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Oct. 27 Performances of the Week

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, October 27:

Football Top Performers:

  • Alvin "Bud" Dupree - Career-high 13 tackles, including two tackles for loss and a quarterback sack
  • Raymond Sanders - Rushed 15 times for 86 yards, caught two passes for six yards
  • Jojo Kemp -  Rushed 15 times for 63 yards and a touchdown
  • Ryan Timmons - Caught five passes for 69 yards

Women's soccer: Arin Gilliland

MAC Hermann Award finalist Arin Gilliland netted her team-high 11th goal of the season in the 64th minute to draw even with the Tigers. Gilliland now has 11 goals and nine assists for 31 points on the season. With three points this weekend, Gilliland now has 72 career points, which is fifth all-time in UK history.

Women's soccer: Caitlin Landis

Senior Caitlin Landis scored her 21st-career goal on Friday night, as she is now the active career goal-scoring leader for Kentucky. The Milton, Penn., native has 12 points this season, with four goals and four assists. Landis had the assist on the game-tying goal on Sunday afternoon to Arin Gilliland, and was a crucial component for the other two goals in the UK offensive attack.

Volleyball: Alexandra Morgan

Senior Alexandra Morgan had a terrific week for the Wildcats en route to a 2-1 week, with the only loss a heartbreaking 3-2 loss with a 23-21 score in the fifth set. Morgan averaged 2.50 kills per set on a team-high .436 hitting clip. She also averaged a team-high 1.25 blocks per set and ranked second on the team with 3.54 blocks per frame. She began the week with an 11-kill performance at Georgia which was the first double-figure kill effort in conference play of the season for the middle blocker. She also posted a team-best six blocks in the match and added a season-high three service aces. Against Mississippi State she notched five kills on a .400 hitting clip while adding a trio of blocks. Against her home-state team, Alabama, she posted a season-high 14 kills on a blistering .619 hitting percentage while adding six block assists. With a .436 hitting clip and 55 attempts on the week, Morgan moved into second-place all-time in the history of the UK program for hitting percentage with a career-clip of .346.

Volleyball: Anni Thomasson

Freshman Anni Thomasson continues to bring a consistent presence to the Wildcat lineup. Thomasson contributes in every facet of the game and this week was no exception as UK earned a 2-1 week against league foes with the only loss coming in five-set fashion with the fifth set resulting in a 23-21 score. Thomasson notched a career-high three assists and a career-best four blocks against the Bulldogs while adding seven kills and nine digs. She received 42 attempts from the serve-receive line and did not commit a single error. Against Mississippi State she reached double-figure kills for the fourth time in her career and with 12 resulting as a career-best in league competition. She laid down her kills with a .357 hitting clip, while adding three digs and a pair of blocks. In the four-set win over Alabama, Thomasson notched six kills, and 10 digs. She has topped the 10-dig plateau on six occasions in her young career. She also aided the Wildcat cause with a pair of assists.

Stoops calling on improving Cats to play smarter

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Mark Stoops will lead Kentucky into a Homecoming matchup with Alabama State on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Mark Stoops will lead Kentucky into a Homecoming matchup with Alabama State on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
More than halfway into Mark Stoops' first season as head coach, effort is no issue for Kentucky. The Wildcats have continued to show up at practice and in games, no matter the circumstances.

But even though UK has shown improvement through that consistent effort, wins have been difficult to come by. The Cats have lost five games in a row, most recently at Mississippi State when their comeback bid fell just short.

Four days removed from the 28-22 defeat, Stoops is still stewing over it. Having watched the tape -- and probably more than once -- he still sees the hard work that has defined his team, but far too many mistakes as well.

"After going back and watching the Mississippi State game, I thought we did some very good things in that game, gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game," Stoops said. "Felt like our players competed extremely hard. We need to be a smarter football team."

From day one, Stoops didn't hide from the enormity of the rebuilding task facing him and his program. He recognizes the strides that have already been made, but he also sees players reverting at inopportune moments.

"I think we all see us resembling a good football team from time to time, but that's not going to cut it and win you a lot of games in the SEC," Stoops said. "You've got to be good top to bottom, and you've got to be good in critical situations, and most importantly when you're under pressure situations, our habits, bad habits, come right to the surface."

Stoops had specific plays in mind in saying that, namely a handful of the 10 third downs Mississippi State converted and the successful onside kick UK had nullified by an offsides penalty. His frustration bubbled to the surface as he described them to the media assembled for his weekly press conference on Monday.

That also won't be the last time he brings them up.

"We'll watch those critical mistakes as a team," Stoops said, "not just an offense and not just a defense like we normally do, but the whole team will watch critical mistakes and plays that are not very smart. We need to play better."

Stoops acknowledged that confidence could be playing a role in the miscues that continue to cost UK so dearly. Unfortunately for the Cats, the success that it takes to build confidence is difficult to come by in the SEC.

"There's no gimmes in this league," Stoops said. "So anybody that's trying to rebuild a program will tell you that the best way to rebuild and get that confidence is get some wins. Well, they don't exactly give those out in the SEC."

This weekend, UK will step outside the SEC for its final nonconference game of the season. The Cats will host Alabama State (6-2) for their annual Homecoming Game at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, but the Hornets -- who play in the FCS's Southwestern Athletic Conference -- will present plenty of challenges of their own.

"I think they're a very good football team, very well-coached team," Stoops said. "I think they're really solid in all phases of the game. I think offensively they do a really nice job of trying to keep you off balance. They run the ball very well."

Alabama State has won six straight games after starting 0-2, largely on the strength of that running game. The Hornets feature two backs who have 740 or more rushing yards, including former Georgia standout Isaiah Crowell. Crowell has rushed for 833 yards and 12 touchdowns in his second season at Alabama State.

"We recruited him quite hard during my time at Florida State," Stoops said. "I remember him. He was a fantastic player, one of the top players in the country coming out of high school, fantastic player, just very hard runner, elusive. For his size and strength, he's elusive."

Because of Alabama State's talent and Stoops' approach, UK won't treat Saturday's game any differently than the ones it just played against four consecutive conference opponents.

"This is the next game for us, therefore it's extremely important," Stoops said. "I think anybody that thinks that we can just roll out there because we're an SEC team and think you're going to roll out there and win this game, you're sadly mistaken."

Stoops has no reason to think his players will feel that way.

"I wouldn't think our players would feel overconfident about anybody we're playing I wouldn't think, and we'll address that," Stoops said. "But no, we've taken the approach, we're worried about ourselves.  I can see our players doing that. I think we're trying to get better as a program."

Whitlow to start at QB

After coming on only for second-half spot duty against Mississippi State due to an ankle injury, Jalen Whitlow is back at the No. 1 spot on the depth chart UK released on Monday. Stoops said Whitlow also sustained an injury to his AC joint in his shoulder, but "should be fine" to play.

As long as Whitlow is cleared to play by the medical staff, Stoops wants his sophomore quarterback to take a lead from Connor Shaw and Johnny Manziel, who played through pain last weekend and led South Carolina and Texas A&M to victories.

"I see it as a guy that's leading the program in the SEC and I see other SEC players banged up and leading their team to victory, don't you?" Stoops said. "That's what we need to do."

Game vs. Missouri set for noon kickoff

The SEC released kickoff times and television information for conference games on Nov. 9. Kentucky's home game against Missouri will start at noon ET and will be televised on either ESPNU or FSN.

Video: Stoops' pre-Alabama State press conference

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UK football depth chart (Alabama State week)

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Tight end
Jordan Aumiller
Anthony Kendrick
Steven Borden
Tyler Robinson
Patrick Ligon

Left tackle
Darrian Miller
Jordan Swindle

Left guard
Zach West
Max Godby or Teven Eatmon-Nared

Jon Toth
Zach Myers

Right guard
Kevin Mitchell
Jack Gruenschlaeger

Right tackle
Jordan Swindle
Shaquille Love

Wide receiver
Demarco Robinson
Jeff Badet

Wide receiver
Ryan Timmons
Daryl Collins
Ronnie Shields

Wide receiver
Javess Blue
Alexander Montgomery
A.J. Legree

Jalen Whitlow
Maxwell Smith

D.J. Warren
Cody Jones

Running back
Raymond Sanders or Jojo Kemp
Jonathan George
Dyshawn Mobley


Defensive end
Alvin Dupree
Jason Hatcher

Defensive tackle
Donte Rumph
Tristian Johnson

Defensive tackle
Mister Cobble
Mike Douglas
Christian Coleman

Defensive end
Za'Darius Smith
Farrington Huguenin
Alvin Davis

Strong-side linebacker
Josh Forrest
Kory Brown
Malcolm McDuffen

Middle linebacker
Avery Williamson
Miles Simpson

Weak-side linebacker
TraVaughn Paschal
Khalid Henderson

Blake McClain
Marcus McWilson

Nate Willis
Jaleel Hytchye

Ashely Lowery
Glenn Faulkner

Eric Dixon
Daron Blaylock

Fred Tiller
Cody Quinn
Eric Simmons

Special teams

Kelly Mason
Matthew Adolph
Tyler Robinson

Jared Leet
Landon Foster

Joe Mansour
Austin MacGinnis

Landon Foster
Joe Mansour

Kickoff returner
Demarco Robinson
Javess Blue
Raymond Sanders

Punt returner
Demarco Robinson
Javess Blue
Daryl Collins

After another hard-fought loss, Mark Stoops had yet another opportunity to pick out silver linings.

He could have cited Kentucky's unwillingness to give in after facing a 14-point second-quarter deficit. He could have talked about the way UK played in front of a pro-Mississippi State crowd and had the ball with a chance to score a game-winning touchdown in the final minute.

Stoops, like anyone else who has watched these Wildcats, has seen his team improve, but that's not what was on his mind in the wake of a 28-22 defeat.

"We need to execute better, that's the bottom line," Stoops said. "We have our opportunities, I think. Our team is going to work. Our team needs to improve. We all need to do a better job starting with me and that's the way it is and we'll do that. We're not gonna hesitate. We're gonna go back to work and we've gotta execute when the game's on the line and we're gonna do that."

UK will go back to work with the idea of capitalizing on opportunities the next time a game is on the line, and that's not isolated to the game's final drive when Maxwell Smith's fourth-down pass from the MSU 29 fell incomplete. In fact, it begins all the back in the first quarter.

"Started too slow again," Stoops said. "We tried to combat that all week. We talked about it. We needed to come out strong and execute in the first half on both sides of the ball. Didn't do that. They did."

After UK's game-opening drive stalled, the Bulldogs took possession. On third-and-6, the UK pass rush seemed to have Dak Prescott in its crosshairs for a sack, but he escaped and hit Malcolm Johnson for a 60-yard touchdown.

Mississippi State would go on to gain 291 of its 447 yards in the first half to claim a 21-10 lead, though UK's defense would improve after halftime behind Bud Dupree. The junior defensive end returned to the lineup after missing the Alabama game with a strained pectoral muscle to tally 13 tackles and a sack.

"They do a nice job," Stoops said. "They keep you off balance. Give them credit. They kept us off balance. We didn't do a good enough job in the first half. That's too many yards. They converted too many yards and too many big plays and I thought in the second half we did a better job, were a little more aggressive and made some plays when we needed to."

With that improved second-half defense, UK closed to within 21-19 late in the third quarter after scoring nine points in 1:07 on a safety and a 14-yard touchdown run by Jojo Kemp -- the freshman's first.

Sensing an opportunity, Stoops dialed up an onside kick that Joe Mansour placed perfectly into the waiting hands of Javess Blue. The play, however, was eventually nullified when Daron Blaylock was determined to be offsides.

Once again, Stoops refused to make excuses. He has experienced a great deal of success in his coaching career, so he knows those kinds of miscues represent the razor-thin margin between victory and defeat.

"I thought we had good momentum," Stoops said. "We had the lob set up and it was perfectly executed and somebody on the back side that had nothing to do with the play was evidently four or six inches offsides. So that's the difference. We did not do what we needed to do and that's disappointing."

That disappointment and lack of execution leaves UK with a 1-6 record, 0-4 in Southeastern Conference play. Just as he answered questions from the media with a sense of accountability, he did the same in addressing his players in the postgame locker room.

"We're gonna to look it dead in the face," Stoops said. "It is what it is and it's not OK. We're all gonna coach better. They're gonna play better. We're gonna address these issues and we're gonna get better and we're going to keep on fighting and that's it. End of story."  

Video: UK football on the way to Starkville

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When it comes to uniforms, you never know what you're going to see.

After some buzz early in the week about UK wearing gray uniforms for Mississippi State was shot down by Mark Stoops ("No, absolutely no," he said when asked to address the rumors on Tuesday.), it turns out the Wildcats will be sporting a never-before-seen look after all.

Kentucky will wear custom thigh pads on Thursday night that feature the UK logo and uniform numbers for each player. @UKequipment (the official Twitter account for UK's equipment staff) gave the first look on Wednesday afternoon.

UK will wear blue pants with white jersey and blue helmets against the Bulldogs (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), but here's how the new thigh pads will look with white pants.

Unique test awaits rejuvenated Cats on Thursday

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Maxwell Smith will start at quarterback on Thursday at Mississippi State. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Maxwell Smith will start at quarterback on Thursday at Mississippi State. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
The timing was close to ideal.

Of course Kentucky would have liked to have gotten back on the field immediately to wash away the taste of defeat, but bye weeks are built into the long college football season for a reason. The Wildcats, with 12 days between games against Alabama and Mississippi State, took full advantage of theirs.

"I think the bye came at a good time," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "We were a little banged-up coming out of that Alabama game for sure. It was really a culmination of four consecutive tough weeks."

UK's injury report was seemingly interminable after the loss Alabama, but it's now much more manageable. Just as importantly, the Cats have had a chance to get their minds right after four straight games against top-20 opponents.

"I think having a chance to recoup physically and mentally I think should help us going into this game," head coach Mark Stoops said. "I think our preparation has been very good. I feel like the team is in a good place right now. I feel like we're getting our legs back up underneath us."  

UK will need to be focused, because the Cats are in for a challenge the likes of which they haven't seen.

To begin with, they'll be playing a Southeastern Conference game on a day other than Saturday for the first time since 2007. The bye week preceding UK's 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday  matchup with Mississippi State (3-3, 0-2 SEC) allowed the coaches to move the team's practice schedule ahead by two days to make preparations as close to normal as possible, but the game still represents a change in routine.

"There will be some subtle changes in there because Saturday morning they're up usually watching football if we're playing a Saturday-night game or in between meetings, and now they'll be sitting there watching soap operas, I guess," Stoops joked.

With only soap operas on television on Thursday, apparently, many viewers figure to tune in for UK's primetime appearance.

"It is nice to get the national exposure," Stoops said. "It's certainly nice to play a Thursday night game because I think a lot of people watch that game, so hopefully we'll go out and represent us the right way and play tough and play the way we're capable of. I anticipate that we will."

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, will be looking to do the same.

Like Kentucky, Mississippi State will be after its first SEC win and will rely on a solid ground game. Quarterback Dak Prescott leads the way with 457 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.

"Anytime you got the quarterback involved with the run and they're physical, it makes you add numbers," Stoops said. "We have to be very disciplined with all the different option that they do and all the quarterback run game and then you gotta get them on the ground. And then of course when you commit numbers, you gotta play the play-action. That's the big thing."

Mississippi State relies on pace heavily to move the ball, so the experience the UK defense has going against Brown's offense in practice will be an asset.

"That's what Coach has been telling us a lot, so we really gotta make sure we're getting the calls in fast and make sure we're getting lined up fast and we gotta read our keys fast as well because they're going to try to gas us," linebacker Avery Williamson said.

On offense, UK will look to get back on track after Alabama shut down the UK attack. Maxwell Smith will start at quarterback, though Jalen Whitlow -- who sprained an ankle agains the Crimson Tide -- will be available in a yet-to-be-determined capacity.

"What I'm doing is, we've got a package in for him, and I probably won't be able to tell until later in the week how much of it we're gonna use, or how much we'll be able to use," Brown said. "If he keeps progressing then I think he'll be fine on Thursday."

Regardless who takes the snaps, UK will have to contend with an imposing State defense.

"The first thing I see when I see State's defense is how big they are," Smith said. "They got tons of length, huge d-line, the biggest linebackers that we'll probably see all season long. They're really big and they're really physical."

The UK offense will also have to cope with Mississippi State's most famous game-day tradition. As they did before a trip to South Carolina, coaches pumped in noise at practice this week, but there's no simulating the cowbells of Davis Wade Stadium.

"If I hear the word cowbell, I think Mississippi State and I think loud and annoying," Smith said. "I'm pretty sure that's why they do it."

If the last time UK went on the road is any indication, the Cats aren't likely to wilt in the face of a little noise, as foreign as the noise may be.

"I don't feel like we've laid down all year," Williamson said. "I feel like we've just given up certain plays and then played good at times. I definitely feel like we've been continuing to fight. If we keep that mentality, we can still win some games in the second half of the season."

Head coach Mark Stoops

Having not played for 10 days, Kentucky wrapped up an extended period of practice with a day of "good preparation" for Mississippi State on Tuesday.

Continuing to make the lead-up to this midweek game as similar to a typical game week as possible, the Wildcats held a regular Thursday practice.

"We went through our normal Thursday routine," head coach Mark Stoops said. "We stayed with a normal Thursday practice, which consists of the normal things. We start with a special-team period and we go to situational work then we go to another special-team period then we come back with team with moving the ball in a game-like situation."

Maxwell Smith continued to take the majority of snaps at quarterback and Stoops confirmed the redshirt sophomore will start Thursday's game. Jalen Whitlow, who is nearing full recovery from an ankle sprain he suffered against Alabama, will be the backup.

"He'll be ready to go, if we need him," Stoops said. "Again, I think Max got most of the reps last week and this week, but Jalen will be ready to go and we'll use him if we need to."

Whitlow wasn't the only Wildcat to take advantage of the bye week and UK hopes to reap the benefits.

"We're feeling pretty good," Stoops said. "We're, I think, much healthier than we've been in some time mentally and physically and ready to go."

Bye week has Cats refocused before MSU trip

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Offensive coordinator Neal Brown

With just three days before Kentucky's game at Mississippi State, the Wildcats practiced on Monday like they would on a Wednesday before a regular Saturday game.

UK's bye last week allowed the Cats to shift their preparation ahead by two days, but more importantly gave them an opportunity to heal, and not just physically speaking.

"I think the bye came at a good time," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "We were a little banged-up coming out of that Alabama game for sure. It was really a culmination of four consecutive tough weeks. But I think as much mentally as physical, also. Our guys got a chance to catch their breath and relax a little bit and kind of get refocused."

The coaching staff hasn't reported many difficulties in adjusting this week's schedule. In fact, Brown likes the idea of playing a midweek game.

"Once you get your clock set it's not too difficult," Brown said. "Now, it's hard on a short week, when you play on Saturday and go to Thursday. But this sets up nice for us, because you got the bye week before and you got a couple extra days after it. I like them. You're one of the only shows going to play that primetime game. I think it's exciting for our kids."

The Cats, however, aren't getting too carried away with the excitement of playing with the eyes of college football world on them.

"We're treating it just like any other game coming in," quarterback Maxwell Smith said. "We're working as hard as we can this week, but we all know and we've been told it's a Thursday game. It's the only game on television, so we gotta showcase ourselves and we gotta play much better than we have been."

Smith was listed as the starter at quarterback on UK's depth chart released Monday and has been getting snaps accordingly, though Jalen Whitlow has returned to practice.

"Maxwell's been getting all the starter's reps," Brown said. "Really didn't know until probably yesterday what Jalen's status was gonna be. But Maxwell's been getting those starter's reps and Jalen's been getting the backup reps."

UK is preparing under the assumption that Whitlow will be available, but will adjust his package based on his health. If the last two days are any indication, he could be close to full speed.

"He's progressed really each day," Brown said. "Moved around probably a little better today than he did yesterday, and so I think he's got a chance."

Other than having one of the team's best athletes available, Whitlow's improving health is good news on another front as well because the staff would like to redshirt both Patrick Towles and Reese Phillips.

Recent Comments

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  • Griffin: What's the name of the song that this video starts playing when describing Cal getting ejected and Aaron talking about read more
  • Quinn : It was an amazing run! I hope you all return and make another stab at it. read more
  • Sandy Spears: I completely with the person's comment above. So proud of all the young men and their accomplishments. They have everything read more
  • BJ Rassam: The Cats came so close to winning another NCAA basketball championship. read more
  • chattyone: Congratulations to our Wildcats! They are terrific. All of us just like these young men are disappointed in the loss, read more
  • clint bailes: Such a great season! You guys fought hard til the end. Loved watchin the season! Can't wait til next season. read more
  • Andrea Boyd: you guys are AMAZING! as individuals and as a team. thank you for your tremendous playing and work and attitudes. read more
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  • Amy Carnes: Very proud of you cats you have really grow as a team .You proved all the doubters wrong. And have read more