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October 15, 2012

Players fight to keep motivation as season fades away

There was near-silence as the Wildcats flew back to Lexington on Saturday night, junior linebacker Avery Williamson said.

Their bumpy ride didn't end when their 49-7 loss to Arkansas was terminated with 5:08 remaining in the third quarter, as storms jostled the plane.

"We didn't really say too much," Williamson said. "It was a bad feeling. I didn't want to talk to anybody."

After falling to 1-6, the Wildcats would have to win out to become bowl eligible. They're winless in the Southeastern Conference, and facing No. 13 Georgia this weekend as 28-point underdogs. They've been outscored 152-38 in their last four games.

As the losses piled up and injuries took their toll, emotions have started to take hold of the Wildcats.

"Everyone is frustrated," senior defensive end Collins Ukwu said. "A lot of things that you do in the offseason and the summer time, you don't expect this type of thing to happen at all."

Ukwu said the players try to harness that frustration and use it for energy in practice, but it can be difficult at times. Young players have found themselves in uncharted waters. Older players, like Ukwu, are forced to watch their final season slip away.

Through all that, though, Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips has been pleased with how his players have handled difficult situations. While young players have had to take bigger roles, older players have been willing to help and lead.

"They have been very encouraging to the young guys that had to step up and play huge roles," Phillips said.

Despite a pair of delays due to lightning, Phillips was hoping the Wildcats would be able to finish the game against the Razorbacks. With so many inexperienced players, he was trying to find more playing time for freshmen.

The game wasn't allowed to continue, but the season won't stop. Even after Saturday, the players still find motivation to continue.

"I know that if I see myself slacking on a play, it just eats me up," Williamson said. "It's not an option not to go on. It's just not an option."

Phillips, Barnhart have not discussed job status
Phillips said on Monday that while he and UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart speak regularly, they have not discussed the status of his job.

"Mitch and I talk a couple times a week," Phillips said. "It's just small talk. He's been very encouraging."

Through UK athletics spokesman Tony Neely, Barnhart declined an interview request from CatIllustrated.com on Monday. Barnhart's stance remains the same, Neely said: Phillips' status will be evaluated at the end of the season.

Phillips, who fell to 12-20 as coach at UK with the loss to Arkansas, reiterated that he and Barnhart have maintained a good relationship.

"One thing Mitch and I, we're friends, and that's more important to me than anything on the business side," Phillips said. "We are friends. And I can tell you this: There's not a lot of people out there that can say they are friends (with their athletics director). There's not a lot. One of the things I do cherish and appreciate is our friendship."

Saturday Set as Dermontti Dawson Day
Plenty of UK alumni will return to campus this weekend for the university's homecoming festivities, but only one will have an entire day dedicated to honoring him. Former UK offensive lineman and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dermotti Dawson will also return to participate in 'Dermontti Dawson Day' on Saturday.

Dawson will sign autographs at the Wildcat Refuge for two hours before the game, and the first 10,000 fans in the stadium will receive a Dermontti Dawson rally towel.

"I am very honored that UK has honored me as well," he said on a teleconference with reporters on Monday. "I'm just truly honored that UK is honoring me this week."

Dawson became the second former UK player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he was enshrined on Aug. 4. He played at UK from 1984-87 and played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1988-2000. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler, from 1992-98, and was a six-time All-Pro selection from 1993-98. He was also named as the center for the NFL 1990's All-Decade Team.

"I still have a problem processing the Hall of Fame, because you never see yourself in that light," Dawson said. "But when you're actually enshrined, that's when it kind of hits you. It is a great honor."

Dawson is a Lexington native who played for Bryan Station High School.

Injury Report
Freshman quarterback Patrick Towles is doubtful for this weekend with a high ankle sprain. He was wearing a boot last week and on crutches, but was able to get up on his toes earlier this week, Phillips said.

"That's usually a good sign when you have a high ankle sprain," Phillips said. "We'll take a look at him probably about Wednesday and see what he can do."

Senior safety Mikie Benton is doubtful with an ankle sprain. Senior cornerback Cartier Rice is also doubtful with a hip flexor. Freshman cornerback Fred Tiller is day-to-day with a shin bruise suffered against Arkansas.

Senior defensive back Martavius Neloms and sophomore safety Ashely Lowery, who did not play last week with a hamstring injury and a concussion, respectively, are also day-to-day. They'll be evaluated at a later date this week.

Quarterback Maxwell Smith, tailback CoShik Williams, safety Glenn Faulkner and tight end Gabe Correll are all out.


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