UK Football

UK football notes: Cats feeling fortunate after OT win over Colonels

UK offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson instructs his offense during the 4th quarter of the University of Kentucky-EKU football game at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, October 3, 2015. Photo by Ken Weaver
UK offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson instructs his offense during the 4th quarter of the University of Kentucky-EKU football game at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, October 3, 2015. Photo by Ken Weaver Herald-Leader

The word "fortunate" came out of Coach Mark Stoops' mouth many times in his post-game comments on Saturday night after Kentucky escaped Commonwealth Stadium with a 34-27 overtime victory over Eastern Kentucky.

"Obviously very pleased to get the victory and feel very fortunate to get the victory," he said. "Like I said, very fortunate.

"Give them credit. I feel like they coached better than we did. They played with much greater energy and enthusiasm and executed better than we did and fortunately, we had some guys step up and make some plays late."

Two of those players, who pulled UK back from a 14-point deficit, included wide-out Dorian Baker and defensive tackle C.J. Johnson.

Johnson's 19 tackles were the most for a defensive lineman at Kentucky since the school started keeping those stats in 1991.

He talked about being exhausted after his career-best 11 tackles the week before, then trumped it by eight on Saturday night.

"I worked hard," he smiled. "I worked really hard."

But apparently not as hard as he did in high school when he claimed to have 21 tackles in a single game.

"In high school, I had 21 in one game," he laughed. "You can look it up."

As for Baker, who had the final two touchdowns to win the game, it was about making the big plays at the biggest times, including the 5-yard touchdown grab to force the overtime.

"Great individual effort," Stoops said. "What can you say? He just went up and made a play. It's hard to put into context how important that was. Just a great play. We saw it. We had some other options on the play, and we saw him in one-on-one and he's a big guy. So we went to him."

Williams wasn't suspended

A Kentucky spokesman said that starting running back Boom Williams would not play against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday night, calling it a "coach's decision."

After the victory, Stoops was not clear about why Williams did not play, saying that the sophomore will be back for the next game against Auburn.

But he denied Williams was suspended. "If he was suspended, he wouldn't have been on the sideline."

The sophomore, who missed a UK practice early this week with what Stoops described as a "personal issue," was on the field in pregame warm-ups at Commonwealth Stadium. He was dressed in a jersey over his normal clothing. Williams returned to the practice field on Wednesday and practiced again on Thursday, but Stoops said his status was uncertain.

The 5-foot-9, 196-pounder from Monroe, Ga., has started all four games this season, rushing 47 times for 343 yards and a touchdown.

Backup kicker needed

Kentucky's backup kicker, Miles Butler, had no idea he was going to get into the game until about two hours before kickoff when he heard that starter Austin MacGinnis was out with a groin strain.

Butler said he just tried to keep his mind on the mechanics of the kick, not focusing on being in a close game with the game on the line.

He admitted to getting butterflies only after he missed the point-after attempt in the third quarter and realized that he could turn the game. "It hit me how big of a part I was playing in the game," he said.

But after missing one in the third quarter, he knew he had some work to do.

"I knew I had to make up for the one I missed, but it was just take each one separately and execute what I can do," he said. "So that was really all I was focused on was getting it through the uprights."

Barker didn't get in

After much discussion this week about getting a few series for backup quarterback Drew Barker in this game, that opportunity never presented itself.

"He will play in this game," Stoops said earlier this week. "And I've been wanting to do that, no matter what. No matter what the game is. Just force myself, like we've talked about, whether it's the second quarter and the game's on the line, if it's any game, whatever it is," Stoops said. I've got to get him some reps."

But as Kentucky played its fifth game of this season decided by eight points or fewer, UK stuck with Patrick Towles.

When Towles and the offense were struggling early, Stoops said he pondered putting Barker into the game, but he decided to stick with his starter against EKU.

Dupree, Smith return

NFL rookies and former UK standouts Bud Dupree and Za'Darius Smith were on the Commonwealth Stadium sidelines for Saturday night's game.

Smith's Baltimore Ravens defeated Dupree's Pittsburgh Steelers, 23-20, on Thursday night, so both players had the weekend off. They joined former UK quarterback Jared Lorenzen on the field between the third and fourth quarters to lead the crowd in a "Blue-White" chant.

Smith recorded his first two NFL sacks Thursday. Dupree has 11 tackles and two sacks through his first four games.

Top UK target back again

Five-star offensive lineman Jedrick Wills was back in Commonwealth Stadium for UK's game against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday night.

Wills — a standout player at Lafayette High School — is ranked by as the No. 13 overall prospect nationally in the class of 2017. He has visited UK for all of the Wildcats' home games this season and is considered their top recruiting target in the junior class.

Alabama, Florida State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Tennessee are among the many other programs that have extended scholarship offers to Wills.