Cats win ugly again, defeat Central Michigan 27-13



The UK football team’s home opener against Central Michigan started much the same way UK’s match-up with Western Kentucky started a week ago. The Cats started off slow, falling behind early after Central Michigan knocked home a field goal on its first possession. Once again, UK’s bend-don’t-break defense limited the Chippewas on the scoreboard until the offense was able to find its way back into the game. But following the defense’s biggest stop of the afternoon, the offense responded in an even bigger way, blowing past Central Michigan en route to a 27-13 victory and a 2-0 record to start the season.

With Central Michigan leading 13-6 late in the third quarter, facing a fourth-and-one from its own 34-yard line, the Chippewas decided to go for the first down rather than punting the ball deep into UK territory to a Cats offense that had made little impact on the game to that point. Central Michigan was stopped dead in its tracks by the Cats’ defensive front, giving the offense the ball inside Chippewa territory with an opportunity to pull UK back in the game.

On the very next play, UK junior quarterback Morgan Newton heaved a pass to a wide open La’Rod King in the end zone for the Cats’ first touchdown of the game. That score would be the first of three unanswered touchdowns by UK in the final 20 minutes of the game, securing the win over Central Michigan at home.

UK brought out all the stops for its home opener in a newly renovated Commonwealth Stadium. The brand new screens, digital ribbon and sound system were in full effect for the game, along with the team’s brand new introduction video, featuring former UK wide receiver Stevie Johnson. But when it came to the game on the field, UK did not look prepared to impress its home fans and defend its new state-of-the-art stadium.

The Cats managed just six points in the first half against the Chippewas, and once again had trouble in the passing game holding onto the football. Senior wide receiver Matt Roark, the culprit behind a couple drops against Western Kentucky, dropped a ball while wide open in the end zone on UK’s first drive of the game. Instead of seizing the lead early, the Cats settled for a field goal, tying the game at 3-3. Roark did not line up at receiver again the rest of the afternoon.

“We’ve got to get him out of that funk,” UK wide receivers coach Tee Martin said. “It’s kind of like a basketball player at the free throw line, he starts dreading when the ball comes to him or start dreading taking that shot. We’ve got to get him out of that because he can catch, he’s just in that thing where we’ve been on him and he’s heard it, and we just don’t want a kid like that to lose confidence.”

But the Cats’s fourth-down stop, coupled with King’s touchdown reception, opened the flood gates for the UK offense the rest of the afternoon. Less than four minutes after King’s catch, on UK’s very next offensive drive, freshman running back Josh Clemons took a hand-off 87 yards for a score to extend UK’s lead. The run was the longest by a freshman in the program’s history, and the longest run by any UK player since 1970.

Clemons finished with 14 carries for 128 yards and the touchdown, his second in as many career games. Clemons became the first UK freshman to rush for over 100 yards in a game since Arliss Beach did it in 2002.

La’Rod King also reached the 100 receiving yard plateau for the first time in his career, with five catches for 100 yards and a touchdown.

The Cats’ final touchdown of the afternoon came on a naked bootleg by Newton that he kept himself and ran into the end zone to ice the game.

“We’ve been making some big plays down the field,” UK head coach Joker Phillips said. “That’s what we expect. The guys have been getting behind people. We just hadn’t been making them. We didn’t make them the first game. We want to throw the ball down the field.”

The defense was led, once again, by senior linebacker Danny Trevathan, who finished the game with 13 tackles, three and a half of which resulted in a loss, and an interception. It was Trevathan’s 11th consecutive game with double-digit tackles.

After allowing the Chippewa’s to score on each of their first three possessions (a touchdown and two field goals), Trevathan and the defense played inspired football, shutting out Central Michigan for the remainder of the game.

Senior safety Winston Guy did his part to help the defense, recording 13 tackles of his own. Fellow safety Martavius Neloms, a converted cornerback, added 10 more tackles.

“There was a lot of stuff they threw at us that we never seen before, but I think we handled it pretty well,” Trevathan said.

Despite carrying a perfect 2-0 record with them into next week’s match-up with in-state rival Louisville, UK knows it still has work to do if it wants to bring home another Governor’s Cup. On Friday night, following a loss at the hands of Florida International, Louisville head coach Charlie Strong told reporters he thought Phillips’ UK squad has looked better than his thus far this season, hard to believe considering UK’s narrow margains of victory against WKU and CMU this season. Phillips was not as confident in his team’s superiority over the Cardinals.

“We’ll see next week. I mean, we’ll see next week,” Phillips said. “When we play those guys, everything goes out the window. We understand that. It’s become a real healthy in‑state rivalry.”