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November 14, 2009

Kentucky runs wild in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-Kentucky's Randall Cobb scored a pair of touchdowns, and the Wildcats rushed for 308 yards as UK avenged last season's loss in Lexington in defeat Vanderbilt 24-13 at Dudley Field on Saturday.

A crowd of 33,675-a visible majority of them decked out in Kentucky blue-watched as the Wildcats, buoyed by Cobb's touchdown run on the first drive of the second half and then Derrick Locke's 11-yard score midway through the fourth quarter, overcame a 13-10 halftime deficit.

Things looked good for VU early, as the 'Dores turned a pair of interceptions into scores and racked up 178 first-half yards, 122 of them coming through the air as Vandy ran 41 plays in the half.

The second half was a different story.

The Commodores' inability to keep its defense on the field in the second half was the difference, as VU had just one second-half first down and held the ball for just 6:56 after the break.

Meanwhile, the second-half absence of linebacker Patrick Benoist (concussion) and Casey Hayward (migraine headaches) didn't help Vandy's defense. UK gained 225 yards in the second half, 182 of them coming on the ground.

"I think it was pretty apparent that they wore us down, beat us down," Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said. "We couldn't stop the run there in the second half.

"We (the VU defense) were out there quite a bit, but it shouldn't matter because our philosophy is to stop them every time, and we didn't do that," added Steven Stone, one of 24 Commodores participating in pregame Senior Day festivities.

Cobb (99 rushing yards) and Locke (144) were a two-man wrecking crew, each out-dueling the entire VU offense (34 carries, 82 yards) by themselves, even though UK came in as the Southeastern Conference's worst defense against the rush.

The Commodores ran just 17 second-half offensive plays to Kentucky's 42, and could neither run (10 carries, 26 yards) or pass (1-of-7, five yards) with even modest success after halftime.

"In the second half, we weren't on the same page. I can't really point fingers, I don't really know what all happened," receiver John Cole said. "We have to get on the same page to open up the running game with our passing game and it just wasn't happening on the second half."

Cobb, a receiver who lined up in the "Wildcat" formation throughout the day, opened the scoring with 8:00 left in the first quarter on a 21-yard touchdown run. The play was set up by a 41-yard toss from running back Locke to Morgan Newton, UK's quarterback, who was wide open on the right sideline.

Vandy clawed back on the next drive, as Ryan Fowler hit a 42-yard field goal to cap a 56-yard, 12-play drive.

Fowler added a 47-yarder on the next drive with 10:07 left in the half, which was set up by Eddie Foster's interception of Mike Hartline.

Kentucky answered on its next drive, with Lones Seiber knocking a 36-yard field goal through the uprights to extend the Wildcats' lead 10-6.

Vandy forced another interception when T.J. Greenstone deflected a Newton pass and Myron Lewis corralled it at the UK 20. On a third-down play, Kentucky native Cole, under tight coverage by All-SEC defensive back Trevard Lindley, juggled a pass from Adams before grabbing it as he lay on his back in far right corner of the end zone with 2:25 left in the second quarter.

The 21-yard score put VU up 13-10, but it didn't last long. Kentucky took the ball with the first possession of the second half and marched 75 yards in 10 plays, scoring on Cobb's 3-yard dive to go up 17-13.

Locke added a late fourth-quarter touchdown on an 11-yard sweep off a handoff from Cobb, giving UK a 24-13 cushion. Two plays earlier, the Commodores missed a chance to stop UK on a third-and-6 play when UK picked up Vandy's corner blitz, and Newton converted a 28-yard toss to La'Rod King to move UK to the Vandy 11.

The win made the Wildcats (6-4) bowl-eligible for the fourth time in four years, and sent Vandy (2-9) to its seventh-consecutive loss.

"I don't think we're going to be able to change anything substantially in one week as far as the Xs and the Os, but we'll look at everything like we do every year and find a way to get better," Johnson said.

"I think there have been some circumstances that have prevented us from being as good as we could have been this year, but sometimes, you've just got to say, 'Hey, we're going to overcome that. The heck with the circumstances, let's go play.'"

Some of those circumstances include the health of a team that's battered and bruised from the rigor of 11 consecutive games. On Saturday, VU played with offensive tackles Thomas Welch and Reilly Lauer both hurt, a move that Johnson later admitted might not have been the best strategy.

But the Vandy coach refused to use injuries as an excuse, and mentioned that Kentucky had played 11-straight games coming into Nashville, and had injury issues of its own.

"I don't want to read anything more into [the injury situation]," he said.

Vandy's Warren Norman (12 carries for 52 yards, two kick returns for 38) now has 1,789 all-purpose yards for the season, second only to Herschel Walker for the league's all-time freshman mark.

The Commodores close the season in Knoxville against Tennessee on a game that will be televised by ESPNU at 7 p.m. The Vols (5-5) have won the last three games in the series.


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