Lexington, Ky – November 27, 2023 – UK ACPR
Wide receiver/kick returner Barion Brown and outside linebacker J.J. Weaver were named Southeastern Conference Co-Special Teams Player of the Week and Co-Defensive Player of the Week, respectively, it was announced Monday by the league office.
Both Wildcats played critical roles in Kentucky’s 38-31 victory at No. 10/9 Louisville to claim the rivalry’s Governor’s Cup for the fifth consecutive meeting. It was coach Mark Stoops’ program-record 13th victory over a ranked team during his tenure at Kentucky.
Weaver, a senior from Louisville, turned the game on its head with game-changing defensive plays on consecutive possessions. First, he chased down Louisville running back Jawhar Jordan from behind late in the third quarter, stripping the football and then recovering his forced fumble, leading to a game-tying field goal. Minutes later, he fell on a fumble caused by teammate D’Eryk Jackson to set up a fourth quarter touchdown by Ray Davis to give the Wildcats their first lead.
Weaver was honored with the Howard Schnellenberger Award as the Governor’s Cup’s Most Valuable Player. He totaled eight tackles, two fumble recoveries, one caused fumble and a quarterback sack that also came in the fourth quarter.
Previously, he earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors in 2020.
Brown, a sophomore from Nashville, put his blazing speed on display and sparked the Wildcats’ comeback win with his 100-yard kickoff return for a score in the third quarter. He fielded the kick several yards deep in the end zone, veered right after a few steps, hit a crease set up by his blockers and raced untouched to the end zone.
Brown tied several school records with his score and turned in a remarkable overall day with 250 all-purpose yards in the game.
- The TD return is his second of the season (also 99 yards vs. Ball State) and the third of his career (100 vs. Miami-Ohio in 2022).
- He tied two school records – Craig Yeast for most kickoff return TDs in a career (3) and Derek Abney for most KO return TDs in a season (2).
- Had four kickoff returns in the game, good for 180 yards.
- The 180 kick return yards rank as the third-most in a single-game in UK history behind Derrick Locke’s 191 vs. Louisville in 2009 and Keenan Burton’s 185 vs. Louisville in 2006.
- He now also currently owns the school record for kick return average (min. 30 returns) at 29.55 yards per return on 31 returns.
- He also caught two passes for 48 yards, including a crucial 23-yard catch that set up Ray Davis’ game-winning touchdown run and added 22 rushing yards on two carries, a pair of 11-yard runs that produced first downs on UK scoring drives.
This marks the third time Brown has been named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week (also Sept. 4, 2023 and Sept. 5, 2022) to go along with being a two-time SEC co-Freshman of the Week honoree.
Kentucky finished the regular season with a 7-5 record and await its eighth consecutive bowl bid, to be announced on Dec. 3.