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Be happy — UK is 6-1, ranked 12th

Jeff Houchin Photo

By LARRY VAUGHT

Who would have thought when this season started that seven games into the season UK could be 6-1, ranked 12th in the Associated Press poll and fans/players would be unhappy?

Yet that is the mood of many after UK beat Vanderbilt “only” 14-7 Saturday night.

The Cats needed an 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter where Benny Snell ran 10 times for 74 yards and the 14-7 cushion was all the UK defense needed.

Coach Mark Stoops told his team after the game that it was on its way to “moving up into the top 10” after being ranked 14th last week. Fans worried more over the lack of a passing attack — UK had just 18 yards passing against Vanderbilt.

But Kentucky did move up to No. 12 in the AP poll and is 14th in the coaches poll going into Saturday afternoon’s game at Missouri. At 4-1 in SEC play, Kentucky still controls its destiny as wins over Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee would put UK into the SEC championship game. Kentucky also likely would be Citrus Bowl bound if it can finish 10-2.

Junior linebacker Kash Daniel, who broke his left hand in the win over Vandy, said ratings were nice but not a point of emphasis.

“I’m just worried about Mizzou now,” Daniel said after the game. “It would be cool to see the number by our name being (better) than last week. But ultimately being ranked is great and all, but anybody can be beaten on any day.”

Snell said UK is still “hungry” for more against Missouri, which scored 63 points against Memphis last week and has a win over Purdue — the team that thumped No. 2 Ohio State Saturday.

Linebacker Josh Allen had another huge game against Vanderbilt and continues to demonstrate he is UK’s best defensive player since Art Still in 1977.

“I came back for situations like this. I had a lot to prove,” Allen, who considered putting his name into the NFL draft, said.”I told myself coming back this year I wanted to be more effective in the game, be more of a playmaker and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
 
He has eight sacks and 12.5 tackles in seven games.

“We wanted to be one of the best teams in the country,” Allen said. “Right now, we have a lot of short-term goals to get to the long-term goals so we’re going to keep winning and keep doing what we do.”

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  1. I totally agree. No one could have seen this except for a couple of guys who did the UK Bahama’s BB trip halftime show. One predicted the Fla win and a 9 win regular season. I know this team needs work on the passing game but just take a moment to enjoy this. This is a historic season right now regardless of how it ends. So at least for a day relax enjoy what this group of young men have accomplished and smile like someone who knows something that the rest have not figured out yet. Just say this real slow 3 times to your self ” Kentucky is an SEC caliber football team”. Now enjoy the smile.

  2. Every UK football fan is happy and elated that UK is 6-1, and nationally ranked now. That said, there are still a lot of tough games to be played yet, beginning Sat against the Tigers. Missouri is a good solid football team, Georgia is a beast, and Tennessee is improving each week and will be a big challenge for UK in Knoxville. Then Louisville will be playing with nothing to lose in a rivalry game at home. UK needs to improve offensively big time, right here and right now. Is Wilson the answer? As a fan and based on what I have seen through 7 games, I am not totally convinced he is. If one of these remaining teams can stop UK’s running game cold, like A&M did, UK will be in a heap of trouble if UK can’t throw the football more effectively.

    I go back to the QB play. A QB is much like a point guard. He gets others involved by distributing the ball to other skilled players in space. Each QB on this team has strengths and weaknesses that these coaches see every day. What UK needs now is to move the chains a little more effectively through the air. Which QB gives UK the best chance of doing that? From what I have seen out of Stoops/Gran, it is Wilson, but he is not producing, and the stats show that. The way I see it, these coaches don’t have a lot of confidence in Hoak or Clark to find out if they can move this team through the air. Maybe they look in Hoak’s eyes at game time and see something a fan can’t ever see, I don’t know.. My question, Is the problem passing the football all on Wilson, or is it route running? You have to get some separation down the field. Only these coaches know.

    From just a fan’s view, If Wilson can’t complete some passes come Saturday, a and Missouri stops the UK offense like A&M did, send Hoak in to see if he can move the chains. Now if Missouri can’t stop UK’s ground attack and Uk is scoring without passing the football, I am fine with that.

  3. No UK Fan is unhappy!

    This is a once in thirty year experience and fans have wanted this for so long, they cannot stand the thought of lack of passing turning it into an OK year.

    Stoops has mentioned a few times that he would like to give Hoak a series or two and nothing happens. It reminds fans of Tubby when he would say “get ready to run” and then slowed things up.

    Do not think out loud, if you have no intention of doing it!

    They need to simplify the passing for Terry or give Hoak a chance or both. That is up to the coaches.

    Time has run out and there are no tomorrows. A loss to Missouri and Georgia could snowball into a four game losing streak to finish the year. We have had too many great starts just to be disappointed in the end. You can’t blame fans for worrying.

    7-5 would be a disappointment for this team!

    1. Amen Ben. This is UK’s year, and fans want to see UK perform well in every phase, offense, defense, and special teams, because they have all the pieces, and that is how championships are won . UK will lose a lot of good football players off this team next year. This year’s outcome is important for that one reason.

      Hoak is a talented kid too. He came to UK to play football as a 4 star player. Other recruits are watching to see how Stoops handles his players. You have to give kids a chance when it seems to be their turn to see playing time. As Calipari says all the time, it’s all about these kids. Wilson has been given a fair shake thus far, not sure Hoak has. He is either ready or he’s not. If he is not, Stoops need to shut up about playing him. I don’t even pretend to know Clark’s status, a transfer was mentioned a while back. I agree with OF, it hurts recruiting. I say it’s time to see if another UK QB can move this team down the field in a balanced attack, moving the chains, and scoring. There are coaches on this team getting paid big bucks to do just that. Any of these QB’s can hand the ball off to Benny. You all enlighten me where I’m wrong. UK will not win an East championship on their defense alone.

  4. I agree LP.
    If UK does not have a passing game, I am not sure there is a team left on the schedule they can beat other than Middle Tennessee; possibly Missouri, because I don’t think Missouri can shut down the run game that well.
    Defense does win championships, but you still have to be able to move the ball and you have to be able to score when your defense slips.
    If Missouri finds a way to contain the run, it could get real ugly, real fast. They know how to throw the ball and score.

  5. I’m happy, but I still think Stoops needs give Hoak a chance. The more wins the bigger bowl we get.

  6. There are many unhappy fans.

    I am not one of them

    This is the best UK football has been since 1977.

    This may be the best team UK football has had since 1950

    This team has an opportunity to be the best UK football team EVER!!!!

    Who could ask or demand anything more?

    Not this fan!!!!

    1. This team is special, but i saw the 77 team in person and to this point they are better than this team. Even at running backs, better at quarterback and this team is slightly better on defense.

      1st – 1950
      2nd – 1977
      3rd – 2018

      this could change if the 2018 wins out and wins their bowl game, they make it to number 2 on list. Beat Alabama in Atlanta and they are number one!

      1. That is what I said, I think.

        Best since 77 makes it #3

        May be best since 50 makes #2

        Could be best ever makes it #1

  7. About Vanderbilt. Are we forgetting that they went to South Bend and had a chance to win with a minute to play? They ended up losing by only four points against a top rated team. They are not a bad team. They did get blown out at home by South Carolina but keep in mind that they put 9 guys in the box on that last drive and Snell still ran right down their throats. UK has one fine running game.

    Wilson may not have done a lot passing but he did have almost 100 yards rushing. I don’t know if there is a better option or not. At this point I’m going to trust the coach that has the team 6-1. And those wins were not cupcakes. ESPN ranks UK’s schedule to date as the 6th toughest in the US. And it doesn’t get any easier. I still think UK can continue to win. I think they will give Georgia a tough game.

    Teams are loading up trying to stop Benny from moving the ball now. We all knew that was coming. But if the team can continue their stellar defensive play it may not take a lot of points to win. I think back at some of the predictions I saw for this team. Some had them only winning 4 games.

    1. True to all you said!

      The next two games will define their season.

      Win both and he we come Atlanta.

      Split and win the rest of our games – New Years Day Bowl

      Lose both and go into a tail spin – 7-5 or 8-4 gives us continued advancement and Music City Bowl

      Lose all our remaining games – Finish 6-6 and take a step back and keep the monkey on our back. Dream of what could have been.

  8. I’ve seen Terry make some great throws. The TD pass for a touchdown had touch and placement. I’ve seen him fit the ball into tight windows for completions. Still, I cannot deny the passing consistency is not there. What you need to realize is that if you take Terry out is changes our running game and not necessarily for the better. Defensives have to account for Terry’s speed and running ability. If you noted against Vandy every time he handed the ball off he sprinted to the right, or left depending on where the ball carrier was headed. If they don’t ‘have one or two defenders going with him, then he is a threat to go all the way. He’s the second leading ball carrier on the team. Defenses have to focus on keeping him in the pocket on passing plays. They can’t let him escape the pocket because he can break one. Take him out and the emphasis on keeping him in the pocket lessens. I really like Hoak, but he isn’t nearly the threat running that Terry is. While our line excels at run blocking, I don’t have the same confidence in their pass blocking. A passing QB needs 3 to 4 seconds or the probability for an interception increases significantly. I don’t have an answer other than hoping Terry can make progress in learning defensive alignments, efficient decision-making given the speed of the game, etc. Gunner will have to learn this too when facing “live-fire” in a game situation. You have to be willing to let him make mistakes and learn from those mistakes or you are doing a disservice to the young man. Again, I don’t have an answer. Well, making those kinds of decisions is above my pay grade. Truth is I don’t even have a pay grade as a coach or consultant. A change at QB from a running QB to a passing QB affects every position on the field, similar to a chess game. Put Gunner in and you can expect a focus on getting to the quarterback … without worrying about keeping him in the pocket. It would be a concern but not a necessity. If Terry takes a step back against Mizzou and we can’t move the ball, then I think we might make a change. One mistake in these games can result in a change of momentum and a loss. What I really think we need to do is find a field goal kicker that can consistently connect from 33 yards and beyond. I don’t know what the hesitancy is in putting Poore in the game. The Vandy game was cold with gusting winds. Not a good time to give a kid a chance. Still, we need to think this through. It can mean the difference between winning a close game and losing.

    1. If you watch Terry, on most of his short throws he is guiding the ball instead of throwing it. He did not do that at Florida and I think the pressure is getting to him! The coaches need to find a way to take the pressure off. If he could just relax and make the throws he is capable of, all would be corrected. They need to simplify and make short throws. Dink and dunk, with the running game.

      1. William you are right in that making a QB change is risky business from a team standpoint because you need a leader out there. Maybe Hoak isn’t the running threat Terry is, but if he has to run, positive yards are still possible, and don’t take sacks, throw it a way, or fumble. Hoak goes in to throw the football to open receivers period, not for his running ability. I think he is a more accurate passer too, and the ball comes out quicker IMO. That is what UK needs now. Wilson has had his chance. The UK OL has, for the most part, given Wilson good protection, but you don’t have all day back there. As far as using two QB’s, ask Spurrier, or Petrino, and let’s throw in Saban. Hey Stoops can do what he wants, but UK is one dimensional now. teams they have left to face know that. Tell Hoak he will start against Missouri and get him ready. That is what they pay these coaches for.

  9. Everyone is HAPPY with our team and record to date but many of us want more. We need a passing game. If we had that we would be undefeated now and could have possibly ended up 11-1 (unthinkable by normal UK standards). The window will be closing after this year with our talent losses and graduating seniors. The stars are aligned NOW. Stoops will never have a better opportunity than this year. The talent is driving this success. We are not lighting them up in recruiting, and it is not unreasonable to assume that Gran will be driving some prospects to look elsewhere with his stubbornness and being risk averse and lacking in any creative thinking. UT will be more of a threat next year and Vandy will possibly be looking at coaching turnover. It is difficult at this time to see more than 2-3 SEC wins next year unless we have an unbelievable year in recruiting. Everyone, with exception of Vandy, should be trending improvement. We have got to get some type of passing attack added or that special season will evaporate very quickly. Stoops says he needs to give other guys some chances and Gran says we need to pass better (Duh! moment for him)

  10. William, you are right, and I can’t say that I am sure Hoak is the answer or will do better. However, I will take 200 – 250 yards passing from a qb over 100 yards rushing any day of the week.
    Just for fun, let’s say that Hoak or even Clark can get in there in and move the team. If that were to happen, how would it be to move Wilson to WR. Can you imagine what a threat it would be to have Bowden on one side and Wilson on the other?
    No matter what happens, my biggest complaint is that there have been many opportunities for Hoak and/or Clark to hit the field and get some experience. When you do that, if the starting qb goes down, you have others ready to step in. There is so much that practice does not prepare you for, such as the speed of the game, and getting one of both of the backups some playing time can prove to be very valuable down the road.

  11. I’m happy with the 6-1 record , but I must admit I’m not confident that this team can win 8 or 9 games this year.

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