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Vanderbilt in the Rear-View Mirror

Kentucky is now assured of its fourth .500 or better regular season in four years, and is bowl eligible for the fourth straight time.  That's a good feeling for Wildcat fans who have suffered through the unfortunate loss of Jeremy Jarmon, the mid-season loss of Mike Hartline, the long absence of Trevard Lindley, and various injuries to Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke which cost the Wildcats.

Did I say a good feeling?  It's a great feeling.

Looking back at the game, Eric Crawford of the Courier-Journal says the Vandy win was unconvincing.

Unless something surprising happens over the next two games, that's going to be the story of the season: a team that did what it was supposed to do but nothing more.

Given the inordinate and costly injuries, I'd say Kentucky deserves more credit than that, but from a macro standpoint, you have to say that Crawford isn't far off.  Chris Low of ESPN, however, has an alternative viewpoint more favorable to the Wildcats:

It's no secret that Rich Brooks has done a terrific job in elevating Kentucky's program to a level of respectability, but this may be one of his better jobs when you consider all the injuries the Wildcats have endured this season.

More after the jump.

John Clay thinks that UK has what it takes to win out:

Second half on this Saturday, the Cats outgained the Commodores 225-31. The visitors had 13 first downs the final two quarters, the home team had one. Vanderbilt did not convert a single third down.

It is remarkable what the defense was able to do in the second half, and it was laudable that Brooks & Co. made the decision to stick with Morgan Newton.  It required Cobb and Derrick Locke to sacrifice their bodies with a bunch of carries, but Vandy simply wasn't able to stop the Wildcats' running game, and the coaching staff decided that they were going to run it until Vandy stopped them, which did eventually happen.  Then Newton was able to find some open receivers and put the game out of reach.

Finally, it seems that Mike Hartline is done for the season, which is probably good for him and the team, under the difficult circumstances:

Brooks says the speed of the game injured the knee enough to warrant surgery. True freshman Morgan Newton will remain the starter, while receiver Randall Cobb will continue to take between 10 and 20 snaps a game in the spread offense formation.

I wish Mike well, and a quick recovery.  Now, the quarterback controversy is over and done with.  Newton is the man, and we will live or die with him taking the lion's share of the snaps this year.  Hartline will have a chance to win the job back as a senior, and if his recovery from surgery is as strong as Derrick Locke's, I think he will.

This was a big win for a banged-up UK team trying not to take a step back, and it is a credit to their determination that they refused to give up in a hostile arena when giving up would have been easy.  I credit the leadership of Cobb, Locke and Newton, who played football like full grown men.  Congratulations to them.

Now, on to Athens!