UK football notes: Mistakes, missed opportunities kill the Cats

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 13, 2011 

NASHVILLE — It stings enough to lose a game.

It stings even more when you bring some of it on yourself.

"It's always disappointing when you self-inflict," defensive coordinator Rick Minter said after Kentucky's 38-8 loss at Vanderbilt, which saw the Cats rack up 10 penalties for 105 yards.

"It's one thing to get beat, it's another thing when you help them hit yourself in the mouth," Minter continued.

Before the game, UK had been penalized for just 292 yards.

And the penalties Kentucky had Saturday proved costly more often than not. Take the back-to-back pass interference calls that helped give Vandy its largest lead of the game, 31-0.

"We had penalty after penalty after penalty in crucial situations," Cats Coach Joker Phillips said.

Penalties on both sides of the ball had the coaches scratching their heads. To make matters worse, Vandy had just three penalties for 25 yards.

"Some of the penalties we had today were from guys that normally don't have penalties," UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. "Those are things that are hard to explain and are very frustrating."

Phillips was asked if the opponent was "baiting" UK into making those penalties, but the coach didn't buy it.

"Nobody should be able to bait a Kentucky team into any type of penalty like that," Phillips said.

Minter agreed.

"There's no excuse for us doing things that are either foolish, silly or us losing our composure," he said. "We'll address all those things tomorrow."

Third-down debacles

Sometimes the Commodores did it with a pass. Sometimes they did it with a run.

But no matter how they did it, they seemed to have their way with Kentucky on big third-down plays.

Minter said Kentucky would get leverage on the down, especially forcing long third-down situations, and then "let them off the hook."

Especially in third-and-long situations, the Commodores were able to capitalize.

On the other side of the ball, UK didn't help itself by not converting on a third down in its 12 tries.

"We just can't miss as many opportunities as we missed today," Sanders said. "We didn't allow ourselves a chance to stay on the field today and be productive."

Injuries taking toll

The post-game injury report wasn't nearly as lengthy as it's been in the past, but the injuries Phillips announced were notable, especially for the defense, especially with a must-win game at No. 14 Georgia looming.

The two biggest names were junior safety Martavius Neloms, who has an injured right ankle, and senior safety Winston Guy, who has a sprained left shoulder.

Guy came into the game second on the team in tackles with 93, including 11 for loss. The senior tied for a team-high nine tackles with Randall Burden on Saturday.

Neloms was third on the team in tackles with 65 with four pass breakups. The junior safety had six tackles Saturday.

The defense already was missing two key cogs in linebacker Ridge Wilson (shoulder) and tackle Donte Rumph (ankle). Rumph practiced at the end of this week and dressed for the game but didn't play.

"We're banged up, there's no question, but we'll coach the guys that show up," Minter said. "We'll find out on Tuesday morning who can rise up and overcome those bangs and bruises and injuries, whatever they might be."

Linebacker Ronnie Sneed, who was wearing an ice pack on his shoulder, agreed.

"We don't really know the status of all those injuries. We could have them back for the next game," Sneed said. "It's still really early. We just have to focus and prepare for those guys to play and for us to play without them."

The other injury of note was left tackle Chandler Burden, who hurt his right thumb.

'Changed forever'

Despite reducing prices and giving tickets away to season ticket-holders, Vanderbilt still couldn't pack its stadium as Coach James Franklin had hoped.

An announced crowd of 33,718 showed up at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday.

But even though the stadium atmosphere hasn't changed, the product on the field has, UK coaches and players noted.

"They're definitely a changed team," UK tight end Nick Melillo said. "This is a growing football program and they played a heck of a football game."

Minter took it one step further.

"I saw a Vanderbilt team that's perhaps changed forever for the better."

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