On a beautiful fall night perfect for football in the Bluegrass, the University of Kentucky watched 19 seniors play their final game at Commonwealth Stadium. It was also the final home game for UK Head Coach Joker Phillips, who came to Kentucky as a wide receiver in 1981, and left on November 17th, 2012 as a winner as his young Cats squad defeated the Samford Bulldogs in dominating fashion, 34-3.
To say he had seniority at UK would be an understatement.
The Cats would waste no time jumping all over the Bulldogs as they opened the game with a 14-play, 69-yard drive that ended in senior Gene McCaskill catching an 11-yard TD pass from Jalen Whitlow to give Kentucky a 7-0 lead with 8:26 left in 1st quarter. The true freshman QB was 5/5 for 27 yards on the drive, and had a key scramble for 7 yards on fourth-and-2 down to the SAM-26.
The UK defense responded emphatically as they forced the Bulldogs into a three-and-out in a drive which they lost yardage, and after the punt, UK took over at their own 22.
Jonathan George proceeded to rip off a 23-yard run on first down. Whitlow later converted a 3rd-and-long with an 8-yard run to give UK a first down at the Samford 31. Whitlow would cap-off the drive as he ran 20 yards for a TD to put the Cats up 14-0. UK ended up outgaining Sanford 157 yards to 43 in the first quarter.
Samford would answer Kentucky’s first two TD drives with a drive down to the UK-24, but the UK defense stiffened and the Dawgs settled for a 41-yard FG to cut the deficit to 14-3.
UK would get those points back as Whitlow drove the Cats 34 yards and senior kicker Craig McIntosh hit a 35-yard field goal to give UK a 17-3 lead with 7:10 to play in the first-half.
Joker Phillips made sure the excitement didn’t end as he had Joe Mansour kick on onside-kick that UK recovered, but the Cats were offsides and Samford got the ball at the SAM-35.
After forcing the Dawgs into a 3-and-out, DeMarco Robinson took the punt all the way to the house for the score, but it was called back after the referees called a personal foul on Rashad Cunningham for an illegal block.
Freshman QB Patrick Towles would then come into the game, and after he drove UK to the 1-yard line, Johnathan George fumbled and the Dawgs recovered at their own 1-yard line. The defense would respond as they forced Samford into a 3-and-out and UK took over at the SAM-32, and backup RB Raymond Sanders would score on a 14-yard TD run to put the Cats up 24-3. The ensuing Samford possesion would see backup defensive tackle Tristian Johnson pick up a fumble and go in for the score after Donte Rumph made the sack that caused the fumble, and the Cats took a commanding 31-3 lead into the half.
UK’s halftime lead is 31-3 over Samford. The Cats rolled up 266 yards of offense and averaged 5.9 yards per play.