July 31, 2009

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky’s special-teams performance was ranked No. 8 in the nation for the 2008 season in Phil Steele’s College Football Preview.

Guided by coordinator Steve Ortmayer, here are some season summary highlights for UK special teams:

  • Kentucky averaged 26.4 yards per kickoff return – No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference and No. 3 in the nation
  • That stat is even more impressive when you consider that two of UK’s kickoff returners, Derrick Locke and Dicky Lyons, were lost to injury midway through the year
  • The 26.4 average was second-best in school history, only slightly behind the record set in 2005
  • Two different players returned kickoffs for touchdowns, Derrick Locke and David Jones; this was the first time in school history that two different players returned kickoffs for TDs in the same season
  • Kentucky also led the SEC in net kickoff coverage (this stat is not compiled nationally).  This is the second year in a row that UK led the SEC in that category.
  • Tim Masthay led the SEC and ranked fifth nationally in punting average.
  • Kentucky led the SEC in average starting yard line differential; UK’s average starting yard line was its own 35, the opponent on its own 28.  This differential of +7 yards per possession was the best in the SEC (another stat not compiled nationally).  The offensive and defensive units contribute to this statistic, of course, but the overall kicking game certainly plays a role in average starting yard line.

In addition to the statistics, special teams also had a deciding impact in both of UK’s SEC victories and the bowl win:

Against Arkansas

  • Three big plays in the dramatic fourth-quarter comeback
  • When UK cut the lead to 20-14, the UK kickoff team stuffed the Arkansas return man at the 17-yard line
  • After holding Arkansas and forcing a punt, Randall Cobb returned the punt to the Razorback 37-yard line, giving UK a short field for the game-winning drive
  • After UK scored to make it 21-20, the kickoff team stuffed Arkansas again, this time at the 13-yard line, and the defense held on to win

Against Mississippi State

  • Trailing 7-0 at halftime, Tony Dixon returned the second-half kickoff to the UK 47, setting up a touchdown drive
  • Matt Roark’s block of a Mississippi State extra point was the deciding point in UK’s 14-13 victory

Against East Carolina

  • Trailing 16-3 at halftime, David Jones’ 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown swung the momentum of the game
  • Matt Roark also blocked an extra point

In addition to the 25-19 Liberty Bowl win over ECU, it’s also interesting to note that special teams have made crucial plays in each of Kentucky’s three-consecutive bowl victories. 

In the 2006 Music City Bowl, Tim Masthay completed a pass to Marcus McClinton for a first down on a fake punt.  On the next play, André Woodson hit DeMoreo Ford with a 70-yard touchdown bomb.  UK eventually defeated Clemson, 28-20.

On the game’s first possession of the 2007 Music City Bowl, Roger Williams blocked a Florida State punt, putting the Wildcats in business on the Seminole 25-yard line.  Woodson threw a touchdown pass to Jacob Tamme, giving UK a 7-0 lead.  The Wildcats never trailed and eventually won 35-28.

Fan Day Set for August 8: The annual Kentucky Football Fan Day has been slated for Saturday, Aug. 8, at Commonwealth Stadium.  Gates open at 6:30 p.m., when posters and schedule cards will be given away. 

The first 2,000 fans who bring a new school supply will receive a coupon for a free hot dog and Coke.  All school supplies collected will be donated to children in need.

Coach Rich Brooks and the team will be introduced at 7:15 p.m., followed by an autograph session at 7:30 with the Wildcat coaches and players.  An equipment stand will be set up and fans can try on UK helmets and shoulder pads.  UK athletic trainers also will have a station, demonstrating ankle taping and other activities.  The autograph session ends at 9 p.m. and the event concludes at dusk with a fireworks show.

Kentucky Football Calendar:

Date Event
Thurs. Aug. 6 Players report
Fri. Aug. 7 First team practice
Sat. Aug. 8 Fan Day at Commonwealth Stadium, gates open 6:30 p.m., autographs at 7:30 p.m., fireworks at dusk

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