Kentucky Wildcats Should Look to Recent Past for Inspiration

By Tim Letcher

The Kentucky Wildcats have beaten the Tennessee Volunteers only once in the past 27 tries, and it was perhaps under the most difficult circumstances for the Big Blue.

In 2011, Kentucky was struggling at 4-7 heading into the game with their rivals from the south. Kentucky was using two quarterbacks heading into the game, but Maxwell Smith and Morgan Newton were both injured enough to not be able to play against the Vols.

That’s when then-head coach Joker Phillips and offensive coordinator Randy Sanders hatched a plan that would surprise Tennessee. The Wildcats would move wide receiver Matt Roark to quarterback for the week, but would not inform anyone outside of the team of their plan. Roark, who played some quarterback in high school, would practice all week behind center, and the Wildcats would run a variation of the Wildcat offense against the Vols.

It certainly worked on Kentucky’s first drive of the game, as Roark drove the team down the field before the drive stalled at the Tennessee seven yard line. The Big Blue would kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. Kentucky would end up winning the game 10-7, breaking a 26-year losing streak to the Vols. Roark would rush for 124 yards on 24 carries, and he even completed four-of-six through the air for 15 yards.

This season, Kentucky could very well be in the same spot. Starting quarterback Jalen Whitlow was injured on Saturday night in a loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. Smith, who ironically was injured heading into the game against the Vols two years ago, is injured once again, although he’s probably healthy enough to play.

But in this situation, Mark Stoops could take a chance. He could put freshman wide receiver Ryan Timmons behind center and run a variation of the Wildcat once again. Timmons is perhaps the fastest player on the team, and what better way to get him the ball more often than to snap it to him on every play.

Whitlow is injured, Smith has been largely ineffective, and the Kentucky offense needs some sort of boost. Perhaps looking to the recent past for inspiration will help Kentucky beat Tennessee again this season.

Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.


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