UK Football

Kentucky-Tennessee notes: Barnhart discusses support for Phillips

Morgan Newton should have had surgery on his throwing shoulder weeks ago.

But the junior didn't want to leave his team without a backup quarterback to true freshman Maxwell Smith.

He opted to wait until Tuesday to have surgery on his torn labrum, a move that warmed the heart of quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders.

"I'm really proud of his team-first attitude to delay the surgery and put it off until the end of the season," Sanders said of Newton, who was injured in the first half of UK's loss versus Mississippi State.

Smith stayed in the training room night and day last week trying to rehab his badly sprained shoulder, but could never get it to a place that the coaches thought it was safe to put him in against Tennessee.

Smith should be fine without surgery, but he's hurting, Sanders said.

"He's broke," Sanders said of Smith, who hurt his throwing shoulder in the Georgia loss last week. "Let's just say he's broke. There's a difference between hurt and broke, and he's broke."

Barnhart stands by coach

Before players got on the Commonwealth Stadium field, before the band starting playing the fight song, before the first fans had taken their seats, University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart was at his usual spot near the end zone with his arm around head coach Joker Phillips.

"I offered him best wishes on the day and let him know how much I care for him," Barnhart said. "I said the same things I always say to him."

It was a gesture of support before he offered his official support of Phillips via the pre-game UK sports radio broadcast and then again to reporters after the Cats' 10-7 win over Tennessee on Saturday afternoon.

Barnhart's statements ended several weeks of speculation about Phillips' future after the Cats' lackluster season, which included a stretch of four straight losses, one to rival Louisville.

Four of UK's losses this season were by 28 points or more, including a 30-point drubbing at Vanderbilt.

But Barnhart said unequivocally that Phillips is his coach.

"I like our young guys and we're working hard in recruiting," he said. "We didn't get all the things done we said we wanted to get done this season and I said that earlier. But we'll continue to move forward and get back to where we want to go."

Phillips agreed with his AD, noting that no one was pleased with UK's lack of a bowl game and its final 5-7 overall mark and its 2-6 record in the Southeastern Conference.

"Nobody is happy with the way the season (went), especially us," Phillips said, "especially us because of all the hard work and long hours that we've put in it. We're not happy with the way it went, but we are willing to do whatever we have to do to get it corrected."

No love for Rocky Top

Two Kentucky coaches have deep connections to Tennessee.

Randy Sanders, the UK offensive coordinator, and Tee Martin, the passing game coordinator, both played for the Volunteers.

Sanders spent 22 seasons on Rocky Top as a player and coach, winning a national title there in 1998 as coordinator when Martin was the starting quarterback.

Sanders said the fact that he has such deep Tennessee ties probably makes Saturday's win a little more special.

"It hadn't happened since I was 19 years old, (which) probably makes it more special," he said. "When you're here you're always hearing about that streak to Tennessee. So it was nice to finally put that streak behind you."

Martin was asked if it was the first time in his life he was happy after a Tennessee loss.

"Yes, yes it is," he said. "I'm so happy for Randy, Matt (Roark), this group of seniors, Coach (Joker) Phillips and the guys who have been here a long time."

On the other end of the spectrum, Tennessee Coach Derek Dooley knows he will go down as the coach that broke the streak.

"Certainly you don't want it on your watch, but it happened and there's not much we can do about it now except try to start another one," he said after the loss, which ended the nation's longest single-team win streak.

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