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Nov 28

Why Saturday Mattered

Posted by: R.A.Pedigo at 11:24 am | Leave a Comment (38)
Category: Football

After the NBA draft in June, I decided to step away from Tailgate Review for a little while. Not because I didn’t love the site, our readers, and being involved in the UK blogosphere, but for a much more positive reason. After some trials and tribulations that many of us endure, my wife and I were expecting our first child in August! As the dads in the audience will attest too, there are many preparations that take place before a bundle of joy comes roaring through the doors. With that, along with the fact it was a down time for UK sports, I decided to step away.

On August 2, my little boy, Robert Allen Pedigo, Jr., arrived! It was the greatest day of my life, by far. Unfortunately, on August 3, I had the worst day of my life when my little brother, Eric, was diagnosed with cancer. We found out a week later that it was stage 4 rectal cancer and had spread to his liver. On September 12, after surgery to remove the cancer from his liver, Eric passed away at the age of 30.

As you might imagine, the last few months have been very bittersweet for me and my family. We have found out the joys of life and the misery of death very quickly. My wife and I now have a nearly 4 month old and a 12 year old, Blake, my brothers little boy. After Eric passed, we were granted custody of Blake. The transition that is still occurring in my home is extreme for all parties. After going so long without a child, we got two, remarkably fast.

As you have probably figured out in the short history of TGR, I am a proud member of Big Blue Nation, as was my brother. My family lives and breathes everything UK, no matter the sport. I had missed one home UK football game since Rich Brooks first season until this year. With all of the things going on, I missed 3 home tilts in 2011. Saturday’s game with Tennessee, was not one that I missed. In fact, it was the first tailgate and game that I really enjoyed since my brother’s passing. My mother and I both expressed the feeling to one another that we felt Eric with us all day long. I figured since we both knew he was there with us, we might as well give him what he so wanted for so many years, a win over Tennessee.

As my Mom and I sat in our seats we shared with my brother for so many years, we watched the Cats take a 10-0 lead over the Vols. As many of the Kentuckians in attendance did, I looked to my mother and asked, “How are they going to break my heart this time?” Big Blue Nation was not asking this because they did not believe in the guys on the field on Saturday, they asked it because they had seen it happen to so many teams before this one. For so many years, BBN had their hearts ripped out by phantom calls, strange fumbles, goal line stands, and various crushing moments during the Tennessee-Kentucky rivalry. In fact, so many of these moments occurred over the duration of the streak, the Tennessee-Kentucky rivalry was no longer considered a rivalry by many. IT had turned into a hammer and nail rivalry and I shouldn’t have to explain who was who.

As the clock ticked away and Morgan Newton fell to a knee, the emotions of the long streak overwhelmed the entire Commonwealth Stadium crowd, including my mother and me. As Morgan continued to kneel down, I thought about my brother. I thought about all of the great days we shared at Commonwealth in the last few years. I thought about how Winston Guy had visited Eric in the hospital in Eric’s last days. I thought about how “on, On U of K” played at Eric’s funeral as his friends and family left the church. I thought about all of these things and I thought about how so many who don’t care about UK or football or tailgating don’t understand how something so insignificant can mean so much to those of us who love it, and I felt sorry for those people. When I grabbed my mother and held her and said, “ That one is for Eric”, as the tears ran down our faces, it mattered. For Danny Trevathan, Winston Guy, Matt Roarke, and the rest of the seniors, it mattered. For the thousands of fans and students who spilled out onto the field after the game, it mattered. For Kentucky’s much maligned head coach who had to choke back tears after the game, it mattered. For one reason or another, it mattered for all of Big Blue Nation. Regardless of where, when, or why it happens, whether it is on grass or the hardwood, it will always matter to us who love it and share it with those we love. Thanks Cats! C! A! T! S!

Nov 27

Wildcat Legends, Thank You!

Posted by: R.A.Pedigo at 8:08 pm | Leave a Comment (48)
Category: Football
As the father of two teenagers, I can attest to the fact that the sands of time pass far too quickly through the hourglass.  My daughter will get her driver’s permit in a couple of weeks (Lexington drivers–consider yourself warned), though it doesn’t seem that long ago that we were dropping her off for her first day of kindergarten.  I guess it’s just the routine of life–work, sleep, with a little bit of play thrown in on occasion–that lulls us into this sense that time is standing still.  One year fades into another, but sooner or later you realize that a decade has passed.  Or two.
Or, as in the case of time since last beating Tennessee, TWENTY SEVEN YEARS.  When the Cats knocked off the Vols in Knoxville in 1984, it was certainly a great win over a bitter rival.  But its occurence was not earth-shattering.  The Cats victory that day gave them 23 in the series to the Vols’ 48 (along with 9 ties).  The series already belonged to the Vols, but not to a ridiculous extent.  To that point, on average every Wildcat that played for four years would experience a win against Tennessee.  They may get the best of us more often, but every few years the boys in blue would get to hoist the beer barrel trophy after a victory.
(Keep Reading)
I wasn’t in Neyland Stadium in 1984, and in 1981 (when the Cats last tasted victory over the Vols at home) I had not yet become a regular attender of Kentucky football games.  So you can imagine my excitement in 1987 when the Cats, down by four late in the fourth quarter, had first and goal at the five with superstar Mark Higgs in the backfield.  I was going to see, for the first time with my own eyes, a Kentucky victory over the Vols.
Four plays later (each, as I recall, dive plays up the middle by Higgs), the Cats were denied the end zone and the Vols left Commonwealth with a modest three game winning streak.  Not to worry: the Cats would have another shot next year.
(Keep Reading)
But the Vols won at home in 1988, then in Lexington again in 1989, and before you know it the losing had become far too routine.  Seasons came and seasons went, and suddenly the streak had stretched to ten games.  Then fifteen.  Then twenty.
Along the way, there were years when the losses made complete sense.  After all, Tee Martin’s squad won a national title in 1998.  And even though the Cats were blessed with homegrown talents Tim Couch and Craig Yeast, their years in Lexington unfortunately came at the same time a young man named Manning was under center for the Vols.
But Tennessee had some down years during the stretch as well, and at some point the law of averages should have dropped a win in the Cats column.  Seven times the margin of victory was less than seven points, but each time the Vols came out on top.
Somewhere along the way, I had become numb to the losses.  Ending the regular season with a loss had essentially become a foregone conclusion.  But then came the teams of Woodson, Burton, Woodyard, Tamme, Johnson, Little and company.  They were skilled athletes, but more importantly they brought about a change in attitude for Wildcat football.  Surely these guys would be the ones to end the streak.
(Keep Reading)
The task would not be easy, as the Vols were pretty solid during those years as well.  But in 2007 the Cats had proven themselves to be a legitimate force, knocking off #1 and eventual national champion LSU in an epic three-overtime battle.  Down three late in regulation to the Vols, I was convinced the Cats would cap off their careers in fairy tale fashion with a touchdown pass from Elizabethtown’s Woodson to Louisville’s Burton and end the madness.  Alas, the pass sailed just beyond Burton’s reach, the Cats kicked a field goal to send the game into overtime.  By the time the fourth extra period had concluded, the result was the same as it had been the previous 22 seasons.
Tennessee football then went on a decline while Kentucky football became synonymous with one word:  Cobb.  Surely this young man, plucked from the shadows of Neyland Stadium, would bring us our elusive victory.  But even three years of the Legend were unable to yield a victory.
The morning of the game in 2009, a childhood friend of mind (knowing full well how to push my buttons) suggested that I should re-create the beer barrel that had been presented to the winning team for many seasons until a tragic alcohol-related car crash involving two UK players ended the tradition in 1998.  He thought that maybe it could bring some much-needed luck which would lead to a Wildcat victory.
My son and I accepted the challenge, and by noon we had created our barrel with two hard plastic half barrels from Home Depot and rolls of blue, orange and white duct tape.  We proudly carried the barrel to the CatWalk and around the stadium before the game.  This would end the streak, for sure.
By the end of the night, the Cats had lost for the 25th consecutive time–once again in overtime.  Undaunted, we brought the barrel to Knoxville with us last season.  It never left my car.
Saturday morning the barrel came with us again to Commonwealth.  By now we had wondered if our barrel, intended to bring good luck, had actually had the opposite effect.  The Legend of Cobb wasn’t able to bring us a win.  How in the world could we win today, with our first AND second string quarterbacks out?
I had convinced myself in 2007 that the perfect storyline would be Woodson to Burton.  In ’09 and ’10, I was certain it would be the kid from Alcoa taking final revenge on the school that didn’t offer him a scholarship.
I doubt even Hollywood would have accepted the notion that a 26 year losing streak could come to an end with a senior wide receiver playing quarterback for the first time since high school, throwing only six passes the entire day, and scrambling for 124 yards.  It was just too ridiculous a notion.  And therein was its beauty.
After the game, I stuck around to thank the seniors for bringing Kentucky fans the victory we had coveted for more than a quarter century.  With my homemade barrel in hand, I asked a few of them if they would mind posing for a photo with my makeshift trophy.  Their reactions were varied, from Ryan Tydlacka’s “Oh, man!  That is AWESOME!” to Matt Roark’s “Ya know, I saw you with that from the bus and I didn’t know what the (heck) it was.”  But each obliged my request, and provided my son and me with some great snapshots from a memorable and historic day.
So to Matt Roark, his fellow seniors, and all the Wildcats on this 2011 squad, thank you.  I know the final record was far short of what we all wanted, but you did something no other Kentucky team had done since 1984.  And that feat alone has made each of you a Wildcat Legend.
Nov 22

SEC Round-Up Week 12

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 10:41 pm | Leave a Comment (8)
Category: SEC

South Carolina 41 – The Citadel 20: For at least a half, The Citadel looked to pull what would have been one of the bigger upsets in college football this season as they only trailed by 7 at the half (20-13). However, the Gamecocks “D” stiffened in the 2nd half and the offense tacked on 3 more touchdowns, thanks in part to great play of Connor Shaw. Shaw completed 88% of his passed in throwing for 217 yds & 3 TDs while RB B. Wilder ran for 109 yds & 2 scores. However, because of Georgia’s victory over Kentucky, it will be the Bulldogs who will represent the SEC East in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta in two weeks.

Georgia 19 – Kentucky 10: In a game that had a lot riding on it for both teams (although the stakes for each were vastly different) it was the Bulldogs (9-2) who had just a little more offense than the Cats (4-7). The Cats played hard throughout the game limiting Georgia to 4 field goals through 3 quarters. However, at the beginning of the 4th, QB Aaron Murray threw his only TD pass of the game to put Georgia up by 9 and the “D” made it stand-up. The UK defense frustrated Murray through out the game holding him to 162 pass yds and picking him off once as well. RB Isaiah Crowell went down with an injury early in the game and that may have thrown off the game-plan of the offense. For Kentucky, the offense struggled again but QB Maxwell Smith looked better than he did a week ago against Vandy. However, the running game was not a factor and that meant the young QB had to shoulder more of the load and it just didn’t work out. The Cats will wrap up their season this week when they visit Knoxville to play Tennessee. Georgia will play arch-rival Ga. Tech in what could be an interesting game for the Bulldogs.

Auburn 35 – Samford 16: For a half, Auburn did not look like the team we seen earlier in the year. Samford trailed by only 4 at the half (14-10) and looked to be in position to pull off a shocker. In the 2nd half, the Tiger’s rushing attack got going and helped the Tigers (7-4) avoid a major upset. RB Michael Dyer ran for 157 yds & 1TD on 30 carries. Not to be out done, RB J. Gates for Samford rushed for 119 yds on 28 carries. In fact, Samford appeared to have the better offense through-out the entire game but the Tiger’s defense played much better in the 2nd half. Next up for Auburn will be the “Iron Bowl” against in-state rival Alabama.

Florida 54 – Furman 32: Furman jumped out to a 22-7 lead and the crowd at the “Swamp” was stunned and shocked at what was happening. The Gators would outscore their opponent 47 -10 over the final three quarters to win a game that was much closer than anticipated. QB John Brantley threw for a season high 329 yds & 4 TDs & WR Andre Dubose had 3 catches for 151 yds & 2 TDs. The Gators will have to be much better than this on defense this weekend as they play in-state rival Florida State. This was the best offensive game Will Muschamp’s team had played in its last seven. This win also got the Gators bowl eligible.

Alabama 45 – Georgia Southern 21: At least for a half, Alabama did not look like Alabama, sluggish and unsure of themselves on defense. By the second half, the defense had tightened up and the offense was able to keep up what they had started in the 1st half. Bama QB, A.J. McCarron threw for 190 yds. & 3 TDs and RB Trent Richards ran for 175 yds & 2 TDs on 32 carries. But, the Bama “D” gave up 153 yds on the ground to D. Swope, the RB for Ga. Southern. They must be better than that when they visit Auburn this weekend.

Arkansas 44 – Mississippi St. 17: Arkansas looks to be primed for their showdown with #1 LSU on Friday as they ran thru, around and over the Mississippi St. (5-6) defense. QB Tyler Wilson passed for 365 yds & 3 TDs and Derrick Johnson rushed for 98 yds on 14 carries. Arkansas (10-1) will certainly be the most explosive offense LSU’s defense will face since the Oregon game to open the season. Arkansas’s defense has been much improved and they will need to be good this Friday too. For Mississippi St. their bowl hopes rest on whether or not they can defeat Ole Miss this Saturday in the “Egg Bowl”.

LSU 52 – Ole Miss 3: This game was never in doubt as the Tigers (11-0) ran out to a 35-3 half-time lead and cruised to victory. Jordan Jefferson started at QB and passed for just 88 yds & 1 TD. But he used his legs to avoid the blitzing Rebel defense on numerous occasions. The Tiger’s defense battered the Ole Miss (2-9) until they were just helpless. The Rebels had less than 200 yds of offense again; something that the new coach must address next season. For LSU, only Arkansas & Georgia stand in their way of a shot at the National Title.

Tennessee 27 – Vanderbilt 21 (OT): In possibly the best game in the Sec this past weekend, it was the Vols (5-6) inching one step closer to bowl eligibility with a overtime victory over their in-state rival. The Commodores (5-6) were hoping to pick-up win #6 here sp that they would not have to rely on a victory this weekend, on the road against a formidable Wake Forest team. Of course Tennessee must beat Kentucky this weekend themselves to get bowl eligible; of course UK’s last victory over “Rocky Top” was back in 1984. QB Tyler Bray was back for the Vols and he threw for 189 yds, 2 TDs & 2 INTs. RB Tauren Poole ran for 107 yds & 1 TD as well. For Vandy, QB Jordan Rogers passed for 193 yds, 1 TD & 3 INTs; the last of those INTs proved to be costly though as it was picked off in the flat in OT and taken “to the house” for a game winning, defensive TD.


Nov 22

Cal’s Rounds At ESPN And Expectations Facing This Young Team

Posted by: Ryan at 11:44 am | Leave a Comment (5)
Category: Basketball

Nov 16

SEC Round-Up Week 11

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 12:35 pm | Leave a Comment (16)
Category: SEC

Vanderbilt 38 – Kentucky 8: In a battle of teams trying to inch their way to bowl eligibility, it was the Commodores (5-5) who wanted it more than the Cats (4-6). RB Zack Stacy ran for 135 yds and 3 TDs and Jordan Rogers had another efficient outing, passing for 207 yds and 2 TDs. For the Cats, it was more of the same, an anemic offense that couldn’t generate enough plays down the field. QB Maxwell Smith threw for 179 yds and 1 TD but he didn’t seems as crisp as he did against Ole Miss. A lot of that can be contributed to the Vandy defense, which spent an abnormal amount of time in the UK backfield. Vandy turned up the heat early and often with a variety of blitzes that the Cats could not pick-up. The Cats now have to travel to Athens to face a Georgia Bulldog team that can clinch the SEC East with a victory over the Cats on Saturday. For Vandy, they will travel to Knoxville to battle instate rival Tennessee for one of two shots they will have to get bowl eligible. The Commodores will play Wake Forest to end the year.

South Carolina 17 – Florida 12: The Gamecocks “eeked” out a win in Columbia but it still may not be enough to get them the SEC East title and a trip to the SEC Championship Game. The Gamecocks (8-2) now need UK to upset Georgia on Saturday for South Carolina to make the SEC Championship. As for the game against Florida (5-5), it wasn’t spectacular for either team but Connor Shaw found a way to “will” his team to victory even though he continues to put up less than stellar numbers. Shaw passed for just 81 yds but he ran for 2 scores and RB Barry Wilder added 120 yds on the ground as well. For Florida, RB Chris Rainey ran for 132 yds on just 17 carries, but a lot of that was between the 20s as the Gators did not score a TD until the 4th; QB John Brantley continued his own struggles as he passed for only a 119 yds. The Gators should get win# 6 to become bowl eligible this weekend as they host Furman but they finish the season against Florida St., another potential “L” that would leave them just 6-6.

Georgia 45 – Auburn 7: It is safe to say that after starting the season 0-2 and their coach “squarely” on the proverbial “hot-seat”, Georgia (8-2) has turned it around and is one of the hottest teams in the country. The Bulldogs can roll into the SEC Title game with a victory Saturday over UK, as they are fresh off a “wood-shed” game over Auburn (6-4). The Tigers were good for about 1 quarter and then after that, Georgia decided to flex for those who don’t believe in them. QB Aaron Murray threw 4 TD passes (all in the 1st half) and RB Isaiah Crowell ran for 132 yds & 1 TD as the Bulldog offense was nearly flawless. For the visiting Tigers, the offense was stuck in neutral for the majority of the game as the revolving QB door is not impressive at all. Clint Moseley managed just 140 yds thru the air and the Auburn ground game was completely stifled.

Arkansas 49 – Tennessee 7: The Volunteers have been absolutely abysmal since losing QB Tyler Bray and now they are not even looking competitive. The Razorbacks (9-1) used a steady stream of good offense along with an amazing punt return for a TD by WR, Joe Adams to hand UT its 6th loss of the year, putting them on the brink of being knocked out of bowl contention. The Vols would have to beat Vandy and UK to make themselves eligible for bowl selection. Razorback QB, Tyler Wilson passed for 224 and 3 TDs and RB Derrick Johnson ran for 97 yds & 2 TDs; the offensive attack was very balanced. For the Vols, they did manage to show some signs of life offensively as they totaled nearly 300 yds of offense for the 1st time in several games, but they could not get in the end zone more than once. Arkansas will host Miss. St. this week before their big date with LSU the day after Thanksgiving; that game will determine the SEC West Champion.

LSU 42 – Western Ky. 9: The Tigers seemed a little sluggish in the first half against an opponent that was inferior in talent, but not heart. The Hilltoppers (5-5) came out and played with a lot of character and fire and had the game knotted at 7 until late in the 1st half. After half-time, the host Tigers (10-0) woke up and on both sides of the ball and pounded the visitors with a bruising running attack. The Tigers used 4 or 5 different running backs to help them pile up over 200 yds on the ground against the small WKU defense. WKU B. Rainey was held to just 85 yds on the ground but against LSU, that is pretty good. LSU will travel to Oxford to face Ole Miss this weekend as they await the anticipated game with Arkansas on 11/25.

Louisiana Tech 27 – Ole Miss 7: Ole Miss (2-8) struck first on a 34 yd TD run by Brandon Bolden mid-way thru the 1st qtr. They would not score the rest of the game as the visiting Bulldogs got their 6th win of the season. La. Tech was not great offensively but they were balanced (nearly 200 yds passing and over 150 yds rushing) and they played better than the Rebels. Once again, Ole Miss was held under 200 yds for an entire game s the Houston Nutt era in Oxford cannot end soon enough for the Rebel fans. With #1 LSU coming to town this weekend, expect more Tiger fans than Rebel fans in the stadium.

Alabama 24 – Mississippi St. 7: Much like LSU, Alabama looked sluggish in the 1st half against State (7-0) Tide lead at the half. After half-time the Tide (9-1) used its ground game to subdue the Bulldogs and remove any hope of an upset going down in Starkville. RB Trent Richardson ran for 127 yds & 1 TD on 32 carries and RB Ed Lacey also contributed a TD as well. QB A.J. McCarron threw for only 163 yds but he was not required to pass for big yardage as the running game was all Nick Saban’s team needed in this match-up. For the Bulldog’s (5-5) offense, the sledding was much tougher as RB Vick Ballard was held to under 25 rush yds and QB Tyler Russell passed for just 110 and 1 TD. Mississippi St. still needs one win in their last two to be bowl eligible; meanwhile the Tide will tune-up with Ga. Southern this week before preparing for the Iron Bowl against Auburn to end the regular season.

Nov 16

Coach Cal Post-Kansas Press Conference

Posted by: Ryan at 11:03 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Basketball

Nov 15

Jay Bilas All Access Kentucky Practice

Posted by: Ryan at 11:09 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Basketball

Nov 14

Coach Cal Pre-Kansas Press Conference

Posted by: Ryan at 4:12 pm | Leave a Comment (1)
Category: Basketball

Nov 14

Joker On Losing To Vandy Of All People

Posted by: Ryan at 9:11 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Football

Nov 11

Coach Cal Pre-Marist Press Conference

Posted by: Ryan at 4:21 pm | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Basketball