UK tries to clinch bowl versus Vanderbilt



The UK football team has a chance to clinch bowl eligibility for a school-record fifth consecutive season. This would send the senior class out on a winning note in the final home game on Saturday.

UK’s opponent, the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-7, 1-5 Southeastern Conference), has a nothing-to-lose and everything-to-gain attitude as it plays out the remaining games on its schedule with no chance for a trip to a bowl game.

Such a mentality means the Cats (5-5, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) can’t assume  they’ll easily punch their ticket to the postseason heading into their bye week.

“(That mentality) makes any team more dangerous,” UK senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin said. “Charleston Southern was more dangerous because they did a lot of trick plays, a hook and ladder, because they don’t have anything to lose.”

UK head coach Joker Phillips wasn’t buying into the notion that Saturday is a trap game against a team wanting to play spoiler.

“In this league, they’re all dangerous,” he said.

Since 2000, the Commodores have posted 14 SEC wins, the fewest of any team in the SEC East, yet three of those wins have come against UK.

In fact, the perennial SEC cellar-dwelling Commodores have given the Cats all they can handle in the most recent meetings of this series.

“Every year they play us it seems we have a great game with them no matter the record for either team,” said UK sophomore center Matt Smith.

The past seven meetings between the two schools have each been decided by 12 points or less, and the road team has won the last three meetings, including the Cats’ 24-13 win in Nashville last year on Nov. 13, when Vandy also had no postseason hopes to keep alive.

UK senior wide receiver Chris Matthews said looking at the tape from last year’s game, he wouldn’t be surprised if the Commodores try plenty of reverses, screens and other trick plays this week.

Phillips and his players are hoping that it takes no tricks to get back to a bowl game.

“We’re playing to keep things going,” Lumpkin said. “(Vandy’s) thing is coming here winning and going on to the next game because they don’t have an offseason, so every game for their senior class is a bowl game now.”

Injury report

Senior tailback Derrick Locke (shoulder stinger), who has missed the last four games, will practice without contact until Wednesday. Doctors cleared Locke to play last week, and he was dressed for the Cats’ win over Charleston Southern Saturday.

“I was confident three weeks ago that (Locke) would play, but he hasn’t,” Phillips said. “It’s just whether or not he feels comfortable in being able to take care of himself…Locke doesn’t want to do anything to hurt this football team either. If he can’t protect the football he’s not going to play.”

Linebacker Ronnie Sneed (AC sprain) will be withheld from contact all week, while linebacker Danny Trevathan won’t practice until Wednesday or Thursday for extra rest.

Kicker Joe Mansour, cornerback Martavius Neloms, safety Josh Gibbs and tailback Raymond Sanders all have minor injuries and are expected back at practice later this week.