What started as a very optimistic season for the Kentucky football team a week ago has for some reason turned dark and gloomy with some analysts and overzealous Florida fans. This Wildcat team may be wounded in the backfield, but scoff all you want because Kentucky prefers to play with the chip on its shoulder pads.
Exactly why being that they are still ranked No. 20 in both the AP and Coaches Poll after a 37-13 win over Miami is head-scratching.
The expected bad news came out that Ramone Jefferson tore his ACL in the opener after carrying the ball just two times against Miami and will miss the rest of his season.
Jefferson arrived at UK as a graduate transfer with one remaining year of eligibility after playing in three different colleges. Most recently he played at Sam Houston State, where he ran for over 1,900 yards in 2 seasons. In the spring of 2021, he was an all-conference performer racking up 752 yards and six touchdowns, helping the Bearkats to the FCS national championship.
Also injured in the Miami game was JuThan McClain who is doubtful as well.
All this with stud starter Chris Rodriguez remaining sidelined indefinitely waiting as usual on some NCAA decision after already serving a one-game suspension for a DUI back in the spring. He will reappear in a game hopefully very soon.
The Big Blue Wall comprised of all new faces in places last week and needed a little tinkering this week to shore up some issues. This week the pieces seem better placed and the holes plugged with Kenneth Horsey (6-3, 304 pounds) moving to left tackle and Jager Burton (6-4, 301) next to him at left guard, and Eli Cox (6-4, 298) at center. To the right are guard Tashawn Manning (6-4, 330) and tackle Jeremy Flax (6-6, 328).
All this has Florida fans poking fun at Kentucky and some media sites calling them predictable and analysts even soft despite the line for the game is a mere 5.5 in Florida’s favor on FanDuel.
SEC Network analyst Roman Harper made this comment after saying he was all in on Florida now.
“Use me as ammo. I’m the ammo guy. If you need it, I’m feeding you right now, Kentucky Wildcats. But if you want to win this game, you gotta stop Florida up front. Kentucky looked a little bit softer, I hate using the word softer, but they were not as physical up front running the football. You can’t run for 50 yards.”
Go ahead all of you and poke the bear, er Wildcat, but be careful what you wish for Kentucky actually plays much, much better when you disrespect them and they tend to carry a chip on their shoulder.
Big Dawg associate head coach and tight ends coach Vince Marrow never likes when you talk trash about his Big Blue players.
Kentucky linebacker JJ Weaver agreed and it definitely got his and the team’s attention after Wednesday’s practice.
“That’s crazy ain’t it? We’ve got it though, for sure, we’re ready for it. They’re talking a lot, saying ‘we’re not good, we’re not this, so yes (practice) turned up a lot. We don’t like people talking about us.”
Even if C-Rod and McClain don’t play Saturday don’t count this backfield out.
Senior Kovosiey Smoke is more than capable of torching the Florida defense that allowed 230-yard rushing by Utah. La’Vell Wright is a load to bring down as well and is so ready to have his breakout game.
Then there are the detractors who say Kentucky will be predictable and how it will be easy to read quarterback Will Levis knowing there are no legitimate running backs behind him.
If you think Levis is predictable now just because he has wounded runners behind him – think again. Tavion Robinson who had 136 yards receiving isn’t the only receiver the Heisman Trophy contender looks to. There is one Barion Brown who rocketed past Miami for a 100-yard kickoff return leaving all the defenders at the 50-yard line watching him sprint to the endzone.
Levis found 9 different receivers he completed passes to for 303 yards and three different players Bates, Dane Key and Chauncey Magwood recorded touchdown catches. Still, the quarterback was not happy with those stats.
Florida needed a late-game stop to beat Utah and gave up 203 passing to the Utes.
The over/under is hovering around 52 points. Don’t think that will be lopsided in the Gators’ favor.
Kentucky’s Jacquez Jones, who transferred from Ole Miss didn’t take too kindly to the disrespect either and that comes from playing for his former coach Lane Kiffen who loves to fire off ammunition quotes.
“He calls it rat poison. You got people out there that are going to talk, but you know, we gotta keep that in the back of the mind and go out there and play with a chip on our shoulder. That was kinda disrespectful, but everybody has their opinion, but at the same time we just gotta go out there and show them that we’re not soft and it’s not gonna be like that. It added more fire to me.”
Kentucky will still run a balanced attack, and it’s also a sure bet Levis didn’t show all his weapons to Miami last Saturday and he didn’t need to. He only tossed two passes longer than 20 yards and we know he has a cannon for an arm.
You will see a steady dose of Smoke and Wright and they will be fine and even Michael Drennen.
Best to watch that deep bunch of tight ends who easily could see double-digit passes come their way in Bates, Keaton Upshaw, Jordan Dingle, Justice Dingle, and Izayah Cummings.
Thanks for the ammo Haper and the Gators, I am sure the Kentucky locker room is well wallpapered and tv’s replay your interview on the Paul Finebaum show over and over.
See you on Saturday.