By KEITH TAYLOR
Mike Hartline knows the bottom line was all that mattered Saturday.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“A win is a win, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the best way we can put it,Ã¢â‚¬Â Hartline said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We really needed one going into the last two games. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m just glad we came in and (got the win).Ã¢â‚¬Â
Although the Wildcats had Charleston Southern outmanned both on paper and on the field, the Wildcats struggled at times and faced some timid moments in the first half before pulling away in the second half for a 49-21 win at Commonwealth Stadium to move within one game of becoming bowl-eligible for the fifth straight season.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s big,Ã¢â‚¬Â Hartline said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We understood when we were coming in who we were playing and we understood how should play, but this is big. If we would have lost it, the next two games would have been crucial. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m glad we came in and got it done.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hartline threw for 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns and became the fifth quarterback to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a career at Kentucky. He joins an elusive club that features Tim Couch, Jared Lorenzen, Bill Ransdell and predecessor Andre Woodson.
Although KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s offense amassed 502 yards, including 274 through the air, Hartline said the Cats could have piled on more points, added more yards and produced a wider margin in the outcome.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There definitely should have been more points out there that we should have put up,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We still had too many wasted plays.Ã¢â‚¬Â
One of those Ã¢â‚¬Å“wasted playsÃ¢â‚¬Â came when Hartline threw a rare interception that led to a score by the guests that made the score 14-14 in the second quarter. However, Hartline put the Cats up for good when he connected on a 53-yard touchdown pass to Chris Matthews on the next series.
Even though his miscue was frustrating, HartlineÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s biggest complaint was the fact that Wildcats only held the ball for 20 minutes during the entire contest, compared to 40 by Charleston Southern.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I was frustrated offensively that we werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sustaining drives like we should have (been),Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t putting up points or threatening to put up points on every drive. I was just frustrated with that. I knew we had a good game plan.Ã¢â‚¬Â
After the Buccaneers tied the score at 14-14, Kentucky scored three touchdowns to put the game away. Hartline said the consecutive scores gave the team a sense of security down the stretch.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“That started to make us feel good,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Hartline admitted that he isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happy with the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s even record after 10 games, but added that the Cats are taking the results Ã¢â‚¬Å“in strideÃ¢â‚¬Â during the final three weeks of the regular season.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are what we are,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If ask anybody on our team, we werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t expecting to be this way this late in the season and we probably expected more wins, but we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worry about that. We canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be having the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwhat-ifsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and think about where we could be. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got to control what we can control and do our best this upcoming week.Ã¢â‚¬Â