Kentucky's year increasingly bad

Kentucky's year increasingly bad

October 16th, 2012 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Kentucky coach Joker Phillips

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Kentucky's game at Arkansas this past Saturday night was called with five minutes remaining in the third quarter due to inclement weather.

It could have been scratched well before halftime.

The Wildcats are living through a nightmare of a football season, with the latest discomfort coming in a 49-7 loss to the Razorbacks. Kentucky trailed 42-0 after the first 30 minutes, when they had managed just 88 yards while giving up an eye-popping 444.

"This was one of the most embarrassing games we've ever been a part of," senior center Matt Smith told reporters after the slaughter. "It will be up to us to pick everyone else up and try to forget about the game while remembering the feeling we had."

Kentucky was picked to finish last in the SEC Eastern Division before the season, but nobody expected the Wildcats to be 1-6 entering this week's visit from No. 13 Georgia. The Wildcats opened with a 32-14 loss at Louisville, but the big blow was a 32-31 overtime loss to Western Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium, which established Kentucky as the third-best program in its state.

There have been 14 players on the two-deep depth chart to miss various games due to injuries and academics, with the most notable being season-ending setbacks to starting quarterback Maxwell Smith (ankle) and starting tailback CoShik Williams (hip). True freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow started at Arkansas and was 1-of-9 for 21 yards until connecting with La'Rod King for a 61-yard touchdown that made it 49-7.

"We've had so many injuries that there are not a lot of personnel moves to make," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. "We've just got a lot of guys playing who aren't quite ready for what they're facing right now."

Head coach Joker Phillips began Saturday night's postgame news conference by uttering, "Our depleted secondary got even smaller." Phillips is a former receiver, graduate assistant, receivers coach and offensive coordinator for the Wildcats, but his tenure as boss has produced records of 6-7, 5-7 and now 1-6.

His struggles follow a four-year stretch in which predecessor Rich Brooks went 30-22, which included an upset of No. 1 LSU in 2007 and Music City Bowl triumphs over Clemson ('06) and Florida State ('07).

A stunning upset of South Carolina in 2010 and a defeat of Tennessee last season that ended a 26-year losing streak to the Volunteers are the two notable highlights for Kentucky under Phillips. This year's team, however, has lost all four SEC games by an average of 38-10 and may need to defeat Samford on Nov. 17 to avoid the first 11-loss season in program history.

"We're all responsible for what we see, and it starts with me," Phillips said.

Phillips was in his first season as offensive coordinator in 2005 when Wildcats players underwent 33 surgeries from training camp through the season. He said there was an upside in that depth developed and a foundation began for the run that started in '06.

That didn't make the '05 season fun, he added, and he's not sure there will be anything immediate gathered from this season, either.

"It's just time to take one game at a time and put together a plan to go out and compete and try to win ballgames," Phillips said. "That's the thing that we're into now. It may not happen until these guys get out of college, but the rewards will come."

Odds and ends

The Bulldogs worked out for two hours Monday in full pads. ... Junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (ankle) sat out the practice.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.