By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin is never one to mince words and certainly didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t when he offered his insights on Saturday nightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game at Auburn.
Question: Is this a game the defense needs to go win because of the uncertainty at quarterback?
Lumpkin: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think it is going to be a team game. I am not going to say we need to win it or the offense needs to win it. I think it will be a thing where we all have to come together. Right now we are at a crossroads. It reminds me of my freshman year. If we lose this game we are going to be 2-4 and we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need that. You need six wins to be bowl eligible. We are not trying to go back home 2-4. We need our fan support. We need to win this game, come back home 3-3 and win the next three at home. Then keep going and go to Georgia and Vanderbilt to win. We need all the momentum we can get. We have a long schedule and our bye week is gone. We have to pull each other together. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all football. There is no more rest this season.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Would it help if the defense had a great game at Auburn?
Lumpkin: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It would help in general. We still have to cause more turnovers. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s our goal. We have not caused enough turnovers this year like we would like to and used to. That sucks a lot. We are used to causing fumbles and getting interceptions. This year we are not doing too much of that. We would like to continue that at Auburn. Cause some fumbles. Get some interceptions. Return some for touchdowns and score some points. Our goal is to help the offense and special teams any way possible.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: So is this a must-win for Kentucky?
Lumpkin: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is a must-win. Last week was a must-win. This week is definitely now a must-win because with four losses you only have two more games you can lose and still be bowl eligible. You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to be put in that spot with the schedule we have left. After this week, we still have two away games left with two good opponents in the SEC in Vanderbilt and Georgia and then we have Tennessee at home. Then we have Mississippi State at home. We also have Eastern and Louisiana-Monroe. Anyone can be beaten on any Saturday, Thursday or Friday or whenever games are played now. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just the mentality that every game we have left now is a must-win. We are at a crossroads as a team and we know we have to win.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Have you put a lot time and thought into just what lies ahead for this team?
Lumpkin: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It has been bothering me since we lost (to South Carolina). I have wondered about what is going to happen. I have thought about every possibility. I think everyone on the team has thought about every possibility about what can happen or not happen. We donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to be home for Christmas, especially the senior class and junior class that are here now. We came in and got it started. We have got so used to going to bowl games and not going home for Christmas. Now we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want the feeling where we go home at Christmas and have to explain why we are at home opening presents. We want to be getting ready for a game and complaining, Ã¢â‚¬ËœOh, man, I miss my family.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ We know that and have to step it up and I think we will be ready for the challenge.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: So is this looking ahead or just being realistic?
Lumpkin: Ã¢â‚¬Å“No, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not looking ahead. I think we are all focused. Our goal is to go to a better bowl and get out of Tennessee (for a bowl game). For that to happen, we have to win more games. We canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just win six or seven games. We have to win eight. Our goal is to win out. I think we are ready for it. Coach (Rich) Brooks talks about it. The players talk about it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: IsnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t that a tough goal considering your starting quarterback is out with a knee injury?
Lumpkin: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is a tough goal, but I think we will be good. We have a lot of character on this team. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nothing new. We are Kentucky. People expect it from us. We are not like Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee where they have expectations. But we know what we have to do. We have a lot of character, too. We know the world is against us already. We canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get down on ourselves. We have to use that as momentum to push through the rest of the season.Ã¢â‚¬Â