Wildcats Open Season Against WKU in Nashville
Sept. 1, 2011
After making it to a fifth-consecutive bowl game in 2010, one of only five Southeastern Conference schools that can make that claim, the University of Kentucky football team hopes to continue that success as the Wildcats open the 2011 seasonagainst Western Kentucky University at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.
Kentucky is coming off a 6-7 season that saw UK win its fourth consecutive Governor's Cup over Louisville and claim a victory over top-10 ranked South Carolina. UK head coach Joker Phillips became the first coach in school history to go to a bowl game in his first season and his six victories were the most for a first-year Kentucky coach since Blanton Collier in 1954.
The Wildcats return 46 lettermen from last season, including its top-11 tacklers on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Danny Trevathan and safety Winston Guy, Jr., each topped the century mark last season in tackles with 144 and 106, respectively. Offensively, UK returns quarterback Morgan Newton, who has started nine career games, wide receiver La'Rod King and four starters in the offensive line.
The neutral-site contest against the Hilltoppers marks the fourth-consecutive season the Wildcats have started their season away from Commonwealth Stadium. UK has won its last four season openers.
SCOUTING THE HILLTOPPERS
After going 2-10 in his first year with Western Kentucky University, Willie Taggart looks to build on the foundation he set for the program last season with a majority of the 2010 team returning. WKU returns 43 lettermen from 2010, including seven offensive starters, 10 defensive starters and three special teams starters.
Offensively, WKU returns star running back Bobby Rainey, who finished third in the nation last year in rushing, averaging 137.4 yards per game. Rainey, who was named All-American honorable mention by SI.com, rushed 340 times for 1,649 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2010 en route to Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors. The Hilltoppers also return their starting quarterback in Kawaun Jakes, who led WKU in passing and finished second on the team in rushing.
Defensively, the Hilltoppers return 10 of their top 13 tackles, including defensive back Ryan Beard, who was second on the team last season with 71 tackles. Junior defensive lineman Quanterus Smith, who lead the 2010 squad with four sacks and was second on the team with 10.5 tackles for loss, will help anchor the WKU defensive front.
The Hilltoppers also return its top punter in Hendrix Brakefield, who averaged 40.5 yards per punt in 2010, which ranked him fifth in the conference. Brakefield also handled most of the kickoffs for WKU last season with 32 kickoffs and three touchbacks. Casey Tinius handled a majority of the field goal kicking in Taggart's first season, making six-of-15 field goals, including a season best of 47 yards.
LAST TIME VS. WKU
Quarterback Mike Hartline accounted for four touchdowns and wide receiver Randall Cobb had a hand in three TDs in leading Kentucky to a 63-28 victory over in-state foe Western Kentucky University at Commonwealth Stadium.
WKU actually got on the board first and started the scoring a minute and 13 seconds into the game, getting a 59-yard rushing touchdown from junior tailback Bobby Rainey. However, the Hilltoppers did not score again until 1:15 left in the half as Kentucky posted 35 consecutive points to take a commanding lead in the game.
The UK scoring surge started when Hartline drove the Cats down the field, setting up a two-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Chris Matthews. Kentucky scored again at the end of the first quarter after walk-on defensive tackle Luke McDermott made his first career interception deep in WKU territory. Two plays later, Hartline dived into the endzone on a quarterback sweep to give UK a lead it would not relinquish.
Kentucky scored four more touchdowns in the second quarter, starting with a 50- yard punt return for a touchdown by Cobb. Senior tailback Derrick Locke poked the ball in the endzone from one-yard out and senior fullback/tailback Moncell Allen hauled in a 15-yard scoring pass from Cobb. UK ended the half when Hartline completed a four-yard pass in the corner of the endzone to sophomore La'Rod King to give UK a 42-14 lead at halftime. It was the most points UK had scored in the first half of a game since tallying 56 vs. North Dakota in 1950.
Hartline did an excellent job leading the offense and completed 16 of 20 passes for 213 yards and three TDs while adding the rushing touchdown. Cobb totaled 207 yards and three TDs in rushing, receiving, passing and kick returns. Rainey also had an outstanding game for WKU with 184 rushing yards and two touchdowns.