Mark Stoops danced for joy on Saturday.
Normally one to just bounce up and down with his team after a win, the Kentucky coach thought this victory — the one that ended a 17-game Southeastern Conference losing streak — was worth a little booty shaking.
His dancing skills after the Cats' 17-7 victory over Vanderbilt were met with mixed reviews.
"It was great to see coach happy and trying to dance," senior defensive end Bud Dupree offered with the emphasis on "trying."
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Several players reported that Stoops was trying to do the popular dance move called the "Nae Nae."
"I mean, he was trying, but I don't know if his back had the — that he could get the whole lean with it — you know what I'm saying?" defensive lineman C.J. Johnson explained. "He was trying. He was out there."
Kentucky's win over Vanderbilt, its first over an SEC foe since that dance-worthy, streak-busting win over Tennessee here on Nov. 26, 2011, was a little bit like Stoops' dancing.
A lot of effort with a misstep here and there, especially for the Cats' offense, but it was filled with joy.
Kentucky (3-1, 1-1 SEC) had a huge defensive effort, which included holding Vanderbilt to 139 yards of total offense. It was the fewest yards UK allowed any SEC opponent since Mississippi State totaled 91 yards in 1996.
"Our guys right now have an attitude, a mentality and a confidence about them and that goes a long way," coordinator D.J. Eliot said of his defense, which pitched a shutout.
They pestered and badgered Vandy true freshman Wade Freebeck into three interceptions, all in the fourth quarter at pivotal times, and allowed him to throw for just 85 yards. He was sacked four times.
"Our kids went out there and played their butts off and executed the calls and played with intensity and bounced back from adversity," Eliot said. "They were put in some tough spots at times, but they always bounced back."
Most of those tough spots came courtesy of a UK offense that turned over the ball three times. One miscue, a Patrick Towles pass intercepted by Darrius Sims and returned 13 yards for a touchdown, provided the Commodores' only score of the game.
It was the first interception of the season for Vanderbilt (1-4, 0-3). Another UK miscue was a fumble by Towles, who struggled at times in the win, fumbling three times but losing only the one.
"He was off a little bit for him. He didn't play as well as he did in the first three games, and that's where other aspects of your team have to step up and help out," Stoops said of Towles, who completed 23 of 30 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown.
He also rushed for a 1-yard sneak at the end of the first half to give UK the 17-7 edge heading into the locker room.
Towles looked crisp early, leading UK on a 13-play, 99-yard drive to score on a 20-yard pass to Ryan Timmons, his first score of the season.
On that picturesque opening drive, Towles completed all nine passes he tried, hitting seven different receivers in the process.
The drive looked like it might stall at the Cats' own 10-yard line until Towles scampered 21 yards for a first down.
He completed his first 11 passes before the one that changed the game. It went right into the arms of Sims, who until that play, was known mostly for his kick returning ability.
"Not good. Not good enough," Towles said of his performance. "When somebody can't perform and somebody has trouble performing, other people got to step up, and that's what people did.
"The defense, they didn't give up a touchdown all day. The only touchdown they scored was on me."
After halftime, UK's offense stalled. After converting on five of its first seven third-down opportunities, the Cats connected on just one of their next eight.
The offense managed just 139 second-half yards in 37 plays, and 60 of those came in the fourth quarter from running back Jojo Kemp, who ran wild out of the Wildcat formation to end the game and seal the victory.
Braylon Heard led the rushing attack with 15 carries for 62 yards. Fellow running back Stanley "Boom" Williams caught three passes for 39 yards and ran for 27 more.
"Played well at the start of the game, and the second half really played poorly, shot ourselves in the foot," said offensive coordinator Neal Brown, whose group totaled 384 yards of offense, their lowest output of the season.
"The positive thing is that we did overcome and win the game, and we're going to enjoy it. It's hard. It's hard to win an SEC game. It's been a long time."
Being able to win a game when so many things go wrong has not been a Kentucky calling card.
Kentucky got its third win of the season, one better than each of the past two seasons.
In the past, "we just never could step on their throat and push through," said Dupree, who had five tackles, including 1.5 for loss. "And now I see guys really wanting to win and really wanting to just take it to the next level and keep going."