Notes: Samford coach calls Phillips a class act

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 18, 2012 


UK head coach Joker Phillips, right, greets wide receiver La'Rod King during the Senior Night Festivities before the game. The University of Kentucky Football team hosted Samford, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 at the Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington . Photo by Jonathan Palmer


Joker Phillips tried to play it cool.

But his players know him better than that.

After the Kentucky head coach, who was fired two weeks ago, was carried off the field by his seniors, he said he felt desensitized to the entire emotional experience.

"I'm numb to all this," he said after Kentucky's 34-3 throttling of Samford. "It's a numbing feeling that you just realize it's time to go ... and I understand that. Very seldom do you get 10 years at a place."

Because Phillips spent time at UK as both a player and coach, his players know he's bluffing, that he's emotional about everything.

"He's not numb to it," senior wide receiver Gene McCaskill said. "He's just Coach Phillips. He's a person who doesn't like to have all of the attention on himself."

Senior offensive lineman Larry Warford agreed.

"He loves this program," he said. "I don't believe that at all. He loves this program too much to be numb about it.

"He bleeds for this program; he puts everything into it, all his time and effort. I don't think anybody really understands how much he cares for this program unless you're a part of this team."

It was clear how much this Kentucky team loved its head coach and its 19 seniors who were honored in a pre-game ceremony, Samford Coach Pat Sullivan said.

"This was his last game and the seniors and those guys came out and laid it on the line and played probably one of their better ball games," Sullivan said.

Sullivan went through something similar at Texas Christian, he said.

He also applauded the UK coach for telling his offense to take a knee outside the end zone as time expired.

"What a class thing that he did by kneeling on the ball instead of running up one more score. He could have done that," Sullivan said. "You know, there are not many people in college football that are doing those things. I told him at the end of the game that it was really a class thing and I wish him well."

Final attendance figures

The announced crowd of 46,749 at Commonwealth Stadium was the fourth of the season below 50,000.

It brought UK's final season attendance total to 347,838 — an average of 49,691 for seven home games — making this the first time since 1996 that average announced attendance was less than 50,000.

UK did not release actual scanned attendance numbers on Saturday.

Cropp honored, will retire

Associate athletic director for administration John Cropp was honored on the field in the first half, and he was presented with a UK helmet under glass for his longtime service, which has included 21 years at UK. It also was announced that the former UK assistant coach and longtime administrator will be retiring at the end of the school year. Cropp was UK tight ends coach in 1991.

Extra points

■ Sophomore Demarco Robinson was the only UK player on the post-game injury report. The wide receiver and punt returner strained his oblique muscle.

■ Junior linebacker Avery Williamson, who came into the game leading the Southeastern Conference in total tackles and tackles per game, had 13 tackles, including two sacks. He is the first UK player with at least 13 tackles in four straight games since Randy Holleran in 1990.

■ Kentucky won its third straight Senior Day game for the first time since winning nine in a row from 1952 to 1960.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog:

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