A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

UK football notebook: Cats' tailbacks look to build on win without starters

For the second consecutive game, the University of Kentucky football team will likely be without its previous starting tailback.


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After losing freshman tailback and leading rusher Josh Clemons for the season following knee surgery during its bye week, UK lost sophomore starting tailback Raymond Sanders to a high ankle sprain in the first quarter of its 38-14 win over Jacksonville State.


Sanders tallied just two carries against Jacksonville State, but junior CoShik Williams and sophomore Jonathan George combined for 214 yards on 32 carries in the game. That performance gave UK confidence it can run the ball well without Sanders and Clemons, George said Monday at UK’s weekly football luncheon.


“It opened up an opportunity for me and CoShik in the game Saturday to get a chance to get some carries and do some things trying to get the coaches a chance to notice that we can be somebody they can depend on to make big plays,” he said.


“It definitely helps give our guys confidence in the running game, because we know the thing that we have to do,” said head coach Joker Phillips.


Sanders is doubtful for UK’s game versus Mississippi State on Saturday, meaning Williams — who totaled 148 yards on 22 carries — will likely start and George — who totaled 66 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries — will serve as his backup.


“The things we did Saturday and the things we have done in previous games show we do have a good running game,” George said. “It’s just about us moving forward and getting better each week.”


George scored his first career touchdown on Saturday but also fumbled for the second consecutive game. He said the coaching staff’s decision to give him another chance after the fumble against Jacksonville State gave him confidence going forward.


“The coaches gave me a chance to come back and redeem myself. They didn’t just take me out, they gave me a chance to play the next series,” he said. “I just tried to make the best of my opportunity. Luckily I got a chance to get in the end zone.”


Cats carry momentum into “second season”


After UK’s bye week prior to the Jacksonville State game, Phillips said he had told his team to prepare for a “second season” in the year’s final six games. The Wildcats began that stretch with a win in game one of the second season, and on Monday Phillips and his players said they hoped to carry that momentum forward.


“The first half is gone,” George said. “We just tried to start out positive this first part of the second season and do good things and get the win. Just take it week-by-week and get better every weekend.”


“Second half of the season is off to a good start with a win,” said sophomore defensive lineman Donte Rumph. “We’re just trying to keep it rolling, take it one week at a time.”


Tydlacka MVP?


While noting senior linebackers Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy could make and argument as UK’s best player so far, Phillips said senior punter Ryan Tydlacka was probably the Wildcat’s most valuable player so far.


“If you look at the season, it stopped today, he’s been the MVP,” Phillips said.


Tydlacka has averaged at least 40 yards per punt in every game this season and is averaging 44 yards per punt on the year.


“Field position is very vital in a game like this,” Phillips said of UK’s matchup with Mississippi State.


Other notes


UK leads the all-time series versus Mississippi State 21-17, but has lost three of its last four games against the Bulldogs including the last two games in Lexington…The Wildcats rank third nationally in fewest yards penalized pergame (27.9), seventh nationally in net punting (41 net yards per punt) and 18th in pass defense (183 yards allowed per game…UK’s game versus Mississippi on Nov. 5 will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU.

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