Kentucky Wildcats vs. Tennessee VolunteersSaturday 26 November 2011 | 12:21 pm EST Commonwealth Stadium (67,606) | Lexington, KY | SEC Network
Johnny Majors spoke at a function in Chattanooga Monday evening and remarked that if the Vols defeat Kentucky on Saturday in Lexington, the comeback win last week over Vandy will be the turning point in Derek Dooley’s career. That means that the moment Las Vegas revealed Vanderbilt as a favorite over the host Vols before last week’s game will be officially labeled ‘the bottom’. Of course, all that goes up in smoke if the ‘Cats defeat Tennessee, and that would be a far worse bottom. And, it would break The Streak. And nothing comes easy for Tennessee in this series that, no matter how lopsided the W-L tally, is always a hard-fought contest.
A lot was made about Kentucky’s loss at Georgia last week. The score was 19-10. Only a nine-point win over the SEC East winner, on the road, was something for the Vol Nation to be worried about.
The score flattered Kentucky.
It was still the mismatch that it was supposed to be.
For starters, Kentucky rushed for a total of 23 net yards. Granted that total was greatly impacted by the minus-29 yards as a result of four sacks by the Georgia front line. But when your leading rushers, Raymond Sanders and CoShik Williams, carry for a total of only 48 yards, you aren’t doing much to give you a chance for an upset.
Adding to the woe was ‘Cats QB Maxwell Smith who threw, while injured, for only 133 yards and a lone TD on a 17-for-34 day, including two INTs.
Georgia’s effort wasn’t stellar either, partly due to losing their leading rusher, Isaiah Crowell, on the first offensive series. They relied on a third-string tailback to carry the load, which weighed 101 yards. Dawg QB Aaron Murray only threw for 162 yards on 16-for-29.
Notwithstanding Kentucky’s inspired defensive effort, the Wildcats were outmanned, out-played, and are now down-and-out, having been eliminated from bowl considerations.
To put it bluntly, this Kentucky team is close to horrific.
Their big playmakers from the past years are gone — Randall Cobb, Derrick Locke, Mike Hartline and Chris Matthews.
That’s how you go from bowl eligible to a likely 4-8 in only 12 months. That’s how head coach Joker Phillips gets on fans’ short list — the short-timer list, that is.
There was the ‘Cats loss to Vanderbilt 38-8, their worst loss to the Commodores since 1969. Losses to the SEC elite is one thing. Losing by 30 to Vandy is an embarrassment.
Their QB situation is dreadful. True freshman Maxwell Smith is in doubt Saturday after spraining his throwing shoulder last week. Former starting QB Morgan Newton, a junior and former ‘Mr.Football’ in Indiana (Indianapolis), hurt his ankle and shoulder on 29 October in a loss against Mississippi State. Both have seen practice time this week but both are far less than a hundred percent. There is no alternative on the bench.
The only thing the Wildcats accomplished during this dreadful season was driving the final nail in the coffin of Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt with their 30-13 win over the Rebels. Frankly, that should be considered mop-up duty — Nutt was already long dead.
The lone star-powered Wildcat is senior LB Danny Trevathan.
The Leesburg, Florida native was not highly recruited out of high school. Perhaps that has something to do with his less-than-prototypical size for a linebacker — 6′ 1″ and 232.
But for what he has lacked in size, he has exceeded with his leadership and on-field performances. And his motivation, powered by being left off of the Butkus Award watch list, has manifested in numbers that should leave the award voters embarrassed.
Following the announcement of the Award’s semi-finalists in late October, Trevathan has 58 tackles — 17 tackles in three of the four games — four and a half for a loss, three forced fumbles, and two INTs.
On the season, Trevathan has 135 tackles, more than all but one of the Award’s semifinalists.
Saturday is Trevathan’s last game as a Wildcat. Expect nothing less than all-out warfare from the senior. I’m sure he would gladly have a streak-breaking win over the Vols than a personal award.
Saturday is Tennessee’s opportunity to become bowl-eligible, the minimum expectation of any Tennessee football team.
Games for Tennessee in Lexington are never easy, no matter the comparative strengths of the teams.
Kentucky’s weaknesses are many. Their strength is their defense, along with their collective disgust for the nation’s longest losing streak against a single opponent in college football.
Tennessee’s advantage will be the same as it was last week — a squad, both offense and defense, rejuvinated by the return of QB Tyler Bray.
All things point to the Vols throttling Kentucky’s offense, sans turnovers being turned into easy points.
I’m optimistic to the point of expecting the goal posts in Commonwealth Stadium to remain standing after the game.
Tennessee 28 Kentucky 14