Q&A with Kentucky Kernel’s Anothony Crawford

By on November 24, 2016

By Dalton Ray–

For the 29th time, Louisville and Kentucky are battling for the Governor’s Cup. The overall series is tied at 14-14 and since the renewal of the rivalry in 1994, U of L leads 14-8. The Cardinals are winners of the last five and nine of the last 13. The Kentucky Kernel’s sports editor Anthony Crawford talked about the game with us.

Question: For the first time since 2010, Kentucky is bowl eligible. What is the feeling between fans and members of the team?

Answer: I think for the most part, this is where everybody expected the team to be, but I think how they arrived at being bowl eligible is what is kind of surprising. The turnaround that occurred this season is something that should not go unnoticed because it was huge. Following the home loss to Southern Miss and the beatdown on the road at Florida, it looked like the team was going to struggle to get to five wins, let alone get to six and bowl eligibility. But responding to adversity has been what this group prides itself on and they showed it in the stretch that led to them being a contender in the SEC East for awhile.

Q: Many people thought Mark Stoops was on the hot seat this year. What has been the difference this year to get over the hump?

A: There has always been those “Kentucky Football” moments where the team either cripples itself or fall short in crucial moments, and in the past the team usually just gave up. But this team just somehow keeps going. They didn’t give up when they lost their starting quarterback and they didn’t give up when much of the fanbase turned sour following the 0-2 start to the season. I think the real turning point was the last second field goal that won the game against Mississippi State, because that’s a great example of UK pulling through and not giving up during one of those “Kentucky Football” moments.

Q: How has the defense looked differently since Stoops began calling it?

A: There really hasn’t been a major difference, except for the fact that there is more organization at times. The team struggled with tackling early on in the season and they gradually improved in that area. Not really because of anything Stoops did. The team also struggled early on with getting pressure on the opposing quarterback, but getting creative with their schemes and using the linebackers and safeties more in the pass rush has helped them.

Q: What stands out defensively?

A: When it comes to defensive stand outs, you have to start with linebacker Jordan Jones. He leads the team in tackles but his overall energy is what’s so valuable to the team. He missed most of the game at Tennessee because of an injury and the defense looked completely different because of it. If UK has any chance of slowing down Lamar Jackson, because you can’t stop him, it starts with Jones being a big factor in the game.

Q: Kentucky’s passing game isn’t great. What is the issue the Cats are having?

A: Stephen Johnson throws a beautiful deep ball. He hits receivers in stride and puts it right where they can get to it but defenders can’t. Unfortunately, he doesn’t display the same touch on any of the passes in between, which makes it difficult at times to execute the routine plays. It’s also hurt that when he does hit the receivers in those in-between areas, the dropped ball dilemma with the receivers has started back up again this season.

Q: Boom Williams and Benny Snell lead this UK team. What makes them so special?

A: They just compliment each other so well. Boom has always been great at being patience and really taking advantage whenever he sees a gap, but he hasn’t always been the most physical back who can produce in those short yardage situations. Insert Benny Snell. Even as a freshman, he has been UK’s most physical running back and just refuses to go down at times. Both have also benefitted from receiving snaps in the wildcat, which has become a pillar of the UK offense this season.

Q: What’s your final score prediction and why?

A: 49-21, U of L. I bought into Lamar Jackson’s Heisman hype early and I think he starts out just where he left off against UK last year, running wild all over UK’s defense. The Cats have always struggled with mobile quarterbacks under Mark Stoops and Jackson could easily have a career-day to cap off his Heisman campaign in front of the home crowd Saturday.

File photo / The Louisville Cardinal

About Dalton Ray

Sports editor (2016-18) that is technically award winning.Email: dray@louisvillecardinal.com

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