Cats eager for challenge against Georgia Tech


Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson hands the ball off to running back Jojo Kemp during the game against the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday, November 26, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Hunter Mitchell | Staff

Chris Angolia

This past Sunday afternoon it was announced that UK football will be spending its New Year’s Eve in Jacksonville, Fla. at the TaxSlayer Bowl. The Cats will face off with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the program’s first bowl game since 2010 and first in the Mark Stoops-era.

“As you could imagine, it’s an exciting time for myself and our team as we accept the bid to play in the TaxSlayer Bowl,” Stoops said Monday. “We’re looking forward to that.” 

Although the game is about three weeks away, it is never too early to get a look at what challenges the Yellow Jackets may pose. Perhaps the biggest challenge is Georgia Tech bringing in an offense unlike any UK has seen this year.

From his time at Florida State, Stoops is familiar with the Yellow Jackets’ style of play and their famous triple-option attack is one that is difficult to defend. How the Cats are able to handle the Yellow Jackets rushing attack will be something that defines the outcome of the game.

“Coach (Paul) Johnson’s been around a long time. Again, from my background of playing him, I knew it was a real challenge,” Stoops said. “That was a stressful week for me, and so we’ll have our hands full – it will be very different, and they also present some problems with the way they run the ball with some play-action off of it.”

That same triple-option attack has helped the Yellow Jackets to an 8-4 record this year with losses coming from Clemson, Miami, at North Carolina and at Pitt. The Jackets also hold wins over the ACC Coastal champs Virginia Tech and closed out the season with a big win at Georgia.

To game plan for something it has not seen recently, UK will have the luxury of 15 practices before the game and those will definitely help not only from a strategic standpoint, but from a health and development standpoint.

“(The extra practices are) super beneficial,” second team All-SEC center Jon Toth said Monday. “It’s 15 more practices that we haven’t had in the past years so it’s valuable time the coaches get to spend with us and we get to use it to develop so it’s very valuable.”

While the match up will be a tough one for both sides, it is clear that the Cats and everyone associated with the program is excited for New Year’s Eve.

“We’re all excited to go to the great city of Jacksonville and we’re happy that the Taxslayer Bowl considered us and our administration worked their tails off to try and get us in a great spot,” Toth said. “We’re just appreciative of the opportunity. – It will be exciting.”