LEXINGTON, Ky. --- The last time Kentucky capped a football season with a win, somewhere Derek Abney was celebrating.
The remnants of his fourth birthday, that is.
The Wildcats' sophomore receiver was born four years and 10 days prior to the last UK season-ending victory, a 20-19 triumph over his home state Wisconsin Badgers in the 1984 Hall of Fame Bowl.
Not that he'd remember it. Or any of the current Cats, for that matter.
But on Saturday at Indiana, they all have a chance to do something memorable. The sting of a what has been a 2-8 season to date can be alleviated with a victory over the Hoosiers.
"It's another opportunity for our kids to compete and play another ballgame," Kentucky coach Guy Morriss said Monday at his weekly press luncheon. "...And it'll be an opportunity for this team to win it's season-ending game for the first time in 17 years. That's something I was not aware of until a few days ago. That would be a nice send-off for our seniors, and I think it would really springboard us into recruiting and into spring training."
"It's our bowl game," senior linebacker Chris Gayton said. "We're going to be fired up."
"It would be nice (to go out with a win)," senior safety Patrick Wiggins added. "We've worked real hard and stuck together as a team, gotten better just about every week, so it would feel really good to finish things the right way."
It also marks the first time since 1952 that the Cats have not finished the regular season against Tennessee. A Bear Bryant-led Kentucky squad lost that game 27-0 at Florida.
The Kentucky-Indiana game was originally scheduled for Sept. 14, but was postponed due to the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., three days earlier. When it was rescheduled, many wondered aloud how much interest there would be in watching the Cats and Hoosiers square off on Dec. 1, but both teams have taken significant strides since that fateful week in history.
The Cats (2-8, 1-7 SEC) have won only one eight games since that point, but have been surprisingly competitive in many, most recently a 38-35 loss to No. 6 Tennessee in which they once held a 21-0 advantage. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers (4-6, 4-4 Big Ten) may have saved coach Cam Cameron's job with a nice turnaround that includes victories over Northwestern, Michigan State and Purdue in their last four outings. All three of those IU opponents had been ranked in the Top 25 at one point in the season.
"They've really improved tremendously," Morriss said of the Hoosiers. "Obviously, the significant change they made was moving (Antwaan) Randle El to quarterback, and they've come out and won three of their last four games. They're moving the football, they're scoring points and their defense has gotten better each week. They're playing tough enough defense to keep it close each week and relying on their offense to score enough points to win.
"It's just a completely different team than what we saw (on film) at the end of September."
While Saturday's matchup will be overlooked by most of the nation, it features two of the most exciting quarterbacks in the college game. Randle El, a senior who will be making his final collegiate appearance, is the only player in I-A history to record 6,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing in a career. In 43 games, he has thrown for 7,275 yards and ran for 3,855.
"He's the best athlete at that position that we've played this year," Morriss said. "...We'll have to know where he's at and what he's doing at all times."
Kentucky is led by the resurgent Jared Loreznen, who, since winning back the starting job from Shane Boyd on Oct. 20 at Georgia, has passed for 1,556 yards and 15 touchdowns. The sophomore left-hander has 859 yards and 10 touchdowns with only one interception in his last two games.
"We've improved a little bit," Morriss said in perhaps the understatement of the year.
"I expect us to play our best game Saturday, and if we don't, I'll be disappointed."