UK Football

Vandy stands between Cats and bowl

The Kentucky football team, by its own admission, has had problems this season with looking ahead.

After a surprising win at Auburn pushed the Cats to 3-3, visions of running the table began dancing in the players' heads.

UK then came crashing back to Earth after a debilitating 31-24 home loss to Mississippi State.

The Cats are now 5-4 and can clinch bowl eligibility with a win at Vanderbilt on Saturday. And while the Mississippi State loss hurt, Kentucky still has an opportunity to upgrade out of the Music City/Liberty Bowl bracket they've been in the past three seasons.

But UK sophomore receiver Randall Cobb said the team shouldn't be thinking beyond the Commodores.

"We can't keep looking forward," Cobb said. "We've got to come out and play this week and worry about this week. We just have to take care of business. I think we looked ahead a little bit too much (earlier this year) and got caught up in all the bowl talk."

There are plenty of good reasons why Kentucky needs to be focused on Vandy. While the Commodores are 2-8 overall and 0-6 in SEC play, they rarely have been outclassed this season. They sacked Florida quarterback Tim Tebow four times and earned kudos for their resiliency in a 27-3 loss to the Gators last week.

On top of that, two dozen Vanderbilt seniors, many of whom led the program's first bowl charge in 25 years last fall, will be honored on Senior Day.

UK tailback Derrick Locke said you have to look beyond wins and losses when evaluating Vandy.

"They're not winning games, and that's a problem," Locke said. "But if you sit there and watch them play, you're like, 'Hey, you've got to strap up. Every team they've played, most of the time they played them close."

Locke said that while Kentucky has more talent, Vandy deserves praise for its discipline.

"And sometimes discipline outweighs talent," he said. "Everybody knows that. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don't play together... and that's what they do, they play together. If we don't come ready, we'll lose. Simple as that. But if we come ready and play hard, no doubt in my mind we can win this game. But it's not going to be handed to us. We've got to go earn it, because they're going to bring all they've got."

UK Coach Rich Brooks thinks highly of Vanderbilt Coach Bobby Johnson, whom he first got to know while he was the defensive coordinator with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons and Johnson was the head coach at nearby Furman.

"I have great respect for the job Coach Johnson has done there," Brooks said. "He always puts a sound, well-coached team on the field that plays outstanding defense, and offensively they give you problems with their schemes."

The Commodores won't be returning to a bowl this season, but Johnson said his team hasn't tried to embrace the role of spoiler down the stretch.

"We don't even talk about being in that role," Johnson said. "We are just worrying about trying to play our best and get a win for Vanderbilt. I think our guys know what the situation is and we are trying to get better each week as a football team. We're trying to do this for Vanderbilt, not what we can do to Kentucky. We're trying to get better as a team, that's the main thing."

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