Big Blue Notes: Stopping Southern Mississippi’s run game proves to be the difference for Cats

Eric Howard is a Calvert City native who lives in Lexington and is a committed UK Wildcat fan. His column 'Big Blue Notes' appears regularly in The Lake News.

Eric Howard is a Calvert City native who lives in Lexington and is a committed UK Wildcat fan. His column ‘Big Blue Notes’ appears regularly in The Lake News.

Cats open season with hard fought victory
Mark Stoops and company traveled to Southern Mississippi on Saturday to open the 2017 season. Unlike last year’s offensive shootout with the Golden Eagles, Saturday’s game was dominated by defense in the Wildcats 24-17 victory.

The story of the day was Kentucky’s improved run defense. Southern Mississippi running back Ito Smith torched the Wildcats in Lexington last season with a career-high 173 yards. On Saturday, Kentucky held Smith and the rest of Golden Eagles to just 55 total rushing yards.

Kentucky’s defense also provided the game securing touchdown with Denzil Ware’s scoop and score at the end of the third quarter.

The Wildcats will host Eastern Kentucky on Saturday in the inaugural game at Kroger Field. The Cats and the Colonels will kick off at 11 a.m. CST, and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.

Calipari raises $1 million for Harvey victims
John Calipari and the Kentucky basketball team raised over $1 million for the victims of hurricane Harvey on Sunday during the “Teaming Up for Texas” telethon. The Kentucky players answered phones during the three-hour telethon which was streamed online.

Many former Wildcats and current NBA stars also called in to make contributions including Karl Towns, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, and De’Aaron Fox.

This is the second telethon hosted by Calipari during his tenure at Kentucky. In 2010, the Wildcats participated in the “Hoops for Haiti” telethon which also raised over $1 million.
Calipari had previously donated $150,000 to victims of Harvey from his UK alumni game in August. The alumni game raised over $1 million for various local and national charities.

Cats go down under for punting option
Last season’s punting woes were well documented for the Wildcats. After hiring former Eastern Kentucky head coach Dean Hood in February as special teams coordinator, Mark Stoops tasked Hood with finding an answer to Kentucky’s punting issues.

While at Eastern, Hood had found success with multiple rugby-style punters from Australia. With little time to find an answer for the upcoming season in Lexington, Hood found the perfect fit for the Wildcats’ in Matt Panton.

Panton, a native Australian, had kicked for Columbia University for the past several years. As a graduate transfer, Panton was eligible to play for the Wildcats immediately.

On Saturday, Panton made his debut for Kentucky as the starting punter. If week one was any indication, the Wildcats’ have found the answer. Panton was twice able to pin the Golden Eagles inside the five yard line and helped the Wildcats win the field position battle for the entirety of the game.

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