Defense transforms for the better in second half



Orange slices and Rock juice. These snacks could make all the difference for the UK defense at halftime.

In the last two games combined, the UK defense has surrendered 59 points in the first half compared to six points in the second half, which includes a shutout of the South Carolina offense in the second half of UK’s 31-28 upset win over the Gamecocks on Saturday.

UK head coach Joker Phillips couldn’t explain the reason for his defense’s turnarounds at his weekly Monday news conference, so he joked that the orange slices his team eats at halftime might be a possibility for the improvement.

“Maybe we’ll (eat orange slices) at the beginning of the game instead of at halftime,” Phillips said.

Following Saturday’s win, junior defensive tackle Mark Crawford credited the change in the defense’s play to “drinking that (UK strength and conditioning) coach Rock (Oliver) juice.”

Junior linebacker Danny Trevathan, who leads the Southeastern Conference with 70 tackles, agreed with Crawford’s sentiments Monday.

“That’s well put,” Trevathan said. “Coach Rock does a good job, too. He really feeds us…he influences us, and he worked us hard this offseason to prepare us for coming from nothing.”

Although the Cats managed to come back from an 18-point deficit and limit the Gamecocks to 103 yards total offense in the last two quarters, the sluggish start defensively a week prior eventually cost them against Auburn.

Phillips said his defense was feeding off the energy the big plays created in the second half, but that those big plays should come sooner in the game.

“It’s like piranhas. Once you smell blood, everybody wants some,” said Phillips, who added that his junior safeties, Winston Guy and Mychal Bailey, need to start making more tackles for one-or-two-yard gains.

Senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin said that starting fast might be even more paramount this Saturday against the Georgia Bulldogs (3-4, 2-3 SEC), winners of two straight games and aided by the return of top playmaking receiver A.J.  Green, who missed the first four games of the year due to suspension.

“We always get the teams coming off a big win or they’re starting to get rolling,” Lumpkin said. “It’s something everyone should be used to, we just have to play four quarters of football and have a good second half like we have the past couple of weeks.”

Cobb Twitter controversy

On Sunday, junior wide receiver Randall Cobb caused a stir with some comments he posted on his Twitter account (@rcobb18).

Cobb, who became UK’s all-time leader in touchdowns with 33 when he caught the go-ahead touchdown pass Saturday, criticized some UK fans by questioning their loyalty to the program with a string of tweets that included comments such as “loved seein Yall come late, love hearing Yall tell us we suck during the game, love that we have to play against our own fans too!”

Later, he deleted his tweets with the exception of this one: “To all the fans that has been true to this program throughout the years. Yall deserved a win like that last night! Let’s keep it going!”

Phillips said that he didn’t understand the fascination players have with Twitter, but that he’ll remind them to be mindful of what they post. He added that he wasn’t upset with Cobb.

“The guy is a passionate player, he loves his teammates, he loves this place,” Phillips said. “If you look at all the guys on our team that are out here working in the community, who do you see first? Randall Cobb, you know he loves everything about this place. So I won’t put as much in this as a lot of people are putting into it.”

Injury report

RB Derrick Locke  (shoulder stinger): day-to-day

LB Qua Huzzie (ankle): out for Saturday

OG Kevin Mitchell  (hamstring): 1-2 weeks

CB Martavius Neloms (concussion): Returns to practice Wednesday

CB Randall Burden (sprained foot): Returns to practice Wednesday

DE DeQuin Evans      (ankle): Returns to practice Monday