Jacksonville State no pushover for UK

By Cody Porter

UK football is by no means a powerhouse in college football, something we all should know by now. Even with his success with the Cats, Paul “Bear” Bryant still left for greener pastures in Alabama.

After becoming an example of the NCAA’s wrath due to the recruiting violations during the Hal Mumme era, Cats’ fans got a quick taste of success with Guy Morriss despite not being able to play in the bowl game upon finishing that 7-5 season.

That success continued when Rich Brooks got “his guys” onto the field in 2006 as the current streak of five-straight bowl games began with a victory over Clemson in the Music City Bowl.

So where do the Cats stand now?

UK is 2-4 and reeling after three consecutive weeks of being absolutely dominated on the field.

My question is, “Have the Cats relapsed or is this just a series of unfortunate events?”

The reasoning behind this question comes from the comments made earlier this week by Jacksonville State head coach Jack Crowe.

Having already called the game a “measuring stick” for his program, Crowe went on to discuss how he believes his Gamecocks should be highly competitive with the Cats.

“I think we are improving to a point where this game could be highly competitive until the very end – with an opportunity to win,” Crowe said.

The more telling quote from Crowe’s weekly press conference came moments later though, when Crowe said, “We have a handful of players that are just as good or better than they have at their positions.”

To any football fan outside the Bluegrass, they may think this is a delusional statement. Actually, there are probably still fans in the state of Kentucky that think this is delusional regardless of the play on the field.

When actually looking at the tale of the tape, however, Crowe is probably correct in making that assertion.

Did you ever wonder where former Georgia running back Washaun Ealey landed? Well, look no further. The Bulldogs’ leading rusher from the 2009 and 2010 seasons would definitely be the leading man in the Cats’ backfield, but could probably do so on an even larger stage.

Last season as a Bulldog, Ealey had a season-high 28 rushing attempts for 157 yards and five touchdowns, yes, count them, five touchdowns against UK.

The talent level of the Jacksonville State offensive line could be lacking in the skills department compared to Georgia, but nevertheless I expect Ealey to give UK fits and be the main reason why the Cats should be on upset alert.

The scrambling quarterback, which has been UK’s kryptonite in years past, is ever-present on Saturday in sophomore multi-tool Coty Blanchard.

Blanchard is second on the team to Ealey in rushing with 340 yards and three touchdowns.

He also serves as the team’s punter, and though he may be no senior punter Ryan Tydlacka for UK, Blanchard has a respectable average of 35.8 yards per punt.

Almost forgot, in the words of Boobie Miles uncle in Friday Night Lights, “OOHH! And he can pass!”

The sophomore may be playing against a lower level of competition, but his stats don’t lie when it comes to the fact that his receivers can still catch the ball.

He has completed 67 of his 113 passes on the season for 860 yards and six touchdowns, all while only throwing two interceptions.

The one guy on Jacksonville State that may have some explaining to do come Saturday is senior defensive end Monte Lewis, whose stats for the season don’t exactly back up his opinion.

“I feel as though there are some guys in our conference that is just as good as the players they have,” Lewis said.

He went on to add, “I try to get after them, no matter if they are in the FCS or the FBS.”

Lewis’ dedication should be commended, but if I were in the shoes of UK head coach Joker Phillips, Crowe and Lewis each gave UK bulletin board material that could help spark a fire so that the Cats can finally chalk up a victory once again.