UK Football

UK's Locke: 'We've got to find a way'

The games that got away still weigh heavily on the minds of the Kentucky football players.

It seems each time the Cats have had an opportunity to build momentum and climb the Southeastern Conference ladder, a close loss against a comparable opponent smacks them back into reality.

UK couldn't hold on to a 17-14 lead at South Carolina and dropped a 28-26 heartbreaker. The Wildcats rebounded for a big road win the next week, and visions of a 9-3 record started dancing in their heads. Then they came home and followed up a win over Louisiana-Monroe by blowing another halftime lead, getting outscored 21-7 in the third quarter of a painful 31-24 loss to Mississippi State.

Kentucky is at a crossroads again. An unprecedented second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division is within reach after a 24-13 win at Vanderbilt last week, but UK must find a way to take care of business at Georgia on Saturday night.

This isn't one of Georgia's most powerful squads, as the Bulldogs come into the matchup with an identical 6-4 record to the Cats.

"We've got the same record, and they're in the same boat as us," UK senior offensive lineman Zipp Duncan said. "They're trying to finish up the season strong, get these last couple of wins, and get to a better bowl game. Your season comes down to these types of games."

If the Cats want to be taken seriously, they know what they have to do.

"We've got no choice; we have to win," junior tailback Derrick Locke said. "There've been a lot of games like that, where we come out hard and basically give the game away. That makes a lot of people look and say, 'Well, Kentucky must not be that good. Even before I got there, there've been games in the past that Kentucky's played that they should have won. And everybody knows it. We've just got to learn how to finish, or people will still look at us as that same old Kentucky."

"If we had executed or come up with a couple of plays here or there we might not have come up short," Duncan said. "But that's life in the SEC. We know we've left a few on the table, but...some of the teams we've beaten probably feel the same way."

UK Coach Rich Brooks said the blueprint for the 50-50 games is the same that it's always been: Run the ball, win the turnover battle, and don't give up big plays.

"Those things to me are the things that are always the major difference," he said.

Georgia's profile suggests that the Bulldogs will put the ball on the ground, as they've turned the ball over 22 times. They've also forced just eight turnovers for a minus-14 margin that is tied for next to last in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Bulldogs did have a turnover-free effort in a 31-24 win over Auburn last week.

The bottom line is the Cats have to find a way regardless of how it's done.

"If we want to change how people think of us, we've got to find a way to win these types of games against the Georgias and Tennessees," Locke said. "If we finish these two off, I believe we can turn this thing around."

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