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Time may be right for UK to upset injured Gators



Let’s dream a little this week. Heck, we all said there would be a surprise somewhere on the schedule this fall. Why not this week?

Remember when former UK coach Jerry Claiborne used to make all incoming freshmen read the “ Power Of Positive Thinking,” a book that he hoped would instill in his players a mindset that if you’ll close your eyes and visualize it long enough — even dream it — it will eventually happen? Sounds good to me since nothing else has worked during the last 26 years or however many it’s been (I actually lost count several years ago).

So to all you Kentucky football fans, when you hit the sack each night this week, just close your eyes and say, “We can beat the Gators, we can beat the Gators” until you drift off into a deep sleep.

To help our new mindset we now have a new Florida injury scenario dumped in our lap that could trigger an upset. So can it finally happen? Can the long losing streak to Florida finally be laid to rest this Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium?

It’s the only streak remaining of any significant interest — or should I say embarrassment — to Kentucky football. You have to admit it would be kind of ironic if the losing streak were broken with true blue Joker Phillips himself standing on the opponent’s sideline. The former UK player and head coach is now a Florida receivers coach after helping Kentucky put to rest the losing streaks to Tennessee and that arrogant “old ball coach” down at South Carolina.

There is no question that now seems to be the best time in recent memory for the streak to end, with the Gators’ offense limping into town without starting quarterback Jeff Driscoll, who is out for the rest of the season with a broken tibia bone in his lower leg. This Saturday’s Gator point production rests on the team’s second-string quarterback’s questionable arm and overall skill set. Florida comes to Lexington fresh off an ugly turnovermarred 31-17 pasting of a 2-2 Tennessee team that only got its two wins thanks to 10 red zone turnovers provided to them by Austin Peay and WKU in the first two games.

Over in the UK camp the Wildcats have a wounded quarterback themselves in Maxwell Smith, who had to exit the Louisville game with a tender shoulder in his throwing arm. Smith is the Cats’ best threat through the air with offensive coordinator Neal Brown’s spread offense, but fellow QB Jalen Whitlow may have to weather the storm for a couple more weeks until some strength can be rebuilt in Smith’s right arm.

One thing’s for sure; we won’t know the UK starter at QB until game time, or actually until the first offensive series for the Cats. Firstyear coach Mark Stoops has made it plain so far that he will not reveal any information on a player’s injury or game status period. That’s only for him to know and the rest of us to find out.

The status of another injured that will not be known until game time is that of senior defensive lineman Donte Rumph, who left the Louisville game midway of the 3rd quarter and didn’t return. As you may remember, that’s about the time that Louisville started gashing UK with runs up the middle right where Rumph had played.

You could say Rumph’s status is just as important if not more so to a UK upset bid as the quarterback quandary, because the Gators will more than likely depend on their running game this week with a new QB.

So the scene is set for Saturday with two beat up and injury-marred teams who will probably be without their best quarterbacks. While the Gators still have the much deeper roster, sometimes that old oblong ball bounces in odd directions and opportunity knocks.

The question is if it does will the Cats be able to answer the bell?

Cats Land Recruits

Kentucky basketball Coach John Calipari has two recruits who have verbally committed for November signing in 7’1” Karl Towns from St. Joseph’s High School in New Jersey and Tyler Ulis, a 5’9” point guard from just outside of Chicago. Towns is ranked 6th and Ulis 38th in ESPN’s latest recruiting rankings.

UK’s women’s basketball coach, Matthew Mitchell, landed two verbal commitments last week in Alexis Jennings, a 6’2” post player from Huntsville, Alabama who is rated as one of the top 75 players in the nation by ESPN, and Kentucky Miss Basketball candidate Maci Morris who will graduate high school in 2015.

Morris, of Bell County High School, had been attracting major attention in recent months from schools like Tennessee, Louisville and Duke. Her father Lewis is the Bell County High boys’ basketball coach and was a multiple sports star in his high school days at the old Cumberland High School.

Columnist Ira Combs lives at Jeff in Perry County, where he operates Tri-State Sports Media Inc. with his brother Harold Combs.



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