Mark Story

Kentucky basketball fans already have a big win and the season hasn’t even started

Fast-break points from the Madness afterglow:

21. The “bible” of UK basketball history. If you love Kentucky Wildcats hoops lore, there is no greater resource on the internet than Jon Scott’s The Kentucky Basketball Statistics Project (http://www.bigbluehistory.net/bb/statistics/statistics.html).

20. Kentucky hoops from the start. Scott’s site contains the statistical history of Wildcats’ men’s basketball from conception — starting with the eight-man roster that represented UK in its first game ever, a 15-6 loss to Georgetown College on Feb. 6, 1903 — until the present.

19. The sportswriter’s best friend. The website is the go-to place for those of us who periodically need to look up things such as, “How many points did Pat Riley score for Kentucky in the 1966 NCAA finals?” (Answer: 19, on 8-for-22 shooting).

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If you need to know how many points Kentucky’s Pat Riley, right, scored against Texas Western in the 1966 NCAA men's basketball tournament finals, Jon Scott’s The Kentucky Basketball Statistics Project is the best place on the internet to look. Bill Hickey Herald-Leader file photo

18. An interruption in updating. It felt like a crisis last winter when Scott’s site suddenly stopped updating. “Long story, but basically (I) have had connection problems with the server since early this year,” Scott explained in an email.

17. A major win for Kentucky fans. Late last month, Scott sent an update that “the issues were apparently worked out.” The Kentucky Basketball Statistics Project is now again up to date, and should have the capacity to stay current throughout the 2019-20 season.

16. First-game magic. After flanker Lynn Bowden quarterbacked Kentucky football to a 24-20 SEC win over Arkansas on Saturday, UK is 11-2 since 2008 in games in which a quarterback makes his first start for the Wildcats.

15. The winners. Since 2008, the QBs who won their first UK starts are: Mike Hartline (Louisville, 2008); Randall Cobb (Mississippi State, 2008); Morgan Newton (Auburn, 2009); Maxwell Smith (Mississippi, 2011); Matt Roark (Tennessee, 2011); Patrick Towles (Tennessee-Martin, 2014); Drew Barker (Charlotte, 2015); Stephen Johnson (South Carolina, 2016); Luke Wright (Austin Peay, 2016); Terry Wilson (Central Michigan, 2018); and Bowden (Arkansas, 2019).

14. The exceptions. Since 2008, the only Kentucky quarterbacks to lose their first UK starts are Jalen Whitlow (Mississippi State, 2012) and Sawyer Smith (Florida, 2019).

13. A wide receiver playing quarterback. After Bowden’s success, UK is 3-3 since 2008 when it starts a WR at QB. It’s hard to imagine any other major-college football program can match that quirky stat.

12. Which WR played QB best? Let’s compare the statistics of the wide receivers playing quarterback from the three wins Kentucky has earned that way this century.

11. Randall Cobb. When Cobb directed UK to a bowl-eligibility clinching, 14-13 win at Mississippi State in 2008, he completed seven of 13 passes for 56 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also ran 12 times for 31 yards and a TD.

Randall Cobb vs MSU.JPG
Randall Cobb scored a touchdown in Kentucky's win against Mississippi State on Nov. 1, 2008, in Starkville. David Perry Herald-Leader file photo

10. Matt Roark. When Roark led Kentucky to a streak-busting, 10-7 victory over Tennessee in the 2011 regular-season finale, he ran for 124 yards on 24 carries and completed four of six passes for 15 yards. He was carried off the field for ending UK’s 26-game losing skid vs. UT.

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Kentucky's Matt Roark ran for 124 yards and quarterbacked Kentucky to a 10-7 win over Tennessee in the 2011 regular-season finale that snapped a 26-game UK losing streak against the Volunteers. Jonathan Palmer

9. Lynn Bowden. In Saturday’s win over Arkansas, Bowden ran for 196 yards and two touchdowns. He completed seven of 11 passes for 78 yards and a score.

8. The verdict. Lynn Bowden played the best overall game (so far) of Kentucky wide receivers who played quarterback.

7. Mark Stoops on Lynn Bowden. “Was really pleased, I guess somewhat surprised in some ways in the control and composure (Bowden) had throughout the entire game,” Stoops said Monday. “Really exceptional under the situation that he was under. Appreciate him.”

6. A Stoops era breakthrough. The win over Arkansas was Kentucky’s first over a rotating SEC West opponent under Mark Stoops. Since 2013, UK is 2-5 against its permanent cross-division rival, Mississippi State, and now 1-6 vs. the rest of the West.

5. Open dates. The win over Arkansas made Mark Stoops 4-5 as Kentucky head man in games that follow off weeks.

4. Another off date. Kentucky will have a second open date (Nov. 2) this season in between its games against Missouri (Oct. 26) and Tennessee (Nov. 9).

3. Max Duffy. Kentucky’s extraordinary punter pinned Arkansas inside its 20-yard line on two of three kicks while averaging “only” 44.3 yards a punt.

2. Still No. 1. In spite of having to use his “short game” Saturday, Duffy still leads NCAA Division I in punting this week with an average of 50.4 yards a kick. South Carolina’s Joseph Charlton (48.8) and Texas A&M’s Braden Mann (48.6) are close behind.

1. Homecoming royalty. Congratulations to Maggie Davis of Lexington and Jonathan Thomas of Hopkinsville on their elections as 2019 University of Kentucky football homecoming queen and king.

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.
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