IRA COMBS: 2-0 Cats Headed to The Swamp in Gainesville on Saturday
By Ira D. Combs Tri State Sports Media Service Inc. Kentucky football, led by the ever growingly popular Mark Stoops, hit the ground running August 30 against UTM, blitzing them 59-14, and continued on this past weekend with a strong defensive showing, beating Ohio University 20-3, which makes the gridiron Cats 2-0 to begin a season for the first time since, well several years, more than I care to research. To be honest, though, UK was actually 2-0 in 2011, but it seems like hundred years ago. By the way, Big Blue Nation, you can come on back now. I promise it will be a fun experience no matter who the opponent is as long as it’s at Commonwealth Stadium. This past Saturday once again it was a crowd of a little better than 50,000 which is not bad when you are coming off back-to-back two-win seasons. However, it will be three more weeks before Stoops troops plays in front of the home folks again so those long suffering fans who have for the most part been card- carrying members of the “Fellowship of the Miserable Club” have time to make plans for their triumphant return for the three-game homestand beginning with Vanderbilt on Sept. 27. That Vandy contest is looking more and more like the Cats' first SEC win since Joker Phillips' Cats upset UT with his crack WR/QB Matt Roark in November of 2011. Up next for the Cats is their first SEC game on the 2014 schedule this Saturday at “The Swamp” in Gainesville, Fla. (SEC Network, 7:30 p.m.) where embattled Florida coach Will Muschamp’s embarrassed Gators of 2013 showed a new life last Saturday in their opening game dominance of Eastern Michigan 65-0. This game will be a great measuring stick for Mark Stoops and his staff to see how much or if that ugly gap has closed that the Gators have had in quickness, athleticism, raw speed, and size the past two decades. Also, it will be interesting to see if the Wildcats can continue to play clean mistake-free football offensively on the road in a hostile SEC environment at a place where they have a history of giving up easy points especially in the kicking game. So far UK quarterback Patrick Towles hasn’t thrown a pick but came dangerously close twice against Ohio University trying to make that diagonal cross the field pass from one hash mark to the opposite sideline. I’m sure you’ve heard college coaches talk about closing speed concerning defensive backs and corners in particular. Trust me the Gator defensive backs have closing speed the players from UT Martin and Ohio University only dream or fantasize about. The other side of that is another interesting item to watch Saturday and that's to see if these new Kentucky WR recruits have the type of speed needed to gain some separation from the Gator defensive backs. The good news is that rumors coming out of the Wildcat camp after the Ohio game were that scatback Braylon Heard and arguably the Cats best WR Jayvess Blue will return to the playing field against the talented and speedy Gators. Last but not least UK has covered the spread coming out of Vegas for both games so far as a favorite. The early line Sunday afternoon had the Cats a 17- point underdog to the Gators. Press Box Tidbits This is a new addition to my weekly syndicated column on UK sports that will not appear every week but occasionally through football and basketball season. Since I am now a 10-year veteran of the beat covering Wildcat sports, I have developed the ability to mix and mingle with some of college sports' most veteran and recognizable members of the statewide and national press corps and occasionally I pick up an interesting bit of news, so I thought I would implement these tidbits into my column for those loyal fans' interest: --- NFL scouts usually set in the press box when they are in attendance looking for perspective draftees, however, evidently not many juniors or seniors interest the NFL from UK and its first two opponents because the Green Bay Packers have been the only NFL franchise so far to show up and that was at the UK-Ohio game. --- Bowl scouts also use the press box area to watch games and visit with the media but they usually don’t go out and start evaluating teams until the first week in October. With that being said ESPN/SEC writer Sam Kahn Jr. has already started an early season projection on who he feels will get a bowl bid and where to in the SEC. The conference has 10 bowl affiliations and with the new NCAA football 4-team playoff system that means realistically you could have 11 of the 14 SEC teams qualify for post season play and on a quirky year maybe 12. After two weeks of football, Kahn evidently isn’t sold on the 2-0 Cats because he posted his column late Sunday evening with Vanderbilt, Arkansas, and UK nowhere to be found on the bowl projection list. Georgia, by the way, was the lone SEC team he predicted to get a spot in the four-team playoff for the championship. --- Word from UK officials Saturday night was that the new press box to set on top of Commonwealth Stadium will be state of the art as well and will be climate controlled. Thank you DeWayne, Tony, and Mitch I appreciate it whether any of the other scribes do or not. 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.