Joker Phillips says UK football fans' concerns mirror his

UK coach insists his staff will 'get it corrected'

jtipton@herald-leader.comSeptember 20, 2011 

A glum set of "Blues Brothers," UK sophomores Stephen Hardy, left, and Evan Pulliam, watched the Cats fall further behind in the second half of Kentucky's game with Louisville on Saturday.


Joker Phillips sounded like the Bill Clinton of college football coaches on Monday. He feels your pain.

"You know, I feel the same way as everybody," Phillips said at his weekly news conference when asked about disgruntled fans. "Hey, understand this: I care about this program more than anybody in here."

A loss to in-state rival Louisville last weekend led to several questions about fan unhappiness.

"I'm angry also," Phillips said. "I'm not satisfied with what we're doing here. I'm not."

Kentucky's record slipped to 2-1, with Phillips feeling the need to note that the record is not 0-3. Coincidentally, 0-3 might come to mind considering the beginning of Southeastern Conference play and UK's next three opponents: No. 15 Florida next Saturday, No. 2 LSU and No. 12 South Carolina.

Phillips' empathy with UK fans even extended to suggesting that it was "fair" to be harshly criticizing him three games into the season.

"I think it's fair given today's society," he said. "What do you call it? Microwave society. I think it's fair.

"I knew what I signed up for."

Instant gratification aside, Phillips is no neophyte when it comes to Kentucky football's illogical combination of modest historical accomplishment and grandiose fan expectation.

Phillips, who played for UK in the 1980s and has been on the coaching staff for two stints (1990 through 1996 and 2003 to present), said he understood the fans' concerns.

"I have the same concerns," he said. "We're trying to get them fixed."

A sputtering offense leads to fan vexation like a UK running play leads to stuffed near the line of scrimmage so far this season. When someone noted that Florida's defense has surrendered an average of 30.7 yards per game this season, Phillips quipped, "That's about what we ran for against Louisville." The Cats gained 35 yards against U of L.

Through three games, UK ranks 100th in scoring offense, 92nd in rushing offense and 111th in total offense.

"I'm angry, I'm angry," Phillips said before noting that he saw his college coach, Jerry Claiborne, spin back-to-back bowl teams out of the straw of a 0-10-1 debut season in 1982.

"I've been part of an 0-10-1 season," Phillips said. "Battled ourselves to get to a 9-3 season (two years later). ... I'm not satisfied with what we're doing here. It starts with me. We'll get it corrected."

Meanwhile, his predecessor, Rich Brooks, had advised Phillips to concentrate on coaching and not get caught up in fan opinion.

"Listen to it (but) you don't react to it," Phillips said. "People say, 'We want to do this.' You don't react to it. You stay with your plans. ... That's what "Don't listen to the noise' means."

Phillips said he does not read email messages from fans, although he added that he's aware of the general mood.

"I think we have great fans, we do," he said after voicing disapproval of players tweeting reaction to fans. "We feel their concerns."

Injury update

UK's beleaguered offensive line got good news on the injury front. Tackle Billy Joe Murphy ran on an injured ankle. Guard Larry Warford is "day to day" because of an ankle sprain, but he should play against Florida.

Safety Taiedo Smith should know his status by midweek. Receiver Gene McCaskill came out of the Louisville game, but he should be available against Florida.

Mad is good

Phillips had no objection when told the UK players voiced anger about the loss to Louisville.

"This is definitely an emotional game," he said. "You have to wear your emotions on your sleeves. We want our guys playing angry. That's the way this game is meant to be played."

Looking ahead

UK's game at LSU on Oct. 1 will kick off at 12:21 p.m. EDT. It will be televised by the SEC Network.

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