UK-Miami (Ohio) notes: Cats seek shot of confidence

jsmith3@herald-leader.comSeptember 6, 2013 

Kentucky Wildcats defensive tackle Donte Rumph (99) laid out to bring down Western Kentucky Hilltoppers running back Antonio Andrews (5) as WKU defeated UK 35-26 at LP Field on Saturday August 31, 2013 in Nashville, Tenn. Photos by Mark Cornelison | Staff

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A coach can compliment all he wants.

Individual statistics can make a player feel good.

But sometimes a win is the only thing that can make everything better.

Kentucky is hoping to have that feel-good feeling at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday after it meets Miami (Ohio).

"It's a great opportunity just to gain confidence back and just for the morale of the team and the coaching staff," senior defensive tackle Donte Rumph said this week.

With so many newcomers and young players, a win is the best way to remind them that the hard work from this summer and fall camp pays off.

A low feeling after last season's 2-10 record coupled with the 35-26 loss to Western Kentucky last week has left a lot of room for doubt, players said.

"I feel like that's most of the problem: people just believing they can do it and having confidence in themselves," wide receiver Demarco Robinson explained. "That'll make the coaches have more confidence in us."

And it will help them have some confidence in themselves and each other.

A win is really the best way to do that.

"We have struggled with confidence, but we have to keep reminding ourselves that we are a good team, and we have talent to win games," senior Avery Williamson said.

It's up to the seniors to lead UK to at least one victory before it goes up against potential confidence-killing monsters in No. 8 Louisville, No. 12 Florida, No. 6 South Carolina and No. 1 Alabama.

"Last Saturday was a disappointment, but we're not going to give up," Rumph said. "We're not going to let down. It was only the first game. People were nervous. For a lot of guys, it was their first time playing. We'll be OK. We've just got to fix those mistakes."

Ticket chatter

Kentucky has sold 40,028 season tickets to date, it announced late Friday, eclipsing the total from last season of 38,475.

In all, UK has 47,426 season tickets out, which includes student and complimentary tickets, spokesman DeWayne Peevy said. Before last season, the previous low for season ticket sales this decade was 42,974 in 2006.

A late giveaway, coupling football season tickets with Big Blue Madness lower-arena basketball seats, helped push UK over 40,000 around 1 p.m. Friday. About 60 Madness tickets were given out as part of the deal.

Kentucky had 48,346 at its home opener against Kent State last season, the fewest since it had 41,736 versus Central Michigan in 1988.

New look at linebacker

After giving up 487 yards to Western Kentucky, including 216 on the ground, UK's coaches were looking to make changes this week.

One of them included moving junior TraVaughn Paschal from backup defensive end to starting weakside linebacker, ahead of regular starter Khalid Henderson, from whom head coach Mark Stoops said the staff would like to see more "urgency" and "passion."

It was a position switch coaches tried in fall camp and they liked the results.

"TraVaughn has a lot of skills, he does," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "He has good size and he's fast. He's earned the right to be one of the top 11 players on our team."

UK was banged up at defensive end late in camp and opted to keep Paschal, who played in seven games last season and got four tackles, at that spot.

But now the Cats need him more at linebacker.

"You wanted to see what your other linebackers were gonna do, and after the game, again, we just made the decision to move on and play him at linebacker," Stoops explained. "And so we got to go through the growing pains with that a little bit, right now, as well."

More on McWilson

Marcus McWilson, one of the gems of Kentucky's 2013 signing class, dressed but didn't play against Western Kentucky.

Stoops said the true freshman defensive back, who originally committed to Nebraska, had some hurdles to overcome in the off-season, which set him back.

McWilson was "taking care of some academics through the summer," and missed conditioning, Stoops said, then added that there was some "red tape that we had to clear up, and it mentally put him a little bit behind." Stoops didn't elaborate, and UK said it generally doesn't comment on a player's eligibility.

McWilson, who is listed as No. 2 at the nickel spot behind fellow freshman Blake McClain, could see his first game action this week.

"I noticed a difference in him this week, and I think he's going to be another guy, that as we move forward — I don't know if it's this week, next week or down the road — but he'll be a good football player for us," Stoops said.

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

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