Sidelines with John Clay

Damien Harris makes impression on Patriots in preseason game

Monday notes and links:


Former Madison Southern star Damien Harris rushed for 80 yards on 14 carries and caught four passes for 23 yards in the New England Patriots’ 22-17 preseason win over the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night. Harris played his college football at Alabama, of course. Through Saturday, he owned the highest rushing total in a preseason game so far this season.

Benny Snell gained 16 yards on seven carries in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 17-7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Snell did convert a pair of fourth-and-1 situations.

Former UK cornerback Derrick Baity came up with an interception of Detroit quarterback Josh Johnson in the Houston Texans’ 30-23 win over the Lions. Baity signed with the Texans after going undrafted.

Former UK tight end C.J. Conrad caught one pass for 8 yards in the New York Giants’ 32-13 win over the Chicago Bears. Also undrafted, Conrad signed with the Giants and reportedly has been having a good training camp.

Ex-Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson died in a motorcycle crash over the weekend. Benson starred at Texas before playing for the Bears and the Bengals in the NFL. He rushed for 4,176 yards and 21 touchdowns with Cincinnati from 2008 through 2011. Benson was just 36.

Herald-Leader recap

The early bowl projections are in. Is UK football being overlooked again? Ben Roberts gives a rundown of the picks, including a preseason yearbook guru who “predicts a major comedown for a Wildcats team that knocked off Penn State in last season’s Citrus Bowl for the program’s first New Year’s Day victory in 67 years.”

Ben also reports that a top-10 basketball recruit with off-the-charts athleticism has Kentucky on his short list. Greg Brown, a 6-foot-8 forward, could play a Jarred Vanderbilt-type role at the next level.

Jerry Tipton’s Sunday notebook featured former UK player Chuck Verderber, who now “dedicates a website to stories he hopes will uplift and/or reassure.”

Josh Moore writes about Boogie Watson, UK football outside linebacker who wants to use the skeptics as motivation this season.

My Sunday column focuses on the UK offense, which after finishing 104th in total offense a year ago needs to get off to a fast start in 2019 to give the Wildcats’ young defense time to develop.

Around the SEC

College football officially kicks off on Saturday with Florida vs. Miami in Orlando being the featured game. Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley writes that the Gators and Hurricanes are “a rivalry unlike any other.”

The two schools will play a home-and-home series in 2024 and 2025, reports Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald.

Auburn exited its fall camp without naming a starting quarterback. Redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood and true freshman Bo Nix continue to compete for the job. Auburn opens with Justin Herbert and Oregon on Aug. 31.

Alabama’s national championship hopes hinge on the health of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, writes Alex Byington of USA Today. The left-hander appeared hampered in the national title game after suffering an ankle sprain against Georgia in the SEC title game. Bama lost to Clemson 44-16 in the title game.

Ole Miss punter Mac Brown has raised $69,000 for ALS research. Brown opened a lemonade stand in the seventh grade to help his father’s friend who had been diagnosed with the disease. The stand is ongoing.

Georgia Coach Kirby Smart says his team’s second scrimmage was “more competitive” than the team’s first. After running 115 snaps in the first scrimmage, the Bulldogs ran around 135 in the second.

At South Carolina, redshirt freshman Dakereon Joyner and true freshman Ryan Hilinski are battling it out for the backup quarterback job behind starter Jake Bentley.

Tennessee became the sixth SEC school to approve alcohol sales in general seating areas for football games this season. UT joins Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas and Missouri.

LSU defensive line coach Dennis Johnson is in a wheelchair dealing with torn patellar tendons in both knees. Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron has enlisted old friend Bill Johnson to coach the D-line while Dennis Johnson recovers.

Arkansas has dismissed Gabe Osabuohien, a 6-foot-8 forward, from the basketball team. The Razorbacks now have just two players 6-8 or taller who are eligible for the 2019-20 season.

This and that

Louisville native Justin Thomas held on to win the BMW Championship on Sunday. It snapped a 12-month drought for Thomas, who now leads the FedEx Cup going into the Tour Championship.

Jack White and the Raconteurs played the Railbird Festival on Aug. 10 at Keeneland. This past Saturday, the rock act visited the Washington Nationals before their game with the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park. The band then left to perform at The Anthem in D.C. After the show, the band returned to the ballpark when they learned the game had gone into extra innings.

The Reds fell 5-4 to the Cardinals on Sunday to end up with a split in the four-game series. The Reds placed Joey Votto on the 10-day Injured List with back tightness. Reds reliever Kevin Gausman struck out all six batters he faced and needed the minimum nine pitches in the ninth inning. The biggest news from the tilt: Aristides Aquino did not hit a home run.

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John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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