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Kentucky at Vanderbilt -- The Aftermath

As I listened to the game yesterday, I was struck by the tenseness of it all.  It was a big deal to me (and apparently, to others as well) that Kentucky wins this game with Vanderbilt.  There are a several reasons for this:

  1. It is a once-removed payback for the defeat we suffered at the hands of South Carolina.
  2. We will never earn respect in the SEC if we don't beat Vandy consistently.  This isn't fair to the 'Dores because their team played excellent football, and but for some errors in the red zone could well have won the game, but it is true nonetheless.
  3. We had to get to seven wins.  Six wins could have left us out of the bowl picture, and that would have been a tragedy for our seniors.

From where I sat, Vanderbilt was a worthy opponent and smacked us in the mouth.  Our lips are still bloodied from the physical nature of Vandy's game, and I must say I was surprised at how they were able to largely nullify our offense in the first half.  Kudos to the Commodores for a tough football game.  If you look at the stats for this game, you will scratch your head trying to figure out how Kentucky won.

What also surprises and disappoints me is that our defense is not really getting better.  Despite a healthy linebacking corps and a healthier line, Vandy ran the ball at will against us, particularly in the second half.  They outgained our offense for the game, and nobody would have figured that would happen and UK win the game.  The defense continues to disappoint, and although we knew it would not be great this year, I think we would have expected more improvement than this.

Vanderbilt was undone by uncharacteristic penalties and several failures to score in the red zone.  When you are playing at home, you must convert in the red zone or your odds of victory quickly approach zero.  Vandy failed not once, but twice, plus the missed a field goal just outside the red zone.

Some people say the Cats came out flat, and I think that is true to some extent.  Our offensive and defensive lines were simply dominated by the 'Dores in the first half.  However, as has been our wont all year, we came out much stronger in the second half and the adjustments worked well.  We began moving the ball on the ground, and Woodson got some protection and began to run and pass with success.  Our D-line began to get to the quarterback, and that was especially key late in the 4th quarter.

The officiating was apparently appalling.  We have been fortunate this year in that we have not suffered through a really poorly officiated game, but this one was evidently enough to make up for all of them.  Kentucky was hit with an astonishing 122 yards in penalties against Vandy's 66, which makes the fact we were able to win all the more impressive.  But for once, turnovers were not a liability -- they were a wash.

In my mind, the game ball gets shared by Keenan Burton and Derrick Locke.   Burton's big return in the second half got us the go-ahead touchdown, and Derrick Lock was just excellent again in relief of Raphael Little.  I do hope Little is healthy for Georgia -- we need him.  But apparently Dixon and Smith are getting closer to health, and I hope that is true.

So now, we must head down to Athens to face the Dawgs between the hedges.  We will be looking at that game later in the week, but the Dawgs are coming off a big win against Auburn, and it will take a lot to beat them at home.  If Kentucky can garner one more win in the SEC, it is possible for them to find their way into a January bowl.