Senior Night at Commonwealth Stadium marks a step closer to the end of a disappointing era in UK football history.
The UK football program will try to frame Saturday’s home finale as an opportunity to say goodbye to the team’s nineteen senior players. The focus of most of Big Blue Nation is the fact that this weekend’s game against Samford will mark Joker Phillips’ final game as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats in Commonwealth Stadium. The team will wrap up the season next week at Tennessee.
“The attitude has been good and we still have kids coming to practice and coming to work,” Phillips said this week. Phillips initially planned to skip out on the final games after his dismissal, but he says he is coaching out the season because of the attitude and work ethic of his players.
In the next couple of weeks, the intensity of the talk (which is already pretty strong) about who will replace Phillips at UK is sure to increase. This year has been so disheartening that fans are genuinely excited about names like David Cutcliffe and Bobby Petrino: a current Duke coach and a former UofL coach who openly disdained UK. Maybe the Mayans were right.
When Phillips was asked if he would help the new coach with the transition, he answered with his typical good-natured humor.
“No, nobody ever asks a guy on their out to help. I mean, you did a s****y job while you [were] here, but help me,” he said.
While much of the Kentucky fan base seemed to switch its attention rapidly to basketball, the football Wildcats (1-9, 0-7 in SEC) are keeping the Samford Bulldogs in view in hopes of getting Phillips a win in his last game in Lexington.
Meanwhile, Samford is enjoying one of its best years since joining the Southern Conference. The Bulldogs are 7-3 (5 of those wins in SoCon play) and are receiving votes for the FCS Top 25.
Samford head coach Pat Sullivan told the Birmingham News this week that even though Kentucky may be struggling, this is still an extremely important game for his team.
“We’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose,” Sullivan says of Saturday’s contest. He called it the highlight of his team’s year.
Samford running back Fabain Truss is the Bulldogs’ top weapon this season. The junior has more than 1000 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns so far. He’s coming off a career-high 219 yards and two touchdowns in Samford’s 26-15 win over Elon last weekend.
Saturday’s game will be televised on CSS at 7:30pm.
Photo courtesy: UK Athletics
UK Center Matt Smith is one of 19 seniors playing their final home game Saturday.JPG