UK Football

Kentucky native nearly hands it to Cats

Lane Kiffin acted nonchalant about Tennessee's winning streak over Kentucky.

The Volunteers coach acted like it didn't mean anything, like he wasn't even sure how many straight wins his team had racked up.

He didn't seem at all interested in knowing that Tennessee had beaten UK 25 straight times, the longest continuous streak in the nation.

"Whatever it's at," he said dismissively afterward.

All week, the first-year coach told his team not to care, too.

"Coach Kiffin told us not to focus on the streak, to just focus on doing our job and do what we do every week," offensive lineman Cory Sullins said.

But Sullins said it stuck with the Volunteers anyway.

"You don't want to be the team that has the streak end, especially this senior class didn't want to be the ones," Sullins said.

Luke Stocker, the only player from the state of Kentucky on the Tennessee team, said that number haunted him as soon as the ball was swiped from his hands on a key fumble late in the game.

Stocker's fumble, forced by Kentucky's Ashton Cobb and picked up by Taylor Wyndham in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, could have spelled the end of the streak.

UK had the ball at the Vols' 37-yard line with a chance to go ahead for good.

"I felt sick to my stomach on the sideline just thinking that I gave them a chance to win the ball game," he said. "I would've beaten myself up big time."

It would have negated an impressive night for the junior tight end from Berea who scored the game-tying touchdown to make it 21-21 late in the third quarter. The 16-yard scoring catch was part of his 78 yards receiving.

After the fumble, Stocker went back to the moment he made his commitment to the Volunteers official.

"The day I signed with Tennessee, I told myself that I didn't want to be on the team that loses to Big Blue," Stocker said. "I did everything I can to help that. There at the end, I gave UK a chance, though."

Stocker worried and waited, but the Vols' defense held Kentucky to a game-tying field goal that sent it to overtime.

"I was just thrilled and relieved to death," Stocker said. "My defense bailed me out."

Once the UT defense held the Cats, Stocker said he knew Tennessee's streak of wins would continue.

He started thinking about the team sitting around its hotel Friday night watching a cut up version of the "Thrilla in Manila" fight between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali prepared by Kiffin.

Stocker and his teammates said they knew that even if the game went to extra rounds, that they would come out on top.

"It was about how those guys were warriors and they fought to the end," Stocker said. "Tonight that was so fitting. We fought to the end, we never gave up and we came out with the win."

The win came on a 20-yard run by Montario Hardesty in overtime. It capped off a career night of 39 carries for 179 yards and three touchdowns for the senior.

"Our guys had that never-say-die attitude, like in that fight," Hardesty said.

Sullins said he knows that one day UK is going to throw a knockout punch on the Vols, he's just glad it wasn't this year.

"They're a really good team, it's just not their time," he said. "I don't think they're jinxed. It will happen one day, but not this day."

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