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Video: Forrest and Blue on UK's win over ULM

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Video: Stoops' post-ULM press conference

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Video: Highlights from UK's win over ULM

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Live blog: Football vs. ULM

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Live Blog Football vs. ULM
 

Instincts, leadership making Stamps an instant star

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A.J. Stamps has a team-high three interceptions through five games of his debut season at Kentucky. (Elliott Hess, UK Athletics) A.J. Stamps has a team-high three interceptions through five games of his debut season at Kentucky. (Elliott Hess, UK Athletics)
By Connor Link, UK Athletics

It was somewhat forgotten because of the second half that followed, but A.J. Stamps made a play against South Carolina that may have turned the game.

The Gamecocks were driving in the final minute of the first half, seemingly poised to build on a 17-14 lead, but Stamps had other ideas. On first down from the UK 15, the safety read quarterback Dylan Thompson to perfection, breaking on the ball and intercepting the pass.

By appearances, it seemed as if Stamps had seen the play dozens of times in practice. In reality, he was simply relying on the instincts that have made Stamps a revelation in his first season at UK

"That was my first time seeing that play on the field," Stamps said.

UK would cash in on Stamps' pick and 50-yard return with a long field goal to tie the game at half. The rest, of course, is history, as the Wildcats would go on to score the upset and move to 4-1 on the season.

Stamps, with his knack for diagnosing plays, has been a key cog for a much-improved Kentucky defense. His three interceptions are not only a team high, but they also match UK's entire 2014 total.

Perhaps just as importantly, Stamps' knack for trusting his instincts has earned him a leadership role on the gridiron, but it doesn't stop there.

"(Being a leader means) just coming out, being vocal, and filling (the) leadership shoes... and just helping my teammates out on and off the field," Stamps said.

Stamps came to Kentucky this season as a junior-college transfer from East Mississippi Community College. After winning a national championship as part of the NJCAA's second-ranked defense, Stamps brought a winner's mentality to Lexington, where second-year head coach Mark Stoops' rebuilding effort was already in motion.

"(The coaching staff) talked to me about the future and how bright (it) is... I saw the players that were here that they were counting on," Stamps said. "I just felt comfortable with the coaches and the players, and that's what kind of sold me on coming here to Kentucky."

Without even playing a game, the junior standout's presence could be felt almost instantly.

"The winning mentality that came in this year... kind of influenced some of the players that already were here," Stamps said. "It kind of rubbed off on them and they had a winning mentality, too."

After graduating from JUCO in December, Stamps immediately enrolled at UK last January. According to defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, Stamps' early admission provided him with coveted additional time to prepare for the upcoming season.

"He understands our defense very well," Eliot said. "He was here in the spring. He got a whole spring ball. He was here all summer, and had earned that starting position pretty quick into spring ball. So, he'd been getting the (first-team) reps for a long time."

Along with natural instincts and exceptional athletic ability, preparation is what allows Stamps to play defense with such a high football IQ. The amount of time Stamps spends studying the game off the field leads to an increased comfort level during game situations.

"I feel much more comfortable," Stamps said. "(I'm) getting to know the playbook, as well. We make a couple tweaks here and there every week. I just put a lot more effort into studying (them) and actually sitting down and watching film."

Stamps' performance at safety this season is all the more impressive when one considers that Stamps played cornerback during his two years in JUCO. Thanks to his natural aptitude for vocal leadership, however, the transition has been all but seamless in Stamps' first season at the FBS level.

"(Playing) safety at this level, you make a lot of checks," Stamps said. "You most likely are like the quarterback on the defensive side."

Eliot confirmed his player's sentiment, while praising Stamps' ability as a vocal leader.

"It's critical because your safeties, for the secondary, they're the quarterbacks, and you have to be great communicators," Eliot said. "But, you also have to know what you're doing, think fast, and get it communicated. He's done a tremendous job."

Last year's three-interception total was tied for the worst in the country in 2013. That seems a far cry from Stamps' Wildcats, whose nine total interceptions this season are good for fourth best in America. It became apparent during Kentucky's first game of 2014, when Stamps made a spectacular one-handed pick against UT Martin, that last year was a long time ago.

"A.J. is playing very well. He's one of our best players on our defense and has unbelievable instincts," Eliot said. "He's got a lot of talent, one--and he's got a lot of natural instincts."


With less than 48 hours before a noon game against ULM on Saturday, Kentucky held its usual light Thursday practice.

Head coach Mark Stoops called it a "good mental day" for the Wildcats.

"Guys had good energy, seemed to be locked in, so it was good to start to put our finishing touches on ULM, looking forward to a good game," Stoops said. "A lot of it's mental between here and Saturday; just trying to get everybody locked in."

Stoops hasn't seen any signs of his team relenting in its focus with a break from Southeastern Conference play following a big win over South Carolina on Saturday. Nonetheless, he and his staff continue to harp of the importance of approaching this week and this game the right way.

"We have an opportunity to prove ourselves each and every week, no matter who we're playing," Stoops said. "I'm sure a lot of people around campus have been telling them good job and slapping them on the back all week and all that stuff, and there's just so much more we need to improve on. If you're not ready to play, you will be embarrassed."

For a young team off to its best start in six years and coming off its first back-to-back SEC wins in five years, handling success is more new territory in a season full of it.

"Now all of a sudden, yeah, we won two games in a row, and we need to go play well again," Stoops said. "And it's a game that we're favored, and so how are we gonna respond? Are we gonna handle our business and go out and play the same way we've been the last couple weeks and take care of our business?"

UK in search of complete game against ULM

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Patrick Towles will lead UK into a matchup with ULM at noon ET on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Patrick Towles will lead UK into a matchup with ULM at noon ET on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Winning back-to-back Southeastern Conference games is no small feat.

In fact, Kentucky hadn't done it in five years before taking down Vanderbilt and South Carolina in consecutive weeks.

A torrent of excitement on the part of fans has followed the victories and UK's 4-1 start, but Mark Stoops has gotten back to work since his signature win on Saturday. He can't stop thinking about the way the Wildcats have won those two games.

"Two weeks ago played great defense, maybe not as well offensively," Stoops said. "This past week played extremely good offense, and defense not as good as we have."

UK, of course, held Vanderbilt to just 139 yards and not a single offensive score in a 17-7 win over the Commodores, but stalled on offense in the second half. Against South Carolina, the Cats couldn't stop the run and allowed 500 yards, but scored 45 points to upend the Gamecocks and send an electric Commonwealth Stadium crowd into raucous celebration.

Clearly, Kentucky is capable of playing at a high level on both sides of the ball. Hosting ULM on Saturday at noon ET, the Cats will look to marry solid offensive and defensive performances.

"We just need to continue to worry about ourselves and continue to improve," Stoops said. "I think that's the good thing. There is an awful lot on this film from this past week that we can improve on, that we will improve on."

That starts on defense, specifically in the ground game.

South Carolina had 282 rushing yards on Saturday, averaging 5.9 yards per carry in the process. As a result, the Gamecocks punted just three times, though UK did have three interceptions to pave the way for the win.

"We didn't play very well in the run game," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "Probably our worst performance in the run game. It was very disappointing. It was mainly linebacker play. I think linebacker play was poor in the run game. So, we need to make improvements this week in that area."

Defensive end/linebacker Bud Dupree has received that message loud and clear. The senior leader also has a good idea what it will take to make those improvements.

"The key to playing the run better on our defense is basically just doing our job, don't try to be selfish," Dupree said. "We had another case of trying to be selfish last game and it showed in the long run and they gashed us a lot of times. So this week we're just focused on doing our job to make sure everyone stays in their gaps."

The play Dupree made to give UK the win against South Carolina is proof of exactly that.

As Gamecock quarterback Dylan Thompson dropped to pass in the final minutes on Saturday, Dupree and defensive tackle Mike Douglas played their assignments to perfection. When Thompson threw, Douglas got his right hand on the ball. Dupree was in position to grab it in midair and scoot into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

"Just do your job and things will happen for you," Dupree said. "In the long run, just make sure everyone stays in their gaps and does their assignments and it'll pay off big time for us."

The Warhawks (3-2, 2-1 Sun Belt) will provide a test on that front.

"ULM's a balanced offense that can attack you in a lot of ways," Eliot said. "They can line up in spread looks and throw the ball around. But they also can get in some two-back sets and run power and run counter. So it's a team that we've got a lot to prepare for."

UK's offense will have a unique challenge to prepare for as well.

ULM uses a 3-3 stack on defense, a system current Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez is best known for. In their base formation, the Warhawks play with three linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs.

"Those guys are really well-coached," Brown said. "Todd Berry has done a really good job there. Not only there but some other places he's been also. Got a lot of respect for their defensive coordinator (Troy Reffett). He's tough. It's a little bit unorthodox. They're really sound in what they do, but you just don't see it a lot."

ULM is unpredictable in the way it pressures the quarterback, and the Warhawks are tied for eighth nationally in sacks per game (3.8) as a result. On the flip side, UK will have its chances to capitalize when the Warhawks don't get to Patrick Towles.

"They get a lot of tackles for loss," Towles said. "They get a lot of pressure on the quarterback, but there's a lot of opportunities for big plays. So when they come we gotta hit them and hopefully we do that."

As fascinating as the Xs and Os will be when the Cats and Warhawks face off, the outcome will depend more heavily on which team is ready to play. ULM has already faced LSU on the road and taken down Wake Forest in its season opener, marking the third straight season in which the Warhawks have beaten a major-conference opponent. In 2012, ULM opened its season with an overtime win at No. 8 Arkansas before dropping games against Auburn and Baylor by a combined eight points.

"They are not intimidated coming into an environment like this," Stoops said. "They are so used to playing big teams.  In the past four or five years they have played SEC teams well, beaten SEC teams, come within one possession of beating great SEC teams."

Combine ULM's big-game experience with the fact that UK is coming off a huge win and you have a matchup that might seem ripe for an upset. The Cats have other plans.

"Don't expect a letdown," Brown said. "I don't believe in it. You've got 365 days for 12 opportunities. You better not waste one. I fully expect us not to waste one. We'll be ready to go."

Besides, UK wouldn't dare waste a chance at playing that elusive complete game.

"That's what makes you optimistic about the future because we haven't put it all together yet," Stoops said.




Wildcats 'ready to work' as ULM week begins

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Coming off the signature win of the Mark Stoops era over South Carolina, Kentucky has moved on to preparations for a Saturday matchup with ULM.

The Wildcats might still be feeling a little physical malaise after pouring so much into the victory, but they're eager nonetheless.

"Pretty good work day today," Neal Brown said. "Guys are a little spent, a little spent. Had a good attitude, came ready to work, a little spent."

Brown doesn't expect the Cats to take long to shake that off.

This weekend, you see, is another measuring stick in a season full of them. ULM might not have the name recognition or its players the lofty recruiting rankings of a Florida or a South Carolina, but the Warhawks present a challenge the likes of which UK has not faced.

"I told our guys, it's an opportunity to see where we're at," Brown said. "I think we talked about it after the game on Saturday night, kind of see where we're at from a maturity standpoint. In this league, whether it's a conference game, nonconference game, you better be ready to strap it up every week."

ULM has already faced two major conference opponents in Wake Forest and LSU. The Warhawks fell 31-0 in Baton Rouge, but took down the Demon Deacons in their season opener by a final score of 17-10.

"I've been on the other end of this deal before, where (ULM) is, coming from the Sun Belt," Brown said. "Y'all know I was at Troy and our guys, especially the later in the season it goes, our guys always got up for these. We had some opportunities to win some and we won some. So I'll convey that to our offensive football team because they're going to come in here and they're hungry."

Not only are the Warhawks hungry, they are also aggressive on defense. ULM ranks eighth nationally in sacks per game (3.8), using an unconventional 3-3 stack defense to create pressure.

"Those guys are really well-coached," Brown said. "Todd Berry has done a really good job there. Not only there but some other places he's been also. Got a lot of respect for their defensive coordinator (Troy Reffett). He's tough. It's a little bit unorthodox. They're really sound in what they do, but you just don't see it a lot."

For that reason and many more, the Cats expect to be ready to play come noon ET on Saturday.

"Don't expect a letdown," Brown said. "I don't believe in it. You've got 365 days for 12 opportunities. You better not waste one. And I fully expect us not to waste one. We'll be ready to go."

The players are following their offensive coordinator's lead.

"We're focused on winning number five," quarterback Patrick Towles said. "We can't afford to look past anybody. We had a great win last week, but that's over with. It's past us. Nobody came into this season wanting to win four games. We want to win every game we play so we're getting ready to do that on Saturday."


Stoops announces indefinite suspension of Tubman

Lloyd Tubman, a member of the University of Kentucky football team, has been suspended indefinitely from all team activities following charges brought by University of Kentucky police Tuesday.

In addition to the charges, Tubman is subject to discipline under the University's Code of Student Conduct.  Because of legal and student privacy regulations, University officials cannot provide comment to Tubman's specific participation in the student conduct process.

"Obviously, I'm very concerned about the allegations and all parties involved," Stoops said.  "We're working extremely hard to develop quality young men on and off the field.  We will continue to cooperate with the local and campus authorities while the process takes its course."

For more from Stoops on the suspension, watch the video below.



By Connor Link, UK Athletics

This week in the NFL, two former Kentucky Wildcats rejoined the professional ranks. Fullback John Conner (who was selected in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft) re-signed with the team that originally drafted him, the New York Jets. Safety Winston Guy, who was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars despite starting the first three games of the season, signed to the Indianapolis Colts' practice squad.

Keeping up the good spirits, Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan made his 2014 season debut after suffering a knee injury on Aug. 12. Tennessee Titans rookie linebacker Avery Williamson also recorded the first start of his NFL career. UK's 11 active NFL alumni posted a 6-5 record in Week 5, while five Cats stood out amongst the rest:

Cats in the Spotlight

Randall Cobb | #18 WR | Green Bay Packers (3-2)
Once again, the Packers won by double digits over a division rival. Once again, Randall Cobb scored a touchdown. Coupled with three receptions for 34 yards, Cobb scored his sixth touchdown of the season (good for second best in the NFL). The Packers defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 42-10. The Packers played on Thursday night, allowing Cobb to make the weekend trip to Lexington for UK's upset win over South Carolina on Saturday.

Stevie Johnson | #13 WR | San Francisco 49ers (3-2)
For the second consecutive week, it took Stevie Johnson only one reception to make his way into the end zone. Johnson caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the game's second quarter. The 49ers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 22-17.

Tim Masthay | #8 P | Green Bay Packers (3-2)
After being called upon for a season-high six punts, Tim Masthay was able to successfully pin all but one inside the 20-yard-line. Masthay also netted his longest punt of the season (58 yards) in the Packers' win.

For his efforts, Masthay was named Sports Illustrated's MMQB Special Teams Co-Player of the Week.

Danny Trevathan | #59 OLB | Denver Broncos (3-1)

Returning from a left tibia fracture that kept him on the sidelines for the first three games of the season, Danny Trevathan recorded six solo tackles and one assisted tackle in the Broncos' 41-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Avery Williamson | #54 ILB | Tennessee Titans (1-4)
Despite Williamson's six solo tackles and one assist for the second week in a row, the Titans blew a 25-point lead in a 29-28 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

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