Cats pleased with Compass Bowl invite



The Cats (6-6, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) are going bowling for a school-record fifth straight year, and although the BBVA Compass Bowl may not carry the same prestige as one of the other 34—and perhaps more prominent—bowl games, UK head coach Joker Phillips gave a laundry list of reasons for him and his players to be excited for the Jan. 8 matchup with Pittsburgh.

Most notably, UK has the distinction of being one of 29 programs in the nation going to at least a fifth straight bowl game, something only four fifth-year seniors on the current roster have been able to experience—quarterback Mike Hartline, defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin, long snapper J.J. Helton and offensive lineman Marcus Davis.

“I think (a win would) mean the world to guys like Ricky Lumpkin and Mike Hartline, who came here only on our vision,” Phillips said. “We were selling them a vision and a dream that we had, and I think it’ll mean the world to them. It will mean that they are able to go out on top because they hung in there with us and believed it.”

Lumpkin said  despite being a part of this program’s turnaround, one final win would be the perfect way to end a career.

“I’m one of four seniors that have been to a bowl game every year that we’ve been here…to end on a great performance and with a fourth bowl win would be awesome,” Lumpkin said. “Only one loss in a bowl game? Not many people can say that, and that would top it off even though we didn’t get some things done here, like beat Tennessee, but there’s still a lot of positives to take away.”

Phillips, who becomes the first UK head coach to go to a bowl game in his first year as UK head coach, said he looks forward to returning to Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., the site of Phillips’ last game as a UK player 26 years ago (UK beat Wisconsin 20-19 in the 1984 Hall of Fame Bowl).

In addition to the nostalgia and history associated with this year’s bowl for coach and veteran players, Phillips pointed to the late date—the Compass Bowl is the second-to-last bowl game of the year—as means of getting in extra practices to help his team develop.

Phillips also said that Pitt’s pedigree fits the billing for the kind of challenge his program wants in a bowl game. In the past four years, UK has played former national champions Florida State and Clemson (twice) in bowl games, and Pitt (7-5, 5-2 Big East) not only has won a national championship, but also tied for a share of its conference crown.

These positives to take away from the bowl game are why Lumpkin said players are still exicted despite a season of missed opportunities.

“What more people are down about is what could’ve been,” said Lumpkin, who added that criticism from fans for going to a so-called “lower-tier bowl game is just one of those things.”

“Take the criticism, as along the criticism comes with winning…at the end of day we’re going to a bowl game,” Lumpkin said.  “I’d rather fans be hard on us for winning than losing.”

After all, this year’s SEC East champions, South Carolina, played in the Compass Bowl last year. Phillips said he wants this year’s bowl game to be a stepping stone to the same success the Gamecocks enjoyed.

“For the sixth straight bowl game, I want to be fighting for the title,” Phillips said.

Cobb, Trevathan named AP All-SEC first team

Junior wide receiver Randall Cobb and junior linebacker Danny Trevathan were named to the Associated Press All-SEC First team Monday.

Cobb, who is ranked second in the SEC in all-purpose yardage, was named to the First team as an all-purpose player. He was also named to the Second team as a wide receiver after leading the SEC in catches (79), good for 955 yards and seven touchdowns. He was one of only two recognized players—Alabama defensive back Earl Barron was the other—to garner back-to-back All-Conference First team honors.

Trevathan led the SEC in tackles with 130 and led UK in tackling in nine games this season.

Cobb and Trevathan have both said that they might enter the NFL Draft process following the season.

Injury report

Lumpkin conducted his interview at Monday’s news conference sitting down because he had knee surgery last week. However, he is expected to be ready to play in the Compass Bowl.

The same can’t be said for freshman defensive end Tristian Johnson and starting offensive tackle Chandler Burden, who will miss the Cats’ bowl game as both have torn labrums and are set to undergo surgery in the next week.  Junior Billy Joe Murphy will start in place of Burden, a junior.