A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Wildcats figure to get back to the basics this week to get ready for New Mexico State

By Guy Ramsey
Special to KyForward

If you were expecting some of the air to be taken out of Eddie Gran’s balloon after an 0-2 start to the season, think again.

The first-year head coach of the offense/offensive coordinator is his usual high-energy self, intent on fixing what ails the Kentucky offense.

“You can’t let up, and it’s our job as an offensive staff – as it came down from Coach Stoops – offensively as a staff, we’ve got to be more detailed,” Gran said after practice on Tuesday. “If they’re not getting it done then it’s on me, then it’s on them.”

Taking responsibility for failure also means taking responsibility for turning that failure into success. To do that, Gran and the offense have taken to heart Mark Stoops’ message that the Wildcats must be more detailed.

Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker will try to rebound for a 2 for 10 performance against Florida when he leads the Wildcats against New Mexico State Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium (UK Athletics Photo)

Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker will try to rebound for a 2 for 10 performance against Florida when he leads the Wildcats against New Mexico State Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium (UK Athletics Photo)

“We had a great individual yesterday of just getting back to putting your foot in the ground on the boards and offensive line coming up with a square back, not being sideways,” Gran said. “Running backs being better pass protectors – being high, we were getting knocked back a little bit and those are the things that can’t happen so those are the things we worked on. Our receivers, on a release stacking a DB.”

While that work is going on, Gran is evaluating his entire playbook. The goal of that exercise is to put players in position to play fast. To do that, players have to know their assignments inside-out.

“It’s not necessarily going and trying to run 100 plays,” Gran said. “That’s not going to do anything if you can only have 25 that are detailed. If we have 50, 50 need to be detailed. If we have 75, then 75 need to be detailed.”

It’s still early in the week ahead of a Saturday matchup with New Mexico State, so Gran isn’t yet sure exactly what the game plan will look like. He does know what the expectations for players will be regardless.

“Don’t let anything faze you,” Gran said. “You’ve got a job to do. Don’t make stuff up. Don’t make it up. You can’t make crap up. That’s rule No. 4 in our room. If you have to get 10 yards, you go 10. If something doesn’t look right, don’t freak out. Just do your job. That’s it. It’s not hard. It’s not hard. Do your job.”

No one gets more attention for the job he does or doesn’t do than the quarterback, which means Drew Barker is hearing plenty of outside noise at the moment. He’s not letting it get to him.

“There definitely is a lot of negativity, but kind of staying off social media, those kind of things,” Barker said. “Just really only talking to your teammates, family, stuff like that. You can’t really worry about what students or outside people say because they haven’t been out here working with us and they don’t know how much time we’ve put in and how much hard work goes into it.”

This week is bringing more hard work, as well as another opportunity to play. Barker is eager for that chance.

“This is going to be a big week,” Barker said. “We gotta go out there and get a win. If we play our game like we know we can and limit turnovers and sustain drives and be great on third down, I think we’ll have a great chance of winning.”

Barker isn’t alone in looking for some sustained drives.

“I want to see us go down and have a 12-play drive and finish, keep our defense – let them drink some dang Gatorade,” Gran said. “That’s what we need to do. You do that though offensively – I said at the beginning, you’ve got to execute all the time. You can’t just be three plays in a row. I really liked where they were today.”

UK Football Pregame Concert Series to Continue This Season

The Kentucky football pregame concert series will continue for the remainder of the 2016 season with bands and performers all with ties to the Bluegrass State.

Concerts will begin on the stage outside Gate 12 of Commonwealth Stadium immediately following the Cat Walk presented by Chevy and last until 30 minutes prior to kickoff. The Cat Walk takes place two hours and 15 minutes prior to kickoff.

The Mojo Tones are next up in the series, set to play before Kentucky’s game against New Mexico State on Saturday at 4 p.m. The band is an electrical blues group based in Lexington featuring the talents of Mike Joyner, Billy Compton, Joe Conkwright and Lexington firefighter Gerald Evans. Appropriately, New Mexico State is UK’s annual Heroes’ Day game, where first responders will be honored.

For the South Carolina game on Sept. 24, J.D. Shelburne will return after headlining a pregame concert last season. Shelburne, originally from Taylorsville, Ky., and a 2007 UK graduate, is a country artist now based out of Nashville. Currently on tour, Shelburne has opened for more than 50 national acts.

The Lauren Mink Band will take the stage for the Vanderbilt game on Oct. 8. Mink – a Winchester, Ky., native and resident – was a contestant on season 11 of American Idol and plays primarily country with a mix of rock and pop.

Another returner will perform for the Mississippi State game on Oct. 22: the Bobby Perry Band. Based in Lexington, the Bobby Perry Band is comprised of five Kentucky natives and former Wildcat basketball player Bobby Perry. Perry was a forward on the men’s basketball team from 2004-2007 and now plays piano for the country band.

Halfway to Hazard, another act experienced at Commonwealth Stadium, will play prior to Kentucky’s game against Georgia on Nov. 5. Halfway to Hazard is an Academy of Country Music Award-nominated duo made up of southeastern Kentucky natives Chad Warrix and David Tolliver. Their debut single, “Daisy,” was a Top 40 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs charts in 2007 and the duo reunited last year while raising more than $1 million for Kentucky-based charities.

Performing before UK’s season finale on Nov. 19 against Austin Peay will be the Wooks. Featuring CJ Cain, Arthur Hancock, Galen Green, Jesse Wells and Roddy Puckett, the Wooks combine the sound of traditional bluegrass and mountain music with rock, singer-songwriter and jam-band music.

Tickets – including season tickets, mini-packs and single-game tickets – for the remainder of Kentucky’s home schedule are available at UKFootballTix.com.

Guy Ramsey writes for the UK Athletics website

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