Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville admitted, "We just didn't play very well at times."
On the positive side of the ledger, Carnell Williams had a strong game. He carried the ball 17 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns and was energized by his performance. "I am excited about getting ready for the stretch run," the senior tailback said.
Ronnie Brown also rushed for two touchdowns and netted 53 yards on 10 carries.
Another positive was an often dominating pass rush. Redshirt freshman Quentin Groves led the parade with four sacks that led to a pair of turnovers. Throughout the game the Tigers kept the heat on the UK quarterback with Stanley McClover, Tommy Jackson, Doug Langenfeld, Marquies Gunn and Christopher Browder each involved in a sack.
"We were physically abused and thrown around while pass blocking," Kentucky head coach Rich Brooks said after his Wildcats fell to 1-6 overall and 0-4 in the SEC.
McClover led all tacklers with seven stops. Groves, who forced two fumbles, had six tackles, four which were for losses.
The Auburn defense also neutralized the UK offense most of the game except on an 80-yard scoring drive in the second quarter. Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik said the Tigers made some adjustments after that possession and the Wildcats never threatened to score again except on a gift field goal in the third quarter when backup center Steven Ross had an exchange problem with quarterback Jason Campbell.
Chizik liked how the Tigers played on third down, allowing the Wildcats to convert just two of 17 chances. "That is the kind of statistic I like to see," Chizik said.
Campbell, who hit 11-15 passes for 127 yards, didn't have a touchdown pass although he made a beautiful throw into the end zone to Courtney Taylor in the closing seconds of the first half. However, that was brought back due to a penalty.
"We came out and played good and then I kind of let the air out of it and we got sloppy," Tuberville said. "Kentucky played hard. It was one of those games where we didn't execute. We had too many mistakes and penalties. We turned the ball over. We had a couple of injuries. They are not really significant. I don't think they will miss (next) week. (Center) Jeremy Ingle turned his ankle. He probably could have come back in, but we decided to let Steven Ross play the rest of the game. Bret Eddins sprained a wrist. He will be fine."
Ronnie Brown heads for the goaline on one of his two touchdowns on Saturday.
Starting outside linebacker Antarrious Williams suffered a stinger. Ross also left the game and was replaced by walk-on center Joe Cope in the fourth quarter when the Tigers played a mixture of second stringers with some third stringers thrown the lineup at times.
"We played good in some areas," Tuberville said. "I thought our special teams were good up until that last blocked punt (vs. walk-on punter Patrick Martyn). When you play that many players, you are going to have some mistakes. It was a good win for us, number eight. Now we have three coming up that are going to be much tougher."
Playing against arguably the SEC's worst defense, the Tigers netted just 337 yards on 67 plays. UK's offense was not much of a threat vs. Auburn's defenders as the Wildcats netted just 110 yards on 62 plays. Andre Woodson, who started at quarterback in place of injured Shane Boyd, was responsible for most of UK's offense. He hit 14-26 passes for 73 yards and managed to avoid throwing an interception.
The Tigers came out sharp, forcing a three and out on a fourth and 15 on the opening series of the game. UK helped the Auburn cause with an ugly 15-yard punt.
Christopher Browder gets a sack for the Tigers.
In a sign of things to come, the Tigers were penalized for holding twice (Anthony Mix and Marcus McNeill) on the first possession. Despite the setbacks, the Tigers didn't have much of a problem scoring from 29 yards out. Williams had runs of 15 and 14 yards and scored on second and goal from the one on a handoff at left guard.
The Tigers wasted little time in stretching the lead to 14-0 after another quick three and out for the Wildcats. Another weak punt, this one a 29-yarder, set the Tigers up at the UK 36.
Campbell's 17-yard pass to Devin Aromashodu on third and 13 set up the Tigers with a first and goal at the Kentucky nine. Williams made an impressive sweep of right end, powering into the end zone just inside the flag when it looked like he was stopped at the one.
UK finally got a first down on its third possession, but the Tigers got the ball back at the Kentucky 19-yard line when a sack by Groves forced a fumble that was recovered by Jay Ratliff.
Two runs by Brown made the scored 21-0. The second one, a 12-yarder at right end, was impressive as the senior hurdled a defender near the line of scrimmage and then raced in for the touchdown with 4:31 left in the second quarter.
The rest of the first half was a mess for the Tigers, starting with UK's next possession. The Wildcats drove 80 yards on 14 plays and scored the first rushing touchdown of the season on the Tigers with Rafael Little running through a big hole at left guard with 11:30 left in the second quarter. Little had gotten the drive started with a 25-yard run.
The Tigers, who played reserves very early on defense, tried the same thing on offense the next possession and the plan backfired. Brandon Cox was lucky his first pass wasn't intercepted, but on his next toss Antoinie Huffman picked off a wounded duck of a throw and returned it 10 yards. An illegal block in the back put the Wildcats at the Tiger 40. UK managed a first down, but ended up punting on fourth and 17.
Campbell and the first offense returned on the next possession. After a first down, a holding penalty on backup center Steven Ross, who was in for Jeremy Ingle who injured his ankle in the first quarter, helped prevent the Tigers from getting a drive started. The result was a Kody Bliss punt, his first in the opening half since the LSU game.
Auburn had a chance to score just before halftime, but a penalty called on guard Danny Lindsey for not lining up on the line of scrimmage called back a touchdown pass to Courtney Taylor and a sack the following play ended the half. Lindsey said that Ross moved the ball forward before he snapped it out of the shotgun and he probably should have leaned more forward to prevent the penalty, but was afraid of getting flagged for illegal procedure.
The Wildcats cut the score to 21-10 on a 37-yard field goal by Taylor Begley after a fumbled snap exchange between Ross and Campbell on the first possession of the second half.
Auburn, with the crowd of 85,263 back into the game, responded quickly by moving 80 yards in nine plays. Brown scored the touchdown from 17 yards out. The Tigers ran the ball eight of nine times on the possession.
The Tigers put the game out of reach by scoring on their following possession after a three and out for the UK offense. Ten straight running plays resulted in a touchdown and a 35-10 lead as Carl Stewart powered over from the one-yard line with 2:46 left in the third quarter. That was the end of the day for Campbell and the first offense.
It was also the end of the day for any signs of competent offensive play by the Tigers. The second offense had four possessions in the final quarter and didn't manage a first down.
"Defensively, we played fine," Tuberville said. "Once we got into the game we played base defense and hoped we got enough points to win."
Tuberville added, "We pretty much dominated the game and it (the score) could have been worse than what it was, but there was no use in it. We needed to play everybody and I wanted to play them as early as we could."
The only points of the final quarter were on a 15-yard fumble return for a score by third team middle linebacker Kevis Burnam with 5:01 left to play. Groves made the hit on QB Woodson to set up the touchdown.
The Tigers return to action next Saturday with a 6:45 p.m. game at Ole Miss, which was off this week.