Kentucky-Vanderbilt notes: Commodores' recent domination motivates Cats

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 15, 2013 

ukVvandy

Vandy wide receiver Jordan Matthews, left, jokes on th sidelines with quarterback Jordan Rodgers in the second half. The University of Kentucky Football team hosted Vanderbilt, Saturday, Nov. 03, 2012 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. Photo by Jonathan Palmer

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  • Tennessee at Kentucky

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

    TV: ESPNU

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

In the past two seasons, Kentucky has lost to Vanderbilt by a combined score of 78-8.

When the numbers are discussed, UK players visibly wince.

But those numbers don't tell the whole story. In those two wins over the Cats, Vanderbilt has outgained UK 857-471, including almost 300 more yards on the ground.

The 40-0 loss at Commonwealth Stadium last season was especially painful and UK's worst against the Commodores since 1916.

Some UK players say they're trying to forget the past and move forward.

Others seem to have different plans.

"Forget about forgetting them," fullback Cody Jones said Wednesday. "We need to use them as revenge. They've blown us out the past couple of times. This is a great opportunity to get fans back and look forward to what's going to happen next year."

Fellow senior Raymond Sanders tried the company line of moving forward, but he couldn't help but talk about getting some revenge, too.

"You let them go," he said of the past two games, "but you have to realize that those guys have beaten us bad the past two years and that has to motivate you and cause you to burn inside. ... Use motivation and just go out and play hard and fight."

It means a little bit more to Avery Williamson, the senior linebacker from Milan, Tenn. He'll have loads of family in the Vandy stands on Saturday.

Williamson doesn't care about UK's 2-7 record and winless mark in the Southeastern Conference.

He doesn't care that Vanderbilt is coming off a historic win at Florida — the first Commodores win there since 1945 — or that UK's opponent is one win shy of earning its third straight bowl trip.

"We're definitely playing with that chip on our shoulder because of what they did to us last year. ... Things didn't go our way," Williamson said.

But what gives Kentucky players confidence, especially when the numbers the past two seasons have been so dramatically against UK?

"This is a brand new team with a whole new coaching staff,," senior Donte Rumph said. "It's a different year. It's our turn to win now, so that's our motivation to win this week."

'Fantastic' Matthews

A week after facing one of the best up-and-coming wide receivers in Missouri's Dorial Green-Beckham, the Cats get to see the SEC's best receiver up close and personal.

"He's fantastic," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said of Jordan Matthews, who leads the SEC with 71 catches for 935 yards and five touchdowns. "The guy runs great routes; he's got good speed, he's got excellent ball skills. There's a reason why he's the top receiver in the SEC. That guy is a very, very skilled player."

And he has one up on the sophomore Green-Beckham, who had four touchdowns against Kentucky last week. Matthews is a veteran.

"The guy just understands the game so well and understands body position and understands when to jump for the ball and how to run routes," Eliot continued.

Gimmicks, trickery

Vanderbilt is good at a lot of things offensively, but maybe most troubling is its ability to confound a defense, Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops said.

"They do a variety of some trick plays or unique, gimmicky plays that you have to be locked in on," Stoops said. "Motion the quarterbacks out, just different sets that are a little bit unique, unbalanced sets, all sort of things. We'll have to be sharp."

It means Kentucky will have to constantly be on the lookout for clues, Eliot and Williamson said.

"You've got to be really sound because they can attack you in a lot of different ways," Eliot said. "Their players, like I said, are very smart and very good at execution."

Fourth-down facts

Both Kentucky and Vanderbilt are among the best in the nation on fourth down, with UK at eighth in the nation, converting on 69.6 percent of its tries (16-for-23).

The Commodores have converted on 14 of 19 attempts for 73.7 percent, sixth-best in the country.

In an interesting contrast, UK and Vanderbilt are tied for 105th out of 125 BCS teams in opponents' fourth-down conversions, each allowing it to happen 66.7 percent of the time.

Kentucky's defense has allowed eight first downs in 12 attempts and Vanderbilt's 12 in 18 attempts this season.

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