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November 28, 2009

Cats blow chance to end 25 years of woe

In a series marked with several close and frustrating losses for Kentucky to Tennessee over the previous 24 years add to the list Saturday night's setback in Commonwealth Stadium.

After UK had to settle for a tying Lones Seiber field goal late in regulation following a fumble recovery at the Tennessee 37, Seiber missed a 49-yarder in overtime and the Vols won it when senior Montario Hardesty raced 20 yards up the middle to give Tennessee a 30-24 victory.

It marked the 25th straight win for Tennessee (7-5 overall, 4-4 SEC) in the series.

After being thoroughly dominated for almost the entire second half, UK (7-5, 3-5) took advantage of a Tennessee fumble with 2:22 remaining that led to the tying field goal with 33 seconds left.

What appeared at halftime as if 24 years of Kentucky football frustration against and domination by Tennessee was just 30 minutes from being over turned into almost 30 minutes of frustration against and domination by Tennessee.

After rolling up 187 yards in the first half and taking a 21-14 halftime lead the Cats were held to just 80 yards and four first downs in the second half and fell behind 24-21.

Tennessee appeared as if it had put the game away when quarterback Jonathan Crompton passed to tight end Luke Stocker for what was a first down, but senior safety Ashton Cobb knocked the ball loose from Stocker and freshman defensive end Taylor Wyndham recovered at the Vols 37 with 2:22 left.

UK got as close as the Tennessee 6, before settling for Seiber's 23-yard field goal with 33 seconds left in regulation.

It marked the 25th straight win for Tennessee (7-5 overall, 4-4 SEC) has beaten UK (7-5, 3-5).

The Vols had taken the lead at 24-21 lead on Devin Mathis' 30-yard field goal with 44 seconds left in the third quarter. It was set up when Randall Cobb fumbled while running out of the "Wildcat" formation and LaMarcus Thompson recovered at the UK 28.

Tennessee took the opening kickoff of the second half drove and from its own 27 to the UK 1 where it went for it on fourth-and-goal. Crompton rolled to his right looking to pass to wide receiver Gerald Jones, who was well covered by Randall Burden. Crompton then tried to keep the ball, but was stopped short of the goal by defensive tackle Corey Peters.

The Vols though tied it on their next possession thanks in large part to converting a third-and-18 from their own 30. Crompton hit tight end Luke Stocker for 30 yards to keep the drive alive and four plays later the same duo hooked up a 16-yard scoring pass to make it 21-21 with 3:40 left in the third quarter.

Senior linebacker Sam Maxwell got the Wildcats off to a 7-0 lead when he stepped in front of a Crompton pass in the right flat intended for wide receiver Gerald Jones and raced 56 yards untouched for a touchdown less than five minutes into the game.

It was the sixth interception this season for Maxwell, the most by a UK player since Marcus Jenkins swiped six passes in 1993 and tied for the third-most in a single-season in school history, eclipsed only by the nine picks Jerry Claiborne had in 1949 and the seven from Paul Calhoun in 1984.

Tennessee needed just three plays to tie it as Crompton hit Jones for 30 yards, wide receiver Denarius Moore raced 21 yards on an end around and tailback Montario Hardesty went into the end zone from nine yards out.

UK took the lead back at 14-7 on its final drive of the first quarter, marching 54 yards in nine plays with Cobb doing much of the damage running the ball, first from the "Wildcat" formation and then finally on a perfect 17-yard reverse off a handoff from running back Derrick Locke. Cobb, who carried it six times for 43 yards in the drive, somersaulted into the end zone to punctuate the score.

The Cats had an opportunity to add to the lead midway through the second quarter when Cobb passed 31 yards out of the "Wildcat" to Chris Matthews to take the ball to the Vols 38, but two plays later on third-and-7 quarterback Morgan Newton fumbled while scrambling and Tennessee's Willie Bohannon recovered at the Tennessee 34.

The Vols then drove 66 yards in eight plays and tied the score at 14-14 when Hardesty barreled into the end zone from 14 yards out with 3:54 left in the half.

Cobb returned the ensuing kickoff 43 yards to the Tennessee 40 to spark a scoring drive. Locke converted two third downs into first downs on screen passes, the first he took for 12 yards on third-and-9 and the second he rambled for 16 yards to the Vols 7 on third-and-7. After Cobb ran six yards to the Tennessee 1, Locke went into the end zone on the next play to put the Cats ahead, 21-14, with 39 seconds left in the half.

Tennessee did move to within field goal range before the half ended, but Chad Cunningham hooked a 49-yard attempt wide left.







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