After rare win at Florida, Vandy now focused on Cats

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 11, 2013 

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

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

    TV: ESPNU

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

Vanderbilt is coming off a significant win, but its players and coaches said that game is in the rear-view mirror.

The Commodores, who earned their first win over Florida since 1988 and their first victory at The Swamp since 1945, said they are fully focused on Kentucky.

"We've shown we can handle adversity, now we have to show we can handle success," said Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin, whose team will try to become bowl eligible for a third straight season on Saturday against the Cats.

Even though Vanderbilt (5-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) has beaten UK by a combined score of 78-8 over the past two seasons, including a 40-0 shutout at Commonwealth Stadium last season, the Commodores said they aren't cocky.

"Too many pats on the back make you soft," defensive end Walker May said on Monday. "That is something my dad always said. What we're going to try to do is win each week. It is one week at a time, one game at a time. The past is in the past, it doesn't matter who we've played or what the outcome was."

In those two wins over Kentucky, Vanderbilt outgained the Cats 857-471, including nearly 300 more yards (430-133) on the ground.

The Commodores have held UK to 17.2 percent success on third down (5-for-29), while VU has converted on 60 percent of its third-down attempts in those games.

Coming off a 48-17 loss to No. 9 Missouri last week, Coach Mark Stoops said Kentucky's focus needs to be on getting better.

Asked whether the Cats (2-7, 0-5) could find some motivation in dashing Vandy's bowl hopes an extra week, Stoops said, "That means nothing to me. Whatever motivates our kids, fine, but that won't be something I talk about. ... If that's good for us to stop them from going to a bowl game, I mean, we need the win for us, for our fans, for all the things we're talking about. For our people and our kids and our program. That's motivation enough for me."

Injury updates

Coaches are hopeful that Kentucky's second-leading wide receiver, Ryan Timmons, will be back in time for the Vanderbilt game. The true freshman, who sprained his ankle against Alabama State, missed the Cats' loss to Missouri.

"I hope so. We're going to see," Stoops said when asked of Timmons' return. "That's what we're shooting for. He's going to be out there working with our trainers today and running around a little bit. The idea is to try to get him out there tomorrow."

■ Stoops didn't offer any specific updates about the Cats' cornerbacks, but did imply that UK could be without at least one of them against Vanderbilt, mentioning that Jaleel Hytchye got more snaps last week and that "it looks like he may have to play a little bit more again this week."

When Stoops was asked to elaborate, he said UK was a "little banged up" in secondary and he'll "see how it goes this week."

UK cornerback Fred Tiller was taken to the locker room for an undisclosed injury on Saturday and did not return. Nate Willis also went down in that game, but he played after the initial injury.

■ Since injuring his hand and getting a large cast, freshman defensive end Jason Hatcher has been seeing less playing time, but Stoops said the players is getting better. "We're able to trim that cast down a little bit more and have a little more function with his hand."

'Staying away from that'

During the loss to Missouri, it looked as though Stoops specifically called a timeout to express his frustration to an official about a call after it appeared Miles Simpson had recovered a fumble on a punt.

Officials said the fumble didn't count because a whistle had been blown for an illegal formation on the kicking team. Officials told Stoops the play was whistled dead.

He appeared to adamantly disagree.

When asked on Monday if he'd discussed that with the Southeastern Conference, he said no.

"Just staying away from that," he said. "Just moving on to Vanderbilt. It's just on to Vandy. It's just tough, you know, but it is what it is. We have a tough time overcoming things. We've got to coach better, we've got to play better. There's no excuse there."

On two calls versus South Carolina, Stoops said he'd talked to SEC head of officials Steve Shaw afterward and that Shaw had indicated the calls had been incorrect.

Quick hitters

Kentucky's game at Georgia on Nov. 23 will be played at 7 p.m. and be seen on either ESPN2 or ESPNU, the league office announced on Monday. That means at least six of UK's 12 games this season will have been played at night.

■ With a Tennessee game to go, the total announced attendance at Commonwealth Stadium so far this season is 361,317, up 13,479 from last season's final tally of 347,838.

■ If Vanderbilt beats Kentucky on Saturday, it will even the overall series 41-41-4.


Saturday

Kentucky at Vanderbilt

When: 12:21 p.m. TV: WKYT-27

Records: Kentucky 2-7 (0-5 SEC); Vanderbilt 5-4 (2-4)

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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