Another Streak Laid To Rest: While Kentucky fans are still smarting from just narrowly missing an opportunity to beat the Florida Gators for the first time in an eternity, at least they don’t have to hear about the SEC winless streak any longer or shiver from the thought of seeing a recruiting class leave the program without a win against Vanderbilt. That should never come close to happening. Rest assured it will not under Mark Stoops & Co. “Must win” seems to get thrown around way too easily these days, but that’s what this game was for the Cats. They took care of business.
Winning Without Style Points: In the past, if UK scored only 17 points, the chances of winning a conference game were almost non-existent. In the last 25 years, it had only happened seven times prior to Saturday. Ironially, the last time it happened was the 10-7 triumph over Tennessee to end the 2011 season. The Cats had not won an SEC game since then. Coincidence? I think not. Fans will always love high-powered offense and the excitement that comes along with a great passing attack, but you get the sense that the Big Blue Nation is also starting to appreciate winning the old-fashioned way, with a stingy, opportunistic defense. That’s the main reason Stoops was brought to Lexington, and he’s delivering at a pace that may even surprise the optimists.
Linebacker Play: The staff hasn’t had a chance to break down game film with the players and review their findings with the media yet, but I have a feeling they’re going to be very pleased with what they saw from the linebacker corps. Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot have both been pushing the backers for improved play, and we saw guys like Josh Forrest and Khalid Henderson around the ball a lot against the Commodores. Forrest had a team-high six tackles, his first career sack, and a couple of quarterback “hurries” that led to interceptions for his teammates. Both Forrest and Henderson looked better against the power running game as well.
By The Numbers:
0 – Points allowed by the UK defense. Vandy’s only score of the afternoon came via a 13-yard interception return in the second quarter.
3 – Interceptions by the UK defense, matching the season total by the Cats last year. Stoops’ Troops have doubled that number through only four games. Saturday was a particularly great day for UK safeties as Ashely Lowery, Marcus McWilson and A.J. Stamps each picked off a Vandy pass.
99 – Yards covered on UK’s opening drive of the game, a terrific 16-play march that saw Patrick Towles go 9-for-9 through the air and complete passes to seven different receivers, capped by a TD strike to Ryan Timmons.
139 – Total yards allowed by UK, the fewest in an SEC game since holding Vandy to 91 in a 1996 game. The rushing (54) and passing (85) totals were the lowest in league games since 2008 and 2004, respectively, both against Mississippi State.
9/27 – A good date for the Cats, who improved to 11-3-2 all-time when playing on September 27.
1979 – The last time the UK defense has gone four consecutive games without allowing a touchdown in the first half.
42-41-4 – The Cats regained the lead in the all-time series against Vandy.
Ball Security: The game may have been a cakewalk if not for UK’s uncharacteristic three turnovers. Patrick Towles fumbled twice in addition to the pick-6 he threw for Vandy’s only points. Ryan Timmons also coughed up the ball as he crossed the goal line on UK’s opening drive, but the score was upheld after replay officials reviewed the play. It was extremely close and could have gone either way. I don’t think these are long-term issues, though. The Cats have done a nice job taking care of the ball this season, especially Towles, who has carried it much more than we anticpated.
Vandy QB Play: Kentucky’s defense was impressive Saturday, but the Commodores were handcuffed by brutally-bad play from freshman quarterback Wade Freebeck, who completed only eight of 25 passes for 85 yards, was sacked four times and threw three interceptions. He finished with a raw QBR of 2.6. To put that in perspective, Towles, who had an off day for the Cats, finished with a raw QBR of 40.0.