UK showed its better half in upset

It 'wasn't pretty,' but Cats will take it

ccosby@herald-leader.comNovember 23, 2009 

  • nEXT GAME

    Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday

    TV: ESPNU

A game where you get outgained 487-260 and still manage to pull out a win might be described by some as ugly.

But to Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks, the Wildcats' 34-27 come-from-behind win was a thing of beauty in its own way.

"We're not getting style points," Brooks said after the game. "It's not always pretty and this one wasn't pretty, but it looked like Bo Derek running down the beach to me late in the fourth quarter."

UK managed to overcome a 20-6 halftime deficit thanks in large part to four second-half turnovers by the Bulldogs. The game turned when Branden Smith fumbled the opening kickoff at the Georgia 8, setting up a Kentucky touchdown. The Bulldogs also fumbled on the UK 2-yard line while attempting to go in for the tying score with 2:21 left.

But before the win gets dismissed as total luck, Brooks also noted that the Cats missed out on an opportunity to recover another fumbled kickoff, and UK also caught a bad break when Matt Roark blocked a Drew Butler punt only to have Georgia's Shaun Chapas pick the ball up and run for a first down. A Georgia facemask penalty canceled out the first-down run, but Georgia got to re-kick, negating great field position for the Cats.

"You never know which way the ball's going bounce," Brooks said. "We had some bad luck too. We got lucky down on that goal line, but at least we were in the spot to recover. Sometimes it bounces your way, sometimes it doesn't. The good news is we were in position to take advantage of the opportunity and get some lady luck."

Brooks has reason to stick his chest out a little. The Cats have now won three SEC road games for the first time since 1977, which also happened to be the last time they won in Athens. They will also finish an unprecedented second-place in the SEC East if they can knock off Tennessee for the first time since 1984.

After the game, however, Brooks lamented his team's inability to put together two complete halves. It's been a glaring problem in both UK's wins and losses. The Cats appeared in control against Louisville but let the Cards back in it thanks to turnovers, and they had to come from behind in the second half in victories over Auburn and Vanderbilt before doing the same at Georgia.

Brooks was particularly displeased with a defensive sequence that saw Georgia score on four straight possessions from the end of the first quarter to intermission.

"Yeah, we were going back to the Hal Mumme days where you let 'em score so we can get back on offense," Brooks joked. "Most of their yards were in the first half when we played very bad football. The good news is after that, our defense responded well and the energy, intensity and execution picked up."

Brooks acknowledged that it's rare for teams to put it all together for an entire 60-minute period but added that 30 minutes won't cut it, either.

"It doesn't happen very often, but we sure ought to come closer to it than playing 35 like we did this week and maybe 40 minutes the week before," he said. "We came closer to it at Auburn than almost anytime in my recent memory since I've been here."

Brooks said teams like Kentucky have a lesser margin for error than a Florida or Alabama.

"It's possible, but in this league, unless you just have superior talent, which we don't have ... you're going to be in close games every week," Brooks said. "The question is how many breakdowns you have, how do you respond to adversity and how close do you play to your capability for 60 minutes. Fortunately we got it right the last 30 minutes."

Game week for Tennessee figures to have a lot of hoopla and hype. Brooks knows he'll have to make sure UK's head is out of the clouds, saying his team has overcome too much to slip up now.

"We had some missed opportunities earlier (in the year), and now we have a second chance," Brooks said. "A lot of times you don't get second chances in life. Everybody had given up on us. Now we have a second chance, a chance to finish second in the SEC East. We have to once again find a way to win."

Injury update

Several players may miss some practice time this week with minor injuries, but the Cats appeared to make it out of the Georgia game without anything too serious.

Among those nicked up are receiver Chris Matthews (MCL sprain), running back Derrick Locke (re-aggravated MCL sprain on non-surgical knee), linebacker Ronnie Sneed (shoulder sprain) offensive tackle Justin Jeffries (ankle), receiver Randall Cobb (shoulder) and linebacker Sam Maxwell (turf toe, shin). Brooks expects all the players to ready by the Tennessee game.

SEC bowl lineup

Ten of the Southeastern Conference's 12 teams have enough wins this season to play in a bowl game. Here are the bowls with SEC tie-ins. With one week left to play, the pecking order is still wildly unclear:

BCS Championship Game: Jan. 7, 8 p.m., Pasadena, Calif.

Sugar Bowl: Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m., New Orleans

Capital One Bowl: Jan. 1, 1 p.m., Orlando, Fla.

Cotton Bowl: Jan. 2, 2 p.m., Arlington, Texas

Outback Bowl: Jan. 1, 11 a.m., Tampa, Fla.

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m., Atlanta

Music City Bowl: Dec. 27, 8:30 p.m., Nashville

Independence Bowl: Dec. 28, 5 p.m., Shreveport, La.

PapaJohns.com Bowl: Jan. 2, 2 p.m., Birmingham, Ala.

Liberty Bowl: Jan. 2, 5:30 p.m., Memphis

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