Date story was published: Sunday, December 01, 2002
KNOXVILLE -- Some things must be meant to stand pat.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
On the surface, it appeared that Kentucky stood a good chance of ending its 17-game losing streak to Tennessee yesterday, considering the teams came in with matching records (7-4) and injuries had gutted the Vols' usually loaded depth chart.
But when the game began, a Tennessee team that had appeared less imposing than in years past looked like the same old Vols, and a UK team that had appeared more formidable than in years past looked like the same old Cats.
For the second year in a row, Kentucky played poorly in its season finale, as Tennessee barely broke a sweat in a 24-0 win in front of 105,462 fans at Neyland Stadium. It was the Vols' 18th straight win over UK and was a sour ending to an otherwise solid 7-5 season, UK's best since 1998.
The Cats ended 2001 with a 26-15 dud at Indiana.
"It's a shame, really," UK quarterback Jared Lorenzen said of yesterday's performance. "For us to have had the great season that we've had and then come out and do this to ourselves ... "
While Tennessee methodically whipped UK for 60 minutes, the Wildcats didn't help themselves coming into the game.
UK Coach Guy Morriss sat four starters during the first quarter for a violation of team rules. Included in that group were running back Artose Pinner, the Wildcats' most valuable offensive player, and defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson, UK's most feared defender.
All the distractions left Morriss with an uneasy feeling coming into the game.
"In my mind, I got nervous on Thursday when some of the off-the-field stuff first happened," he said. "We lost our focus in the last 72 hours and I was worried about that carrying over into the game. Sure enough, we came out flat and unfocused. We made more mistakes today than we made all year."
Even without Pinner, Kentucky showed some life on the game's opening drive, moving the ball to the Tennessee 10-yard line. But Pinner's replacement, Alexis Bwenge, was stopped a yard short on third-and-2 from the 10, and Taylor Begley hooked a 32-yard field- goal attempt wide right.
That was just the beginning of the Wildcats' misfortunes. UK made it out of the first quarter trailing 7-0, and then Pinner entered the game with the Cats facing a first-and-10 at the Tennessee 30-yard line. After a 6-yard run to the UT 24, Pinner fumbled for just the second time this season and Tennessee's Keyon Whiteside recovered at the 21.
"From that point on, we just went in the tank," Morriss said. "We started pressing, dropped some balls, didn't line up right, didn't throw the ball well."
The Vols then marched 79 yards in 13 plays, taking a 14-0 lead on a 1-yard run by Jabari Davis. After Kentucky went three-and-out on its next series, UT quarterback Casey Clausen hooked up with running back Derrick Tinsley for the second of his two touchdown catches, this one a 35-yarder. Tinsley caught the ball in the flat and tip-toed down the right sideline and into the end zone.
UK was once again handcuffed by penalties. The Wildcats' defense was whistled eight times for jumping offsides, and Kentucky was flagged 13 times for 76 yards overall.
The Cats even changed quarterbacks, benching Lorenzen and going with backup Shane Boyd for the first two series of the third quarter. But that move provided little spark as Kentucky finished with a season-low 172 yards.
The nonexistent UK offense allowed UT Coach Phillip Fulmer to play it safe in the second half, as the only Volunteers' score came on a 42-yard Alex Walls field goal with 11:50 remaining.
While this season has been memorable for UK, the Cats again failed to break through against the big three of Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.
"If you look at the big games, we haven't done a good job this year," Morriss said. "That's something we'll have to look at (in the off-season). I thought we were priming ourselves to play our best game of the year."