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UK Football – Game Preview: Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt by Michael Willis 10-17-18

The Kentucky Wildcats face a very important game coming off their bye week. A win against Vanderbilt will put them in a three-way tie for the SEC East title with Florida and Georgia. To make the pot sweeter, Florida and Georgia will face each other coming off their byes this week. Kentucky holds the future in their own hands but will need to first win the game Saturday against the Vanderbilt Commodores.

The Wildcat’s offense struggled in their last game against Texas A&M, but their defense kept them in the ball game. In fact, Kentucky never had an offensive snap on A&M’s side of the field until overtime. To make matters worse, Kentucky’s star Benny Snell didn’t touch the ball in overtime and only had 13 carries for the whole game. A home game against a struggling Vanderbilt team, who is winless in the SEC, may be a cure for their Cats’ offensive woes. Continue reading UK Football – Game Preview: Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt by Michael Willis 10-17-18

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EKU Sports – KICK RECOVERY AIDES EKU FOOTBALL IN COMEBACK VICTORY

Daryl McCleskey-01 (2018_10-13 at UT Martin by Brady McBride)
MARTIN, Tenn. – A kick recovered by Matthew Jackson late in the third quarter allowed the Eastern Kentucky University football team to complete a 13-point comeback to defeat the University of Tennessee at Martin, 35-34, on Saturday in Martin, Tennessee.

Trailing 34-21, Daryl McCleskey Jr. found his way into the end zone with 11 seconds left in the third quarter to get the Colonels (3-3, 2-1 OVC) within one score.  On the ensuing kickoff, Jackson raced down field on a traditional kickoff by Samuel Hayworth and recovered the ball at the UTM 23 yard line before any Skyhawk could field the kick.

The excellent field position set up the go-ahead touchdown.  On 3rd-and-9, McCleskey took it to the house from 12 yards out to tie the game, 34-34.  Hayworth’s extra-point put the visitors in front by one with 13:01 left in the game.

The Colonels’ defense forced a turnover on downs on the following UT Martin drive.  On 4th-and-7, Terry Williams was stopped short of the sticks on a 6-yard reception.  The Skyhawks were then forced to punt on their next possession to keep the score 35-34.  

Eastern Kentucky’s offense remained on the field for the final 5:47 of the game to seal its second win in Ohio Valley Conference play.  Facing a 3rd-and-11 situation with the ball still in UTM territory, Alphonso Howard rolled to the left and fired a bullet to Neiko Creamer on the sideline for 12 yards and a first down.

McCleskey finished with 74 yards and two touchdowns while L.J. Scott rumbled for 106 yards of his own, his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.  Howard threw for 88 yards, had one touchdown toss and one rushing score.

Cornelius Floyd had a stellar performance, recovering a fumble early in the first quarter and later intercepting Skyhawk quarterback Dresser Winn.

After UT Martin scored on its opening drive, Eastern’s offense came to life two possessions later.  Howard found a wide-open Creamer for 30 yards to put the Colonels on UTM’s 11 yard line.  Howard took matters into his own hands, rolling out of the pocket and grabbing an 11-yard rushing touchdown.

EKU only needed two plays on its next drive to find the end zone, as Howard threaded the needle to Alex Cabrera to take the lead.

Tre Turner forced Jaimiee Bowe to fumble on the Skyhawks’ next possession, allowing Gavin Bryant to scoop up the ball and return it 43 yards to give Eastern a 21-7 advantage.

UT Martin rattled off 24 unanswered points in the second quarter to swing the 14-point deficit to a 31-21 Skyhawk advantage at halftime.

Bryant finished with 11 tackles and a sack to go along with his fumble return for a touchdown.  Creamer caught three passes for 69 yards. 

Win finished the day 17-for-27 for 200 yards.  He had two touchdown passes and two interceptions.

The Colonels will be back in Richmond for Homecoming on Saturday, Oct. 20, against Murray State.  The intra-state match-up is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.

NOTES

EKU improved to 25-4 all-time against Tennessee-Martin.

Alphonso Howard’s first quarter, game-tying 11-yard touchdown run was his second rushing touchdown of the season.

Howard’s first quarter, 16-yard touchdown pass was his first of the season.

Redshirt sophomore Alex Cabrera’s first quarter touchdown reception was the first of his career.

Redshirt freshman defensive end Tre Turner’s first quarter forced fumble was his first of the season.

Redshirt senior linebacker Gavin Bryant.

The interception by Leodis Moore III in the third quarter was his third pick of the season.

Daryl McCleskey’s six-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter was his fourth rushing score of the season.  He added his fifth of the season on a 12-yard run early in the fourth quarter.

LJ Scott finished with 106 yards on 25 carries.  It was his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.

www.EKUSports.com

2018_10-13 (at UT Martin) Stats & Information

Bengals Football – Oh No, Not Again—By Dr. John Huang

Mixon ties game for Bengals – Photo by Brendon Miller for BSN

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – For the Cincinnati Bengals, playing the Pittsburgh Steelers has been likened to a recurring nightmare. To say that the series has been one-sided is probably a bit of an understatement. When you lose the last 7 in a row, 10 out of the last 11, or 15 of the last 18—and when your head coach is 8-25, including 2-16 at Paul Brown Stadium with a pair of embarrassingly freakish playoff losses—the word domination seems much more appropriate.

On a misty, dreary Sunday afternoon, the horrific dreams continued as Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown on a 31-yard TD pass with ten seconds left in the game for another unfathomable 28-21 Steeler victory. Whether heart-stopping or heart-breaking, the loss drops the Bengals season record to 4-2, and leaves their legion of long-suffering fans wondering what they did to deserve such prolonged misery.

“It’s frustrating to lose games at home, particularly division games,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said when asked about any personal frustration he feels losing time and time again to their hated rivals. “We lost this one today. We just got to rebound back. We don’t get a chance to whine about it or whatever. We gotta get ready to go…It’s unfortunate we lost the game today, but we got another one in Kansas City come Sunday night.”

There were no 24-point fourth-quarter comebacks needed in this one as Cincinnati clawed its way back from only a six-point deficit late in the game. When Joe Mixon plowed into the endzone from four yards out with a mere 1:18 left on the clock, visions of a streak-busting celebration appeared briefly on the fog-shrouded horizon. According to the well-known script, however, we all knew it wasn’t to be. Big Ben, when left with too much time to throw and too much time on the clock, will ultimately deliver the dagger that pops all your party balloons.

For the afternoon, Andy Dalton completed 26/42 passes for 229 yards and 2 TDs. Tyler Boyd continued his breakout season with 7 receptions for 62 yards and 2 TDs. Joe Mixon led the team in rushing with 64 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. The Cincinnati defense, which won the game against Miami last week, gave up 481 total yards and couldn’t make the crucial stop when it needed to.

In sports—even on the professional level—the mental aspects of the game frequently play a huge role. A smart opponent will try to get into your head, looking for the possibility of gaining any slight advantage. I daresay the Steelers, for the past decade, had successfully burrowed into the Bengals’ brains—leaving them gasping game after game as if hexed, cursed, and jinxed by the terrible towel waving hordes from Steeler Nation.

How else could you explain the Monday Night meltdown from last year, when the Bengals blew a 17-0 lead? Or what about in 2015, when the Bengals were poised to post their first post-season victory in twenty-five years, only to fumble and bumble their way to an embarrassing 18-16 loss? Rewind another decade, and thoughts of Kimo von Oelhoffen’s season-ending hit on Carson Palmer only adds to the harrowing narrative of anybody old enough to remember.

My hope was that the ignorance of youth would be the key to the success of this year’s Bengals—that they’d be too young for historical scars to affect their psyches. After all, thirty-five of the players on this year’s fifty-three-man Bengals roster are younger than 25. Nineteen of them are in their first or second season. Thus far this campaign, some of the biggest plays have been from the Bengals’ kiddie corps, especially on defense. Clayton Fejedelem, Sam Hubbard, Jessie Bates, Nick Vigil, Carl Lawson, and Jordan Willis have all contributed one way or another to the Bengals’ wins. Unfortunately, they may now just be another generation of players who continue to lose to Pittsburgh—a footnote in the record books for consecutive losses and decades of pain.

“We’re better than them,” Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said afterwards, when asked about another loss to the Steelers. “They ain’t better than us. Period. They ain’t better than us; we’re better than them. I’m gonna be a team player…they went out there and they fought. They got the win; we got the loss.”

And so it goes.

Dr. John Huang covers the Cincinnati Bengals for Bluegrass Sports Nation. He’s currently working with former LEX18 sportscaster Alan Cutler on his new book. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

High School Football – Bulldogs Lose Despite Second Half Comback Against Paintsville

Hazard fall to Paintsville in nail biter – Photo by Larry Robinson – BSN

October 6, 2018 – Phelps, Kentucky – JJ Baker – Bluegrass Sports Nation Hazard – Football Columnist

As the season progresses, it seems as though there are four teams that have the ability to represent the eastern half of the state in the class 1A state finals. The preseason favorites Pikeville Panthers and Raceland Rams have not disappointed so far this year. Both teams have won games they should have and also competed against larger class schools as well. Continue reading High School Football – Bulldogs Lose Despite Second Half Comback Against Paintsville

UK Basketball – THE PREMIERE PRACTICE IN ALL OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL.

Big Blue Madness – Photo by Mike Cyrus – BSN

October 12,2018- Rupp Arena – David Leveridge -Blue Grass Sports Nation – UK Basketball Beat Reporter

The day has finally arrived, the day that is celebrated as a national holiday to the Big Blue Nation, the Event that thousands of spectators camp out for nearly a week to get tickets for the most hyped Practice in all of sports.  The Event is Big Blue Madness 2018, the official launch for College Basketball’s most celebrated team, The Kentucky Wildcats Men’s Basketball team.  Continue reading UK Basketball – THE PREMIERE PRACTICE IN ALL OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL.

UK Basketball – Big Blue Madness: Let the Games Begin by Michael Willis

Big Blue Madness – Photo by Mike Cyrus – BSN

Lexington, KY – 10-12-18

There is chill in the air as Kentucky Wildcat fans gather at Rupp Arena to kick off the 2018-19 basketball season. Big Blue Madness started again with its 3rd annual Blue Carpet Walk. Former Kentucky players Rex Chapman, Kenny “Sky” Walker, Jeff Shephard, and more walked in a Kentucky basketball version of a red-carpet movie premier. Followed shortly after by the current Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams. Wildcat fans who attended got a close look at the current players and some of their childhood heroes. Continue reading UK Basketball – Big Blue Madness: Let the Games Begin by Michael Willis

UK Men’s Basketball – I Love My Team—By Dr. John Huang

Big Blue Madness 2018 – Photo By Mike Cyrus – BSN

Although we didn’t hear him say it directly, John Calipari apparently still loves his team. During the most recent Kentucky Basketball Media Day, the UK head man repeatedly professed his adoration for his talented squad of young superstars. Just as he did with John Wall, Anthony Davis, Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Tyler Ulis, Coach Cal waxed eloquently about the merits of this year’s Wildcats—hereby officially sending fan expectations soaring into the Big Blue stratosphere.

“When you don’t have to coach effort,“ Cal said. “When you don’t have to coach the enthusiasm, the passion you have to play with. When you don’t have to coach a competitive spirit…I don’t have to coach that with this team. So now you know what you’re coaching? Basketball. So now you coach basketball. And I love coaching basketball.”

Before you start making reservations for the Final Four in Minneapolis, realize that Cal’s teams haven’t always matched up to the preseason hype. The 2013 NIT team—with the unfortunate injury to Nerlins Noel—obviously fell short of True Blue expectations. Other Calipari teams–such as his most recent one featuring Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander—simply ended up lacking the star power needed to make a significant run. The point being that star-studded recruiting classes don’t automatically translate into national championship juggernauts right out of the gate.

Don’t worry, though—I’m not pooping on this year’s parade. This mix of mega-talented recruits and critical returning lettermen appear to be on par with Coach Cal’s best Kentucky team to date—the 2015 thirty-eight and one group that fell just a couple of games short of perfection. Why is this current team potentially as good as that one? Let me count the ways.

First of all, the return of PJ Washington is HUGE. The 6’8”, 228-lb power forward declared for the 2018 NBA draft, but decided to come back to school not only to improve his draft stock (and free throw shooting), but with the hopes of winning a national championship. After leading the team in rebounding and averaging double figures in scoring last year, PJ gives the Cats the bona fide, experienced leader they so desperately need. Together with a new and improved, rim-protecting Nick Richards, Kentucky’s inside presence suddenly moves from liability to strength.

Adding to that presence, graduate transfer Reid Travis joins the party. Talk about a fortunate get. The First Team All-Conference selection averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds last year playing for Stanford in the highly competitive Pac-12. Not only is Reid an experienced and skilled low-post player, but he’s also one of the most articulate interviews I’ve ever encountered. His pre and postgame eloquence will be worth five points alone. I’ll look forward to some verbal sparring with him in the season to come.

Shooting has always been one of Team Calipari’s bugaboos. Cal’s first Kentucky team, the 2010 squad, was arguably his best. But they couldn’t throw it in the ocean and ultimately fell victim to West Virginia in the regional finals. You might say that outside of Doron Lamb and Devin Booker (for about a month), Calipari really hasn’t had the benefit of any dead-eye shooters.

All that promises to change this year. Word has it that Jemarl Baker Jr., if he ever gets a clean bill of health, will be as accurate a knock-down shooter as anyone who has previously worn the blue and white. Tyler Herro, who’s sure to be a fan favorite, and returning sophomore guard Quade Green, have also both shown that they can consistently tickle the three-point twine. Gone are the days of opponents cheating down low, daring Wildcat bricklayers to chuck up air balls.

So far, so good you say? I haven’t even mentioned the most explosive portion of Kentucky’s arsenal. Incoming freshman Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, EJ Montgomery, and Keldon Johnson are all multi-talented five-stars that can run, jump, pass, and shoot. Of the four, Johnson comes in with most hype, but all of them may be talented enough to enter the pantheon of John Calipari’s growing list of one and dones.

It gets even better. All those guys take pride in their defense—being able to hassle you endlessly to the point of despair.” Ashton is a pit bull, a mauler on the ball,” Calipari gushed. ”You can play he and Immanuel together. Tyler’s better than I thought he was. I thought Keldon would be better than Tyler defensively, but I’m not sure of that. And our big guys can guard guards, so we can switch everything, we can scramble around, we can still press. There’s a lot of stuff we’re going to be able to do.”

One final point to get you salivating. Everyone knows how important team chemistry is. Elite and talented superstar teams with infighting and jealousies seldom taste success. Initial reports indicate that this year’s team is feasting on brotherhood. Calipari’s servant leadership lessons have already taken hold. Throw in their on-the-court jump start with the Bahamas exhibitions, and you’ve got the makings of one of the most exciting and fun-to-watch UK teams ever assembled. A legitimate run towards Championship Number Nine should be anticipated and expected.

Will it happen? It’s still a bit too early to tell. But from what I’ve seen and heard so far, they’ve got as good of a chance as anyone. With a couple of favorable breaks, Minneapolis in April seems like a distinct possibility.

“Well, if this team becomes empowered and it becomes their team, then this becomes scary,” Cal warned. Come to think of it, you might just want to make those hotel reservations after all.

Dr. John Huang is a columnist for Nolan Media Group, Bluegrass Sports Nation, and Sports View America. He’s currently working with former LEX18 Sportscaster Alan Cutler on his new book. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.