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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 14

Joker On Losing To Vandy Of All People

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

Nov 11

Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt Preview

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 12:11 pm | Leave a Comment (7)
Category: Football

This Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats will visit Nashville to play the Vanderbilt Commodores in a game that will be significant for both teams. Both the Cats and the ‘Dores sit at 4-5 currently and a win for either puts them one win away from bowl eligibility. However for the loser, that will mean they would have to win their final two games to be bowl bound, and that would be a tall order for either team. Up to this point both teams have had good and bad games this season although for very different reasons.

In UK’s case the issue has been an inconsistent and a stagnant offense that has few and far between break-out moments (Jacksonville St. & Ole Miss). For Vandy, the issue has been similar but primary problem was at QB where Sr. Larry Smith started the season but after 5 games, he has given way to the emerging Jordan Rodgers, brother of NFL quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. While Jordan may not quite be on the level of Aaron, he has given the Commodores some moxie and swagger that they can feed off of.

For the Cats, a change at QB last week also seemed to give the team a boost; Morgan Newton appears to be out of the starting role for the remainder of this season as freshman QB Maxwell Smith has given the offense new life. But Smith is not the only reason the Cat’s offense has looked better recently; RB Cozik Williams has posted two 100+ yard efforts in three starts and he looks like the spark the Cats needed in the run department. But when you examine this match-up, the key will be defense and which one can impose their will the best. The Cats are better against the run than the pass where as the Commodores are the opposite as their secondary is full of “ball-hawks” when the ball is in the air. Vandy would love to establish RB Zack Stacy early on just to take some pressure off of Rodgers. If he can’t get going (i.e. against Florida last week) then that means Rodgers would have to do more with not only his arm, but his feet as well.

The Cats would love to start the game off with balance, get Williams some early carries but also get Smith some early, easy completions. With so much riding on this game, it easy to see this one being a close game with the outcome being decided in the final stanza. The ‘Dores are an early 12 – 13 point favorite……I say it will be closer than that though. I think the Cats cover the spread but Vandy gets the win in a 28-26 cliff-hanger.

Nov 4

UK vs. Ole Miss Preview

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 9:35 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Football

This Saturday evening, it will be the Kentucky Wildcats playing host to the Ole Miss Rebels in a game that has little if any bearing on the SEC race in either division. This game also has little if any bowl ramifications as neither team is expected to make a late run to get there; in fact the Rebels (2-6) would have to win out the rest of the way as one more loss mathematically eliminates them from a bowl. For the Cats (3-5), all they can afford is one more loss and with Georgia, Vandy and Tennessee still left to play, beating Ole Miss is critical to keeping their slim bowl hopes alive. For both teams the season has been disappointing, especially for Houston Nutt and the Rebels. While Ole Miss knew the challenges within the conference would be tough to overcome, they had hoped to at least do well in their non-conference slate. But an opening week, 4th qtr. breakdown led to a loss in Oxford against BYU and that would prove to be a crucial loss.

They did manage to go on the road and beat Fresno St. in what may have been their best offensive performance all year but that performance would not sustain itself the next few games. For the Cats the season started off shaky but at least on a winning note, 2-0. But since then, things have been down hill, starting with the offense but now the defense is beginning to show signs of coming apart. Last week against Mississippi St., the Cats were unable to stop the run and that bolds well for an Ole Miss team who relies on their ground attack because they lack any “punch” in the air. Like Kentucky, Ole Miss’s defense seems to be starting to show signs of a decline and for both teams, it starts with struggling offenses. Ole Miss changed QBs the week of the Fresno St. game and the offense has been much improved since.

Kentucky will make a change at QB this week as well as Maxwell Smith has been inserted as the starter for Saturday. Smith looked rather comfortable last week in place of the injured Morgan Newton and he at least gave UK hope in a losing effort against Mississippi State. The “line” in Vegas pretty much has this game “even” with maybe UK a 1 point favorite. There is a lot of speculation that Houston Nutt will be fired at the end of the season and that has not helped ease things in Oxford.

Joker Phillips seems to have the support of Mitch Barnhart, at least for one more season. I say the Cats have a little more stability and with a new starting QB, maybe a little more spark. Give me the Cats to get to win #4 on the season in hard fought contest, UK 24 – Ole Miss 20.

Oct 31

QB Battle In Full Effect?

Posted by: Ryan at 8:58 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Football

Oct 28

Cats vs. Dogs Preview

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 8:30 am | Leave a Comment (13)
Category: Football

On Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats (3-4) will host the Mississippi St. Bulldogs (3-4) in a game that has potential bowl implications on the line. Neither of these team is where they thought they would be when the season first began. While the Cats may have only been hoping to be at 4-3 based on their schedule, they certainly would have been a lot more competitive as a team. Aside from the disappointing loss to U of L, the other 3 losses have been “no contests” and even their wins (aside from Jacksonville St.) have been ugly and unfulfilling.

For the Bulldogs, they had high expectations entering the season but have completely failed to reach any of them. Their 4 losses are all conference losses, one of their wins was a come from behind victory over a 0-4 UAB team at the time. They have benched starting QB Chris Relf and the offense has been headed downhill faster that a skier on a snowy slope. While both of these teams have been relatively health (the Cats have had injuries at RB) neither has been able to accomplish much on offense lately, although the Bulldogs where pretty good the first two games of the year.

For both of these teams, Saturday’s game is a “must win” simply because there are not many more wins left on either’s schedule….at least not what would be considered a guaranteed win. In fact, it is safe to assume that outside of this game (Bulldogs favorite by +10), that neither will be favorite over anyone remaining on the schedule, outside of Ole Miss, which both teams will play later. Both teams have leaned heavily on their defenses and will continue to do for the rest of the year. Special Teams could be a point of emphasis by both coaches (Joker Phillips & Dan Mullens) because that may be where this game is won or lost.

Of course, the turnover battle will be important as well but isn’t it always; the fact is UK turns it over and doesn’t generate many turnovers to recoup. Mississippi St. creates just as many if not more than they give away, but usually can do nothing to take advantage of these miscues. The loser here will still be winless in conference and more importantly will drop to 3-5 with 4 games to go. The winner can at least say they are only 2 wins away from bowl eligibility and will have a little “head of steam” heading down the stretch.

The UK fans are calling for a “blackout” on Saturday and apparently the team will don their black jerseys for this one. It is the weekend before Halloween so I say “give me the Cats and the points in a mild upset over the Bulldogs”, 17-15.

Oct 26

Heisman Hopefuls Update

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 12:56 pm | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Football

Well we are a little over half-way through the College Football season and there have been some great  games, great players and great plays that have defined the season up to this point. As little as two weeks ago, we had roughly 13 undefeated teams still left and then within the blink of an eye, we were down to 10. Now after last week, we are down to just 8 and that list will shrink by at least 2 or 3 more of the next couple of weeks. There is also no shortage of individual star power throughout the nation either. You have QBs like Andrew Luck (Stanford), Kellen Moore (Boise St.), Russell Wilson (Wisconsin) & Denard Robinson (Michigan) among others. Then you have RBs like Trent Richardson (Alabama), LaMichael James (Oregon) and Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina). Then the WRs group may be as strong, if not stronger than last year’s group was with the likes of Alshon Jefferey (South Carolina), Robert Woods (USC), Malcolm Floyd (Notre Dame), Justin Blackmon (Okla. St.) and Russell Shephard (LSU). With this group of talent, some of these guys will be great players at the next level and making an impact for whatever team they play for. With that being said, let me give you “My Top 5 Heisman Candidates” as we head into week 9 of the season.

  1. Andrew Luck (QB) – Maybe two weeks ago, he was not #1 but whether he is #1 or #5, he is one of the best QBs, if not the best in the nation. Even though he lost his coach for the past two seasons (Jim Harbaugh) to the NFL, Luck has continued to do exactly what he did last season, carve up opposing defenses with his arm mainly, and occasionally his feet. He has his team once again in the National Title hunt and after his Cardinal crushed Washington last week, they have their sights set firmly on USC this weekend. Luck is projected as the “next great” pro QB and he seems ready to fit that bill. Of course only time will tell but for a guy whose TD to INT ratio is somewhere around 4 or 5 to 1, I wouldn’t bet against this guy because he has been doing for three seasons now.
  2. Kellen Moore (QB) – To Boise St.’s opponents it probably seems as if Moore has been playing for close to 10 years in college but the reality is you are looking at a guy that has been knifing up opposing defenses for 4 seasons now. Like Luck, Moore has a lot of attributes that go into the making of a “star” QB on the next level. Unlike, Luck, Moore (5’11) lacks the actual physical status often associated with the prototypical NFL QB. But if nothing else, Moore reminds some of a “new age” Doug Flutie that just knows how to play the position and get his team in the position to win games. Some will say Moore’s Broncos didn’t play the greatest of competition week in and week out but when he has played the “big boys”, he has acquitted himself very well….just ask the Georgia Bulldogs (2011) and Virginia Tech Hokies (2010).
  3. Trent Richardson (RB) – Richardson split a lot of time / carries in the backfield with Mark Ingram for the Tide last season and they were a force to be reckoned with. But you always wondered how good would Richardson be once Ingram left…I think he silenced any doubters, if he had any. Richardson has the size to run between the tackles and the speed to get to the corner. He is bigger and faster than his former backfield mate and like Ingram, would like to hoist the Heisman Trophy above his head on the way to a possible National Title. Richardson reminds some of former Penn St. RB, Curtis Enis (hopefully his NFL career will not mirror Enis’s) but then others say he looks more like a faster version of former Michigan RB, Anthony Thomas. Regardless of who Richardson reminds you of, one thing is clear, he is a versatile back that can make opposing defenses game plan just for him.
  4. Russell Wilson (QB) – Some thought Wilson’s collegiate football career would end largely unfulfilled (played / started at N.C. State for a couple of seasons) as new head coach, Tom O’Brien just did not seem comfortable with Wilson at the helm of the team he took over. So as early as March of this year, the versatile Wilson appeared to be ready to embark on the pro baseball career that he had been holding off on. Fast forward 7 months and up to just last week, Wilson and his new team, the Wisconsin Badgers looked like the best team in the Big Ten and were a threat to run the gauntlet and possibly finish undefeated. Now with a loss to Michigan St. last week, the Badgers must re-focus as a team. But for Wilson, he is still a contender for the Heisman; obviously he needs to bounce back with a stellar game this week but Wilson has been the best “game changer” in the nation thus far and his play has definitely been the reason the Badgers have been successful this season.
  5. Tyrann Mathieu (DB / PR) – Not since the days of Charles Woodson (former Michigan DB / PR – Heisman Winner) has a defensive back been able to impact games the way Mathieu does. He is only a sophomore and he already is LSU’s career leader in turnovers (forced / recovered) and he also returns punts. The one thing to note is even in the year Woodson won the Heisman, he also played WR a bit and that helped him in his campaign for the Heisman. So while the chances of Mathieu lining up on the offensive side of the ball are not likely, his ability to make plays and score TDs for the defense and special teams make him a legitimate candidate at this point in the season. He has scored TDs this season against Oregon, Kentucky and West Virginia.
Oct 23

The Cats On Jax St. Win

Posted by: Ryan at 11:52 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Football

(videos courtesy John Clay-


Oct 23

Joker On Looking Ahead After Jax St. Victory

Posted by: Ryan at 11:43 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Football