Kentucky is assured of a losing record this season, but the Wildcats still have a chance to make history this weekend. A win at Missouri would keep the Tigers (3-4, 0-4 Southeastern Conference) from winning their first game as a member of the SEC.
But Missouri is coming off a bye week, the third straight team UK (1-7, 0-5 SEC) is facing that had a bye in the previous week. Even with another loss for the Wildcats, there was momentum to be found on Saturday.
"I just think it was important for us as a team to come out and compete and I think a lot of it had to do with how we started, how fast we started. It gave a young team some confidence," Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said.
Players found some positives in their performance as well. The Wildcats' previously porous run defense held Georgia to just 77 yards on the ground in a 29-25 loss.
The offense even had a few bright spots. The 25 points UK scored against the Bulldogs is the second-most the Cats have scored in a regulation game this season, and the most they've scored since quarterback Maxwell Smith was lost to an ankle injury.
"No loss feels good, but when you know you performed good, it helps it hurt a little less," sophomore offensive tackle Darrian Miller said.
Missouri has struggled since moving from the Big 12, but still presents plenty of challenges. Starting quarterback James Franklin, a dual-threat who had 36 total touchdowns in 2011, could play this weekend after being in and out of the lineup in recent weeks. He was listed as doubtful on Monday, according to reports.
The Tigers are also among the national leaders in plays that generate negative yardage on defense. They average almost 8.5 tackles for loss per game, disrupting offenses with big plays,
"They do a lot of stunts, they're really good at penetrating and ending up in the backfield," Miller said. "They're one of the leaders in tackles for loss, so that could potentially be a problem."
Even after being assured of another losing season, Saturday is still a chance for the Wildcats to build on the momentum generated last week. Finishing the season on a high note can roll over to 2013, Phillips said.
That's what drives the Wildcats forward even as their record continues to suffer.
"We didn't get the end result that we wanted to, but there was a lot of progress has been made," senior defensive end Taylor Wyndham said. "There's a whole lot more that needs to be made for us to turn things around."
Foster Receives Honor Again
Freshman punter Landon Foster was an honorable mention for punter of the week as named by the College Football Performance Awards for his effort against Georgia, it was announced on Sunday.
He has received an honorable mention for punter of the week five times this season in eight games for the Wildcats, and in each of the last three weeks for his performances against Arkansas and Mississippi State. He was also an honorable mention SEC player of the week this week.
Foster has just two touchbacks against 10 punts dropped inside the 20 this season for UK. He also has 16 punts of more than 50 yards on the year.
Foster has punted 41 times this season for 1,769 yards, an average of 43.1 yards per punt. Glenn Pakulak holds the school record for best punting average in a career at 44.43 yards. Foster's average would put him second, ahead of Paul Calhoun, Ryan Tydlacka and Tim Masthay, respectively.
Wyndham's Beard Grows
Defensive end/linebacker Taylor Wyndham's facial hair has been growing for 82 consecutive days. It qualified as a full weeks months ago. Now, it's thicker
"The guys envy it and the women hate it," he said.
With Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel as his inspiration, Wyndham hasn't shaved his beard since Aug. 2. It's meant to intimidate opponents, along with the copious amounts of eye black that he applies before games.
He'll shave it when the season ends, but not before. Phillips says he'll need to shave it when he begins speaking to NFL teams about his future after college.
"I call him Wilson, because he looks like Tom Hanks in 'Castaway,'" Phillips said.
Freshman quarterback Patrick Towles is day-to-day with a high ankle sprain, but expects to try and practice tomorrow. Towles would be eligible for a medical hardship waiver to retain a year of eligibility if he doesn't return this season.
If he's able to play, he'll be re-inserted into the Wildcats' quarterback rotation. He'll alternate with freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow.
"If Towles can play, he'll play," Phillips said. "It will be the same situation as it was in the Mississippi State game."
Senior safety Mikie Benton is day-to-day with an ankle injury, but will try to practice on Tuesday.