Samford at Kentucky: Keys to Saturday's game

mstory@herald-leader.comNovember 16, 2012 

University of Kentucky head football coach Joker Phillips held a news conference following practice at the UK Football practice facility in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, November 6, 2012. The University announced on Sunday that Joker Phillips will no longer be the coach after this season. On Monday, the University announced that Phillips had decided to coach the remaining 2 games. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff

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Keys to Saturday's Kentucky vs. Samford football game at Commonwealth Stadium:

THE GAME

Samford (7-3, 5-3 Southern Conference) at Kentucky (1-9, 0-7 Southeastern Conference)

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Commonwealth Stadium

TV: Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (available in Lexington only on ESPN GamePlan pay-per-view package or online at ESPN3.com)

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, Sirius Channel 92, XM Channel 207

Series: First meeting

Line: None.

THE KEYS

1. Mind game

Since Kentucky last played, a 40-0 pasting from Vanderbilt in a shockingly empty Commonwealth Stadium, UK head coach Joker Phillips has been fired. The coach wavered on finishing out the season but then relented, he said, because so many Wildcats players asked him to do so. On Senior Night, with all the emotional turmoil around UK football, can the Cats show up in a winning frame of mind Saturday?

2. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

When you are 1-9, there is no reason to overlook anyone. Still, Samford is from the Football Championship Subdivision, a level below UK, and there may be a temptation for Kentucky to overlook Coach Pat Sullivan (yes, the 1971 Heisman Trophy quarterback from Auburn) and his team. That would be a mistake. A season ago, Samford played competitively in a 35-16 loss at Auburn, a team (8-5) that was far better than UK is this season.

3. Generate some offense

In the first three games with Maxwell Smith at quarterback, Kentucky averaged 30.7 points. Since Smith has been sidelined (he played one series against South Carolina before being knocked out for the season with an ankle injury), UK has scored 12.8 points a contest and been shut out twice. Against a solid Samford defense (19.3 points a game) that has forced 18 turnovers this season, the Wildcats have to find a way to score some points.

THE MOOD

Is indifferent toward the game and heavily invested in who the next Kentucky head coach will be. Anyone who has observed the class Joker Phillips has shown in handling a hugely negative environment in 2012 should hope the Wildcats can produce a final happy moment in Lexington for a guy who, as player, assistant and head coach, has given 23 years of his life to the UK football program.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230Twitter: @markcstoryBlog: markstory.bloginky.com

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