UK football

UK football still clinging to bowl game hopes

Team still clingingto bowl game hopes

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 15, 2011 

Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver La'Rod King (16) pulled down a pass in the third quarter over Vanderbilt Commodores defensive back Steven Clarke (12) as Vanderbilt defeated Kentucky 38-8 on Saturday November 12, 2011 in Nashville,TN. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

MARK CORNELISON

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

There's no doubt Kentucky is down.

The players confirmed it on Monday.

"It's been hard but, at the same time, we're all in this together," senior offensive tackle Billy Joe Murphy said. "You can't dwell on losses; it'll kill you."

They also say that even though the Cats are down, they aren't out even if much of the outside world has counted them as such when they go to No. 13 Georgia on Saturday.

Kentucky, still reeling from a 30-point loss at Vanderbilt, is a 28-point underdog to the Bulldogs, who are one win shy of playing in the Southeastern Conference title game.

Kentucky's players and coaches are doing what they can to convince one another that their best games are still to come, that a bowl game is not out of reach.

"We've got to win out," sophomore linebacker Avery Williamson said. "It's rough, but I don't want to go home early. We've just got to keep the streak (of consecutive bowl games) alive and the team ego up and keep battling for a bowl game."

Murphy acknowledged that winning the game at Georgia and then beating Tennessee (a team UK hasn't beaten in 26 straight tries) the next week is a tall task.

"It's very steep, but hills are made to climb," he said. "A very tough game this week, gotta win to go to a bowl game, that's our goal. ... We've got a chance to do something big."

But the lineman and his teammates said they believe they still can turn the season around.

"Even through the bad, good comes," said senior tight end Nick Melillo, who scored his first career touchdown at Vandy last week. "We're a very close football team and that's one thing I will say that I'm proud of is we're all there for each other."

But Williamson said the losing has taken its toll on the team, especially the younger players.

"It's hard to keep them up," he said. "You've just got to go out and keep fighting every day and tell yourself that the season's not over with and that there's still a lot to fight for, that we have a bowl game to fight for and a chance to beat Tennessee."

Williamson is mirroring the message of Coach Joker Phillips, who said he still doesn't see quit in his team despite the big losses this season.

"We as coaches, we as players, we're competitors," Phillips said, "and we say there are still some things out there left for us to play for."

Cat fans at Carolina?

When Kentucky's coach was asked if South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier had called to wish the Cats good luck this weekend against Georgia (a Bulldogs loss would mean South Carolina would win the East Division), Phillips laughed.

"No, no," Phillips said. "He's got other things to focus on. I'm sure he's rooting for us this week, though."

But the coach said the Cats have at least one fan in South Carolina. Phillips said he received a text this weekend from that area code offering him dinner anywhere in the world if UK beats the Bulldogs.

I've "got to start picking out some places," Phillips joked.

Newton's second opinion

When quarterback Morgan Newton went home to get a second opinion on his high ankle sprain and sprained right shoulder, he was given the same answers he got from UK's staff, Phillips said.

"He was fine with what our doctors and what his doctors said. He's a lot better this week with both his ankle and his shoulder," the coach said.

Injury report

■ The X-ray on Martavius Neloms was negative, but he has a high ankle sprain and is doubtful versus Georgia.

■ Winston Guy (shoulder) will not practice early this week, but is probable for Saturday's game. Donte Rumph (ankle) has improved and likely will play, as will Cartier Rice (oblique muscle).

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