The Wildcats held Vanderbilt to 139 yards of total offense, sacked the quarterback four times and picked off three passes in an otherwise sluggish 17-7 victory at Commonwealth Stadium that UK head coach Mark Stoops dubbed "a thing of beauty... for a defensive guy."
For the fourth consecutive game, Kentucky (3-1, 1-1 SEC) held an opponent without an offensive touchdown in the first half. Vanderbilt (1-4, 0-3) scored its only points on the day via a 13-yard interception return in the second quarter.
The UK offense had its weakest showing of the season to date, thanks in part to the interception and a pair of lost fumbles, but still managed to maintain possession of the ball for 38:22 against the struggling Commodores. The Cats got a 20-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Towles to Ryan Timmons on their opening drive of the game, a 44-yard field goal by Austin MacGinnis in the second quarter and a 1-yard TD sneak by Towles with just eight seconds remaining in the first half.
In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some of the day's highlights:
WHAT WE LIKED:
Kentucky's defense drew some chuckles entering the season when members of the unit dubbed themselves the "Bad Boys." Who's laughing now? The Cats look like they have a legitimate SEC-caliber defense for the first time in at least five years and perhaps one of the best units in recent program history. Vanderbilt has struggled under first-year head coach Derek Mason, but had still posted 34 points in each of its last two games, including almost 400 yards last week against South Carolina. The most impressive facet of the UK defense Saturday was the constant pressure it applied to Vandy quarterback Wade Freebeck, who took a sound beating from the Cats. They finished with four sacks, but had countless other "quarterback hurries."
Coming into Vanderbilt week, the UK staff emphasized it would need a strong performance from its linebackers against the Commodores' suddenly-unique "Stanford-style" offensive scheme. Junior inside linebacker Josh Forrest responded with one of his better games, recording a team-high six tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss. He also had two quarterback pressures that led to interceptions for his teammates.
STAT OF THE DAY:
With three interceptions -- one each by safeties Marcus McWilson, Ashely Lowery and A.J. Stamps -- Kentucky matched its 2013 team TOTAL in one afternoon of football. The Cats now have six picks on the season.
"So let's not talk about (the SEC losing streak) anymore, all right? I'm proud of the group. I am proud for the victory, and really for the fans and the people. I said when I got here in my press conference that it was going to take a big commitment by a lot of people and a lot of people have at bought in, and a lot of people are doing a lot of good things, our fans, our administration and our team, and it feels good to deliver for them, and we hope to continue. We're also proud of the fact that we played two SEC games this year and gave ourselves a chance to win both." -- UK head coach Mark Stoops
South Carolina and "The Ol' Ball Coach," Steve Spurrier, visit Lexington next weekend for what should be a raucous Keeneland "Daily Double" crowd for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff at Commonwealth Stadium.