Cats fall flat, Vanderbilt wins 40-0

By Ethan Levine | @KernelLevine

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It didn’t seem fathomable, under any circumstances, that UK’s football season could get any worse. But in the team’s t How To Get Ex Girlfriend To Come Back enth game of the year, it did.

The Cats welcomed Vanderbilt to Lexington Saturday, and the Commodores took no time in making themselves right at home. Vanderbilt dominated UK early and often on its way to a 40-0 victory over the Cats, UK’s worst loss to Vanderbilt since 1916 and the Commodores largest margin of victory in an SEC game since 1948.

Following the loss, UK’s record dropped to 1-9 on the year, 0-7 in SEC play.

“There are some hurt young men in (the locker room) right now,” Phillips said. “No doubt about that. They are definitely not proud of the way they’ve performed today. I shouldn’t say they; I should say the way we performed. It was not a very good performance by us.”

Freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow started once again at quarterback for UK and had a few productive drives early. Whitlow completed five of his first six passes for 66 yards but failed to produce points for the Cats offense. He was unable to complete his final six passes before deferring to fellow freshman Patrick Towles, who saw most of his action with UK down big in the second half.

Towles was shockingly inaccurate, completing a mere 6-20 passes for 69 yards. He, like Whitlow, failed to lead the offense to points, even on a drive that began at the VU 12 yard line following an interception by UK’s Ashely Lowery.

“Every SEC football game you know you are going to play a top-tier team, and we obviously didn’t play as well as we needed to win the football game,” Towles said following the loss.

The Cats’ defense did not contribute much in its own right, allowing the Commodores to run for more than 220 yards on the ground and gain more than 220 yards through the air. Vanderbilt scored touchdowns on five of its first six possessions and converted nine of its first 11 third down attempts.

Conversely, UK committed seven penalties for 100 yards against the Commodores, missed an early field goal and converted less than one-third of its third down opportunities. A slew of dropped passes, missed tackles and special teams’ follies dug UK into a hole too deep to climb out of, as the team continues its plummet to the basement of the NCAA.

But the bigger story from Saturday wasn’t the game on the field, but rather the lack of fans present to watch the game in Commonwealth Stadium. The announced attendance for Saturday’s showdown, according to UK Athletics, was 44,902, but this number actually represents the number of tickets sold in addition to facility employees.

No actual figure was released regarding how many fans were actually present in the stadium for the game, but estimates have largely spanned the 18,000-22,000 range. Before the start of the season, UK hadn’t had an attendance below 50,000 since 1999. In 2012, four of UK’s six home games have drawn fewer than 50,000 with Saturday setting a new low.

“I appreciate the fans who were there,” Phillips said. “That’s the thing that I see. I see the people that are there and I want those guys to know that we appreciate them. Regardless of how it looks, you’ve got to play.”

Unfortunately for Phillips, the 20,000 fans in attendance have been outnumbered by the Cats’ critics for some time now. UK’s coaching staff has coached under intense speculation for much of the season, with dwindling attendance one result of the fan base’s displeasures with Phillips and his assistants. Upon entering the media room for postgame interviews, offensive coordinator Randy Sanders asked to stand “near the door,” and said he couldn’t wait to return home following the game to talk to his dog.

“I’m looking forward to going home, sitting on my recliner and talking to my dog,” Sanders said. “My dog really doesn’t care what happened in the game, and he might be the only one I know that doesn’t care.”

Phillips has asserted that he does not want to burden his team with his own job security issues, but players have given mixed responses over playing for their coaches. Some say they are playing for the graduating seniors whose careers are coming to a disappointing close.

“I’m just trying to play for my seniors,” middle linebacker Avery Williamson said. “I can’t control (Joker’s job security). All I can do is control what’s on the field and just making plays, that’s all I can do. I can’t think about that stuff.”

Some still play for Phillips and express their love and respect for him, like Towles, whom Phillips was criticized for redshirting to start the season.

“We all love him,” Towles said. “We want to win for the coaching staff, win for him, win for each other, win for ourselves, win for the fan base.”

But Phillips said he also understands the position he is in, saying he and the coaching staff “don’t make it easy” for Athletic Director Mitch Barnhardt to not fire them.

“I get this business. I get the criticism,” Phillips said. “Nobody in this program wants this place to have more success than me, but I understand. This is a business based on results.”

UK now enters a bye week that Sanders said the team could have used a month ago. With two games to follow the free week (Samford, at Tennessee), players and coaches hope the team can regroup and finish the season strong with a win on senior day and a second consecutive win over the archrival Volunteers.

“We are having a bad season but we just can’t give up,” Williamson said. “We got two more games to send our seniors out with a win and that’s what we got to do.”

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