UK-Ole Miss notes: Rebels have 'home run ability' on special teams

Scott has been great, while UK sorely misses Cobb

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 5, 2011 

Much like Kentucky, Mississippi has struggled at times on both sides of the ball this season.

But one place the Rebels have an upper hand is on special teams.

Ole Miss leads the Southeastern Conference in punt returns, racking up a whopping 27.8 yards per return behind sophomore Jeff Scott.

He's also run one back 67 yards for a touchdown.

"They've got some home run ability," Coach Joker Phillips said of Ole Miss.

By contrast, UK has managed only 26 punt return yards all season. It has missed the threat that was Randall Cobb the past couple of years.

"We don't have a dynamic returner back there," Phillips said. "Randall (Burden's) done a really good job of securing the football, but we haven't done a good job of getting him started also."

While Burden has been out this week nursing a left foot injury, Gene McCaskill has been getting extra punt-return reps and probably will be back there on Saturday. Freshman Daylen Hall also is an option.

Kickoff returns also will be adjusted out of necessity. Winston Guy has a cast on his hand and will be replaced by freshman Ashely Lowry.

Basketball a benefit?

Kentucky is a basketball school.

It doesn't care about football.

UK Coach Joker Phillips knows those kinds of things are being whispered in the ears of potential recruits by opposing schools.

But Phillips, a Kentucky native and basketball fan, said this week he doesn't see it that way.

"It's a great selling tool," Phillips said.

What part of basketball helps football, he was asked.

"Come watch them play," he said. "Who wouldn't want to come watch them play? DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall. They've got another dream team this year and kids want to come here and watch them play."

'They pay me to win'

Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt has spent some time this week discussing his job security, but he doesn't want to dwell on it.

"For me to walk on egg shells and come in nervously and worrying about if this is my last day or last game or last month, I don't look at it like that," he said. "I can't do that."

The Rebels have struggled mightily the past two seasons, going 1-12 in conference and 6-14 overall.

That one conference win came at Kentucky's expense, 42-35, last season at Oxford.

Nutt said he is just trying to focus on the next game, not his future.

"I love it here but I know this: They pay me to win," he said. "And right now, we're not winning."

By the book

One of the top quarterbacks in UK history will be available before Saturday's game to sign copies of his new biography Kentucky Babe: The Babe Parilli Story, with author Dick Burdette.

Vito "Babe" Parilli will be available for autographs Saturday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Wildcat Refuge, located outside Gate 9 of Commonwealth Stadium.

The book covers the life of the All-American who led the Cats to the most successful three-year stint in Kentucky football history (1949-51). Parilli helped guide UK to the Orange, Sugar and Cotton bowls in successive seasons. He also had a 15-year professional career.

If you can't make it to the game Saturday, Parilli and Burdette will be signing copies at the downtown public library on Sunday from 1-4 p.m.


■ The Cat Walk will begin at 1:15 p.m. at Gate 1 of Commonwealth Stadium.

■ Clay Matvick will handle play-by-play on the ESPNU broadcast, with analysis from Brian Griese and sideline reporting by Allison Williams.

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