The Tennessee Volunteers had won 29 of the last 30 coming into the game tonight, certainly not much of a rivalry on the Kentucky Wildcats' end.
However, the UT game is always a big game on the schedule for UK. Part of that is that the last 10 years the series has been somewhat competitive sans last season in Knoxville.
Who can forget the heartbreak when Andre' Woodson could not punch it in on first and goal in Knoxville. How about the multi-overtime game in Lexington when Lones Seiber had a blocked FG to win it... The infamous game where Randall Cobb did not touch the ball and Joker punted inside his own 40-yard line. Chase Harp fumbling the ball deep in UT territory down three points.
Tonight was an electric atmosphere for the Halloween showdown and the fans felt it could be the nightcap to one of the more special Saturdays in Lexington history. American Pharoah put the finishing touches on his Grand Slam by winning the Breeders Cup and a UK win would ignite an all night party in Lexington.
Unfortunately, tonight would not even be a chance for heartbreak, just butt hurt.
The game did not start well for Kentucky as they went three and out without gaining a single yard. The Vols would convert three third downs and a fourth down and long as it seemed they were heading for a sustained scoring drive.
Marcus McWilson had already batted down a screen pass when he came around the edge and swatted the ball out of Dobbs' hand for a fumble. The 6'3" 300 pound CJ Johnson scooped the pigskin and rambled 82-yards for a TD to give the ‘Cats the 7-0 lead and huge momentum.
It would be really the only fun highlight of the night for UK
After their second three and out, the ‘Cats handed the ball to UT at midfield with a poor punt by Landon Foster (becoming the norm). A few plays later Josh Dobbs would scamper in from 28 yards out to tie the game.
Kentucky would finish the first quarter with another three and out to put the cherry on top of what was their worst offensive performance of the season in any given quarter.
After another mediocre punt from Landon Foster, the Vols converted THREE STRAIGHT third downs to get into field goal range and Medley put the Vols on top 10-7 with a 44-yarder.
Patrick Towles and the offense finally came to life as he was zipping passes around and Boom Williams was making people miss. Ultimately the ‘Cats would have a fourth and 7 in no man's land so they went for it. Towles scrambled for 22 yards to get into the red zone and he would scamper in on fourth and goal from the 1 a few plays later to give UK a 14-10 lead and a raucous crowd some big time momentum.
The joy was short lived, as it seems to always be with UK football, as on the first play from scrimmage Josh Dobbs was about a half second away from a sack when he launched a ball up for grabs. Josh Malone embarrassed Cody Quinn on the coverage by beating him and then getting out of his way as he fell down.
Malone essentially walked into the end zone from there and the air went out of the stadium faster than you Butch Jones turning purple over a bad call.
Kentucky would end up punting the ball with 2:30 left in the half and one UT Timeout. The punt was once again mediocre but the roll went our way to make it respectable. Tennessee seemed content to run the ball in their 2-minute offense and we allowed them to let Alvin Kamara run off tackle for 63 yards to set up a TD to give the Vols a 24-14 halftime lead
Tennessee would take it down the field on the opening drive and converting more third downs. One play was Josh Dobbs exposing the inability of UK defenders to conduct simple tackles. The other on a play that Jalen Hurd took on a screen pass and would have scored in flag football as he ran around 4 defenders.
The ensuing possession Patrick Towles would somehow not see a UT Defender on a screen and threw it into his belly for a near pick-6. The Vols would have Jalen Hurd power it in one play later to make it 38-14 and the route was officially in play.
The ‘Cats would come right back with a great drive highlighted by Mikel Horton and Garrett Johnson from 40 yards out to bring it to 38-21 with 8:50 left in the third quarter.
Per Kentucky Football, UT would return the ensuing kickoff 105 yards for a TD to get the lead back up to 24 points.
After the ‘Cats could not muster much of anything on offense, the punt was returned by Cam Sutton for a touchdown to give the Vols a 52-21 lead. Not only that, there was still half of the THIRD QUARTER left.
Might I remind you that we do not have a special teams coach.
The third quarter ended mercilessly with the Vols up 52-21.
The fourth quarter would play out just like you would expect a 52-21 game to play out with the teams going about 90% and A LOT of clock being burnt.
Kentucky would end up losing 52-21 but it was even worse than the score, believe it or not.
Kentucky has now been flat out embarrassed two weeks in a row. I know we are not where we want to be, and I know we are better than we were, but this team has now regressed in some areas in consecutive years now.
DJ Eliot has not gotten near as much heat as he should. Our defense has been horrendous lately and we were beneficiaries of a lot of bend but do not break early in the season.
The future may be bright for UK football, but it is a very long away from that at this point. Hopefully we can win two more games, attend a bowl, and Stoops can make some tough decisions on his staff for next year, he may want to start with hiring a special teams coach at least.