By Ethan Levine
In their final two games of the regular season, the Cats (4-6, 1-5 SEC) must win both at Georgia Saturday and at home against Tennessee on Senior Night the following week to become bowl eligible for the sixth consecutive year.
Coming off its first SEC win of the season over Ole Miss, UK was dominated on both sides of the ball by Vanderbilt. The Commodores outgained the Cats by 199 total yards, 171 on the ground alone, en route to their 30-point victory that pushed UK to the brink.
“The more losses come, the tougher it is,” senior offensive tackle Billy Joe Murphy said. “It was a tough day for us. It was a bad loss that we needed to win really bad, but now the wins get even more desperate.”
When asked if a must-win scenario for the remainder of the season made things more difficult, Murphy remarked just the opposite.
“(It’s) a lot easier,” Murphy said. “You have to put it all on the line for a win, you can’t afford a loss now. We know we got six losses and we’re working towards six wins and we have to have this one.”
Georgia won’t make things easy for UK Saturday in the Bulldog’s final home game of the season. Since opening the season with two consecutive losses, Georgia has reeled off eight straight victories, including six straight in the SEC.
The Bulldogs will find themselves with their backs against the wall this week as well, having to beat UK in their last conference game of the season to clinch the SEC East division crown. Georgia (8-2, 6-1 SEC) has not lost to an SEC opponent since falling to South Carolina 45-42 in week two. But that same South Carolina team has already completed its SEC schedule with a 6-2 record and the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bulldogs, forcing Georgia’s hand to beat UK and improve its SEC record to 7-1 to clinch the East and earn a spot in the SEC Championship Game in December.
“We’re not just going to roll over because it’s Georgia,” senior tight end Nick Melillo said. “Everything else is behind us, it’s the biggest game of the year.”
UK head coach Joker Phillips joked in his weekly press conference Monday that he had received a text message from a South Carolina number (likely a USC coach) offering him dinner anywhere in the world if UK defeated Georgia, allowing South Carolina to advance to the SEC title game for the second year in a row. A win will certainly be Phillips’ goal Saturday.
“Dinner anywhere in the world if we beat Georgia,” Phillips said with a smile. “So yeah, got to start picking out some places for me.”