You think Joker Phillips and the Kentucky Wildcat football team (1-5, 0-3 in the SEC) have it rough? Check out UK’s next opponent.
The Arkansas Razorbacks lost former head coach Bobby Petrino when the aftermath of a motorcycle wreck revealed he enjoyed other off-the-field activities other than riding his Harley. The one-time UofL coach was let go when it was discovered he was having an affair with a 25-year-old former student, who he hired for a position with in the football office. Petrino was then replaced by former UofL coach John L. Smith. The Razorbacks were still ranked preseason Top 10. After an opening day win over Jacksonville State, Arkansas lost four straight games (an OT loss UL-Monroe, a shellacking from Alabama, a home loss to Rutgers and another beatdown from Texas A&M).
On top of all that, Smith is the process of Chapter 7 bankruptcy as the result of some bad real estate deals. He has $40 million in debt and $1.3 million in assets.
The show goes on for Arkansas, who comes into Saturday’s game in Fayetteville with at least one bright spot on a resume stained with L’s. The Razorbacks beat an equally bad Auburn team last week to move to 2-4 on the season.
UK’s Phillips takes an incredibly young squad to Arkansas. True freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow appears to be the starter after injuries to Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles. Whitlow received most of the first team reps this week at practice. With a glut of injuries this season, the Wildcats have been forced to play 26 freshmen.
“It's just a part of the game. It's going to happen. I'm not one of those, ‘woe is me’ guys. We expect the next guy to come up and play good football for us,” Phillips said.
Defensive coordinator Rick Minter has his work cut out for him. An injury depleted defensive unit will try to contain Razorback quarterback Tyler Wilson, who leads the nation’s 24th ranked passing offense, 2nd in the SEC. Arkansas is averaging 299 passing yards per game. UK’s defense is in the middle of the SEC pack in passing defense.
“The kids are great and they are trying extremely hard, they really are,” Minter said after Tuesday’s practice. “They are giving us all they got. Our guys up front are playing solid football, our linebackers are getting better each and every week and our young corners that are getting to play -- those are great opportunities for them and they are stepping up. “
Maybe one good sign for UK is that Arkansas rushing attack is last in the league. Junior tailback Raymond Sanders has an opportunity to become the difference maker. He’s looking to top the 100-yard rushing mark for a second time this season. He had a career high 115 yards in Kentucky’s lone win against Kent State. With a true freshman quarterback starting on the road facing a Razorback’s defense that has trouble stopping the run, you have to think the Wildcat game plan includes a healthy dose of Sanders.
Saturday’s game will be broadcast at 7pm on ESPN3 and FSN South.
Photo courtesy: UKAthletics.com