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Matt Roark overcomes early season drops in career game versus Mississippi State


Entering Saturday’s game versus Mississippi State senior wide receiver Matt Roark hadn’t earned many fans with his play this season.

 

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He had 12 catches for 56 yards and one touchdown on the year but had struggled to catch the ball for most of the season and even had worked his way to the bottom of the depth chart following a drop in the end zone versus Central Michigan.

 

Roark worked his way back into the starting lineup for the last four games, but a career-day in UK’s 28-16 loss to Mississippi State Saturday — in which he caught 13 passes for 116 yards — was the first time UK fans saw his work pay off on the field.

 

“Obviously we’ve seen those things from Matt in practice, or he wouldn’t continue playing,” said UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders. “We’ve been waiting for that Matt Roark to show up on Saturday, and fortunately he did.”

 

“It felt good to have a good game and make some career first for me,” Roark said. “It was a loss, so Im still kind of down about that and I will be for awhile.”

 

The low point in Roark’s season came after the drop in the end zone on UK’s first drive versus Central Michigan. Roark did not record a catch in either of the next two games after being relegated to only special teams duty.

 

“You do worry about a kid’s confidence when he’s had some games like Matt has had,” said UK head coach Joker Phillips. “But you immediately turn to his special teams play. It hasn’t affected him because of the way he’s flying down the field on special teams.”

 

UK made a concentrated effort to focus on crossing routes from its wide receivers in the passing game — a route that Roark runs on most plays from the slot receiver position. While Roark and freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith connected on eight passes in the game, he also connected on three passes with junior quarterback Morgan Newton before Newton left the game with a high ankle sprain.

 

“His position is usually the one that’s running the crossing routes,” Phillips said. “We were able to hit some of those routes.”

 

Roark said he had struggled to focus in previous games and the key to his performance was “focusing on focusing.”

 

“It’s not really any trick I use or anything,” he said. “It’s just these past two weeks of practice, I’ve been having a really good practice. Coach Tee (Martin) has been on us demanding more, and that’s what really helped.”

 

Photo by Mark Boxley.


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