TAYLOR'S THOUGHTS: Durrell White on UT

Durrell White knows what it's like to be in the middle of the rivalry between Kentucky and Tennessee.

White, a senior defensive end from Middlesboro, has always taken a special interest in the annual football meeting between the two neighboring states. Middlesboro is located close to Knoxville near the border of Kentucky and Tennessee.

"I'm in the border war, right in the middle of it," he said. "A lot of people don't understand how significant this rivalry is. To me, this is a tremendous game. We have to get this game."

For the past three years, White has taken some heat from his friends, who are diehard Tennessee followers.

"They're always giving me a hard time," he said.

White would like nothing better than to beat Tennessee in Knoxville to silence his buddies and give the Wildcats their first win over the Volunteers since 1984 on Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville."I would love to beat Tennessee," he said. "That would be my dream — go to a bowl game, beat Tennessee, six (wins at home) — that's the way to cap off your senior year — beat Tennessee at Tennessee."

White said he thinks the Cats are ready to take the next step and end the school's long losing streak against the Vols. Tennessee handed UK a 27-8 setback last year, but the Vols had to rally for a 37-31 win over the Cats two years ago in Knoxville.

"I think this team is ready to beat them," he said. "We have made some significant steps this year, so I think we're ready to take that next step. We've always played Tennessee tough, but this year, I'm just looking for us to take it to the next level."

In order to do that, Kentucky's defense, which gave up 501 yards in last week's 42-40 triumph over Louisiana-Monroe, would have to perform better, and White thinks the defense will challenge Tennessee's offense."I think we'll bring our "A" game," he said. "We didn't play as good last week as we would have hoped — giving up too many yards. I think this week, we'll be more focused and we'll go down there and get a "W" out of it."

White added that he understands why fans are discontented with the defensive unit, but said the players are "only human."

"We hear (the boos and) that stuff," he said. "Obviously, we're giving up too many yards. The linemen understand that and everyone else understands that. But, at the same time, we're young. They're going to get better, they have to get better and the only place to go is up."

White said another issue has been the team's mental approach on the field.

"On first- and second-down, we're playing so-so and on third down, we're just letting them (the other team) off the hook," he said. "When it comes to crunch time, the guys make good plays and they're making big plays, but they have to understand it shouldn't come down to making a big play at crunch time. You should take care of business early, that way you don't put so much pressure on yourself."

In the grand scheme of things, White said the team's success at generating turnovers and winning the close encounters helps offset the team's defensive problems.

"The main thing it comes down to at the end of a game is did you win or lose? Years from now, people aren't going to remember how many yards we gave up. They're going to remember did we win or lose the game?

"That's the key — that's what you have to stay focused on."


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