Future Wolverines Show Well in Kentucky AS Game

The annual Kentucky Tennessee All-Star game seemed like any other friendly post season exhibition prior kickoff. Once the two squads got on the field, though, it was clear that there friendship had nothing to do with this contest. GoBlueWolverine was on hand to take in the performance of Michigan commitments James McKinney, Brandon Logan, and Cory Zirbel and all three acquitted themselves well in Kentucky’s 41-27 victory.

Tennessee held a 14-7 advantage heading into the 22nd edition of this all star contest, but Kentucky had won the last three. Early on it looked as if the team from the Volunteer state would end the short winning streak.

A sack and an errant snap into the endzone led to a safety on Kentucky’s first offensive possession. Future Wildcat quarterback (and the state’s Mr. Football) Curtis Pulley would get on track in the next series, throwing a 64-yard bomb for the game’s first touchdown. After a missed extra point, the home team held a 6-2 lead. That’s when orange clad Tennessee squad had an offensive explosion.

The visitors went to the air and ate up big chunks of yardage to set up touchdown and a field goal. A two-point conversion put the Vols up 13-6 at the 7:16 mark in the second quarter. Tennessee was going in for another touchdown when the ball was intercepted in the endzone ad brought out to the two yard line. On Kentucky’s first play of the ensuing series, Michigan signee Cory Zirbel pulled from his left tackle spot to pick up the strong side defensive end, but too many of the visitors were crashing through the line. The Vols were all over Pulley as he attempted to hand off the ball and it was jarred loose. Tennessee then ran it in for a TD to go up 20-6 with 1:26 left.

Kentucky seized a little momentum heading into the half after a long kickoff return was capped off by a seven-yard TD scramble by back-up QB Brandon Smith to make it 20-13 at intermission.

Coming out of the break, Kentucky narrowed the deficit to one point after scoring the only touchdown of the quarter and missing another point after attempt. That, however, did not slow down the home team. The fourth quarter was even more dominant for the squad from the Bluegrass state. They outscored Tennessee 22-7 in the final stanza to win their fourth straight, 41-27. The lopsided closing to the game made things get testy at the end.

In a contest that had a number of questionable hits (both late and out of bounds) and unsportsmanlike-like conduct penalties, things came to a head when a Tennessee player came around the edge and nailed Smith after the whistle as Kentucky was attempting to run out the clock. Shoving and facemask pulling ensued and both benches cleared. The coaches eventually restored order, but the majority of the Tennessee players retreated to the locker room without shaking hands with their opponents after the horn sounded.

“I didn’t know it was going to be his intense,“ Zirbel said afterward. “We went through practice all week and had or little scuffles, but we came together and pulled together tonight. I don’t think anyone came out here knowing that it was going to be this tough and this hard to do.” James McKinney, whom we had down for three tackles and a few hurries unofficially, echoed his future teammate’s sentiments. “There was trash talking and I knew there was bad blood between Kentucky and Tennessee, but I didn’t know it was going to be this intense,” the Louisville native said. “I had to step my game up. I had to put it all out there. If they want to play dirty, you have to come right back at them. Football is a contact sport.”

Speaking of contact, Brandon Logan earned the sledgehammer award for the biggest hits on special teams. We had the 6-1 220-pounder down unofficially for four tackles before he left the game early in the third quarter with a strained hamstring. “I just tweaked it,” he said. “I’m going to be okay.”

GoBlueWolverine will have more on the Michigan players in the game in the coming days, including a number of photos.

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