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Go Big Blue!

JOE COX: Make No Mistake -- A Win Over UT Martin Is A Big One

Kentucky football has had few moments of glory in the nearly four decades of this columnist’s life. And the only certainty has been that those moments of glory have been followed by tumbles to mediocrity or worse. After 1984’s nine-win campaign, Kentucky failed to reach bowl eligibility in 1985. Two seasons after Tim Couch led the Wildcats to the Outback Bowl, the team went 2-9 and was placed on NCAA probation. Even after Rich Brooks’s steady run, Kentucky didn’t have a winning season between Brooks’s exit in 2009 and Stoops’ first bowl squad in 2016.


The 2019 UK football season has been frustrating. Had Kentucky made a chip-shot field goal against Florida and gained a yard and a half against Tennessee, the Wildcats would likely be shooting for a second consecutive 10-win season. Instead, a 5-5 team will play FCS foe UT Martin on a rainy afternoon to clinch a fourth consecutive bowl game.

But don’t kid yourselves. That win—if Kentucky does indeed gain it, and as a 29.5-point favorite, they’re in prime position—is a big one. Despite the loss of the team’s top three quarterbacks to injury, despite losing more talented players to the NFL in one class than Kentucky has lost at least since 1977, Kentucky has found a way to cobble together enough wins to be on the cusp of bowl eligibility yet again. An extra game somewhere warm(er), an extra month of practice, and continued impact on the recruiting trail can render the 2019 season a success—if UK takes care of business.


About UT Martin

The Skyhawks are 7-3 on the season, and lost to Florida 45-0 in Week Two (just before the Gators traveled to Lexington). For that matter, UT Martin lost two of its final four FCS games of the season, with losses to Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri in the past month.


Freshman QB John Bachus is a good player, passing for 2,392 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. In the ground game, the Skyhawks average a pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry. Receiver Colton Dowell is the big-play threat in the passing game (35 catches, 724 yards, four touchdowns).

Defensively, UT-M is very adequate. Linebacker T.J. Jefferson leads the team in tackles (91) and sacks (4.5). The Skyhawks have broken up 55 passes this season. Punt returner Terry Williams is worth keeping an eye on, with two punt return scores this season, although Max Duffy has been excellent for UK all year.


About Kentucky

The Wildcats had some early hiccups last week, falling behind 14-3, but then absolutely routing Vanderbilt 38-14. Kentucky rushed for over 400 yards of offense and didn’t punt the ball until inside the final two minutes of the game.


Kentucky would doubtlessly love to keep everyone healthy, get ahead early, and get plenty of freshmen and reserves some playing time this week. It is worth remembering that in 2016, UK had a game like this with a terrible Austin Peay team, but fell behind 13-0 before awakening and taking control of the game.


That kind of situation wouldn’t be surprising, but the guess here is that UK takes care of business.

UK 41, UT Martin 10


Other SEC predictions

Alabama 49, Western Carolina 0

Auburn 55, Samford 7

Georgia 27, Texas A&M 13

Vanderbilt 34, ETSU 10

LSU 45, Arkansas 7

Mississippi State 45, Abilene Christian 3

Tennessee 28, Missouri 10


Joe Cox is contributing editor for KySportsStyle.com Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County and has written eight books. His most recent, "A Fine Team Man: Jackie Robinson and the Lives He Changed," was released in February 2019 and can be ordered on Amazon or at many local bookstores. Joe is an attorney and lives in Logan County with his wife and children. You can reach him at jrcox004@gmail.com

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