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By LARRY VAUGHT
Joker Phillips admits his team is not where he would like it to be record-wise Ã¢â‚¬â€ Ã¢â‚¬Å“we would like to be undefeated like anybody elseÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬â€ but the first-year Kentucky coach says his team can still gain momentum for the program by winning the next two games.
Kentucky (5-5) hosts Vanderbilt this Saturday and then closes the season at Tennessee Nov. 27.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have a lot of things we were able to learn,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Phillips Sunday. Ã¢â‚¬Å“There are a lot of things we have learned about this football team. One is we have not started fast and the other one is that this team will continue to fight. To finish strong would mean a lot to this program in general. If we can take care of business and finish the way we expect to finish, we can gain momentum for the offseason.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Phillips has continually said heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seen no finger pointing from his players even though the Cats are only 1-5 in Southeastern Conference play. He wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t point any fingers, either, Sunday when asked to evaluate his defensive line play after the Cats allowed Charleston Southern to rush for 140 yards or score three times.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Just the defense in general. We canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t give up big plays. We have to keep people in front of us and make them continue to snap the ball. That does not mean a bend and not break defense. We want people to have to drive on us if they are going to score on us,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“But itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not just our defense, it is our whole defense. When one goes, the other has to come with it. Everybody has responsibility Ã¢â‚¬â€ d-line, linebacker, safety, corner. Everybody has to be on point.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am not satisfied with the way we have played on defense period. Not just the line. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think we have played the way any of us would have liked, including those guys. Same on offense. We have not played to my liking on offense, especially with our turnovers.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Kentucky had two turnovers against Charleston Southern Ã¢â‚¬â€ an interception in the end zone and a fumble by tight end Jordan Aumiller after a 15-yard play
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is carelessness,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said when asked about UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s recent turnover woes. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The interception, the guy made a great play. Fumbles are carelessness, especially the type fumble we had. I saw it out right before it happened. We canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be that careless with the ball.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Vanderbilt comes into the game off a 55-14 loss to Florida, its fourth straight loss, and fell to 2-7 overall and 1-5 in SEC play. The Commodores had two punts blocked, bobbled four kickoffs and misfired on a fake field goal in the first half. They have been outscored 168-35 in their losing skid. Vandy lost starting running back Warren Norman for the season with a dislocated right wrist two weeks ago and backup Zac Stacy was knocked out of the Florida game in the second quarter with a possible concussion.
Phillips said offensive coordinator Randy Sanders had good things to say about VandyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defense Sunday.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He said in looking at it, you would have never though that they were that far behind,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He said those guys were playing well on defense. He thought those guys were getting after people. We have to match their intensity. They come up here every year and play their hearts out against us.Ã¢â‚¬Â