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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Behind Enemy Bylines: Kentucky Wildcats

The Vanderbilt Hustler spoke with Braden Ramsey, Sports Editor of The Kentucky Kernel, to preview Vanderbilt’s upcoming game against Kentucky.
Emery Little
Kentucky defeats Vanderbilt 38-14 on Saturday, November 16, 2019.

After a close, 24-17 loss to Mississippi State pushed the Commodores to 0-5 on Nov. 7, the schedule isn’t getting any easier: Vanderbilt will face off against Kentucky in Lexington this Saturday. A missed extra point against Ole Miss and a failed fake punt against Auburn leaves the Wildcats’ record at 2-4. 

The Vanderbilt Hustler caught up with Braden Ramsey, Sports Editor of The Kentucky Kernel, to get some insight into Saturday’s upcoming matchup.

Vanderbilt Hustler: What did Kentucky’s win over 18th-ranked Tennessee prove to the team and fanbase? Is that performance replicable? 

Braden Ramsey: Kentucky’s win over a ranked team finally proved head coach Mark Stoops’ commitment to the program and building it for years to come. This came on the heels of rumors of other programs, like Florida State and Michigan, trying to court him away from Kentucky. And it’s not just Stoops in that respect; associate head coach Vince Marrow was heavily courted by Michigan State over this past off-season. The win sent a message of building Kentucky football into something greater than it is now. We had four straight bowl games in the mid-2000s, but even then, the commitment to making Kentucky one of the SEC’s best teams didn’t feel like it was there—now it is. We’re recruiting more competitively in the SEC, and we played in what was essentially the SEC Eastern Division championship a couple of years ago. Looking forward from then, even in last week’s game against fifth-ranked Georgia, we actually had a shot of winning that one. 

Quarterback Terry Wilson threw for 101 yards and one touchdown in that game; the running game has largely carried the team. Do you expect more downfield passing against Vanderbilt’s depleted secondary? 

It’s hard to expect. The fanbase loves Terry for everything he’s accomplished, but he hasn’t been the most efficient in throwing the ball down the field. The offense, in general, hasn’t built itself up to capitalize on every chance. Even when the ball is thrown well, the receivers often can’t get separation or they drop the ball. Now for Saturday’s game, they might try more downfield passing because Vanderbilt’s secondary is depleted, but even Stoops isn’t sure who’ll see the field for quarterback. Terry missed last week’s game for an injury. Backup Joey Gatewood played—he didn’t play terribly but he was playing one of the best defenses in the country. Beau Allen, who’s a freshman and from Lexington, is someone a lot of fans would like to see since he’s more of a pocket-passer rather than a dual-threat like Wilson and Gatewood. It’d definitely be interesting to see who sees the field, and even Stoops said all three were getting reps in practice. This is Terry’s last season, and he’s played for so long and accomplished so much, so I think Stoops will do right by him and try to figure him in, but he’ll still work on Allen and Gatewood and see what he has in them for the future. 

A couple snafus on special teams are arguably the difference between a 2-4 and 4-2 season. How have Kentucky’s special teams risen past a costly missed PAT and fake punt since the 0-2 start? 

For the failed fake punt against Auburn, Stoops said after the game that it was a miscommunication; on the drive prior, he wanted punter Max Duffy to fake it, but on that drive, Stoops just forgot to tell Duffy to not fake it. And the missed PAT—that was just one bad kick that happened to be the difference between Kentucky winning and not winning. Now, if the defense played to the standard that they’ve set in some games this year, we could’ve beaten Auburn by fourteen points. I don’t think the special teams are to blame too much for those mistakes—those were just memorable because they were so unexpected, especially when Duffy is a Ray Guy Award-winning punter, and a PAT can be expected to be successful on 99% of kicker Matt Ruffolo’s tries. I think they rebounded and refocused from most of those issues in the next game against Mississippi State, and the defense also stepped up. After Ruffolo’s missed PAT, there was discussion about giving both Ruffolo and last year’s kicker, Chase Poore, some playing time, but Poore missed a game-winning field goal against Florida last season, so the confidence in him may not be the same. They’ve still got plenty of confidence in Ruffolo; that missed extra point is his only hiccup. 

Kentucky’s defense has been particularly impressive this season, currently leading the nation in interceptions returned for touchdowns and ranked second in interceptions. What can Vanderbilt’s improving offense expect from them? 

The Kentucky secondary has been pretty locked-down since the first couple of games. In our first game of the season, we gave up some big plays. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix’s completion percentage against us wasn’t spectacular, and it felt like every time he connected with a receiver, it was for twenty or more yards down the field, and Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral shredded our secondary. Our newcomers, like Kelvin Joseph and Vito Tisdale, came in and joined everyone we had in that group last year. We luckily didn’t lose anyone major from last year. Our newcomers didn’t have the traditional two games before the SEC slate of opponents to get adjusted, and against Vanderbilt, I’m sure the defense will be decent and hungry to do well, especially after our game against Georgia. I think the defensive backs will take more chances to intercept passes and wrap guys up after the catch, and they’ll feel obligated to after how they played against Mississippi State and Tennessee. Generally, the defense closes in well and brings guys down. I’m sure there’ll be tight coverage and more blitzes. Defensive back Yufus Corker will be all over the back end. Inside linebackers Jamin Davis and Deandre Square should be filling gaps in the running game and playing solid zone defense. The defense will be solid after a week of rest. Defensive tackle Quinton Bohanna will be back from injury too, and he may take two offensive linemen to block. The run defense struggled a bit without him, and I think that was largely due to his absence. 

How has the receiving corps been impacted by the loss of standout receiver Lynn Bowden?

Kentucky’s receiving corps the last few years hasn’t been the strongest. Bowden was actually moved from receiver to quarterback last year. We also lost senior receiver Ahmad Wagner, though he didn’t have a big impact in the second half of the last season. Josh Ali has played fairly well this season. He hasn’t been perfect; he’s dropped some catches and fumbled a couple of times, but he’s the best option we have. It hasn’t appeared that quarterbacks Terry Wilson and Joey Gatewood have shown much chemistry with anyone other than him. If Vanderbilt’s defense can focus on Ali and take him away from the game plan to make Kentucky spread the ball to more receivers, that could contain the passing game, and overall, the receivers haven’t been able to get the separation they need. 

What’s your score prediction for the game this Saturday?

I have confidence that Kentucky will win, but our offense hasn’t looked too promising since the second half of the Tennessee game. Kentucky admittedly hasn’t fared well as the favorite in recent memory, but I’ll go with Kentucky winning 27-13. 

This content has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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About the Contributors
Basim Naim, Former Staff Writer
Basim Naim ('24) is from Birmingham, Alabama. He’s a staff writer for the Sports section and is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in medicine, health, and society and minoring in human and organizational development. His hometown and college-town teams — the Alabama Crimson Tide, Mississippi State Bulldogs and Vanderbilt Commodores — have him covered from men’s disc golf to baseball. He can be reached at .
Emery Little, Former Social Media Director
Emery Little (‘22) is from Birmingham, AL. She majored in communication of science and technology and Spanish. In her free time, she loves to design graphics, follow tech news and run her photography business. She can be reached at [email protected].
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