For the first time in 1,036 days, Kentucky had won a Southeastern Conference football game. Yet if you listened to the postgame sound track from the Wildcats offense, the words were anything but triumphant.
"Am I happy with this performance, how we performed on offense?" Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "The answer to that would be no."
UK quarterback Patrick Towles looked at the horde of reporters surrounding him and said "our whole defense should be in here. You should be talking to them. They played awesome."
And the offense, Patrick?
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"Not good enough. Not good enough," he said.
Snapping an embarrassing 17-game SEC losing skid, UK beat Vanderbilt Saturday 17-7 before a sun-drenched Commonwealth Stadium crowd of 56,940. In earning Mark Stoops' first league win as Kentucky head man, the Wildcats' 'D' held Vandy to 139 yards of offense, sacked the quarterback four times and recorded three interceptions.
"Well, that was a thing of beauty," Stoops, the former Florida State and Arizona defensive coordinator, said with a grin. "For a defensive guy, it was."
After a solid first half, the Kentucky offense was about as beautiful as a horned frog on Saturday.
What made Kentucky's second-half struggle perplexing was the Cats started strong. Towles completed his first 11 passes. He engineered a stellar 99-yard touchdown drive on UK's initial possession, hitting Ryan Timmons with a 20-yard touchdown pass.
Even after Vanderbilt's Darrius Sims picked off Towles' 12th pass and took it to the house for a 13-yard interception return that tied the game at 7 early in period two, the Kentucky QB gathered himself. Towles drove UK to 10 more points before intermission after the pick-six.
By halftime, UK had 17 points on the scoreboard and 245 yards of offense in the scorebook.
All seemed well.
After halftime, Towles, for the first time all year, looked like an inexperienced college QB. He threw the ball only eight times. He completed four for a meager 26 yards.
Making matters worse, the QB kept dropping the football when not under defensive duress. Three times, he fumbled. UK was fortunate it lost only one of those fumbles.
"A combination of sweat and gripping the football too tight," Towles said of the miscues. "(It was) inexcusable."
Best signifying the struggles of the Kentucky offense was what happened after a Demarco Robinson punt return gave the Cats the ball at the Vanderbilt 43 on the final series of the third quarter.
On first down, Towles hit fullback D.J. Warren for a 9-yard gain.
From there, UK ran the football three straight times.
It gained no yards.
So what happened after halftime?
"I figure we let down just a little bit," said UK senior wide receiver Javess Blue.
Said Kentucky freshman running back Stanley "Boom" Williams: "We got kind of stagnant. Ups and downs, good plays, then bad plays, we just lost our flow."
Brown cautioned against assigning too much of the second-half blame to Towles.
"He didn't play as well as he has," Brown said. "A lot of that was, I didn't think we played as well around him. I didn't think we protected good enough. We didn't win against man coverage good enough. He didn't throw it good enough. And I didn't call enough good plays."
Facing a Vandy secondary with four new starters, Brown said the Kentucky strategy coming in was to fill the air with footballs. However, as the game played out — with the UK defense so stout and the Kentucky passing game struggling — the UK offensive coordinator said he called an audible on the game plan.
"Worse thing we could have done once it was really clear we were struggling, (that) Patrick was struggling, was to lose the game trying to force feed something we just weren't doing very well," Brown said.
Fact is, when you are depending on as many freshmen and sophomores as Kentucky is offensively, there is apt to be a certain level of inconsistency in an offensive attack.
It says something good that, on a day when its offense struggled mightily for a complete half, Kentucky found a way to win what was, for many reasons, the most important game on the 2014 UK schedule.
"The positive thing is, we did overcome (offensive struggles) and win the game," Brown said. "We're going to be excited about that. Then, we are going to get this stuff fixed, starting tomorrow."