Jen Smith on UK Football

Kentucky punter suspended in wake of public intoxication arrest

Matt Panton has been suspended for Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt. He is eighth in the Southeastern Conference in average per punt at 42.75 yards.
Matt Panton has been suspended for Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt. He is eighth in the Southeastern Conference in average per punt at 42.75 yards.

Kentucky punter Matt Panton will be suspended for Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt after his arrest for public intoxication over the weekend.

“He will be suspended for this game and he will not participate for failure to meet the standards and the expectations of our football team,” Coach Mark Stoops said Monday at his weekly news conference.

The 23-year-old graduate transfer from Australia was arrested on a charge of public intoxication Saturday night after Kentucky’s loss to Ole Miss. He was booked into the Lexington jail after 1:30 a.m. Sunday, according to jail records.

Panton was found passed out on the sidewalk near the road at the corner of South Upper and Bolivar streets, according to a police report, which also stated that he had watery eyes and slurred speech, and was unable to stand on his own.

Panton’s arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 20.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound punter earned the starting job this season over sophomore Grant McKinniss, who was Kentucky’s starter in 2016.

McKinniss will punt in Panton’s place Saturday, Stoops said.

“He’s kicked it good in practice and he’s worked hard, and so I’m excited for him to get that opportunity,” Stoops said of McKinniss, who finished last overall in the Southeastern Conference in punting average last season at 39.2 yards per punt.

But there’s an unfortunate byproduct of Panton missing the game, too. It means that McKinniss is giving up his chance to redshirt this season.

Grant McKinniss, UK’s starting punter last season, will step in for the suspended Matt Panton on Saturday. Charles Bertram

“With Matt’s actions, you know, Grant is the one that has to sacrifice because we could have saved his year and gave him a redshirt year,” Stoops said.

“But with the situation the way it is, he’s our best option. Every game is important, I talked to Grant about that, and he is willing to go do whatever is necessary to help the football team win. We appreciate Grant for his unselfishness in this situation.”

As for backups to the backup, Stoops mentioned that walk-on Miles Butler has been an option for UK on the road this season.

Panton graduated from Columbia in 2017 with a degree in psychology and is working on his master’s degree in business at UK’s Gatton College of Business and Economics.

He is eighth in the Southeastern Conference in average per punt at 42.75 and has 48 punts for the season. Panton has had 17 punts inside the 20-yard line, including three punts downed at the 1-yard line.

The senior recorded four punts on Saturday night against the Rebels, averaging 42 yards per punt, including one inside the 20-yard line.

Vanderbilt is ninth in the league this season in punt returns, averaging 8.42 per return on 12 attempts with no touchdowns.

Other news and notes

There weren’t many changes to Kentucky’s depth chart for the Vanderbilt game except the addition of an OR and the subtraction of another.

An “or” that previously was between wide receivers Kayaune Ross and Blake Bone was removed, with Ross in the No. 1 spot at the position.

An “or” was added at the cornerback spot that was awarded last week to junior-college transfer Lonnie Johnson over junior Chris Westry before the Ole Miss game.

There’s a close competition at that job each week, Stoops said.

“Like we always say, nothing will be given,” he said. “It’s earned every day. We live by that. In previous weeks, even though it didn’t say ‘or,’ Lonnie had played just as much if not more. It’s the same way this week.”

Stoops said Johnson, who was in on that final play that didn’t go UK’s way against the Rebels, was “very upset” after the loss.

“He’s a competitor,” the coach said. “The last one, the one for the touchdown sticks out. I can live with it because I felt the fight and saw him in position. He’s gotta finish it all the way to the ground. We’ll talk about that, but he was in great position. He was fighting for the ball. Sometimes you get put in tough positions at the cornerback spot.”

• Kentucky’s game at Georgia on Nov. 18 will be the CBS game played at 3:30 p.m. The Cats’ most recent game played in that coveted time slot was a 45-7 loss at Florida last season. In 2014, there was a 45-31 loss to Mississippi State and a 20-3 victory over Ohio University.

Next game

Kentucky at Vanderbilt

4 p.m. Saturday (SEC)

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