Randall Cobb rushed for a career-high 170 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 attempts, slashing, dashing and crashing through Vanderbilt’s defense all day as UK overcame a first-half deficit for a 38-20 win on Senior Day. The win clinched a fifth consecutive bowl game for UK (6-5, 2-5 SEC).
Cobb’s performance helped to send the 16 UK seniors out on a good note, though it may have been his last game at home, as well.
“He made play after play after play,” head coach Joker Phillips said. “He got us a huge win, giving us another guaranteed game.”
All that time spent running around and through Vanderbilt’s defense left him spent.
“There was a point at the beginning of the fourth quarter I was ready to lay down on the sidelines and take a nap,” Cobb said, who also had three catches for 56 yards. “I was just so tired and gassed.”
Phillips said Cobb’s brilliance can’t be defined with words.
“I’m not sure what ‘it’ is,” Phillips said. “When you see ‘it,’ you know it. … Let’s not call him Randall anymore. Let’s call him ‘it.’”
UK racked up a season-high 580 total yards. And on Senior Day, the seniors showed up. Derrick Locke finished with 145 yards and two touchdowns, Chris Matthews caught five passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, and Mike Hartline threw for 232 yards and a touchdown.
But it took a comeback for UK to get the win. UK trailed 13-10 at halftime as Vanderbilt totaled 242 yards of offense in the first half. They had averaged 263 yards per game before playing UK.
Phillips put the onus on the team to get the intensity back up. He and the coaches left the locker room, leaving it up to the players to do what they wanted before they came back out for the last half of football.
“The coaches just left,” senior Derrick Locke said. “(They said) if you all don’t want to win, stay in here. Don’t come out if you all don’t want to finish this game and win.”
Senior Ricky Lumpkin, realizing it was the seniors’ last game in Commonwealth Stadium, took charge in the locker room, something he said he doesn’t normally do. He saw players laughing and joking and decided to stand up.
“This was one of those times, I was like, honestly, bleep it, it’s time, I’m going to say what’s on my mind,” Lumpkin said. “I stood up, everyone’s paying attention to me and listening, and they took it to heart. We went out and played second-half Kentucky football like we usually do.”
Lumpkin’s speech seemed to work. Or maybe it was simply Cobb taking charge on the football field. On UK’s first possession, Cobb sprinted 73 yards for a touchdown out of the Wildcat formation to give UK a 17-13 lead. It was a career-long rush, and from that point on UK’s defense shut out Vanderbilt as UK’s offense continued rolling.
“I wish we could play the second half in the first half every game,” Phillips said.
Cobb dazzled again minutes later. With UK backed up inside its own 10-yard line, Cobb lined up as quarterback and ended up making a play that looked straight from a playground. He danced around and avoided a sack three times, then took off down the left sideline. He cut across the middle of the field, juking two more defenders on the way to a 52-yard run that led to a touchdown that stretched UK’s lead to 24-13.
Cobb broke the all-time single-season record for all-purpose yards with that play, something Cobb said he had “no clue” happened. It was one worthy of a record-breaker.
Fittingly, seniors Derrick Locke and Chris Matthews had career-longs on Senior Day. Locke had an 83-yard rush for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter on his last carry of the day, and Matthews had a 55-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.
“I wanted to give the fans something to remember me by,” Locke said. “I feel like I did that. I feel like we did that.”