KENTUCKY 38, VANDERBILT 20
Nov. 13, 2010
Commonwealth Stadium; Lexington, Ky.
The seniors made sure Senior Day didn't go to waste.
Derrick Locke, playing for the first time since Oct. 9, broke off a career-best 83-yard run and finished with 145 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Chris Matthews brought in a 55-yard touchdown catch, the longest of his career.
Throw in a normal day's worth of typical Randall Cobb logic-defying plays - he ran for 170 yards on just 10 carries - and Kentucky won 38-20, clinching a fifth-straight year of bowl eligibility.
Mike Hartline finished with 232 yards passing and one touchdown. The fifth-year senior was pulled in the fourth quarter to a standing ovation and was replaced by senior walk-on quarterback Tyler Sargent.
"We challenged the team at halftime. We challenged them before the game also, but at halftime, we actually put it on the team, put it on those guys, told them, 'Don't come out if you're not ready to play inspired football.' We talked about juice. (Coaches) can have as much juice as we want, but if they don't have juice it doesn't really matter."
"You all are probably too young to remember, but that one (Randall Cobb) scramble reminded me of Freddie Soloman from years ago. (Cobb) dropped back about 30 yards and ends up gaining 40. I think he probably ran 80 or 90 yards to gain 40 right there. It was impressive to watch." -- Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell, comparing Randall Cobb to the former NFL wide receiver who won two Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers.
FROM THE LOCKER ROOM
"It made me feel like I was back in high school for a second. Just out there playing. I'm not even tired right now, we could go play again right now. I've been running through the hallways. I promise you." -- Randall Cobb, on his 52-yard scramble.
5 - There is no way to overstate how much it means to Kentucky's growing football program to continue it's bowl eligibility streak at five consecutive years, a sign that even though it may not have exploded into full-scale contender status yet the locomotive is still moving down that particular set of tracks. Critics will cite UK's thin non-conference schedule and a watered down bowl system as having more to do with the run than anything else, but whatever the reasons you have to actually go out and win enough games to put yourself in position to reach the postseason and continue to grow the program.
Randall Cobb had already roared through the Vanderbilt defense for a 73-yard touchdown on the Cats' second offensive play of the second half, gutting the Commodores right up the middle before cutting back and out-racing a defensive back to the end zone to give UK the lead. But it was Cobb's 52-yard zig zag run on the first play of the Cats' third possession that helped set up the touchdown that put UK up two scores and gave them all the momentum.
DID YOU NOTICE?
It was a bizarre Senior Day for wide receiver Chris Matthews, who hauled in a 55-yard touchdown pass from Mike Hartline in the fourth quarter to give him nine scoring receptions on the season. The catch must have felt good given Matthews had a first half possession where he was flagged for a personal foul, dropped a potential long-gaining pass and then got nailed for holding on a Cobb touchdown run. Even on the scoring grab the senior got tagged with an excessive celebration penalty.
Mike Hartline has taken more abuse than any collegiate player should ever shoulder during his career but he continued his sensational senior season with another impressive performance against the Commodores. Hartline passed for 232 yards and a touchdown, giving him at least 200 yards passing in every game this season and raising his season totals to 2,906 passing yardswith 22 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
Like so many Vanderbilt-Kentucky games that have preceded this one, the latest edition began with Vanderbilt's kicker basically missing the ball on the opening kickoff and ended with Vanderbilt's offense piling up 136 yards, nearly half its average per game for the season (267). Kentucky's offense stumbled over itself for much of the quarter and settled for a tying field goal after having 1st-and-goal at the Vanderbilt 4 late in the quarter. Total Yards: Kentucky 49; Vanderbilt 136
One play sums up Kentucky's entire first half, but also a second quarter when even if things went right, they went wrong: Facing a 3rd-and-4 at midfield in the final minute of the half, Mike Hartline dumped a well set-up screen pass to Derrick Locke. The only problem was Locke was sitting flat on his rear end. Furthermore, when the Cats gained momentum with a Randall Cobb touchdown that gave them the lead it took one of the worst offenses in the nation just three plays to go 74 yards and reclaim the lead Total Yards: Kentucky 161; Vanderbilt 106
Kentucky has maintained all year it can't rely on always having to come back after halftime but once again the Cats returned from the locker room a completely different team. The defense produced three quality stops in succession and UK turned the great Randall Cobb loose with a 73-yard touchdown run and 52-yard jaunt that looked like it came straight from the old video game Super Tecmo Bowl. And suddenly, UK was played the way it should have all along. Total Yards: Kentucky 213; Vanderbilt 38
By the time Vanderbilt tacked on a meaningless touchdown late in the game the Cats had exploded for four unanswered touchdowns, punctuated by a 55-yard pass to Chris Matthews and an 83-yard run by Derrick Locke. The most meaningful moment may have come when Joker Phillips gave Mike Hartline the opportunity to get one, final applause by putting him on the field for a late play before taking him out. Hartline deserved that feeling. Total Yards: Kentucky 157; Vanderbilt 120
Another home schedule of Kentucky football has come and gone with a 38-20 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday. Since the game gives UK six wins and secures another mid-level bowl game, it would be easy to dismiss the Senior Day game as no different than a dozen seasons before. If not for the human drama. Mike Hartline, maligned by many, capped a banner season while fans may have been afforded their final Commonwealth Stadium appearance by Randall Cobb, one of the most electrifying players to ever wear the blue and white.
Ricky Lumpkin has been one of the most impassioned players to come through Kentucky's football program since its rebirth, a link or sorts between the past, present and future. So it's fitting he delivered a halftime speech that jolted the Cats to life and helped spur them to a fifth consecutive year of bowl eligibility. You can bet nobody in that locker room wanted to travel to Knoxville needing a sixth victory, and now they don't have to worry about such a scenario.
Kentucky (6-5, 2-5) finally has its bye week after 11 consecutive games before heading to Knoxville to try and end a 25-game losing streak to rival Tennessee at Neyland Stadium on Nov. 27. The time will be announced at a later date.