IRA COMBS: Stoops' Wildcats Are Heading In The Right Direction
By Ira D. Combs
Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.
Isn’t it great when a plan finally comes together in life whether it be in the business world or the sports world and especially when it’s for the forever starving UK football fan. But please let’s not anoint this team just yet or any individual player on it . However, make no mistake it is a turn in the right direction.
Last Saturday, in the friendly confines of Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium in front of 50,398 sun-drenched college football fans, Mark Stoops' master plan of how UK football is suppose to look took a major step forward in the rebuilding process. It started with the performance of the new starting quarterback Patrick Towles, who was 20 of 29 thru the air for 377 yards with two touchdowns and zero picks.
Secondly, and maybe more important the entire offense got off to a great start moving the ball for three consecutive 1st downs in its first possession and scoring touchdowns on its second, third, fourth and fifth possessions of the first half. All in all, the UK offense accumulated 466 yards in the 1st half alone which was more yardage than in 11 of the 12 games they played in 2013.
Thirdly, Stoops played two quarterbacks without either one throwing a pick along with five different running backs having at least two carries each and 10 receivers catching at least one pass apiece with no fumbles among the 15 skill position players and 10 of the 15 skill players were freshman. At the end of the day UK had won the turnover battle 5-0 which put them No. 1 in the nation in college football going into Sunday and Monday’s games in that category. Final score: UK 59, UT Martin 14 and a major step taken forward for the Stoops' rebuilding plan.
You couldn’t have drawn up a better opening-game experience for this particular UK team at this particular time on a chalk board. An SEC team should dominate an OVC team in all phases of the game and UK did just that albeit a couple defensive lapses in the running game that Stoops didn’t seem to be too concerned with because as the game unfolded Stoops said the coaching staff just decided to stay very vanilla in their approach and leave some things on the table for future opponents to worry about in their defensive schemes.
Next up on the schedule is another step up in overall talent from Ohio University of the Mid American Conference who slid by Kent State 17-14 last Saturday but make no mistake this team is a formidable foe coming off five consecutive years of going to a bowl game. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 this Saturday and will be televised on ESPNU.
Kentucky will regain the services of a couple players against Ohio who sat out for various reasons against UT Martin. Darrian Miller, UK’s starting left offensive tackle, will slide back into his position which should stabilize the blocking schemes to protect Towles blind side. Also, UK will have a couple more receivers to add to the rotation in Jeff Badet and Alex Montgomery.
Coming Back To The Future With Commonwealth Stadium Update
While a lot of the talk leading up to the opening game by Big Blue Nation centered around the possible problems that could be difficult to deal with for the game day experience with all the construction taking place in and around Commonwealth Stadium, it appeared other than a few glitches most fans dealt with them in a patient matter and still was able to enjoy the day. While up in my neck of the woods in the press box, the talk centered on what CWS would look like once the renovation is complete for the opening game of 2015.
Surprisingly, the center of all the renovation talk with my circle of media friends was on the exterior of the stadium instead of the new sky box press area, specialized suites, recruiting room/patio area, or state of the art training center. The much anticipated look by my media friends was how the entire exterior of Commonwealth Stadium will look like when it is covered with a base of Kentucky limestone and finished off with a certain type rough Kentucky barn-wood which evidently has become the craze with new homes across the Commonwealth, according to developers.
Hard to imagine or visualize what the final product will look like but I’m hoping for the UK athletic administration’s sake in public relations not much of that $110 million was spent on the barn wood. But I’ll admit I’m very anxious to see how the construction company showcases this part of the renovation and puts the final touches on the project, however, until next August we all need to reside to the fact that patience is a virtue and will be much needed in dealing with the construction in and around the stadium the remainder of this season.
UK Football Recruiting Update
Nothing helps recruiting like winning on the field, so Saturday's opening day plastering of UT Martin had to be impressive to those recruits in attendance. One of those recruits was in-state stud Damien Harris, the nation's No. 1-ranked running back by virtually everyone in the recruiting service business. Here is a sampling of how some of the recruiting schemes work by the host school on game day whether it be the recruit's official visit or non-official visit. Harris was on an un-official visit but just happen to be stationed front and center of the Cat Walk so when Stoops led the team thru the Cat Walk and into CWS all of a sudden …… hocus pocus …… there was Harris close enough to Stoops that the two spotted each other and was able to lock arms for a very touching public hug and show of affection. Also, prior to Saturday’s game, it just so happens that a couple of UK’s high profile men’s basketball players heard Harris was coming to the game and contacted him to ask if he would like to join them at the game and sit with Cal’s boys for the afternoon and get a few slaps on the back and high fives from Big Blue Nation.
Trust me, the college recruiting world and landscape is so intriguing and if we knew all of the behind the scenes scenarios that take place, well, it would be extremely interesting to any college sports fan no matter what your sport of interest is. Harris has reportedly narrowed his list of schools to five with UK & Ohio State being the front runners at this time.
You can follow me on twitter at @combsbrothers5 or go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK football and basketball as well as KHSAA football and basketball.