No one knew that more than a group of seniors who have endured three coaching changes, NCAA probation and penalties and four losing seasons in their Kentucky careers.
Trailing 13-0 in the fourth quarter, embattled senior quarterback Shane Boyd threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, including an ugly wounded-duck under pressure that fell into the hands of wide receiver Glenn Holt in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown with 1:39 left. Kentucky won 14-13.
"I figured with all of the things that have happened to us this year, maybe we were due for a little good fortune," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said.
"I know the history of some of the games that slipped away. Even after we took the lead, I don't know that anybody was comfortable. But the players stepped up in those situations and made the plays they needed to make to keep the victory in our column."
No one stepped up more than the veteran players who played in their final game at Commonwealth Stadium. Boyd did his part with the two touchdown passes and no touchdowns, but he wasn't alone.
"Everybody," Boyd said, "stepped up and did something special."
The victory doesn't wipe away all the pain of some frustrating years at Kentucky or this year's record (2-8, 1-6 SEC), but it does say something about a group that hasn't given up.
"All I can say is that we didn't quit," junior cornerback Antoine Huffman said. "Nobody knows how many guys we had out there playing hurt. With a record as bad as ours, all we've got right now is each other, and we played for each other. With our record, we just needed a win against anybody."
GAME BALL GOES TO: DB Muhammad Abdullah -- With senior FS Mike Williams suspended for the rest of the season Abdullah has had to carry a heavier load. He carried it well against Vanderbilt with 10 tackles (eight solos), including two sacks and a forced fumble.
KEEP AN EYE ON: LB Dennis Johnson -- He's been something of a disappointment this season but he finally broke through with a big game on Saturday. With Wesley Woodyard sidelined by an ankle injury, Johnson stepped in and had seven tackles, including one for loss, and a blocked punt.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This was the last time we'll walk off the field at Commonwealth, and we were able to do it as winners. That means something. It eases the pain and gives us a lasting memory to take out of here. After all that, we just wanted to sing the fight song one more time. That was our moment." -- Kentucky senior WR Gerad Parker after the Kentucky seniors requested the school band play the fight song one final time before they walked off the field.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Senior punter Sevin Sucurovic played one of his best games in his final home game, averaging 42.8 yards on seven punts, including six inside the 20. He also saved a low snap with Kentucky ahead 14-13 lead and just 13 seconds left, and turned it into a 44-yard punt to the Vandy 5-yard line.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: One of the nation's worst offenses did come through with fourth-quarter touchdowns, but the Wildcats also finished with just 289 yards against a weak Vanderbilt defense.
ROSTER REPORT: Injuries continue to take their toll on the Wildcats. After playing well in Kentucky's two previous games, redshirt freshman QB Andre Woodson was unable to start because of a sprained ankle. He did enter the game in the second quarter and brought a spark by completing 5 of 7 passes for 45 yards, but missed the entire second half after re-injuring his ankle. "He really couldn't move around very well," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "We tried him in there, and he does throw the ball well, but he couldn't move around well enough to protect himself." ... Senior DE Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns (ankle) tried to play after missing three games but left the game in the first half and could not return. ... CB Earven Flowers (hip) tried to play through his injury, but he spent as much time on the sideline as he did on the field. ... CB Karl Booker suffered a knee injury on the game's final play. His status for the Nov. 27 game at Tennessee is uncertain.