Kentucky recently made the list of Bleacher Report’s top-10 SEC games of all-time with the infamous 7-overtime game with Arkansas, as well as the even more infamous “Bluegrass Miracle” game against LSU where the Cats lost on a last-second fluke of a play
Both of these games were at Commonwealth, but sadly, both were also heart-breaking losses.
Here’s the entire list:
1. Bama at Auburn, 2013
2. Ole Miss at LSU, 1959
3. Bama v. Florida, 2008
4. Florida v. Georgia, 1980
5. Auburn at Bama, 2010
6. LSU at Kentucky, 1998
7. Arkansas at Tenn, 1998
8. Auburn vs. Bama, 1967
9. Bama at Miss. St., 1980
10. Arkansas at Kentucky, 2003
It does say quite a bit about just how many exciting (although heartbreaking) games Kentucky football has been involved in over the years, that within the last two decades alone, Commonwealth Stadium has seen two of the top ten games in the entire rich history of SEC football.
Here’s the article: Link
In this video Rivals.com recruiting analyst Justin Rowland talks about Kentucky’s latest football commitments Gunnar Hoak and Kordell Looney–the most recent Ohio high school standouts picked up by Stoops and company.
Rowland also takes a look at Kentucky high school standout Kash Daniel, whose stock is continuing to sky-rocket after strong showings at recent Rivals camps.
In other recruiting news, 2016 commit Landon Young recently picked up an offer from the Auburn Tigers. This is only the latest big-time offer for Young, the 6-foot-7, 290-pound offensive tackle out of Lafayette H.S. in Lexington, who has already picked up offers from Alabama, Ohio State and South Carolina.
ESPN considers him the nation’s No. 140 overall prospect and the Cats’ No. 1 pledge in the class.
Despite the fact that Patrick Towles had more passing yards than any first-year UK QB since Jared Lorenzen (over 15 years ago), the Kentucky-native and high school-standout has seldom gotten the respect that he deserves from many in the UK fanbase who seem to be constantly calling for his job.
Despite that constant barrage of questioning from those within his own fanbase, even rival coaches have routinely gotten into the act of complimenting the young quarterback:
“You’re impressed when you see him throw it from the left hash to the sideline on the right,” said Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino–a guy whose offenses are consistently at the top of the college football charts.
“They’ve (UK) got a quarterback who knows how to make the throws, execute the offense and is a great competitor,” said Petrino, who has been known for his knack at identifying and developing star QB’s. “When you watch them play, you’re impressed by how hard he competes.”
“He’s very fine field general, gets them in the right plays, accurate guy.”–LSU head coach, Les Miles.
“Great player, tremendous player.”–Vanderbilt head coach, Derek Mason
“No doubt he’s a talented player, he’s got really good touch on the ball, he can zip it when he needs to, but he can also run it.”–former Florida head coach, Will Muschamp.
“Everything starts with the quarterback, Patrick Towles; know all about him, he is a winner, he has won numerous state championships.“–Tennessee head coach, Butch Jones.
One would think that with the praise Towles has received from successful coaches like Petrino and others, UK fans would be drooling thinking about the numbers the young QB could put up this season. But oddly, instead of embracing what is possibly the strongest position on the entire UK team, most fans are not only unappreciative of what they have in Towles, but seem to be constantly clamoring for a completely unproven commodity in freshman Drew Barker–a quarterback who hasn’t taken a single snap of live-action since his arrival on UK’s campus last year (and a kid who has made some pretty questionable decisions, to put it lightly).
Bobby Petrino isn’t the only successful coach who would find the thought of replacing Towles with an unproven freshman a little silly:
“I am very impressed with his (Towles’) ability, poise and toughness,” said Georgia head coach Mark Richt at Wednesday’s SEC teleconference.
“I think he is really a quality person and a guy you can certainly build a great system around and a guy that will only get better over time.”
Pretty strong endorsement from a guy that has coached several of the best quarterbacks in the history of the college game.
And just how important was that full year of growth & experience for Towles last season?
“I think it is very important to have an experienced quarterback,” said Richt. “When you know what your quarterback can do, you can build an offensive system around him. Knowing that guy and his skills set is crucial.”
Oh well, what does Mark Richt know? I mean he has only coached Aaron Murray (the SEC’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns), David Greene (the guy with the SEC’s second-most passing yards all-time), and Matthew Stafford (the current QB of the Detroit Lions and one of the best QB’s in the history of the SEC).
And what does our new offensive coordinator think about the QB he just inherited?
“As far as arm talent goes, I haven’t been around anybody with that arm strength,” Shannon Dawson said of Towles.
Maybe we should listen to Richt, Petrino, & Dawson when they heap praise on Patrick Towles. I think those guys probably know a decent QB when they see one.
Against the Odds
Despite the many obstacles in his way (from inexperience, to lack of talent surrounding him, to a terribly inept offensive line, to learning a new system, to true freshman and sophomore skill players littered across the board,
to everything but the kitchen sink) Towles went on to have a very successful season overall–completing one of the most impressive passing campaigns for a first-year QB in UK history–winning more games than UK had in the previous two years combined, and ending the season as the SEC’s 4th-leading passer.
“I think the biggest thing that impresses me about the young man is how hard he competes”, said Bobby Petrino before last years Governor’s Cup showdown.
The inexperienced QB was one of the league’s best despite the fact that on the season, Kentucky attempted more rushes than it did passes last fall with a ratio of 445/404–rush-to-pass–on the season.
Needless to say, that’s a slightly different system than the one Tim Couch or Jared Lorenzen played in, where they would routinely attempt 550+ passes in a season.
Had Towles played in a pass-happy offense similar to the one those two played in, who knows how we would be viewing this kid and what kind of excitement would be brewing heading into his junior season.
We can speculate about what might have happened had Towles played in a true Air Raid offense, but one thing is for sure, he has as much pure, tangible talent, as any quarterback to ever play here. I firmly believe that.
When you look at all of his measurables, I think he might actually be the most physically-gifted player to ever play the position for UK.
At 6-foot-5, 235-pounds, you aren’t going to find a more imposing quarterback. When you add to that package the ability to run a 4.6 forty yard dash and a competitiveness that even Brady and Manning would admire, what you get is the QB that college teams dream about.
The athletic freak of nature has prototypical NFL size, athleticism, and arm-strength, and college football analysts from around the nation are beginning to sit up and take notice of that (if they haven’t already).
They’re also beginning to take notice of what could happen this season if Towles makes the significant amount of improvement that quarterbacks generally develop between their first and second year’s as starter.
“He can really throw the football. He’s got a strong arm, he gets it out quick,” said Petrino. “When they’re behind, he’s still playing hard, competing, brings them back to win the South Carolina game.”
If you take a guy that was already one of the league’s best passers, and he improves dramatically (as well as the team around him), who knows what he could accomplish this season.
Hopefully UK fans will start listening to the college football coaches and experts (who many are already calling Towles the best NFL prospect in the league), and start clamoring for Towles, and being excited about what he could–and likely will–do this season, instead of screaming to replace him with a completely unproven commodity in Drew Barker, who although is very talented, is also very unproven and inconsistent.
I like Drew a lot, and his day will come for Kentucky, but this is Towles’ time.
He was far from perfect last year, but I wasn’t expecting him to be perfect in his first year playing with the supporting cast that he had to work with.
Listen to Mark Richt & Bobby Petrino; I think they would know what a good SEC quarterback looks like.
In the mean time, enjoy this video of Kentucky’s best first-year starting QB since Jared Lorenzen:
- In case you missed it, there has been Commonwealth Stadium news coming along right and left this week. The latest is that the old playing surface is out, and the new is getting ready to be installed. Below are the latest pictures of where UK is at in the construction process at this point, with a bird’s-eye view above Commonwealth.
- The playing surface is made out of a state-of-the-art material used by only the best. It’s a synthetic turf field, called the UBU-Speed Series-S5-M, the same surface featured in the 2013 and 2014 Super Bowls, as well as the annual NFL Pro Bowl.
- The field-install is expected to be finished in July, with UK playing it’s first game against Louisiana-Lafayette at Home on September, 5th.
As you can see in the below picture, the blue seatbacks are coming along quickly and should look very good once completely finished.
It also appears that the “recruiting-room” above the tunnel in the east-endzone of this picture is coming along quickly as well, but there haven’t been as many details coming out about its progress.
Here are a couple more detailed pics from high above that were released by UK earlier this week..
In other news, Bud Dupree is already doing damage for the Pittsburgh Steelers in his new #48.
- On Thursday Bud got some good news in the Steel City, learning that he would have a four-year deal worth $9.2 million with a $4.9 million signing bonus.
- He fills an obvious need in Pittsburgh’s defense, lacking pass rushers with the departure of Jason Worlids. Jarvis Jones is projected to start, but he only has three sacks in his career.
- The veteran James Harrison is penciled in at the other outside linebacker spot, though, the Steelers have said that the 37-year-old will have a reduced role next season.
- Mike Tomlin and company tend to bring along rookies slowly, however Dupree will have the green light to go after a seemingly open competition at outside linebacker.
We’ll definitely miss seeing this.
ESPN recently took a crack at breaking down what will be yet another brutal SEC stretch of games this fall for the Cats.
As part of their breakdown, they highlighted a particularly brutal gauntlet of opponents for Kentucky, starting with a Thursday-night, nationally-televished showdown with Auburn at Commonwealth, and finishing with a daunting road trip to Athens to take on the Bulldogs on Nov. 7th.
Toughest stretch: Oct. 15-Nov. 7 (vs. Auburn, at Mississippi State, vs. Tennessee, at Georgia)
Why: Playing in a bowl game can mean everything for a program. Tennessee (6-6) finished with one more win than Kentucky (5-7) last year, and yet, because the Volunteers played (and won) a bowl game, the 2015 expectations are now much higher for them than they are for a Kentucky team that missed the postseason altogether.
If the Wildcats had won one more game and played in a bowl game, would they be the darkhorse candidate to win the East this coming season? Probably not. But Mark Stoops would like to test that theory next offseason by becoming bowl eligible this year.
For Kentucky to do that, it might come down to how the Wildcats navigate through this four-game stretch in the middle of the season.
The brutal stretch begins with a home game against SEC favorite Auburn on Thursday night. The game will almost certainly be on ESPN, and you can bet the fans will come out in full force to pack Commonwealth Stadium. A win is unlikely, but you never know what can happen on a Thursday night. And regardless, it will be a great opportunity to showcase Kentucky football.
Next are more winnable games, at Mississippi State and at home against the Tennessee team mentioned above. Neither will be easy, though. Kentucky had no answers for MSU quarterback Dak Prescottlast year, and the Vols are not a darkhorse title contender for no reason. They are deep enough and talented enough to beat just about anybody in the SEC. The Wildcats will have their hands full with both teams.
Had enough yet? It gets worse. Next up is a road trip to Georgia to take on a potential top-10 team hungry to win the East. In 2014, a certain freshman rushed for 170 yards on 13 carries as the Bulldogs thrashed Kentucky, 63-31. That freshman, Nick Chubb, is back and liable to go over 200 yards if the defense doesn’t improve.
Realistically, Kentucky isn’t going to win all four of these games. Not many teams in the SEC could pull that off. But the Wildcats can’t afford to lose all four games either. A split would be good while winning one of the four would still go a long way in securing a bowl berth at the end of the season.
- Depth in the backfield: Kentucky returns sophomore Boom Williams as its starting tailback, and with a greater role in this year’s offense he should contend for 1,000 yards on the ground, or at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage when factoring in his numbers as one of the SEC’s best pass-catching backs. He’s complemented by junior Jojo Kemp, who almost single-handedly willed UK to victory over South Carolina last year, and sophomore Mikel Horton, who followed a nice freshman season with an even better spring earlier this year. Between the three of them, Kentucky should be able to keep a productive tailback on the field for every offensive snap, which can only mean so much in an Air Raid system, but is a blessing nonetheless.
- A tight end in the mix: The Cats’ Air Raid passing attack has lacked a competent receiving tight end since Mark Stoops returned the offense to Kentucky, the place Hal Mumme debuted it more than 10 years ago. That vacant tight end position may finally be filled, however, thanks to the addition of four-star early enrollee C.J. Conrad. The Cats’ new tight end impressed coaches throughout the spring, inspiring tight ends coach Vince Marrow to say the Cats “struck gold” by adding him to the offense. No Kentucky tight end has had more than 12 receptions in a season during the Stoops era, and if Conrad can remedy that as a freshman, the entire offense may benefit, especially the quarterback and the team’s deep collection of wideouts from its 2014 recruiting class.
- Experience in the secondary: The Kentucky secondary returns its top-four producers in terms of passes defended from a year ago in upperclassmen A.J. Stamps, Fred Tiller, Cody Quinn and Blake McClain, ensuring that unit will keep plenty of experienced talents on the field in any situation this coming season. Tiller and Quinn are both former Joker Phillips recruits who have blossomed into productive defensive backs upon the arrival of Stoops, a defensive-minded coach, and his staff. Factor in players like Marcus McWilson, who was second on the team with three picks a year ago, and J.D. Harmon, another senior cornerback from the Phillips era who plays primarily on special teams, and you’ve got one of the deepest secondaries in the entire East division, something that should benefit UK in a conference in which half the teams have yet to decide on a starting quarterback.