We Respect Wins: That’s the Mark Stoops mantra. There’s no such thing as an “ugly win” or one that doesn’t matter because the opponent doesn’t carry a big name. Not for this program, especially coming from where it has been in recent years. Saturday looked like it might fall into that category after the Cats dug themselves a 14-3 hole in the first quarter. Kentucky made quite a few mistakes early on, but still managed to handle its non-conference opponent in convincing fashion. In order to have a really successful season, a team must defend its home turf and win its non-league games. Only one remains now, Louisville in the regular-season finale, and it’s shaping up to be a big matchup for both programs.
This Bud’s For You: Player of the game honors should go to senior defensive end Alvin “Bud” Dupree, who made most of his impact plays when the Cats needed them most. The second quarter saw him record two sacks that helped derail ULM’s offensive momentum as well as a blocked field goal that prevented the Cats from falling behind 17-3. He finished with five tackles, 1.5 sacks, a blocked kick and a quarterback hurry. Dupree got off to a slow start, statistically speaking, to begin the season as opponents heavily focused their schemes on slowing him down, but the Cats’ uber-talented defensive leader has wreaked havoc the last two weeks.
You’re My Boy, Blue: “Old School” fanatics everywhere were shouting the movie’s classic line after Javess Blue made an amazing touchdown catch in the third quarter. Blue elevated high in the back of the end zone and snagged a Patrick Towles pass with one pink glove, pinning it against his body for control while getting a foot down in play. It was somewhat reminiscent of the Dicky Lyons Jr. touchdown catch at Mississippi State in 2006. In the 30-plus years I’ve been watching UK football, those are the best two grabs I have ever seen.
By The Numbers:
1 – First player in UK history to have two catches covering more than 83 yards in his career – Javess Blue. The senior wideout had an 88-yard reception last season.
3 – Coaches who have been 5-1 within their first two seasons at UK: Paul “Bear” Bryant, Jerry Claiborne and Mark Stoops.
4 – UK’s national rank in passes intercepted (11) after finishing tied for last at No. 116 last season. The Cats have as many interception returns for TDs this year (3) as total interceptions last year.
6 – Yards allowed by the UK defense in the third quarter.
12 – Tackles for loss by the UK defense, including six sacks, resulting in 51 yards of lost yardage for the Warhawks. Nine different Cats recorded a TFL.
17 – Punts by Landon Foster downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line this season, an impressive average of almost three per game.
19 – Sacks by Alvin “Bud” Dupree in his UK career, tying Dennis Johnson for second on the Cats’ all-time list.
1986 – The last time UK had two pick-6s in one game, coming in a 37-20 win over Cincinnati.
Run Blocking Good Enough? One always have to nitpick a little to find the “bad” in a 34-point win, but I was a little surprised that the Cats didn’t get more from their rushing attack. If you toss out Stanley “Boom” Williams’ 58-yard run for a TD late in the third quarter, UK didn’t get much done on the ground (28 carries for 78 yards). I think that’s going to be a primary focus for Neal Brown and his offensive staff as they prepare for LSU and the remainder of the SEC slate. The Cats must get a better push up front and run it more effectively to compete in the second half of the season.
Nobody Said It Was Gonna Be Easy: Playing an SEC schedule is never going to be a stroll through the park, but the next two weeks are going to be a gauge of just how far UK has come. First, the Cats must visit Baton Rogue to take on LSU in Death Valley, one of the toughest venues in the entire country. The Tigers are coming off a win at Florida, something that just eluded UK earlier this season. Then, in two weeks, the Cats will play host to the newly-minted No. 1 team in the nation, Mississippi State, on what should be a wild Homecoming atmosphere at Commonwealth Stadium. Prior to the season, the Bulldogs were a team a lot of people in Big Blue Nation were circling as a potential win. I doubt anyone imagined it would take an upset of No. 1 to get it done, though.