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November 27, 2010

Rapid Rewind: 26 and Counting

Nov. 27, 2010
Neyland Stadium; Knoxville, Tenn.

A streak 25 years in the making will live to see No. 26.

Passing at will, Tennessee freshman quarterback Tyler Bray threw for 354 yards and two touchdowns. The Cats lost their 26th straight game in the series; this year, it was 24-14.

The Volunteers blasted Kentucky's secondary over the top for three passes of more than 40 yards, all in the first half. Tennessee led 14-7 at halftime but never felt in danger of losing its lead.

The Cats tied the game at 14 with 10:10 left in the third quarter on a touchdown pass from Mike Hartline to freshman tight end Tyler Robinson, a native of the Knoxville area.

Tennessee regained the lead for good with 50 seconds to go in the third quarter on a Tauren Poole two-yard touchdown run.

Senior quarterback Mike Hartline went 31-of-44 for 272 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

"It was a rough one. I've never been in a game where you thought you had as much control with a chance to go up 14, then how quick the events change. This football team has got to learn when you get people down you've got to keep them down. We gave them life."

"Unbelievable. The guy was going loco on everybody. I told him to get some oxygen because we're going to keep throwing it to him." -- Tennessee coach Derek Doole, on receiver Denarius Moore's 205-yard receiving effort.

"It's hard. They beat us. They did what they had to do to win. This has been happening to us all season, not just against them - turning the ball over at critical times. They're undescribable. We were in positions to do some things and we didn't capitalize." -- UK receiver Randall Cobb

26 - What else could it be? Tennessee has now claimed ownership of Kentucky on the football field 26 consecutive times, turning what looked like a game where they Cats had all the momentum and once again dashing their dreams. If UK couldn't get this Tennessee team, one that had to win its final four games to reach 6-6 and attain bowl eligibility, when will it ever?

Did Derrick Locke space himself too far from Mike Hartline as he came out of his stance in the backfield and moved toward the line of scrimmage? Did Hartline come out from under center slowly, thus disrupting the timing and not be able to get Locke the handoff? It really makes no difference who was at fault, but the Cats' fumble at the goal line just a measly yard from taking a 14-0 lead in the closing seconds of the first quarter changed the entire complexion of the game. One play doesn't cost you a game, but this was as close as you'll ever see to that being true.

The Kentucky special 'forces' were once again anything but an elite unit. The Cats allowed a 78-yard return on the opening kickoff - although they dodged a bullet when Daniel Lincoln missed his first field goal attempt of the year - and that was one of the least harmful mistakes of the day. After making eight straight field goals, Craig McIntosh missed a 42-yarder at the end of the first half and punter Ryan Tydlacka had punts that covered 18 and 32 yards, which doesn't even include his 38-yarder for a touchback in the fourth quarter when Tennessee had no one deep and the Cats were just trying to pin the Volunteers back. It was not a good year for that unit.

Randall Cobb had a fumble in the game, but it didn't lead to any points for Tennessee. It was the only thing Cobb did wrong on the day. The junior from just outside Knoxville had 13 catches, the second highest single game total in Kentucky history, and totaled 116 receiving yards. If this was Cobb's last game in blue he left it all on the field, much like he did throughout his entire career.

Kentucky has never dominated a quarter of football against Tennessee the way it did this one and yet the Cats had another one of those moments that always seems to occur against the Volunteers - a Derrick Locke fumble at the 1-yard line (without being hit) that short-circuited what should have been a 14-0 lead. Of all the crazy things that have happened to UK in this game over the years, especially recently, that one takes the cake, no question. Total Yards: Kentucky 156; Tennessee 28

As dominant as Kentucky was in the first 15 minutes, Tennessee equaled the Cats over the next 15. No sooner had UK fumbled away its chance to go up 14-0 had the Volunteers gone 80 yards in four passes to tie the game, then go another 61 in two pass plays on the next drive to claim the lead. Just like that all of UK's momentum and good vibes were gone and the old, 'Here we go again' set in. Things got worse when Craig McIntosh, who had made eight consecutive field goals, missed a 42-yarder in the final minute of the half. Total Yards: Kentucky 94; Tennessee 165

Kentucky came out the way it did on its first possession of the game, marching 76 yards (including a hook and ladder play) and tying the game with a touchdown pass on 4th-and-1 from the 2-yard line. Despite giving up a fake punt conversion that extended a drive the Cats then intercepted Tennessee in the end zone but failed to get anything going on the ensuing possession, punting it back to the Vols. It didn't take long (or many passes) for the Volunteers to post the go-ahead touchdown just before the end of the quarter. Total Yards: Kentucky 98; Tennessee 154

Joker Phillips has preached to his football team that it has to play to win, but the coach himself will likely spend a lot of time wondering if he undermined that message when he elected to punt on 4th-and-2 from the Tennessee 38-yard line in the fourth quarter. Not surprisingly, the punt sailed into the end zone and Tennessee followed by marching to a field goal that made it a two possession game and effectively end the Cats' chances. Total Yards: Kentucky 42; Tennessee 83

tcp online The chants began with just over four minutes remaining, a crescendo of "26" rising up from the Tennessee student section at Neyland Stadium as the Volunteers were clearly on the way to beating Kentucky for the 26th consecutive season. Yet again, the nation's longest streak remains in tact after a 24-14 loss by the Cats. And loss is the operative word here. Tennessee didn't beat Kentucky so much as UK beat itself with turnovers. The biggest disappointment is that it was UK's veteran leaders who spoiled the party, a fumble by Derrick Locke in the end zone that completely turned the game, a fumble by Randall Cobb and an interception allowed by receiver Chris Matthews, who didn't bother to try to break up a pass a bit overthrown. The team expected more, the long-suffering fan base deserved more.

tcp onlineThis was it, the most opportune year for Kentucky to prove ithe certainties in life aren't death, taxes and Tennessee beating Kentucky in football. And yet, once again, the streak lives on. There is no way to describe the Cats' complete inability to beat the Volunteers, especially considering you could make a legitimate argument they have been the better team more often than not in recent years, but that's where it stands - 26 years in the making. Seriously, Ghostbusters was released the same year UK last beat the Vols, but clearly the Cats are afraid of this ghost.

Kentucky finished the regular season a disappoint 6-6, losing six of its final nine games after a 3-0 start. The Cats will now wait to hear their bowl destination on Dec. 5.

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