Football Notebook: Phillips wants to minimize mistakes this week

Despite the season-opening win over Louisville, a sluggish second half and dumb penalties captured the focus of UK head coach Joker Phillips ahead of UK’s matchup with Western Kentucky Saturday.

“We cannot make our same mistakes that we had in this past game,” Phillips said. “We’ve got to get those corrected and continue to play fast, start fast, but then finish stronger than we did.”

Phillips pointed to 11 penalties for 90 yards and four big plays surrendered by the UK defense that accounted for 134 yards as ways that “Kentucky can beat Kentucky.”

One such play was Louisville running back Bilal Powell’s 80-yard run, in which he broke to the outside and sprinted down the sideline for a touchdown in what Phillips called a “horrendous” third quarter.

Junior cornerback Randall Burden said the UK defense selected a cloud call to the side in the cover-2 defense and that he was supposed to play in.

“I know I did the wrong thing,” said Burden, who unsuccessfully tried to catch Powell following his mistake.

Although WKU is in the midst of a 21-game losing streak, currently the longest in the nation, Phillips said that mistakes can trip up a heavily favored team as evidenced by some of the results of college football’s opening weekend.

One of UK’s Southeastern Conference foes, Ole Miss, was shocked 49-48 this weekend in double overtime by Jacksonville State, a Football Championship Subdivision school, in its home opener.

“We’ll point out all the games across the country everybody expects you to win,” Phillips said. “If you don’t play well, if we play like we did in (Saturday’s) third and fourth quarter, any given day, anybody can beat you.”

Junior linebacker Danny Trevathan, the SEC Defensive Player of the Week, said that he doesn’t expect the same mental lapses against WKU and that some of the younger players on defense are capable of helping him out by making big plays sooner rather than later.

“I try to help the (young guys), but at the same time they’ve got to do their own part and help themselves,” Trevathan said. “Coach Joker has tried to instill in them that you don’t have to be a junior or senior to be a leader.”

No More BCS schools on Cats’ non-conference schedule

UK’s first non-conference game against U of L also marked its last non-conference game against an opponent from a BCS conference this season.

UK’s three remaining non-conference games are: WKU of the Sun Belt Conference (Sept. 11), Akron of the Mid-American Conference (Sept. 18) and Charleston Southern, an FCS school from the Big South Conference (Nov. 6).

When asked what the benefit of playing the lesser-profile Hilltoppers this Saturday would be, Phillips said: “It’s another in-state recruiting tool; playing two of the in-state schools helps us, there’s no question about that.”

Phillips added that playing WKU in an NFL stadium—the Tennessee Titans’ LP Field—in 2011 and 2013 is also an attractive recruiting pitch.

Injury Report

Junior tight end Nick Melillo will miss Saturday’s game because of an ankle sprain. Redshirt freshman Jordan Aumiller, who started at tight end in place of Melillo against U of L, is day-to-day with a sprained foot.

Safeties Dakotah Tyler (ankle) and Taiedo Smith (groin) are both questionable.