at Louisville, Phillips told us that he has kept a file for several years with notes in preparation for an opportunity like this (things like coaching candidate and the like). And it's clear from everything Phillips has done through the debut win over the arch rival Cardinals that this is a man who was going to seize the day and not leave any "what ifs" hanging out there.

One had to wonder if Phillips might be hesitant to make bold moves out of deference to Brooks but that hasn't happened. Phillips has moved to put his stamp on the job -- just as he should.

First, he made coaching changes. It wasn't that the previous staff members were not doing the job, but every hire Phillips has made has been with an eye on improving Kentucky's recruiting. Brooks and his staff did a marvelous job of identifying underrated prospects and coaching them up, but if the Wildcats are going to make that long-awaited climb up the Southeastern Conference ladder, the key will almost surely be improving the talent pool while continuing to make them better once you get them.

Then, look at last Saturday's game. Brooks deferred on every coin toss his team won in his tenure at UK, but Phillips signaled his confidence in his role by telling his captain to take the ball. And it's a signal of how strongly the team supports him that the offense went out and scored in two plays.

And how about that call for Randall Cobb to pass out of the Wildcat formation on Kentucky's last series when the team needed to run out the clock? It was a risk worth taking given a player with Cobb's football IQ, knowing that he wouldn't be reckless with the trust his coaches were showing in him. After the game, Phillips said he wanted to send a message that his team was going to be aggressive and that will certainly be something for opposing defenders ton consider the next time that situation rolls around -- and running the ball might be a little easier.

All of these things are examples of a coach who is determined not to miss any tricks. Joker Phillips won't be perfect but he was definitely game-day ready.

Volleyball stays put at No. 16

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Despite going 4-0 last week with wins over archrival Louisville and Ohio State, the Kentucky volleyball team checked in at No. 16 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association coaches' poll for the second consecutive week.

The Cats will have a prime opportunity to move up next week as they face Cincinnati (receiving votes) Tuesday and No. 17 Florida State on Friday. This week's AVCA poll is below:

Rank

School (First-Place Votes)

Total Points

2010 Record

Last Week 

1

Penn State (55)

1483 

6-0

1

2

Stanford (4) 

1406 

5-0

3

3

Illinois

1362 

5-0

5

4

Florida (1)

1279

5-0

6

5

Texas

1205

5-1

2

Hawai'i

1184

5-1

4

Nebraska

1133

5-1

7

8

Southern California

1110 

6-0

10

9

Washington

1066

5-0

9

10

California

940 

4-0 

11

11

Iowa State

865

5-1

12

12

Minnesota

854

5-1

8

13

UCLA 

688

5-1

14

14

Tennessee

665

6-0 

17

15

Colorado State

638

5-1

15

16

Kentucky

501

4-2 

16

17

Florida State

478

5-1

13

18

Northern Iowa

465 

5-1

22

19

Oregon

431

4-0

18

20

Dayton

388

5-1

20

21

LSU

330

6-0 

21

22

Michigan

309

5-1 

19

23

Long Beach State

270

5-1

23

24

Arizona

155

5-1

24

25

San Diego

55

2-3

25

Allen believes he's a fullback now

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FB 09_10 UK_EKU web 95.jpgMoncell Allen's punishing blocks against Louisville didn't go unnoticed Saturday but they didn't exactly garner the spotlight Allen might have gained at his previous position. Meanwhile, his former teammate and predecessor at fullback, John Conner, continues to gain national acclaim on HBO's hit series "Hard Knocks," earning a starting position on the New York Jets.

The comparison couldn't be more fitting for Allen as he transitions to his new position at fullback.

Since learning at last year's Music City Bowl that the coaching staff wanted Allen to change positions, he hasn't exactly been thrilled about the change.

"Of course I wasn't too happy at all about it," Allen said. "I heard it from my teammates and different stuff like that. I heard people saying, 'Hey man, I heard Joker's talking about moving you to fullback.' I said, 'Nah, I'm not going to fullback until he comes and talks to me. I'm not really going to make that move.' "

But faced with a dilemma to watch on the sideline with his helmet as a running back or get on the field as a fullback, Allen was forced to accept the change. After delivering some key blocks that helped the Kentucky rushing offense to 230 yards and a 23-16 win over archrival U of L, Allen finally believes in the change.

"He's now seeing himself (as a fullback)," head coach Joker Phillips said Monday at his weekly news conference. "We've been trying to convince him. He's convincing himself that he's a fullback now. I think that's the hardest thing for a guy going from a tailback to a fullback."

Despite rushing for 469 yards and three scores in his three years as a tailback, it was becoming increasingly clear that Allen was going to have a tough time finding playing time this year with the return of stud tailback Derrick Locke, the emergence of Donald Russell and a highly touted running back class.

Allen received carries, yards and touchdowns at tailback. Waving goodbye to that glory wasn't going to be easy.

But as Allen started to watch Conner on "Hard Knocks" and realize the success he was having as a fullback, it became easier for Phillips and the coaching staff to sell the position to him. The New Orleans native thought if Conner could get to the NFL by being an underappreciated fullback, maybe he could to.

"Seeing John go in the league, get a chance to get drafted and then to go out there and to make the noise he's making right now, it's putting it in my head that I can go out there and do the same thing he's doing," Allen said. "Watching the 'Hard Knocks' thing makes it all worthwhile."

If seeing is believing, then Allen finally believes.
 
"Everybody saw (him as a fullback)," Phillips said. "The world saw him. The world saw him mowing people down. I think ('Hard Knocks') helps convince himself it's not a bad gig after all."

And feeling the fruits of his labor doesn't hurt either. After springing Locke to several key runs in the Cats' fourth straight win over Louisville, including a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter, Allen has earned the praise and respect of his teammates.

"Of course he did," Allen said when asked if Locke thanked him for the open field. "He had no choice. ... We hung out the next day and he talked about it the whole time."

Despite losing college football's No. 1 fullback to the pros in the offseason, Locke told reporters last week that he had zero doubts in Allen's ability to replace Conner.

"Locke put the pressure on me and I put it on myself too," Allen said. "I know people are expecting to me to be just like John Conner. You're not going to get exactly John Conner. When you look at me, you're going to get more than what John Conner can do to the team."

Adjusting to the different angles of blocking and the headaches of increased head-to-head collisions is still a work in progress for Allen, but the goal of attacking somebody at the snap of the ball hasn't changed.

"All the things that John has as far as special teams, catching the ball, athleticism for a big man, (Allen has that)," Phillips said. "The thing he has to do is show everybody he can block, he can get the tough short yardage. He has to show people he can block. He got off to a good start in doing it."

Video: UK shifts focus to WKU

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Head coach Joker Phillips


Senior fullback Moncell Allen


Junior linebacker Danny Trevathan


Junior defensive tackle Luke McDermott

Live blog: Joker Phillips' news conference - WKU

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The Joker Phillips era got off on the right foot with the Kentucky football team's fourth straight victory over archrival Louisville, but not all was perfect in the week-one win over the Cardinals.

Despite manhandling Louisville offensively in the first half by outgaining the Cardinals 271-102 before halftime, UK allowed U of L to creep back into the game in the third quarter, even affording the Cards a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

Penalties, third-down conversions and special-teams blunders were the biggest culprits for the near comeback, three things that need to be cleaned up before the Cats' home opener against Western Kentucky on Saturday, head coach Joker Phillips said Sunday on his weekly postgame teleconference.

"Although a lot of guys have experience, we're still a young football team," Phillips said. "We've got to learn how to finish. We talked about wanting to set the tempo, which is one of the reasons we took the ball. ... We've got to understand how to put the game away."

Phillips pointed to two drives in particular where Kentucky had the chance to seal the outcome. The first drive came early in the fourth quarter when the Cats drove all the way down to the U of L 2-yard line. Ultimately, though, UK came up empty after a false start penalty and a missed field goal.

On the ensuing Louisville drive, Kentucky turned what appeared to be a turnover on downs into fresh set of downs when linebacker Ridge Wilson was flagged for roughing the passer on fourth-and-17.

"Our kids played hard (but) they didn't always play smart," Phillips said. "We had way too many penalties, which is a no-no for Kentucky. Kentucky doesn't beat Kentucky. You can beat yourself when you have the type of penalties in crucial situations, especially when you're trying to get yourself off the field on defense."

Phillips will also take a long look at his special teams this week, particularly at the field-goal kicking position.

Ryan Tydlacka won the job in fall camp, beating out highly acclaimed freshman kicker Joe Mansour, but the junior kicker missed an extra-point attempt in the first quarter and a chip shot from 25 yards out in the fourth.

Phillips said Mansour, who was named the National Kickoff Specialist of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards after booting three touchbacks out of five kickoffs, will get an extra look in practice this week.

"When you've got a young guy as talented as Joe Mansour, you always have to have competition because any day the light can kick on with him," Phillips said. "He could be an outstanding kicker for us for the rest of his career here, so we're always going to be evaluating."

The important thing for Phillips' team is that the mistakes did not result in a season-opening loss.

"I think it's the best time to have some great teaching points is when you win and also don't play exceptionally well, and we did not," Phillips said. "We played good at times, but there was a little lull in there that we've got a chance now to teach from. You lose games like that."

Crawford suspended for WKU: Senior defensive tackle Mark Crawford has been suspended for this week's game against Western Kentucky for a violation of team rules.

"We've got to keep moving," Phillips said. "We'll discipline him, he'll get everything corrected and then we'll have him back in two weeks."

Clean bill of health: With the exception of a couple of bumps and bruises, Phillips said his team made it out of week one with no major injuries. Linebacker Avery Williamson tweaked a hamstring but is expected to be back this week.

Tickets still available: Tickets for this week's WKU game are still available, in addition to remaining season tickets for the 2010 season. The ticket office at the Joe Craft Center will be open Labor Day (Monday) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sunday notes: Knight, Jones on Sporting News

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Just a couple of quick notes that I couldn't get to Saturday because of the Kentucky-Louisville football game:

- Several former Kentucky football players have survived final cuts in the NFL as rosters are trimmed down to their regular-season allotment of 53. The biggest news from UK's side of things is former UK punter Tim Masthay made the Green Bay Packers' roster and is slated to be the team's starting punter. Fullback John Conner (New York Jets), cornerback Trevard Lindley (Philadelphia Eagles) and Jeremy Jarmon (Washington Redskins) all made the roster. Alfonso Smith was the ony casualty this weekend as the Arizona Cardinals cut the former Kentucky tailback to get down to 53.  Update: Former UK linebacker Micah Johnson also made the Miami Dolphins' final roster. Congrats to all the former Wildcats.

- Men's basketball point guard Brandon Knight has joined the Twitter world. You can follow him at @brandonknight12.

- Knight and forward Terrence Jones graced the cover of Sporting News recently for Sporting News' college basketball upcoming season. Here is the cover:

SportingNews.jpg

Links: Four in a row

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UL_UK_BW_02.jpg- Chip Cosby from the Lexington Herald-Leader writes that the Cats lean on Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb in his game story

- John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader says Joker Phillips still looks good after win No. 1

- Clay also has a pretty informational chart on UK's third down defense on his blog

- Fellow columnist Mark Story writes that if the win is 'disappointing,' the Cats should be good

- Jennifer Smith on Mike Hartline's most successful return

- Cosby also writes that no longer a sidekick, Danny Trevathan shines on his own

- Rick Bozich from the Lexington Herald-Leader on Phillips winning round 1

- Locke displays his staying power, Michael Grant of the CJ writes

- The CJ's notes say that Winston Guy and DeQuin Evans felt Phillips' discipline

- Larry Vaught from the Danville Advocate-Messenger says that the Cats got the win Phillips needed

- Keith Taylor from the Winchester Sun writes that beating Louisville 'feels great' for Cobb

- Nick Craddock of the Kentucky Kernel on the Phillips era getting off to a winning note

- Kernelite Chandler Howard says Hartline surpassed expectations

Phillips era off to good start with momentum

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UL_UK_BW_08.jpgLOUISVILLE, Ky. -- No game is more important than the first game for a first-year head coach. It's about making an impression, a statement and getting off to the right foot.

Even more important for Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips, it was about proving the decision to make him Rich Brooks' successor was the right call, ensuring the transition was smooth and generating some momentum.

Consider the Joker Phillips off to a good start with Kentucky 23-16 win over Louisville on Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The win marked the Cats' fourth straight victory over the Cardinals, the first time either team has won fourth straight games since the rivalry was renewed in 1994.

"I'm excited for this program," Phillips said after his first career win as head coach. "It's not so much Joker Phillips. For us to have a great season, we have to win this game. We could still have a good season if we would have lost, but to have a great season, you have to win this game."

Phillips and the players emphasized this week the importance of this week's game. To do special things in 2010 and move up the bowl ladder, UK has to take care of its nonconference games.

The first one might have been the most difficult to conquer. Now the Cats can move forward to their next two nonconference games with momentum and plenty of confidence.

"More than anything, we did it for our team," senior defensive end DeQuin Evans said. "I wouldn't say the win was just for Coach Joker or any coach or anybody individually. We did it for the University of Kentucky football team, to get us started off on the right track. ... It gives us good courage and it gives us a level head going into our next game."

UL_UK_BW_03.jpgLOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Admit it, you had reservations when Joker Phillips announced Mike Hartline would be the starting quarterback for the foreseeable future of the 2010 Kentucky football season.

Admit it, you Mike Hartline doubter. When Hartline marched on to the field for the very first snap of the Phillips era, you had butterflies floating in your stomach.

You thought, "This won't last long. We might even see Morgan Newton later today."

And then Phillips dialed up a first-play bomb and let who he called "the best man for the job" air it out. On the very first play of the game in two all-important debuts for two different head coaches, Hartline connected with La'Rod King for a 38-yard reception. The next play Derrick Locke rushed right and spun back left for 32 yards and a touchdown.

Before anyone knew it, Hartline went from just outside the doghouse to the penthouse.

Admit, even with all that built up anger towards Hartline in the past, he kind of won you over now.  

"That's something Mike wanted to come out and do, to prove to everybody (that he could get the job done)," said junior wide receiver Randall Cobb, once the opposition in a quarterback controversy two years ago. "I think he had the team behind his back already. It was just getting the fan support and the media support behind him to show that he's put in a lot of work this offseason to earn the spot that he has."

It was a sense of vindication for Hartline after what seems like a career of weathering pessimism. The same guy that took the brunt of criticism for the last few years for the Cats' passing ineffectiveness is now 3-0 as a starting quarterback against Louisville after leading Kentucky to a 23-16 victory Saturday in front of 55,327 fans at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Hartline finished an ultra-efficient 17-of-26 for 217 yards with no picks.

"He was the guy that I praised the most with our football team," Phillips said. "Mike has taken a lot of criticism, and you know what, he's handled it like a man. He hasn't come out here and had the sour look on his face. He had the bounce in his step. ... He did more than manage the game. He made plays to win the game."

Those of you that scoffed at the notion that Hartline gave Kentucky "the best chance to win" when he won the job, Phillips was telling the truth. Although hype was built up around the three-man battle, there were rumblings in and around the program that Hartline was quietly going about his business and maturing into the quarterback some had always hoped he would be.

Whether it was experience or an urge to prove people wrong, Hartline developed a sense of leadership this fall camp and took on the role of the calm veteran. In the face of the uncertainty of the quarterback battle, Hartline stood tall, answered questions and went out and won the job.

Now he's proving why he deserved it.

"This is one of those things now that you can cherish and be happy about after the game is over with is being the quarterback Kentucky has," Hartline said. "I'm just so happy to be around this group of guys with the way they worked this week, the way they've been working in the offseason."

Sounds like a different guy, huh? One that's more mature, more confident and more ready to lead this UK football team than he's been before.

One of the biggest criticisms about Hartline is his supposed lack of ability to throw the deep ball. Phillips and Hartline wasted no time in trying to prove those doubters wrong with that first-play bomb. Hartline finished with seven passes of 15 yards or more.

"(The first play) helped alleviate (the pressure) a lot," Hartline said. "Especially pregame, I was the most nervous but the most prepared I've ever been for this game."

Maybe the most overlooked part of Hartline's game is his ability to use his feet. Though the 6-foot-6, 210-pound senior won't beat Derrick Locke in a 40-yard race or break anyone's ankles on the corner, he has a much underrated ability to move when under pressure.

"I thought he did a tremendous job of having some awareness in the pocket and of moving around," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders said. "I can't remember a sack."

There wasn't one, even in times where a defensive lineman or two was in his face or a linebacker was just a step behind him. Hartline had the presence of mind to know where he was in pocket and when it was time to get out.

Sometimes he completed the pass, sometimes he ran with it and other times he just tossed it out of bounds. As Phillips said after the game, "he managed the pressure." He refused to give up a negative play.

"It comes with working with your guys, understanding what they can do and where the pressure is coming from," Hartline said. "We worked on our scramble drill this season. We want to get out of the pocket and get guys moving. We have really big receivers. They can make plays. As long as I can get them the football we're in good shape."

Hartline did it late in the first quarter when he ran right and connected with Matt Roark for 25 yards to the Louisville 1-yard line and did it again early in the third quarter on a third down when he eluded a would-be sack and turned it into a 33-yard pass to Chris Matthews.

It makes one think that we could see Hartline more on the move this season.

"We need to move him around," Sanders said. "We've got to be able to make plays off scrambles. I don't know many we had, but we had three or four big plays on scrambles and were able to keep some drives alive and keep our offense on the field."

So admit, you Kentucky fan. Mike Hartline played a good game and is capable of leading this year's offense.

"I'm obviously proud of him," Sanders said.

You should be too.

Senior quarterback Mike Hartline


Junior wide receiver Randall Cobb


Senior wide receiver Derrick Locke


Senior defensive end DeQuin Evans


Junior linebacker Danny Trevathan

Live blog: UK football vs. Louisville

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We'll get started about 3 p.m. Saturday.

Game-day links

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It's about that time. I don't think we need to say much more about the game than we already have. You already know what's at stake -- a potential fourth straight victory for the Kentucky football team and the beginning of two new coaching regimes. Here is what the scribes are saying about Saturday's Governor's Cup.

- John Clay from the Lexington Herald-Leader on the new coaches trying to engineer their first victory

- His colleague Mark Story writes that UK-U of L is a recipe for a rivalry

- Beat reporter Chip Cosby notes that UK is breaking in several new players for the big game

- Cosby also has a Q and A with center Matt Smith, who will make his first start in his hometown of Louisville

- Courier-Journal reporter C.L. Brown writes that this year's showdown is loaded with unknowns

- The CJ has its big-game essentials, which also includes some pretty helpful parking information

- Brett Dawson has a feature on new head coaches Joker Phillips and Charlie Strong, old friends who will come together in their debuts

- The Cats' Pause has its scouting report for the game

- The Associated Press writes that the Governor's Cup could hinge on the running game

- A few predictions: Sporting News, ESPN and CollegeFootballNews.com are all picking Kentucky to win 

And just in case you're not up for Saturday's game, these should help you out:

SEC Tournament to return to Nashville

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for SEC LOGO UK BLUE.jpgI'm off today before the big Kentucky-Louisville football game, but make sure you check out the following release on the immediate future of the Southeastern Conference Men's Basketball Tournament.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Southeastern Conference has entered into a multi-year agreement with the Nashville Sports Council to play its men's basketball tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., SEC Commissioner Mike Slive announced Friday. With today's announcement the Music City will serve as host to the annual event four times in the coming decade, adding 2015, 2016 and 2019 to an already agreed upon 2013 tournament.

"We are excited about continuing our relationship with the city of Nashville," Slive said. "Nashville provides SEC teams and fans a great postseason experience. This past year's tournament at Bridgestone Arena was one of the most exciting in recent memory." 

"We are thrilled that Music City will continue its partnership with the SEC as host for the men's tournament," Nashville Sports Council president & CEO Scott Ramsey said. "As we experienced this year, the Bridgestone Arena and downtown campus provides an exciting and electric atmosphere for players, fans and media. We are appreciative of the confidence the SEC has in Nashville as a host city and look forward to welcoming everyone back to Nashville on a regular basis over the next decade."

"The SEC Tournament back in March energized our entire downtown," Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said. "Our hotels, our restaurants, the entertainment district on Lower Broad all benefited from the thousands of visitors that the tournament drew. It is tremendous that the SEC has decided to return to Music City four more times in the coming years. Downtown is only going to get better, especially with the opening of our new downtown convention center campus in 2013. The tournaments are sure to be a great experience for the fans and a great win for our tourism industry."

Bridgestone Arena opened in 1996 and has hosted the SEC Basketball Tournament three times (2001, 2006 and 2010). The facility is Nashville's No. 1 venue for large-scale musical productions, as well as one of the nation's most highly acclaimed entertainment and sports venues. The 2010 SEC Tournament at the arena drew a total of 191,852 fans for an average of 17,441 per game.

Future SEC Tournament Sites

2011       Atlanta, Ga. (Georgia Dome)
2012       New Orleans, La. (New Orleans Arena)
2013       Nashville, Tenn. (Bridgestone Arena)
2014       Atlanta, Ga. (Georgia Dome)
2015       Nashville, Tenn. (Bridgestone Arena)
2016       Nashville, Tenn. (Bridgestone Arena)
2017       TBD
2018       TBD
2019       Nashville, Tenn. (Bridgestone Arena)

From the Pressbox: Sept. 3

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UK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 13 years and 10 years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Tom offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography

= = =

Most of the changes in the Kentucky football program at the start of Joker Phillips era will be subtle ones to fans.  Like Randy Sanders moving from the sidelines to the booth in his role as offensive coordinator.

Sanders will use reserve quarterback Tyler Sargent to signal in plays, a job he assumed when Sanders suffered a broken wrist. Sanders said he likes the idea of using one of his QBs to do it because they're the ones in the meeting room with him each day and they know how he communicates best.

Don't look for any great shakeup in the playcalling, since Sanders and Phillips have worked in concert for so many years already. And Sanders said play calling itself is overrated.

"I have called plays that are actually perfect, but if we don't execute them -- throw it, catch it, whatever -- it doesn't work," Sanders said. "I have called plays that have been the best for a particular situation that have worked out very well, so it all gets down to the execution and preparation and play calling, which counts, but not as much as people think.

"You try to find a rhythm in the play calling and it is easier to find a rhythm when you have a little success. It is easier to set things up when what you are calling is working and you go out there and execute. You need to go out and have a little success and be able to find a rhythm because once you find that rhythm, it is easier to set things up and  get it going."

There's more mystery on the Louisville in terms of what to expect from an entirely new coaching staff, but Sanders has an inkling of what he will based on watching Charlie Strong's defenses at Florida.

"I've been going against Charlie for a long time," Sanders said. "There will be a lot of Florida's personality and a lot of Charlie's personality, which is very aggressive and they are a lot of man-to-man, lot of blitz, zone blitz, and their third-down packages are also difficult to deal with. A big key for us will be to manage the pressure, stand in there man-to-man and (stay out of a long distance) on third down so that you are not having to deal with all the different looks and fronts."

===

"I don't think anybody will have a feel for it. I don't think I even had a feel for it when I first got here knowing who you are playing against."

That's the assessment from center Matt Smith, who will make his first start Sautrday at Louisville -- where he grew up.

"I played on the field a few times in high school but never played them on that field, it is just a whole different experience being out against those guys," he said. "I feel there is more pressure. I will have a lot of people at the game and know a lot of guys that are on the team, so it is a chance for me to go out and show what I can do and prove that I came to Kentucky for a reason. I have grown up a Kentucky fan and always been a Kentucky fan and having to hear all that 'You should have gone to Louisville and all that stuff, it is really exciting to be on this team and know that we are in contention to do some big stuff this year."

===

Count one-time Indiana and U-of-L Lee Corso, now an ESPN commentator, among those who would like to see the Kentucky-IU series resume.

"If I was the Indiana coach I would play Kentucky and if I was the Kentucky coach, I would want to play Indiana," Corso said this summer while attending the annual Governor's Cup Luncheon. " It is about the same distance from Louisville and all that same area.  It could be a great rivalry and was for us because, I guess I made it more, but it was a great rivalry."

FB 09_10 UK_FL  WEB 013.jpgTime: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET


Location:
Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Ky.

TV coverage: ABC with Dave LaMont and JC Pearson

Radio coverage: Big Blue Sports Network with Tom Leach, Jeff Piecoro and Dick Gabriel (630 WLAP-AM in Lexington); Check for an affiliate in your area 

Satellite radio: XM 201; Sirius 218 (note: you must have the "Best of XM" package to hear the game on Sirius)

Digital coverage: Cat Scratches' live in-game blog; Gametracker; Twitter updates

Game-time weather: 73 degrees and sunny 

Arrive early: Fans are highly encouraged to arrive at the stadium early to avoid parking delays and also to enter the stadium early to avoid long entry lines at the stadium gates.

Parking: Parking information can be found on U of L's Gameday site

Cat Walk: A modified version of the "Cat Walk" will resume Saturday at 1:15 p.m. Because buses will not be able to stop before proceeding through the gates at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, head coach Joker Phillips is asking fans to "greet" the team as it travels down Floyd Street and turns into the stadium at Gate H. View a map of the "Cat Walk."

UK Alumni Association Tailgate: The UK Alumni Association will be hosting a tailgate before the UK-Louisville game, starting at 1 p.m. in front of Gate 17 on the grounds of Churchill Downs at 700 Central Avenue in Louisville. Parking is free and the event location is just a short walk from the stadium. Cost is just $5 for students, $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers and includes a catered lunch from Mark's Feed Store featuring barbeque, side items, tea and water. A cash bar will be available. Make your reservation at www.ukalumni.net/tailgate.  The UK band and UK cheerleaders are expected to make an appearance.

*All information on Saturday's game with Louisville can be found at Louisville's official website.

The Game Plan: Joker Phillips' keys to the game

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Gameday Information
Game Notes UK Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UK Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
UL Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UL Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Saturday, Sept. 4
3:30 p.m
Coverage TV: ABC
Radio: BBSN
GameTracker
Online Audio listen
Online Video via ESPN3
Live Blog
Location Papa John's Cardinal Stadium
Louisville, Ky.
Gameday Information
Louisville Cardinals at a Glance
Head Coach Charlie Strong
Record at School 0-0 (First Season)
2009 Record 4-8, 1-6 Big East
Ranking NR
Series Record Kentucky leads 13-9
Last Meeting Kentucky beat Louisville in Lexington, Ky. 31-27 on Sept.19, 2009
2009 Team Stats UK UL
Rushing Offense 191.2 125.2
Passing Offense 140.3 208.9
Total Offense 331.5 334.1
Scoring Offense 26.1 18.1
Rushing Defense 182.9 165.1
Passing Defense 177.5 206.0
Total Defense 177.5 371.1
Scoring Defense 22.7 26.3
Turnover Margin +0.15 -0.25
2009 Returning Stat Leaders
Rushing UK: Derrick Locke (196 rushes, 908 yds, 6 TDs)
UL: Victor Anderson (89 rushes, 473 yds, 5 TDs)
Passing UK: Mike Hartline (79-133, 802 yds, 6 TDs, 7 INTs)
UL: Adam Froman (111-185, 1354 yds, 6 TDs, 5 INTs)
Receiving UK: Randall Cobb (39 catches, 447 yds, 4 TDs)
UL: Doug Beaumont (38 catches, 465 yds, 0 TDs)
Tackles UK: Danny Trevathan (80 total, 4 for loss)
UL: Johnny Patrick (53 total, 4 for loss)
Sacks UK: DeQuin Evans (6)
UL: William Savoy (5)
Interceptions UK: Randall Burden (2)
UL: Brandon Heath, Johnny Patrick (2)

Each and every week prior to a Kentucky football game, Cat Scratches will talk with head coach Joker Phillips for his game plan of attack. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Phillips will tell us his keys to the game, a key matchup and who Kentucky has to look out for on the opposing team.

Offensive keys - Hold onto the ball: "Offensively, the key to the game is making sure we protect the ball. We've got to be able to run the ball and have got to be able to protect our quarterback and then take advantage of situations that come up throughout the game."
Cat Scratches' take: Kentucky owns a plus-three turnover margin during its three-game winning streak over the Cardinals, but surprisingly, they haven't been a huge factor outside of the 2008 game in Louisville. In that contest, UK forced five U of L turnovers, including a memorable 72-yard fumble return by defensive tackle Myron Pryor that sealed the game for the Cats. Senior quarterback Mike Hartline has been efficient with the ball against Louisville in his two starts, throwing just one pick.

Defensive keys - UK's defensive line: "The keys on defense is making sure we're stopping the run. We've got to create some turnovers and create some ruckus for their quarterback. We can't let their quarterback be comfortable in the pocket. A lot of that is going to be dependent on our defensive line and how they handle their offensive line."
Cat Scratches' take: The team with the most rushing yards over the last 10 meetings has won the game. No joke - look it up. That's why the matchup between Louisville's experienced offensive line (four seniors) and Kentucky's inexperienced defensive line (two first-time starters) could loom large. Kentucky's average weight of its starting four defensive linemen is 269 pounds. The average weight of U of L's offensive line is 302 pounds.

Key matchup - UK's speed guys vs. U of L's defense: "There's no doubt that we've got to get the ball to Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke. We feel good with any of those matchups. The other guy that's got to make plays for us and has to be a huge part of this game for us is Chris Matthews."
Cat Scratches' take: Shockingly, one thing we haven't heard much about in the offseason with the quarterback battle dominating the headlines has been the use of the Wildcat package. Although the coaching staff hasn't talked about it much, chances are we'll see it a handful of times Saturday. Remember, thanks to the help of the aforementioned Locke and Cobb, Kentucky ranked as one of the top 25 rushing offenses last year.

Louisville's strength - New coaching staff: "I'm concerned about the unknown. We've got to be able to adjust. It might be after the first play, it might be at halftime, it might be after the first quarter, but we've got to be able to adjust with us not knowing the new coaching staff and exactly what they're running."
Cat Scratches' take: With a new head coaching staff generally comes new coordinators. And with new coordinators generally come new styles and philosophies. UK studied film from Florida, Utah, UNLV and Virginia. What combination will the Cats see Saturday from new Louisville head coach Charlie Strong? It will be a huge factor in the game.

Kentucky's strength - Operation Win: "Our attitude is our strength, our overall attitude. Our players believe in the plan, what we've been practicing on and our training."
Cat Scratches' take: Not much needs to be said here. The storyline of the offseason, Phillips' first as head coach, was beating Operation Win into the players' heads. They believe in it and it's showed off the field. Will it translate over on to it?

Louisville players to watch out for - running backs: "I would say Victor Anderson. He's a dynamic player for those guys. He and Bilal Powell are two very good players. And anytime you have a senior as your quarterback like Adam Froman, you can't sleep on him."
Cat Scratches' take: Anderson could be one of the surprise tailbacks of the 2010 season after sitting out most of last season with a shoulder injury. When Anderson was healthy as a freshman two seasons ago, he rushed for 1,047 yards. Anderson was the 2008 Big East Rookie of the Year. The Cats would be wise to make sure he doesn't pick up where he left off in 2008. 

Video: Phillips ready to start new era

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Men's soccer tries 'get above hump' with youth

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MSOC 09_10 UK_SMU 27.jpgHead coach Ian Collins doesn't look like a statistics guy nor does he usually talk like a statistics guy, but he has a number that might talk about how undervalued his team is in Conference USA, how overlooked it is by the NCAA Tournament selection committee and how close it is to taking the next step.

Over the last four years, Tulsa leads C-USA with 24 conference wins. The team with the second-most wins? Kentucky at 21. After that, the next closest team really isn't even all that close. SMU, who has made the NCAA Tournament two times over the last four years while the Cats have sat at home, have 16.

But Collins isn't going where you think he's going with that statistic. He's putting the void of postseason tournaments on the back of his team.

"We have no problem in regular-season games," Collins said. "We have four second-place trophies. Tulsa's got six championships. It is a minute gap that we have to conquer. We're going to do whatever we can to get above the hump. We've maybe had some things not go our way, but you can't look at that. We've got to separate ourselves from Tulsa as well. We've got to become the toughest team in the conference."

After two NCAA Tournament snubs in the last four years and missing the postseason all together since 2003, Collins is so focused on his team getting better and worrying only about things it can control that the he'd try to make you believe he's unconcerned about the NCAA Tournament.

"For us, we don't talk too much about the NCAA Tournament anymore because some of the things that have happened to us the last few years," Collins said. "We just concentrate on winning the championship and trying to win every game. ... We lost five regular-season games last year; we should have lost one. We know that. We have the opportunity to put that right. Our focus this year is to really concentrate on every game. It doesn't matter if it's Indiana, SMU, Tulsa, Louisville, South Carolina. We have to play every game like it is the last game." 

If the Cats are going to end the streak of near misses, it's going to start with a rather new cast. A long list of linchpins that includes the likes of two-time C-USA Player of the Year Barry Rice, former captain Jason Griffiths and four-year starting goalkeeper Dan Williams have departed. Tim Crone, Marco do Santos and Chad Hagerty? All gone.

"I don't think you can replace people like Barry Rice and Dan, and to be honest, I think the boys we brought in are going to do a good job for us and I think it is going to be a good year for us," senior defender/midfielder Brad Walker said.

This year's version of the Kentucky men's soccer team is young and unproven. Only seven players on the 32-man roster are juniors or older. Sixteen players are freshmen. That doesn't mean they're necessarily worse off.

Collins said people will understand that if they give the newcomers a chance, pointing out a couple of potential freshman stars in defender Dylan Asher, forward Tyler Riggs, forward Ryan Costen and defender Marco Bordon.

"This is their time," Collins said. "This is a breath of fresh air a little bit and guys now have an opportunity to come in and lay their own legacy and make the program better."

Collins said he could start as many as six freshmen Friday night when the Cats open their season against Eastern Illinois at the UK Soccer Complex. Three of those players could start on the backline, and the one lone veteran in the back, Walker, could move forward as a midfielder, where Collins believes he's better suited.

Also, after a four-man battle for the goalkeeper position for much of the preseason (UK went 2-0-1 in three exhibition games), redshirt freshman Tyler Beadle won the job and will get the start Friday night.

It's a new look and new style for the UK men's soccer team.

"People will not recognize the team Friday and wonder who is who, but I think one or two guys are going to fit in pretty quick and I think the guys are going to do well," Collins said.

But for the Cats to do well this year, Collins said players like Walker, sophomore forward Cameron Wilder and particularly sophomore midfielder Matt Lodge have to be solid.

"It is a big season for (Lodge) and he knows it," Collins said. "He is going to catch more attention from people and get kicked around a little bit, but he has the ability and the mentality and I think this will be a breakout year for him. He had a very good year last year, but I think to me that was just a first step. I am interested to see how many goals he can get, how dangerous he is."

Despite leading the team in goals (six) and points (14), Lodge said he needs to become an even more active goal scorer for Kentucky to return to the postseason.

"I've got a point to prove," Lodge said. "I scored some goals last year but I don't think my performance was all there. This year I'm going to try to step up and score more goals and take lead of the team."

After a midseason stumble last year, the Cats rallied to win their final five regular-season games and made the four-team C-USA Tournament. Ultimately, Kentucky came up short again of the NCAA Tournament, but it gave Collins' returning veterans some confidence heading into this year.

It was also the perfect example of what the Cats are capable of and how close they've been to getting over the hump of second-place finishes. This year, Collins is hoping to tear the wall down with youth.

"I like this group, I like the leadership and I like the talent level," Collins said. "To use that old cliché, it is kind of a work in progress, but I think it is going to be a good season. I'm excited."

Young volleyball Cats learning to compose themselves

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Hiler_web.jpgPut that one in the memory bank, Kentucky.

On an inexperienced team with a lot of new faces in key roles, there will be nights like Wednesday's when the UK volleyball team falls behind early and sometimes ugly. Against archrival Louisville on Wednesday, it became so sluggish in the first set that it was almost too unbearable to watch if you were a Wildcat fan.

A hitting percentage of -.100, 6.5 blocks by U of L and some of the worst passing you will ever see from a collegiate volleyball team equated to another, "Uh oh, here we go again." After getting dismissed easily by a pair of top-10 teams in No. 2 Nebraska and No. 9 Iowa State over the weekend, it was easy to see why things were looking doom and gloom.

"It couldn't get much worse," senior middle blocker Lauren Rapp said.

And then, with what head coach Craig Skinner called "a few choice words" of wisdom after the first set and the help of a raucous crowd of 2,178 in a steamy Memorial Coliseum, the Cats rallied from a miserable 25-14 loss in the first set and rebounded from a pair of missed opportunities in the fourth set to defeat the Cardinals 3-2 in a five-set thriller.

"I think whoever watches us play better not leave their seat because they are going to miss something," Skinner said. "Something exciting is going to happen when we play. I love coaching this team because they compete. They never give up and they are not afraid to make mistakes. You have to have that type of mentality to beat good teams and win five-game matches."

Much like the Nebraska match to open the season, the Cats looked lost and out of sync to begin the first set. Skinner attributed it to being too amped up. But by the time UK went up 2-1 and rallied from a five-point deficit in the fifth set, this looked like a team worthy of its No. 16 ranking.

"We just have to calm down," Skinner said. "We get amped up and get a lot of adrenaline pumping. We have to find a happy medium of our emotions so we can control what we are doing on the court early in matches. That's a big part of it. You saw us pass and ball handle as the match went on and it was really good. But we have got to learn to do that from point one."

Whatever the case, Skinner will look back and use it later on in the year. The first-set loss was a microcosm of the first weekend and the fifth-set deficit was a haunting nightmare from last season.

It was the perfect learning tool for this team.

On a squad with new faces (Whitney Billings, Alexandra Morgan and Jessi Greenberg) and new leadership roles (Blaire Hiler, Lauren Rapp, Stephanie Klefot and Christine Hartmann), getting down early was the perfect example for the rest of the season. It was what the Cats needed.

The team learned not to panic. There are going to be deficits and there are going to be fifth-set tiebreakers. The point is how you finish the matches.

"We have had games like that before," Hiler said. "We've had many games like that where we start out slow, and we don't need to do that anymore, but we have always come back and fought back, and our team has a lot of heart and is filled with competitors. Just because we are down doesn't mean that's going to be the ending result."

It took some pretty sound beatings this weekend at the American Volleyball Coaches Association Showcase to learn that. Forget the preseason top-15 rankings - on a team with so many important positions to fill, there are going to be rough patches this season.

The important thing for Skinner's team is that unlike last weekend, they didn't let it snowball. They composed themselves, regrouped and played some pretty solid volleyball down the stretch despite some not-so-pretty numbers (in particular, a .072 hitting percentage).

"You can start out how ever you want, but that really doesn't matter as long as you stay composed and be single focused on what you are going to do right now," Skinner said. "We did a great job through sets two and three and for most of game four. The end of game five was a very mentally tough group of players that finished off that set."

These "new" players are going to learn by fire for much of the year. The gaudy record of the past two years probably won't be there, but talent wise this team could be better.

It's just young.

They're learning on the fly and gaining valuable experience. As Skinner said last week before the season, potential wise, this team could be just as good or better than last year.

It's just going to take time.

"Practice is one thing, but under the lights is completely different," Skinner said. "You feel like it's sometimes an out-of-body experience early in matches. The more we're in those situations, the more we're next to each other, the more we play together and play close games, I think that becomes secondary and then you think about how you are suppose to execute skills."

They're learning and they're going to be OK. Don't panic over that 0-2 start the season. The players didn't Wednesday when they rallied to be Louisville.

The No. 16 Kentucky volleyball team rallied from a first-set deficit to capture its first win of the season Wednesday over archrival Louisville. The Cats took down the Cards in a five-set thriller at Memorial Coliseum.

We'll have the complete recap on the home page in just a little bit, and check back on the blog later for a small written post about the win.

Below are a pair of video interviews with the team following the come-from-behind victory:

Head coach Craig Skinner

From left to right: Senior Blaire Hiler, Senior Lauren Rapp, redshirt freshman Whitney Billings

Live blog: UK volleyball vs. Louisville

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The No. 16 Kentucky volleyball team (0-2) got off to a rough start to the season last weekend against some of the top teams in the nation at the American Volleyball Coaches Association Showcase.

The Cats will try to rebound Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. and will have the perfect opportunity to do so against archrival Louisville at Memorial Coliseum. We will have a live blog of the action starting at 6:15 p.m. You can also check out UK out on television on Fox Sports South and CWKYT (Lexington).

From the Pressbox: Sept. 1

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UK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 13 years and 10 years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Tom offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography

= = =

Link: ESPN blogger Chris Low writes that Joker Phillips is eager to take next step

Some of Derrick Locke's teammates may engage in the worlds of Twitter and Facebook but don't count on the senior from Hugo, Okla. joining that crowd. Locke's jaw is set and  his focus is firmly set on taking his game -- and his team -- to a higher level.

"No, I don't tweet and ain't going to be tweeting back and forth and this and that about what I am going to do. I don't have time for that," Locke said. "People ask me all the time what is going to happen in the game (against Louisville), but I don't say anything. We will see September 4 and after that I will tell you how I did."

Locke burst on the season as a true freshman with a big game at Arkansas (nine rushes for 48 yards and a score) when the Cats' top four tailbacks were injured by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. He's had plenty of big games since and is on target to finish well inside the top 10 all-time rushers at UK. 

FB 09_10 UK_Bama WEB 27.jpgBut Locke talks more than ever now about team goals and he's determined that the Wildcats don't miss oportunities that he felt they should have seized last fall.

"It comes down to one selfish play to another selfish play to another selfish play," Locke said. "And what I mean by selfish is that you don't want to do it and you make this wrong step. There were some runs where if I could be just a little bit more patient -- boom, it could have been an 80-yarder. Instead, I over-ran it. Or the line should have blocked him but didn't come off of the double team. Or one bad throw, one missed route -- it is that close. 

"We should of had 10-win season (last year)," Locke said. "We were close and didn't get it and it was because of selfishness. Right now we need to make sure everyone is accountable. You need to do your part. If you do your part, then everything is going to be alright."

And Locke is stepping to the front of the line in being accountable by doing extra work to prepare for his final season. It started with a conversation last spring with running backs coach Larry Brinson.

The fourth-year running backs coach helped Locke understand how he could get more out of watching tape.

"We talked about what it is exactly that I need to look at and what I need to study," Locke said. "It's not just looking at film and watching us practice. I need to know about the whole team. What are they doing? When they are in this front, they like to slant this way and how is this man doing that? I don't have too many classes, so I can get in there watch a lot of film and try to get ready. I think it is important to be as smart as your opponent, so if I can learn my opponent, then I could be a better player.

"I am trying to take everything to the next level. I am trying to get my game to the level that it should be. I don't want to have any doubts like, 'Oh, he can do this OK but he didn't do this good. Every run I want it to be good."

With Locke and junior wide receiver Randall Cobb, Kentucky has two players on watch lists for major national awards for runners and all-purpose players. Wideout Chris Matthews is being touted as a breakout prospect, too, so the Cats do not lack for weapons on offense.

"We are going to be able to mix it up this year," Locke said. "It shouldn't just go one way. It shouldn't just be pass, and shouldn't just be run. It should be a mix of whatever we got to do in that game plans situations, so that is something I am excited for, to not have nine in the box. We can back them up a little bit and make them play honest, so that way (I have) the natural ability to take over, so I am happy (with where we are)."

The Louisville game is the one that stokes the fire of most fans more than any other, but Locke is staying focused on the season as a whole.

"There's not any pressure," Locke said. "You just have to go out and play every game.  Starting with the first game and to get where we want to get, you got to win. It is plain and simple. I don't feel like it is pressure, I feel like it is something that we need to go out there and do what we need to do. We don't get it done, then the goals we want to get, we might not get there."

Rival fans can talk this week and the hype can build -- all Locke cares about is taking care of business.

"I am not concerned with it because this is who I play for, right here," Locke said. "The guys that are in here and with me battling. So the fans,  if they want to get into it, that's fine, but we have got to get a job done and we need to get it done."

- Wanted to link a great story by Jennifer Smith of the Lexington Herald-Leader on Kentucky women's basketball player Victoria Dunlap.

Smith talked to Dunlap recently about her offseason and the brutal workouts she's been going through to prepare for a huge senior season. I'll link an excerpt of the story below, but catch the full feature at Kentucky.com. The Cats are currently going through individual workouts, which you can read more about on our blog from a couple of days ago.

Stay up. Stay up.

Please, just stay up.

It's what Victoria Dunlap has told herself over and over again this summer as she's gone through conditioning with her Kentucky teammates.

The players have been on the run all summer, doing 400-yard runs, 800-yard runs and the nearly vomit-inducing 20 suicides in 20 minutes.

"That is dreadful," Dunlap said recently, "but during that I would tell myself one suicide at a time and stay up. I'd either want to lay down or put my hands on my knees, but I just have to stay up."

The Kentucky team will have completed four of these suicide tests before the start of the season in November.

"I've seen people just hurt afterward," Dunlap said. "But you have to tell yourself, 'I'm about to pass out, but I have to stay up because my teammates are watching me.' "

Read the full story here.



- ESPN blogger Chris Low writes on the Kentucky football team and says that Joker Phillips is eager to take the next step. Also worth checking out as we get ready for the season opener Saturday.

- Head coach John Calipari took to the airwaves Wednesday to talk on the Dan Patrick Show. The second-year UK coach talks about recruiting, how this team measures up to last year's squad and more. Check out the podcast at Dan Patrick's site. Also, had a great one-on-one interview with Calipari and assistant coach Orlando Antigua earlier Wednesday for a preseason publication. Keep your eyes peeled for it in October. Some really good stuff came out of it.

The Kentucky men's soccer team opens its season Friday against Eastern Illinois at 7:30 p.m. at the UK Soccer Complex.

A lot of the household names from the last few years are gone, including Conference USA Defender of the Year Barry Rice, Jason Griffiths and goalkeeper Dan Williams. Head coach Ian Collins is condient in the replacements he will have for the 2010 season, but said in an interview Wednesday that he could start as many as five or six freshman.

Below are video interviews with Collins, defender Brad Walker and forward Cameron Wilder briefly talking about the 2010 season. I'll have more in a written feature Thursday or Friday.

Head coach Ian Collins


Junior defender Brad Walker


Sophomore forward Cameron Wilder

Video: Harry Mullins talks 2010-11 UK rifle

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Kentucky rifle head coach Harry Mullins sat down to talk to Cat Scratches on Wednesday about the upcoming season.


Link: Ex-Cats Patterson, Hayes on the baseball diamond

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Cool video piece from the Houston Chronicle. Former Kentucky men's basketball stars, as a part of the Houston Rockets, went out to Houston Astros batting practice recently and took a few hacks in the cages. Both talk about their experience in the above video feature.

Bowl predictions

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Predictions are what makes the preseason so fun. Everybody starts on equal footing. Every team has the same dreams of a national championship.

Having said that, the preseason is has less than 24 hours of life left as the 2010 college football season gets underway Thursday. So before we embark on yet another crazy season, let's see what some of the analysts predict for postseason play before they've had a chance to see the teams on the field (the best is saved for last):

CBS Sports - Kentucky vs. Georgia Tech in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

ESPN (Mark Schlabach) - Kentucky vs. North Carolina in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

ESPN (Andrea Adelson) - Cincinnati vs. Kentucky in the Birmingham Bowl

Sports Illustrated - Penn State vs. Kentucky in the Outback Bowl

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