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Rapid Rewind: Cats run to victory

Oct. 22, 2011
Commonwealth Stadium; Lexington, Ky.

The embattled Kentucky football found some relief, if even for a week, in delivering an impressive pummeling of Jacksonville State.

The Cats (3-4, 0-3) rushed for 340 yards and forced three turnovers in Gamecocks’ territory to score a 38-14 victory over the strong FBS program that upset Ole Miss in Oxford last season. It was the first time UK scored at least 30 points since defeating Vanderbilt 38-20 on Nov. 13, 2010.

Martavius Neloms got the Cats on the board after blindsiding Jacksonville State quarterback Coty Blanchard on a safety blitz, jarring the football loose and allowing Neloms to scoop it up and race 40 yards for the opening score.

The defensive score appeared to ease the pressure on the offense - and excited the announced crowd of 54,098 at Commonwealth Stadium - which scored on three consecutive second quarter possessions to break the 20-point barrier for only the second time on the season.

“He got us started. One thing we needed is a play, we needed someone to make a play for us. (Martavius) Neloms did. He got a sack, caused a fumble and a return for a touchdown, so that got us going.”

“There is a formula to winning these games and we came here with that formula in mind, but it’s one that you don’t help them and you take advantage of mistakes. I was most disappointed in (our) mistakes and the 21 points off turnovers (Kentucky got).” – Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe.

“That’s crazy. He’s a diamond in the rough. The guys good, man. Hopefully this is a statement for him.” – UK wide receiver La’Rod King, on CoShik Williams’ 148 yards rushing.

42 – You won’t find the number 42 in any prominent statistical analysis of Kentucky’s victory over Jacksonville State but when things have been going as poorly as they have for the Cats the fact they belted out ‘On, On, U of K’ for the first time in 42 days is significant. The cats hadn’t won since defeating Central Michigan on Sept. 10, a maddening span of six weeks that had seen negativity reach the top of the volume dial.

La'Rod King had five receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

When you’re in a rut sometimes it just takes one unexpected twist to help get things moving in the right direction. Credit safety Martavius Neloms for that moment, as he raced in off the right edge and blasted Jacksonville State quarterback Coty Blanchard in the back, forcing a fumble late in the first quarter. Neloms scooped the ball up and raced 40 yards to give UK a 7-0 lead that helped alleviate some of the mounting pressure and allowed the Cats to just go play football from there on out.

Lost in all the angst over the Cats’ offensive ineptitude through the first six games was the fact the battered offensive line had been playing much better football, even if the production didn’t necessarily indicate as such. The unit, which was panned after the first three games of the season, posted its second consecutive outing without yielding a sack, notable given it had allowed 21 through the first five games.

The Cats’ stable of running backs took another hit early in the game when sophomore Raymond Sanders suffered an injured ankle that ended his day. It was Sanders’ second significant injury of the year and came on the heels of the Cats’ losing freshman Josh Clemons, leaving CoShik Williams to carry the load.

Joker Phillips instructed his team to take the football after winning the coin toss, no doubt in hopes of showing the offense he has confidence in its ability to score. That didn’t happen due to the same old mistakes, but Martavius Neloms helped give the Cats their first lead at the end of the first quarter since last season’s BBVA Compass Bowl when he blindsided Jacksonville State quarterback Coty Blanchard and returned the ensuing fumble 40 yards for a touchdown. Total Yards: Kentucky 60; JSU 48

Credit the Kentucky offense for finally putting together a pair of quality series on three consecutive possessions, scoring 17 points in the quarter, the most in any game since Louisville. The Cats may have found an answer at running back in CoShik Williams, who was undeniably impressive with his full-throttle running style. The Cats’ defense had one bad possession in allowing the Gamecocks to march the field but it was still one of the team’s top performances of any quarter this season. Total Yards: Kentucky 193; JSU 105

Kentucky came out in the second half and played it close to the vest, lining up behind its offensive line and trying to run the clock while preserving the feel-good vibes created by a strong first half performance. Danny Trevathan ended the quarter by nearly scoring the Cats’ second defensive touchdown of the game when he stepped in front of a pass, picked it off and returned it to the Jacksonville State 6-yard line. Total Yards: Kentucky 70; JSU 65

The Cats made it interesting for a moment, following up another hookup between Morgan Newton and La’Rod King by giving up a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. That was the end of the drama though as Kentucky tacked on another touchdown and used a healthy dose of the run game to close out its first win in six weeks. Total Yards: Kentucky 122; JSU 52

The Cats’ victory isn’t likely to change much of anything in the fan base – the portion that wants to run Joker Phillips out on the rails will dismiss it as a ho-hum win over a FCS opponent, while the pro-Joker camp will point to it as progress. The answer is probably somewhere in the middle, which makes the Mississippi swing over the next two weeks critically important to the future of Phillips’ tenure.

Kentucky (3-4, 0-3) returns to Southeastern Conference play at 7 p.m. next Saturday night when Mississippi State arrives at Commonwealth Stadium.

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