Mathematically, Kentucky is out of bowl contention for the second straight year.
But even after their 29-24 loss on Saturday night, the Cats and their coaches say they still have goals.
"We still have a lot to play for," senior center Matt Smith said. "We're getting a lot of these younger guys reps for their future. It's tough being a senior knowing that I'm not going to make it to a bowl now in my final season, but there's still a lot to play for."
Coach Joker Phillips said the seniors are why Kentucky will continue to fight hard in its final four games of the season.
"We've got some seniors in there," Phillips said. "We're motivated to play for those guys. Those guys have done a good job of leading this young team. I can tell you this, those young guys are going to fight their tails off for those seniors who have been with us for a long time."
Sophomore Demarco Robinson agreed.
"We've got a lot to play for," Robinson said. "We've got a lot of young guys who need help. We've got a lot of old guys who are seniors playing in their last year and we feel like we owe it to them. We have a lot of fans still coming to the game, so we owe it to them, too."
Morgan Newton, who has been relegated to the sideline for much of this season after starting at quarterback last season, was more nostalgic when asked why the Cats would continue to fight despite the bowl being out of reach.
"You really just play for your last opportunities to play football," he said. "You really just enjoy the time you have with the guys. You enjoy the process. Also, we've really got to set a good example for the young guys of how to work, prepare. How to have an attitude at times when times aren't so great because that will be really important for them going forward."
'He's my big brother'
If Raymond Sanders needed any motivation to get that extra yardage on Saturday, he only needed to look down.
On his blue chest was the No. 26, which he wore to honor his friend and fellow running back CoShik Williams, who is out for the rest of the season with a hip injury.
"I think he'd be pretty satisfied with how I ran the ball tonight," Sanders said of his 72 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown. "I'm pretty sure he'll be giving me a call soon, like he does after every game. I was just trying to represent his number well and show him how much I love him as a brother. Since I've been here, he's taken me in, let me stay over at his house, let me do everything, cook for me and everything. So I just wanted to show him respect and let him know he's my big brother."
Whitlow battles migraine
Freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow spent much of the second half with a towel draped over his head, sitting on the Kentucky bench.
His head pounded like the drums in the UK band.
Whitlow was struggling through a migraine, something he's been battling "pretty much all my life," he said afterward.
"I don't know how I got it," he said. "I just got one around halftime. Just fight it off, just took some medicine. Just sat down and tried to fight it off, just relax for a minute, and got back out there and tried to play, tried to help my team win."
Whitlow said his vision gets blurred and the headaches sometimes last an hour.
He was able to return late in the game and help lead UK on its final drives.
Whitlow was pleased with his 9-for-13 passing performance for 86 yards. He also caught a pass on a trick play and took that 33 yards to set up a score.
The freshman quarterback said he was more relaxed going into this game than he had been in previous ones.
"I just told myself before the game to just play football, forget all the negativity, everything, just go out there and play football and have fun," he said.
After weeks of serious injury after serious injury, UK came out of this game fairly intact. Offensive lineman Zach West reinjured his shoulder but was able to return. Whitlow had his bout with the migraine, but also came back in. Senior cornerback Cartier Rice continued to battle a hip flexor issue.
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com