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Brown accepts head-coaching position at Troy

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Neal Brown (photo by Chet White, UK Athletics) Neal Brown (photo by Chet White, UK Athletics)
After two seasons as offensive coordinator at Kentucky, Neal Brown was officially named head coach at Troy University, where he served as an assistant from 2006-09. UK head coach Mark Stoops issued the following statement congratulating Brown.

"I am very happy for Neal to earn a head coaching job and believe Troy has made an outstanding hire," Stoops said. "Congratulations to Neal and his family and I appreciate his hard work at Kentucky."



Video: Highlights from UK's win over Providence

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UK lost to Louisville in its season finale, 44-40. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK lost to Louisville in its season finale, 44-40. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
LOUISVILLE -- A young UK football team spent the week watching clips of classic Governor's Cup games past to learn about the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry.

On Saturday, the Wildcats played in a classic of their own, though the result didn't go in their favor.

"I know people that paid to come watch this game got their money's worth," Mark Stoops said, "because that was a good football game."

In a back-and-forth affair that featured some pregame pushing and shoving and seven lead changes -- four in the fourth quarter alone -- UK (5-7) fell to rival Louisville (9-3), 44-40. The loss left the Wildcats a win shy of bowl eligibility.

"Obviously very disappointed in the outcome of this one, disappointed for our seniors to come up short in such an important game for us," Stoops said. "I was proud of the way our team fought. I felt like our guys played with great energy, great passion and really did a lot of good things. Give them credit, give Louisville credit: They made plays when they had to to win the football game and they beat us."

The thing is, the Cats made their share of plays too.

There were the two defensive touchdowns, the first scored on a 40-yard interception return by Fred Tiller and the second on a fumble forced by Bud Dupree that fellow senior Mike Douglas scooped and carried 30 yards for a touchdown. The plays gave UK leads in the second and fourth quarter, respectively, but Kyle Bolin (21-of-31 passing for 381 yards and three touchdowns) and DeVante Parker (six catches for 180 yards and three touchdowns) were too much to handle.

There were Stanley "Boom" Williams' two touchdowns - the second giving UK a 40-37 lead with just 5:31 to go - big fourth-quarter throws by Patrick Towles after a slow start and clutch catches by Demarco Robinson and Joey Herrick. The UK offense had a shot at game-winning play on its final drive, but Gerod Holliman tied an NCAA record with his 14th interception on a fourth-down pass by Towles to seal the outcome.

For Williams, who finished with 126 rushing yards to go with his two touchdowns, the day only served to make him eager to play in the game again.

"It's one of the biggest rivalries in college football history," Williams said. "It's real fun getting to play against crosstown rivals, going out there with my teammates and going to battle with those guys."

Unfortunately, Saturday will be the last time the group plays as currently constituted. Dupree, Za'Darius Smith and other seniors will move on to pursue professional careers, whether in football or elsewhere.

"It's very emotional," said Dupree, who had seven tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. "My last college game and I had a chance to win and just couldn't pull through. The team just has to learn from it for next year coming in."

Dupree's tone was the consensus among UK players and coaches: a combination of disappointment and looking to the future.

"Growing up a Kentucky fan, this is a game you dream about playing," said Towles, who was intercepted twice in 29 attempts in throwing for 176 yards against a tough Louisville defense. "And we had an opportunity and I didn't get it done today. We gotta go back to work so I will get it done next year."

This time next year, no one wants to be done playing football, but there's a certain satisfaction that comes with leaving everything on the field on the heels of two lopsided losses.

"I think it was important to come out and play against a very good football team on the road, with our rival," Stoops said. "We had lost some games. That was pointed out, and our guys responded and played a hard-fought game. We tried and competed at a high level."

The effort served as a reminder of the progress the Cats have made in Stoops' second season. Though the season ended with six losses in a row, UK won more games in 2014 than in the previous two seasons combined while also dropping tough battles to the likes of Florida, then-No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 22 Louisville.

"I don't think you can let the ending of the season cloud the progress that's been made," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said.

"We've definitely made progress and the offseason starts tomorrow for us," Williams said. "We're going to get to work and we're just going to improve this offseason and get better and go into next season with a winning mentality, approach every game right."

While Williams and the UK returners are getting back to work, Dupree will be preparing for the NFL Draft, where he is projected as a first-round selection. He'll be following the program he helped begin to rebuilt nonetheless.

"I'm confident in Coach Stoops and the program and the staff members," Dupree said. "I see a bright future for this team, for this program and big-time recruits coming in. The only thing they can do is just keep going up. We've been to the bottom. The only thing they can do is keep going up."

Stoops, meanwhile, will hit the recruiting trail looking to finalize another good signing class. Reaching a bowl game would have been a boost, but the path forward remains the same.

"As you look at this season, I never hid from the fact that it was important to win one of these games down the stretch," Stoops said. "We didn't get that done. We'll continue to work. We'll reset ourselves and go back to work. But I am proud of this group. I'm proud of the seniors. I know we've improved."

UK will host Providence at 2 p.m. on Sunday in Rupp Arena. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics) UK will host Providence at 2 p.m. on Sunday in Rupp Arena. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
Six games in, the Kentucky Wildcats have handled their business.

Save for a stray sluggish half here or there and that domination of Kansas, the Cats have comfortably dispatched opponents unable to cope with their size, talent and depth, saying the right things about taking it one game at a time along the way.

But now UK is in for a step up in competition. The Cats are excited for the challenge.

"We look at every game the same, but we know we have a lot of big games coming up that we have to get prepared for," Dakari Johnson said. "So we're going to have a great couple practices and just really go after it."

Five of UK's seven games over the next month will come against teams currently ranked the coaches' poll, starting with Providence (5-0) at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The Friars, fresh off an impressive neutral-court win over Notre Dame in which LaDontae Henton poured in 38 points, entered the poll this week at No. 25 with a home game against Yale on Friday before this weekend's trip to Rupp Arena.

"Watching them on tape, really doing a heck of a job of iso'ing guys and putting guys in (the) best positions to score," John Calipari said. "Playing extremely hard defensively. Playing both man-to-man and zone."

Coach Cal, who praised Providence head coach Ed Cooley as a "great coach that no one knows about yet," expects the Friars to show both man and zone, as well as some press. Providence has caused problems for opponents with its pressure so far this season, forcing 15.6 turnovers per game and ranking 43rd nationally in turnover percentage (.237).

Though guards Kris Dunn (averaging 7.4 assists) and Jalen Lindsey (7 of 14 from 3-point range) are dealing with injuries, the Friars will have Hinton, who is averaging 23.4 points and 5.8 rebounds. Providence is also the tallest team UK has faced to date, with 7-footer Carson Desrosiers in the starting lineup and 7-2 freshman Paschal Chukwu coming off the bench.

All that means Kentucky, which has won games by an average margin of 36.8 points (second nationally) and none by fewer than 19 points, could be in for its first tense moments in the final minutes this season. Coach Cal says his team needs exactly that kind of test, particularly of its offensive execution in such a situation.

"Well what we need is just a hand-to-hand kind of game where a team's not afraid of us, that they make plays and continue to make them throughout," Calipari said. "And then we got to understand, like, right now we're probably getting 16, 17 seconds a possession. There's got to be games where it's gonna be in the 20s. And that's gonna be as teams get better and you don't get it in transition and you don't get it and you got to pull it out.

"We're trying to create a great shot every time down, whenever that happens. Now, if it's a late game, we probably are using 25 seconds to 30 seconds before we do anything, unless it's a layup or a dunk."

Once again, the Cats are eager for the chance.

"A close game would put a little pressure on us, see how we respond to it, you know, test us, especially the freshmen, because we haven't been in that situation yet," Tyler Ulis said. "The other guys were here last year, so, you know, they've had that before, but for us it would be a lot of help."

Johnson trying to repeat UTA performance at the line

Johnson entered UK's game on Tuesday shooting 45.5 percent (50 of 110) from the free-throw line for his career.

All he did against UT Arlington was step up and bury of 12 of 14 tries.

That tells his coach something.

"If he went 12 for 14, it means he's capable of that," Calipari said. "So what gets in the way of him making 12 out of 14? It's those six inches between his ears."

Along those lines, Johnson didn't attribute his big night at the line, in which he scored in double figures even though he didn't register his lone field-goal attempt until the final minutes, to revamping his shot or anything mechanical.

"Just coming down to relaxing," Johnson said. "Just taking your time. Sometimes I rush them and think too much. Just relax and just shoot, shoot free throws."

Staying out of his own head isn't always easy, especially when he hears opposing players say Johnson going to the line is exactly what they want. However, he's not about to start talking trash when he proves them wrong.

"I don't do that," Johnson said. "Yeah, I go 12 out of 14. That's all I'm going to say."

The sophomore center will let his play do the talking. And if he keeps knocking down his free throws, he'll be playing plenty, and when it counts too.

"You're not going to be in late if you don't make free throws so I just try to get that down pat because I want to be in games late so I have to practice," Johnson said.

Calipari confirms UK-UCLA scheduling talks

ESPN's Andy Katz reported earlier this week that UK and UCLA are in talks regarding a two-year home-and-home series that would begin next season. Coach Cal confirmed as much on Friday, saying UCLA would fill the spot normally occupied by North Carolina in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons should talks result in a final agreement.

For those two seasons, UK and UNC will take a break from their home-and-home series, the reason being the Cats and Tar Heels will face off in Las Vegas as part of the 2016-17 CBS Sports Classic and continuing the series would throw off the home-road balance for the teams' schedules for those two years.

"This is all based on what we need," Calipari said. "Don't care about anybody else. You don't want to play us, listen, don't play us. So they take off two years; we'll plug in UCLA for two years."

According to Calipari, talks to resume the UK-UNC schedule in 2017-18 are already underway

Video: Johnson, Ulis on UK's matchup with Providence

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Video: Coach Cal previews matchup with Providence

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Mark Stoops hoped a bye week would reenergize his team, leading to a strong week of preparation and good performance in its season finale.

So far, he's getting exactly what he wanted.

"It's been a good week of practice so far," Stoops said. "The guys are very energetic, worked hard, enthusiastic. So it's been good. Excited about the opportunity here this week."

The opportunity for Kentucky is two-fold.

To begin with, the Wildcats get to face rival Louisville at noon ET on Saturday in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. To that end, UK continued its educational series on the rivalry by watching a handful of clips from Governor's Cup games past.

Other coaches might downplay the importance of the matchup, but not Stoops. He sees UK-UL as an important part of what it means to be at Kentucky.

"It's a rivalry," Stoops said. "We want to embrace that rivalry. We want kids to be a part of that and know when they come play at Kentucky that Louisville's a big game for us."

Stoops and his staff have needed some educating too, since most have still only been in Lexington for less than two years. Included in that group is defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, who has quickly learned about the intensity of the rivalry.

"Well, one thing that I've learned is this is as big a rivalry as anywhere I've been," Eliot said. "The players want to win. The fans want to win. It's something that is special and it's something you look forward to."

At the same time, the Cats are looking forward to their last chance to secure their sixth win and clinch bowl eligibility. Stoops, just as he hasn't hidden from the magnitude of UK-UL, has acknowledged the importance of reaching that plateau for his program.

Even so, that's not the message he's delivering to his team. He simply sees a group that deserves to keep playing football.

"I haven't said anything about a playoff, but I've said it's pretty self-explanatory," Stoops said. "If we win, then we're going to play another game and, I've told them, they deserve it. They've worked hard, they've done a lot of good things and worked hard for a solid year leading up into this season and did some good things. So I'd like the opportunity for them."

Before that opportunity, the Cats will tweak their game-day schedule slightly for Thanksgiving. They will practice earlier than normal on Thursday before eating a meal together. After that, Stoops has given them the night off, with an option to stop by his house in the evening.

Stoops and his wife Chantel are prepared for a crowd.

"We're going to have a dinner right afterwards for the whole group and then I told them my house was open," Stoops said. "So I may get anywhere from two to a hundred."


Mark Stoops leads Kentucky into a road matchup with rival Louisville on Saturday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) Mark Stoops leads Kentucky into a road matchup with rival Louisville on Saturday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
Patrick Towles emerged from practice on Tuesday without his customary red jersey.

At this late stage of the season, it's almost unheard of for a coach to allow his quarterback to be hit in practice. So was Mark Stoops trying something drastic before Kentucky's season finale?

No, it turns out. It's just Louisville week.

"No red in this facility this week," Towles said.

With UK (5-6) set to travel to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium for a matchup with the No. 22 Cardinals (8-3) at noon ET on Saturday, Towles and his fellow quarterbacks decided in a walkthrough they wanted no part of wearing their archrivals' color. With the Ft. Thomas, Ky., native set to start against Louisville for the first time, it just wouldn't feel right.

"I've been a Kentucky fan my whole life, so this is a game that I look forward to every year," Towles said. "Being able to play in it is truly special for me and my family, so I'm excited - we're all excited to go down there and play 'em."

The excitement is team-wide, but Towles is somewhat of a rarity among the Wildcats when it comes to intimate familiarity with the heated UK-U of L rivalry. He's one of just 10 players on the two-deep depth chart from Kentucky, meaning the coaching staff has had some work to do in helping a young UK team understand the passion behind the annual battle for the Governor's Cup.

"We're giving them different things each (day) and having former players talk to the team a bit and just get them educated on (the rivalry) a little bit and the importance of it," Stoops said. "I don't think there should be any lack of motivation for our team. Just the opportunity to go in there and get our sixth victory, which we all know is very important to us and this program. So I think our team is motivated, but it's also good to educate them on the series and get them caught up to speed on the rivalry."

As Stoops said, UK is trying to manage the emotions of playing its biggest rival and working toward its sixth win, which would make the Cats bowl eligible for the first time since 2010. Stoops expects his team to handle it all just fine, especially with the open date UK had to recuperate mentally and physically beforehand.

"We'll prepare and be excited to go play," Stoops said. "But there is no reason to be tense or to go play tight. I don't anticipate that. I'd like to see us play with that great passion and energy that we did for most of the season."

The Cardinals can be expected to do the same.

"They're playing some very good football coming off a great win at Notre Dame," Stoops said. "So Louisville's a very good football team, very well-coached and playing at a high level right now."

That starts on defense, where the Cardinals rank seventh nationally in total defense at 290.2 yards per game and 14th in scoring defense at 18.7 points per game. Only unbeaten and defending national champion Florida State has managed more than 28 points or better than 4.1 yards per carry against U of L.

"They've got one of the top defenses in the country," Towles said. "Bring a lot of pressure. They're really good at defensive end. They've got a lot of really good players, and of course they've got that defensive back with all those interceptions."

That defensive back is safety Gerod Holliman, who, with 13 interceptions, is one pick away from tying a national record that has stood since 1968.

"I think some of that is schematic," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "You have to give some of the credit to their defensive staff. He's a free player quite a bit. But the thing about it is he breaks on the ball really well and he's got good ball skills."

Louisville's pass rush doesn't hurt his cause either.

The Cardinals are ninth nationally in sacks, racking up 3.27 per game. Senior defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin (6.5 sacks) anchors the Cardinal pass rush while also helping to hold opponents to 88.5 yards per game on the ground, good for third nationally.

"They've rushed the passer so well you've got to keep them honest (with the run)," Brown said. "But I think that's important. We've got to do a good job, not only at the offensive line position, but our tight ends, fullbacks have to be involved in the game plan and we've gotta, our running backs have got to run."

On the other side of the ball, UK will contend with a U of L offense that has handed the reins to athletic freshman quarterback Reggie Bonnafon after a season-ending injury to Will Gardner. The Cardinals also have a stable of running backs that features three runners with at least 378 yards and four touchdowns, as well as a receiving corps boosted by the return of DeVante Parker.

In just five games in 2014, Parker has 29 catches for 555 yards.

"Certainly them having DeVante back outside is a real weapon," Stoops said. "He is a fantastic football player and a guy you've constantly got to have your eye on and know where he's at."

Whether it's in defending Parker or otherwise, it's all hands on deck for a UK team that's as healthy as it's been in a long time after a much-needed bye.

"We'll need to go in there and play our very best," Stoops said. "I expect our team to do that. We've had a great bye week and we're off to a great start here this week. Guys are energized and working extremely hard. Again, we'll need to improve to go in there and compete at a high level with Louisville."

Recent Comments

  • joel alberto luna colon: I agree with you, UK has not only the talent, but some experience. They could go undefeated if they want read more
  • Berdj Rassam: This was expected to be an easy win for UK. read more
  • dannyone: if the cat,s play like that in every game as they should they could go all the way.so what I,m read more
  • Dale Sine: Coach Cal at it again. He is the best coach in America and the only coach that could handle coaching read more
  • Mike J.: Cal is the best coach out there. He returned Memphis to national prominence and stayed 9 years, a helluva lot read more
  • Berdj Rassam: Booker will be a key part of whether or not this team will be successful this season. read more
  • Tom Moore: Since Tubby 98 and 2003-2004 team which should've won it all, Kentucky fans ( I am true blue ) have read more
  • John Mylant: Kentucky verses Kansas I am a UK fan but bringing this into perspective, this was just one of those games. read more
  • Catherine: We have the Blue Platoon and the White Platoon, I say we should name the rest team "The Closers"! read more
  • Sandy: Great game. I couldn't take my eyes off in the second half. Proud of all of you. I thought Epps read more