UT loss still haunts UK

Kentucky's football team hasn't beaten Tennessee's in 22 years – dating to a 17-12 triumph in 1984 – but the Wildcats were nine feet from ending that streak last November.

Trailing by just five points with four minutes left at Neyland Stadium, the Cats faced a second-and-goal at the Vol 3-yard line. Seeing a soft spot in Tennessee's defense, Big Blue quarterback Andre Woodson decided to change the play. A split second after he did so, however, a whistle blew and a flag flew.

The play clock had run out while Woodson was audibling, and the resulting five-yard penalty moved the ball from the 3-yard line to the 8-yard line. Three plays later, the Cats gave the ball up on downs with 3:04 remaining. They never got the ball again, losing 17-12.

Although the Big Blue bounced back to clip Clemson in the Music City Bowl and cap an 8-5 season, the disastrous delay penalty vs. Tennessee remains fresh in their minds.

Head coach Rich Brooks certainly hasn't forgotten it. When asked at SEC Media Days what areas Woodson needs to improve, Brooks flashed a pained grin and replied: "Making sure he understands how much time he has to make a check at the line of scrimmage to get the play off before you get the delay of game on the 3-yard line in the Tennessee game."

Woodson, the preseason All-SEC quarterback for 2007, didn't need a reminder from his coach. He'll never forget that devastating delay penalty.

"It comes up quite a bit but it's something we learned from," he said. "It was an experience that benefits us down the road."

Turning philosophical, he added:

"Things like that happen. It's something you're going to learn to deal with. It's something that helps you grow as a leader and mature. You deal with losses and you get better."

Woodson was one of the breakout players of college football last season, throwing for 3,515 yards and 31 touchdowns with just 7 interceptions. Can he build on that success in 2007?

"The biggest thing is, I can't go out there and try to make plays I wasn't making the previous season," he said. "I can't try to force the ball down the field, trying to make a bomb every single play. I can't try to get more touchdowns than I did this past season. The biggest thing I have to do is control the offense, be a general out there."

Working in Woodson's favor is the fact he has a great supporting cast. Rafael Little and Tony Dixon are proven running backs. Keenan Burton and Dicky Lyons are quality receivers. Jacob Tamme is the preseason All-SEC tight end.

"Coach Joker (Phillips) has done a wonderful job of scheming this offense so it doesn't really rely on one man," Woodson said. "We have so many weapons, so many guys we can get the ball to and let them make plays. That's what's so special about this offense."

A 2-to-1 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio is considered very good. Woodson's 2006 ratio was better than 4-to-1, which is downright mind-boggling.

"I'll be honest with you," Brooks said. "If he could have the same success – the same numbers – I would consider that a fantastic year. To throw 31 touchdowns and only seven interceptions in this league is phenomenal."

When asked if he'd be satisfied with duplicating last year's numbers, Woodson shrugged.

"Honestly, I'm not worried about the numbers," he said. "What I'm worried about is us winning more games. Last year we were in the Tennessee game and we lost it. We were in the South Carolina game and we lost it.

"If we continue to progress and eventually win those games that we're in and should win ... other people will notice that more than they'll notice numbers. We want to be considered an SEC contender, year in and year out. We want to be considered a team that's got the capability of making it into a BCS game."


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