As Joker Phillips settled in for this week's post-game press conference, he was joined by Hunter Jarvis, a seven-year-old boy suffering from a severe bone disease who got to live out his dream of helping to coach his Kentucky Wildcats to victory.
He was hardly able to contain his excitement...and neither was the coaching staff. While beating Kent State isn't something to make T-shirts about, the resurgence of the UK offense (especially compared to where it was last year at this time) was enough to help create some optimism for a team that badly needed it.
Below are some of the highlights from the press conference and post-game interviews (full videos of which are posted the the University of Kentucky athletics website). My analysis (which I'm sure you're all waiting with baited breath to read) will be in italics. Bold emphasis is my own, as well.
Head Coach Joker Phillips
- Game ball awarded to Hunter Jarvis.
- Pleased with the improvements on offense, but was still concerned about how many big plays the defense continues to give up. You and me both, coach.
- Impressed with how comfortable and sharp Max Smith looks when he's running the offense.
- Spent a good deal of time applauding the improved play of Aaron Boyd; said he was even more excited about the senior's excellent downfield blocking than the catches. That might sound like coach speak, but there's actually quite a bit of truth to it. Boyd has had a reputation during his time at Kentucky as someone that didn't do the hard work, but still wanted the rewards. Now he's doing everything he can to help his team...and it's paying off in a big way.
- Pointed out that Boyd might not have top-flight speed, but he is effectively using his size to make plays.
- Odd moment during the press conference came while Phillips was praising Demarcus Sweat's 56-yard TD on a screen pass. "Did you guys see who made the block?" he asked. "Morgan Newton." Phillips continued by saying that Newton was "too good of an athlete" to stay on the sidelines and that they would continue to look for ways to get him on the field. I'm really not sure why Phillips has such an infatuation with giving Newton playing time. Maybe some things are happening in practice that we don't see, but on the field, very little good seems to happen when he's in the game.
- Very happy with the time and effort that they got from the younger players on defense. Feels that putting them in now is the right thing to do rather than putting them in when they "have to." I know it was just Kent State, but the "have to" point may have already been reached after the Louisville game. Still, I get what Phillips is saying; the more playing time these guys get now, the more effective they will be down the road against tougher competition (when historically, Kentucky has had to put them in anyway do to injuries or lack of depth).
- The plan is still to redshirt Patrick Towles, but the true freshman quarterback will also continue to work and travel with the team in case he were ever needed.
- Says that one aspect that continues to help the Wildcats commit very few penalties is the lack of a snap count; the quarterback raises his arm and the ball is snapped. This makes the offensive line concentrate just on the ball. I hadn't really noticed how clean Kentucky had been as far as penalties were concerned. The coaching staff definitely deserves a lot of credit for that.
Defensive Coordinator Rick Minter
- Asked what he saw on Saturday, responded that "It wasn't very good." I think we can all agree on that point.
- Claimed that most of the problems were "structural issues"; players in the wrong place at the wrong time. I want to trust Minter here, but I still feel that it simply comes down to a lack of talent and depth on that side of the ball.
- Said that they had a lot of plays run at them which they were correctly lined up and in place for, but didn't execute properly. Wait a second...didn't he just say the exact opposite thing a few seconds ago?
- After being asked to clarify, said that it was "all of the above," and that everything that could go wrong, did. Also said that the coaching staff needs to do a better job eliminating mistakes before they occur.
- Said that the staff would continue to give younger players a chance during the first third of the season to find out who the play makers are.
Wide Receiver Aaron Boyd
- Called his excellent performance a "dream come true," especially since his family was able to be in the stands to watch the best game of his career so far.
- Says it feels good to know that he can come out on the field and do something to help out his team. We're enjoying it, too, young fella. There may not be a lot of people ready to fully get behind the Kentucky football team, but all of the Big Blue Nation is rooting for Aaron Boyd.
- Said that even though this game felt great, he needs to "act like I've been there before" and keep working hard. Either this kid is a great actor, or he actually is very grateful and humble about the opportunity and success he's had so far this season. This is a marked departure from the brash, hot-headed freshman that showed up on campus a few years ago.
Quarterback Maxwell Smith
- Feels great to have a group of receivers he can count on to catch the ball. That may sound like a simplistic statement, but last year at this time, finding a receiver that could catch the ball was a very real concern. On this year's team, it's a strength. Hats off to WR Coach Pat Washington and his young group of players for the improvement that they have shown this season.
- Praised Aaron Boyd's excellent route running; says that he has full confidence in all his receivers.
- Texted his offensive teammates before the game, saying "Let's get 50." Didn't quite make it (The Wildcats scored 47 points), but was still pleased with their performance.
The University of Kentucky Wildcats return home to Commonwealth Stadium to take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Saturday, September 15 at 7 PM.
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