Cats’ comeback falls short, Auburn wins 37-34

Maybe Joker Phillips couldn’t help but repeat himself. After No. 8 Auburn hung on to beat UK 37-34 on Saturday, giving the Cats their third straight loss, UK’s head coach kept retreating to the same words in his postgame news conference.

“My heart aches for those guys. They played their hearts out,” Phillips said. “We played inspired, played with emotions, made plays when we needed to have them made, just came up a little short.

“My heart aches for those guys. I asked those guys to play with everything on the field, play with heart, play with emotion and they did.”

After falling behind 31-14 in the first half, the Cats’ defense bounced back in the second half to slow Tiger quarterback Cam Newton as the offense pulled within striking range. UK (3-3, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) tied the game at 31 in the third quarter and at 34 in the fourth quarter, but fell short. With the memory of a failed late-game rally at Ole Miss fresh in their minds from last week, the Cats’ fourth quarter comeback attempt wasn’t enough.

Newton drove Auburn (6-0, 3-0 SEC) down the field, burning the clock in a drive that lasted nearly seven-and-a-half minutes before a chip shot field goal downed UK in the closing seconds. The Tigers’ 6-foot-6 signalcaller went on a rampage, rushing for four first-half touchdowns while racking up 198 rushing yards and 210 passing yards.

Junior wide receiver Randall Cobb led a UK offense that produced when it mattered most, but couldn’t catch a break. Cobb finished with a passing touchdown, a receiving touchdown, and two rushing touchdowns, but the Cats’ defense failed to recover any of four fumbles coughed up by Auburn ballcarriers. Junior safety Winston Guy felt the defense had recovered some of the loose balls, but the calls didn’t go their way.

“I think those calls, it’s the refs’ calls but I think those two fumbles, we had (them),” Guy said. “I guess it’s because they’re No. 8 in the nation I guess, but they just didn’t go our way. We just have to come back next week and play.”

For the third straight week, players said they’d take the game as a learning experience and move forward. Phillips was encouraged by the performance of the defense in the second half, when the Cats made adjustments in an effort to contain Newton’s running.

Players said the UK defense also upped its intensity in the second half. Phillips echoed them – before echoing himself again.

“I always knew what this team was about,” Phillips said. “This team will fight until there are zeroes on the clock. This team has heart, there’s no question about that. This is a team that has a lot of heart, that will fight you until there are zeroes on the clock.”

For Phillips, who has seen many close losses on the UK sideline as a player and coach, everything seemed a little too familiar.

“They all hurt. They all rip your guts out,” Phillips said. “I don’t feel any different than the players in there or the assistant coaches.

“They rip your guts out, no question about that.”


Cobb had two touchdowns rushing, one receiving, and a passing touchdown. His three scores now have him tied for first on UK’s all-time career touchdowns list with former wide receiver Craig Yeast. He also moved into fifth place all-time on the career scoring list with 194 points. He needs 32 points to move into fourth on the career scoring list … Sophomore linebacker Danny Trevathan led the defense with a career-high 17 tackles, included 10 unassisted tackles. His previous career high in tackles was set last week at Ole Miss, when he had 15 tackles … Senior quarterback Mike Hartline finished 23 of 28 for 220 yards. Two passes were dropped by wide receivers. As a team, the Cats have thrown for at least 200 yards in every game this season … Senior tailback Derrick Locke left the game in the second half with a shoulder stinger and did not return.