If anyone asked before the season who would lead Kentucky in interceptions this year, Trevard Lindley probably would have been a unanimous pick. But Lindley has been slowed by an ankle injury, allowing linebacker Sam Maxwell to fill that void.
Maxwell, a 6-foot-3, 248-pound senior in his first year as a full-time starter, stepped in front of a quick pass by Eastern Kentucky's T.J. Pryor for his team-leading fourth interception of the year late in the third quarter. That set up Morgan Newton's 18-yard TD pass on the next play that gave Kentucky a 30-6 lead.
"I knew they were going to run the quick out," Maxwell said. "I was playing that route the whole time. As soon as I saw (Pryor) break down, I shot forward and it ended up happening."
In addition to his four interceptions, Maxwell also has 53 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and seven pass breakups this season.
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"Sam's probably one of the most underrated players on our team let alone in this league," UK Coach Rich Brooks said. "He's got a nose for the football. All he does is make plays. He's an outstanding player."
When asked how he would have reacted before the season if he was told he'd be the team leader in interceptions, Maxwell said, "I probably would have busted out laughing. I've got the ability to catch the ball and be there on passing routes, but to tell me I would be leading the team, I never would have thought that."
UK backup tailbacks shine
With junior tailback Derrick Locke sitting out Saturday to rest an injured knee, fellow junior Moncell Allen had a career-high 14 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown.
The 5-7, 225-pound Allen carried only 23 times for 119 yards in UK's first eight games, but he was hard for the Colonels to bring down, particularly on short yardage plays.
"It helps my confidence that my teammates know that if it's third-and-short, I'm going to go out there and get it," Allen said. "All year I've been waiting on my opportunity on short yardage. Just being out there all the time and not on the sidelines felt real good."
Senior Alfonso Smith added 60 yards on 12 carries, and true freshman Donald Russell had a career-high 92 yards on just three carries, including a 79-yard TD run with 7:09 remaining.
Saturday marked only the third game Russell — a 5-11, 205-pounder from West Palm Beach, Fla. — had an opportunity to carry the ball.
"I was really happy to see (Russell) do that," Brooks said. "He showed some pretty good things. He's going to give us something moving forward."
Conner ties record
Senior fullback John Conner tied UK's career record for games played with 50, matching kicker/punter Tim Masthay, who played in 50 games from 2005-08.