Cats prepare for Skyhawks on the cusp of bowl eligibility


Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. (1) runs the ball past a defender during the University of Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt University football game on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. UK won 38-14.Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, Kentucky is on the verge of becoming bowl eligible for the fourth straight season.

It would be just the second streak of four or more years for the Cats program, with the other stretching from 2006-2010. The team has a golden opportunity to accomplish that this weekend against an FCS opponent: the University of Tennessee at Martin Skyhawks. 

The last few seasons though, Kentucky has not performed as well as they could have against lower-level FCS schools. That has been on the mind of outside linebacker Jamar “Boogie” Watson, and it’s something he wants to change this time around.

“It’s no secret that the FCS opponents that came in here the last few years have kinda stuck around and made games closer than they should be,” Watson said. “We know how the past has been, and we’re a different team.”

Another aspect that has developed over recent season endings is the playing time for younger players who can redshirt. The NCAA amended the redshirt rule for football in 2018, allowing players to play in up to four games in a season without losing a year of eligibility. That means you could see J.J. Weaver – who has played in just two games so far – and others with limited appearances step into bigger roles.

Weaver told reporters that coaches do not really discuss the rule with players, but there’s an understanding that they could be thrust into action at any moment.

“Just be ready whenever your number is called,” Weaver said.

That moment came for linebacker Jamin Davis last week when DeAndre Square went down with injury in the first quarter against Vanderbilt last weekend. He responded with six tackles. Defensive coordinator Brad White said that Davis “played a really solid game”, and is finally reaching the level of play that coaches expected after his spring performances.

“He had to deal with some injuries during preseason camp that kind of just set him back,” he said. “But he’s starting to play at that level again, which is really encouraging. We need it.”