LEXINGTON – Joker Phillips ran his University of Kentucky Wildcats through their final practice this week Thursday in anticipation Saturday’s matchup with No. 12 Georgia. The game is set to kick off at 7 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium. UK will have a brief walkthrough practice Friday morning to officially complete the on-field preparation.
After practice Thursday, Phillips updated the team’s injury situation. Sophomore safety Ashely Lowery practiced for the second consecutive day and “did everything we needed him to do to be cleared to play.” Phillips also listed senior safety Mikie Benton as out, while listing senior safety/cornerback Martavius Neloms as doubtful. He added that with the night game on Saturday they will continue to examine Neloms up until game time. Phillips also said that sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith is no longer wearing a boot on his injured foot, but is still weeks away from running.
The UK coaching staff has spent a lot of time talking to the players about getting off to faster starts. UK’s best start this season was against South Carolina, when it led 17-7 at halftime behind solid performances both offensively and defensively. Phillips hopes to have the same kind of start Saturday against Georgia.
“One thing we have been practicing, talking and preaching, is lets get off to a good start,” Phillips said. “We have got off to a fast start in a few games and played well for a half. The thing we have to do is put together two really good halves and that starts with playing and starting off fast. That is the thing we have been preaching this week.”
The game with Georgia marks the second time in the last three weeks that UK has faced an SEC opponent coming off a bye week. Mississippi State had a bye week before playing UK two weeks ago. Currently, UK’s next opponent, Missouri has a bye week this weekend before hosting the Wildcats next Saturday.
“That is the time to get things corrected,” Phillips said about teams that have open dates. “You go two weeks with having a bad taste in your mouth also (if the previous game was a loss). You start seeing the team work a little harder to get some things corrected and practice on some other things. This is a chance to see some trick plays and those things when you have two weeks to prepare. We have to be prepared for a lot of different things and a team that will come down here and play with a chip on their shoulder.”
Although UK is coming off a loss last week at Arkansas on top of dealing with injuries to key players, Phillips said this team has a lot to play for.
“Pride first of all, and then we want to show improvement,” Phillips said. “We need to improve each week and every time we get out here on the practice field, and then take each game one game at a time. There is a lot to play for, no question about that.”
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Junior tailback Raymond Sanders, who normally wears No. 4, will be wearing No. 26 on Saturday against Georgia in honor of senior tailback CoShik Williams. Williams, a fifth-year player, is out for the remainder of the season due to an injury, thus ending his UK playing career.
Phillips said Sanders, who is good friends with Williams, will be the only player to wear No. 26 the rest of the season.
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Senior offensive lineman Larry Warford and senior defensive end/linebacker Taylor Wyndham have been named as Saturday’s game captains. Warford and Wyndham will join permanent captains Matt Smith and Collins Ukwu.
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The UK football team will honor recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and UK football legend Dermontti Dawson on Saturday with Dermontti Dawson Day at Commonwealth Stadium. Saturday night’s matchup with Georgia is also UK’s annual homecoming game.
Dawson, who played at Kentucky from 1984-87, will be on hand for the game, including signing autographs in the Wildcat Refuge two hours before kickoff. Dawson will also be honored on the field during the game, while the first 10,000 fans in the stadium will receive a Dermontti Dawson rally towel.