It was nice to see something positive happen for Matt Roark. The Kentucky wide receiver's 4-yard touchdown catch from Morgan Newton last Saturday in UK's 35-7 loss at LSU was the first of the senior's college career.
For a player who has struggled this season with dropped passes, it was a feel-good moment.
"It was pretty cool," Roark said Wednesday of his TD catch. "When it happened, I wasn't that really excited because of the situation of the game (losing). The biggest part was us just getting some points on the board so we didn't get skunked by LSU."
Given Roark's issues with dropped pass this season (in fairness, he's hardly the only UK receiver who has had that issue), some have wondered why the 6-foot-5, 214-pound Acworth, Ga., product stays in the receiving rotation.
Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips says there are two main reasons.
"(Roark is) a really good blocker for us," Phillips said Monday. "He's probably the best blocker for us on the perimeter. You also see his attitude, the way he plays on special teams. He's a guy that doesn't get his head down when he hasn't made plays because he bounces back and plays (hard on) special teams."
In his UK career, Roark has blocked six place-kicks (five extra points and a field-goal try).
After practice Wednesday, Roark was one of the last Cats off the field. He was among a group of receivers who stayed late working with wide receivers coach Tee Martin.
The son of former Kentucky defensive back Ray Gover, Roark was a quarterback in high school. During his senior year at North Cobb High, Martin was his QB coach.
For Roark, this season got off to a rocky start when he dropped a couple of catchable balls in UK's season opener against Western Kentucky University.
On the Wildcats' first possession of their second game against Central Michigan, Newton hit Roark with a pretty throw on a corner route in the end zone for what appeared to be a touchdown.
Roark dropped it.
After that game, Martin compared Roark to a struggling basketball player who loses faith in his shooting stroke at the foul line.
"I haven't lost any confidence," Roark said Wednesday. "I just try to put it behind me and go on to the next play. And work harder in practice and stay after like I did today and just keep working. It doesn't get my confidence down."
Roark says he has not heard most of the criticism directed his way this season as a result of dropped passes.
"I don't really hear any criticism other than people on the team or people I know giving me a hard time," he said. "I don't really read the media or anything like that. If somebody tells me (of criticism), I'll be like 'They can talk that way if they want to, I don't really care.'"
Sanders raring to go
Raymond Sanders participated in full-contact drills Wednesday. It was the first time the sophomore running back, who entered the season as Kentucky's No. 1 tailback, had been hit since the Central Michigan game.
After having arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage damage in a knee, Sanders has missed UK's past three games, all losses.
"Yes sir, I did take contact today, and it felt good," Sanders said with a big smile.
As much as it would aid the struggling Kentucky offense to get back another weapon in Sanders, the bigger benefit might be intangible.
The 5-foot-8, 205-pound back has an infectious, up-beat personality.
"I think Raymond has brought a lot of fire to the practice," Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips said. "I think he's one of the reasons we've practiced so well."
In UK's first two games, Sanders had 97 yards rushing (4.6 yards an attempt).
As a true freshman last season, he ran for 79 yards against his home-state school, Georgia, and for 71 at Mississippi State.
"At my high school (Stone Mountain), I was not used to losing," Sanders said. "This is something that has to change. I want to help make that change. I hope I can be that spark the offense needs."