Calipari glad to see Big Blue Nation develop passion for football team

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LEXINGTON, Ky (KT) — John Calipari understands why Kentucky’s fan base was not happy following Kentucky’s 20-14 overtime loss to Texas A&M two weeks ago.

 

“Do you remember where two years ago we'd be sad and disappointed? Wasn't no sad now,” the Kentucky men’s basketball coach said. “Everybody, their staff was mad, their players were mad, our fans were mad, the culture has just changed in football. The best thing that came out of it was Benny (Snell). In basketball, we call it touches. He didn't get a whole lot of touches, and he is like a Heisman candidate.

 

“… it wasn't your best game and you still went to overtime with a chance to win. Incredible. Best thing, the culture, everybody was mad and angry.”

 

Calipari called but later sent a text to Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops following the loss to the Aggies and offered his observations.

 

“I said, ‘you guys are in a great place, man,’” Calipari said. “What you've done — I said, keep reminding everybody it's taken you six years. That wasn't a two-year turnover. It's been six years.”

 

Stoops said he heard “bits and pieces” of Calipari’s comments last weekend and appreciates his support. Calipari has been known to attend a practice and his players also have offered their support.

 

"I have a great relationship with Cal. I could joke about it, because how many questions do I field about that (laughter)? I always appreciate his support. He’s always been good. We have a great relationship and he’s always supportive and helpful and vice-versa.”

 

Kentucky sophomore PJ Washington also is a fan of the football team, especially Josh Allen.

 

"We've been to almost every game," Washington said. "I'm just excited to see them doing so well this year. I'm pretty close with a couple of the guys. It's just great seeing them do well this year."

 

Kentucky was off last week and will take on Vanderbilt at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Kroger Field.

 

OFFENSIVE LINE HONORED

 

The Kentucky offensive line was named a member of the midseason honor roll for the Joe Moore Award, recognizing the Most Outstanding Offensive Line Unit in College Football on Tuesday.

 

Behind a solid front, Kentucky’s running game is averaging 223.5 yards per game, ranking the Wildcats third in the Southeastern Conference and 26th in the nation. Snell is now third in Kentucky’s all-time rushing list with 3,123 yards. He has gained 699 yards this season for an average of 117.5 yards per game, ranking the junior running back ninth in the nation.

 

The Kentucky offensive line is led by Bunchy Stallings, George Asafo-Adjei, along with Logan Stenberg, Drake Jackson and E.J. Price. Mason Wolfe and Luke Fortner have also contributed to the team’s success this season.

 

“If the team has success the individual accolades will be there at the end of the year. I’m sure they’re really not worried about that,” Stoops said. “They’re worried about playing good and they’re worried about playing good for their team and helping their team win games but that really doesn’t matter halfway through the season to us. I mentioned it before, I’m very proud of the way those guys are playing individually.”

 

This season the Wildcats’ running game is averaging a 223.5 yards per game, good for third in the Southeastern Conference and 26thnationally midway through October. Junior running back Benny Snell Jr. continues to rewrite the record book and now sits third on UK’s all-time rushing list with 3,123 yards. This season, he has rushed for 699 yards and eight touchdowns in six games for 117.5 yards per game (ninth nationally). The Cats have twice had two 100-yard rushers in a single game, just one of just seven schools to accomplish that this season.

 

The UK offensive line is a deep and experienced group led by seniors Bunchy Stallings and George Asafo-Adjei. Both Stallings (twice) and Asafo-Adjei have earned SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors this season, and Stallings was named a midseason All-American by ESPN.com. Junior Logan Stenberg and sophomores Drake Jackson and E.J. Price have settled in as the Cats’ starters, while junior Mason Wolfe and sophomore Luke Fortner provide depth.

 

FORMER CATS IN NBA

 

The NBA season began Tuesday and 31 former Kentucky players will be on an NBA roster to open the year, including rookies Hamidou Diallo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Jarred Vanderbilt.

 

The former UK players in the NBA are as follows: Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), Eric Bledsoe (Milwaukee Bucks), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns), Isaiah Briscoe (Orlando Magic), Willie Cauley-Stein (Sacramento Kings), DeMarcus Cousins (Golden State Warriors), Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans), Hamidou Diallo (Oklahoma City Thunder,) De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings), Wenyen Gabriel (Sacramento Kings), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Los Angeles Clippers), Andrew Harrison  (Memphis Grizzlies) , Enes Kanter (New York Knicks), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte Hornets) , Brandon Knight (Houston Rockets), Kevin Knox (New York Knicks , Skal Labissiere – Sacramento Kings, Trey Lyles – Denver Nuggets, Jodie Meeks – Milwaukee Bucks),  Darius Miller (New Orleans Pelicans), Malik Monk (Charlotte Hornets), Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets), Nerlens Noel (Oklahoma City Thunder), Patrick Patterson (Oklahoma City Thunder), Alex Poythress 0Atlanta Hawks), Julius Randle (New Orleans Pelicans) , Rajon Rondo (Los Angeles Lakers), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves), Tyler Ulis (Chicago Bulls), Jarred Vanderbilt (Denver Nuggets) and  John Wall of the Washington Wizards.

 

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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