Sunday, November 16, 2008

Kentucky Football

Vanderbilt 31, Kentucky 24
Commodores keep it just out of reach
Cats' rally falls short; Vandy gets bowl-eligible http://http//
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The temperature started cold at Commonwealth Stadium last night and stayed that way.

The University of Kentucky football team warmed up, but that came too late.
The Wildcats got off to what's become a customary slow start, then came up short in a comeback bid, losing 31-24 to Vanderbilt last night in front of a bundled-up crowd of 65,595 on Senior Night.
"I obviously did not get this team ready to play," UK coach Rich Brooks said. "Even though I thought I did everything I possibly could to convince them how important it was to come out with energy, the first 30 minutes were awful."
The last 30 were better but not good enough.
Vanderbilt (6-4, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) limited UK to 5 minutes and 10 seconds of possession time in the first half, then made enough key plays in the second to hold on, becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 1982.
The Commodores snapped a streak of 19 straight losses in games in which they entered with five wins, dating to 1984.
They did it thanks to a quick start -- quarterback Chris Nickson threw touchdown passes to cornerback/wide receiver D. J. Moore on Vandy's first two possessions for a 14-0 lead -- and some key UK miscues.
"(When) something negative happened, we didn't overcome it," UK defensive coordinator Steve Brown said.
Twice, the Cats (6-5, 2-5) roughed Vanderbilt punter Brett Upson to keep drives alive.
An even more crucial roughing call was the game's biggest momentum swing.
Late in the third quarter, with UK trailing 24-17, Cats cornerback David Jones intercepted a Nickson pass and returned it inside the 40-yard line. But linebacker Micah Johnson was flagged for roughing the passer.
"I wasn't trying to hurt him or hit him hard, helmet-to-helmet," Johnson said. "It's hard to slow up when you're going in full speed and pull up all the way. I pulled up as much as I could at the last second, but it obviously wasn't enough."
Vanderbilt retained possession, and on its next play from scrimmage, Nickson ran off right tackle for 36 yards to UK's 15-yard line. Two plays later, running back Jared Hawkins scored from 4 yards.
Vanderbilt led 31-17, and from there, the Commodores held on.
"Obviously that's a huge play in the game, because we intercept and we've got the ball at their 35- or 40-yard line," Brooks said. "We have all the momentum going our way, then they convert and -- boom -- go down and score on us right after that play."
Nickson completed 15 of 27 passes for 155 yards and three touchdowns, and he ran 20 times for 118 yards.
"Nickson had a field day on us," Brooks said. "He hurt us a bunch of times, and we let them off the hook on third down numerous times, continuing a trend that I don't quite understand on defense."
Vandy was 7 of 15 on third-down conversions.
But while the UK defense came up wanting, Moore gave the 'Dores a boost. He caught the first three passes of his career for 51 yards and two touchdowns. On defense, he picked off two of UK quarterback Randall Cobb's, including one that iced the win on a cold night.
Trailing 31-24 and driving, Cobb -- who was 11 of 26 for 144 yards with the two interceptions and ran 15 times for 72 yards and a touchdown -- threw a fourth-down pass that Moore intercepted at the Vanderbilt 17-yard line with 2:07 to play.
The Commodores ran out the clock from there, and celebrated bowl eligibility. Brooks had warned his team that Vandy -- which had lost four straight after starting the season 5-0 -- would play with heated intensity on a frosty night when temperatures dipped into the mid-30s.
The Cats didn't receive the message.
"I think we overlooked them," Cobb said. "Vanderbilt's a hard-nosed team. They have good players just like we do. We had to match what they did (early), and we didn't do that tonight."

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