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November 16, 2013

Cats frustrated again after loss at Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Another chance.

Another one wasted.

Kentucky (2-8, 0-6 SEC) played its way into an opportunity to beat Vanderbilt (6-4, 3-4 SEC) and turn signs of progress into a tangible signal of improvement, but instead lost 22-6.

"Same old song and dance," coach Mark Stoops said. "Upset. Frustrated."
Same emotions for the same reasons.

"Disappointing loss," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said hoarsely. "You can probably tell by my voice."

It was an all-to-familiar defeat that left Stoops and his team wondering why they keep coming up short.

"I get sick of hearing the same old things," said senior linebacker Avery Williamson, who hasn't won an SEC game since his sophomore year. "We should have had it. I want to come into the locker room happy for once."

Kentucky seemingly had everything set up for a positive post-game experience.

It started with a defensive stop and a touchdown drive.

But the subsequent extra point was blocked and returned 98 yards by Vanderbilt, and that play proved a microcosm of UK's struggles. For every positive, there were two negatives.

"It's very frustrating when you play so hard and get so close," junior defensive end Bud Dupree said, "and can't pull out a win again."

Dupree anchored a defense that kept the Wildcats in it throughout the game. Vanderbilt scored on just one of its first eight drives, and UK stayed within one possession through three quarters.

But the offense couldn't muster any support, gaining just 262 yards and moving the ball inside the Vanderbilt 30-yard line zero times after the opening drive.

"We're not good enough right now," Brown said. "It's pretty plain to see."

Quarterback Jalen Whitlow finished with 17 rushes for a team-high 69 yards and completed 14 of 28 passes for 120 yards passing with zero touchdowns and four interceptions. He had just one coming into the game.

"Frustrating day for Jalen," Stoops said. "We didn't play good enough at that position."

But two of those came on desperation passes and one came on a tipped pass.

"You know, the biggest thing he's got to do is, he can't get down on himself," Brown said. "I think very few of those were on him."

Whitlow was far from the Wildcats' biggest problem. Big plays were wiped out by miscues and penalties. Delay-of-game and false start penalties on the opening drive of the second half. Three straight negative plays when points were a must in the fourth quarter that forced a punt. Four drives after the initial touchdown that made it past midfield but resulted in no change on the scoreboard.

"Our margin for error is so small," Brown said. "We can't overcome self-inflicted wounds."

The biggest came in the fourth quarter, when UK had a 45-yard pass called back for holding.

"Summarizes our season, right?" Stoops said.

The season's complete enough to be summarized, but the ending hasn't been written, yet.

Stoops sees his team playing with energy and effort. He's "proud" of that.

"But I'm not saying that's good enough," Stoops said.

And so the Wildcats continue to look for their first SEC win, for concrete evidence that this season is indeed better than the last.

"That," Williamson said," would mean the world to me."


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