Kentucky-Alabama St. notes: Kemp plays game with heavy heart

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 3, 2013 

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

Jojo Kemp smiled after the victory, but his eyes were sad.

Kentucky had just gotten its first win since early September and the freshman running back scored his second touchdown in as many games, but he was thinking about his family back home.

Kemp's grandmother, Betty Luke, passed away last week and was buried on Saturday afternoon.

He'd lived with her most of his life and she was there with him throughout his football career.

"I just wanted to be there for my team and go out and play," Kemp said after the 48-14 win over Alabama State on Saturday night. "I know she would want the best for me, so that's why I made the decision to stay here and play."

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown said he was proud of Kemp, who had 13 carries for 67 yards.

"It's a tough time for him," Brown said. "He went home a couple of weeks ago and he got to see her before she did pass. He was playing with a heavy heart and I was proud of him showing maturity.

"It wore on him this week. I was really just proud of him how he came out and executed knowing his grandmother got buried today."

His mother's mother helped raise him and he loved her fried chicken. She loved seeing him play football.

He talked to his family about going home, but opted to stay for the game instead.

"I called my mom; (we talked about) going back home and just being there for my family. But I know what my grandma wanted me to do, so I had to stay here and play, for her and my family," he said.

Kemp said he's the type of guy who "prays morning and night," and said he left the decision up to God.

Even as he was playing on Saturday, his grandmother popped into his head.

"I was very close to my grandmother and she was there through the recruitment process," Kemp said. "She was very proud of me that I got to come here and she was very supportive of me. I'm still down that she had to go."

Alvin "Bud" Dupree said he wasn't aware that Kemp's grandmother had died until after the game.

"Oh, no, we didn't know at all," Dupree said. "That's my first time hearing it. That means a lot. Someone to stay through death, that's a big deal. Any time a player can do that, put (aside) someone's death who is close to them and their family to help the team, it means a lot — and it says a lot about the person, too."

New celebration rules?

Kentucky freshman wide receiver Alex Montgomery injured his left knee — possibly seriously, but tests aren't back — doing a chest bump with Demarco Robinson in the end zone after catching a 6-yardtouchdown.

It prompted Coach Mark Stoops to wonder aloud if maybe there should be a new UK rule about celebrating.

"We need to talk about it certainly because we may have gotten somebody seriously injured doing that," he said. "And somebody was telling me today, I guess, a Georgia player or something did the same in the first game, you know, so we definitely need to look at it."

When asked if he was happy to be pondering what to do to curb touchdown celebrations, Stoops smiled.

"Yeah, absolutely, yeah," he said. "Yeah, that's for sure."

Cats stellar on 4th down

Kentucky's had its issues on third down this season, but was 10th in the nation on fourth downs, connecting on 13 of 18 tries (72.2 percent) coming into Saturday's game.

True to statistical form, UK aced its first two attempts, but the third try was not a charm for the Cats, who failed to convert a fourth-and-1 at the Hornets' 1-yard line when quarterback Jalen Whitlow's pass intended for Jordan Aumiller fell short.

For the game, UK was 8-for-17 on third-down conversions and 2-for-3 on fourth-down attempts.

Former UK players get in game for ASU

Former Kentucky signee Khalid Thomas got a couple of carries late in the fourth quarter for the Hornets.

Thomas, who was thrown off the team in July with brother Kadeem Thomas after they were cited for alleged possession of a controlled substance at the UK Arboretum, finished with six carries for 16 yards.

Khalid Thomas' brother, a former Cats linebacker, did not have a tackle in the loss.

 

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

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