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By LARRY VAUGHT
Once Donald Russell had a chance to get into the end zone, he wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t about to let anyone stop him.
The Kentucky sophomore running back ran for a career-high 110 yards and scored twice, including a 25-yard play on the WildcatsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ first possession when he broke two tackles at the 5-yard line, in a 49-21 win over Charleston Southern on Saturday.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He played good. He got the ball in the end zone. He made some big-time runs. Both backs (Russell and CoShik Williams) made some runs and they missed some runs, but he did what he had to do in this game. That is, to hang on to the football and possess the ball at the end of each run and get positive yards,Ã¢â‚¬Â Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said.
It was a bit of a tumultuous week for Russell. He started the season No. 2 behind senior Derrick Locke, but was demoted to third team behind Raymond Sanders when Kentucky opened Southeastern Conference play at Florida. However, after Locke was hurt against Auburn, Sanders started against South Carolina and Georgia before losing his spot after a fumble in the loss to Georgia.
When he barely played at Mississippi State, his mother, Tanya, expressed concerns over what had happened and made a trip to Lexington on Tuesday to see Phillips.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was a situation where everybody took it out of hand. It was nothing harmful towards anybody,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Russell, who also scored on a 17-yard run in the fourth quarter. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I still practiced hard, I still prepared hard on what I had to do, and I just played really hard.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He also started because Locke decided his shoulder was still not sufficiently healed for him to play and missed his fourth straight game.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He just didn’t feel like he could protect the football and also protect himself. Locke really wants to play, but Locke really doesn’t want to hurt this football team, also,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said.
Russell wants to make sure everyone knows his mother wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t trying to hurt the team, either. She said she only wanted to know what had happened and that she was not interested in having her son transfer, a point Russell felt many failed to notice.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was just questions and answers. Everybody thought she was trying to start a commotion with Coach, but it was nothing like that at all. She just wanted answers and she respected his opinion. Me and coaches are on the same page and wanting to win, so everything is OK,Ã¢â‚¬Â Russell said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Everybody thought we were on different pages about everything, but once I knew he and I were on the same page, I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to worry about anything else.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He hoped Phillips would respect that his mother flew from Florida to Lexington to voice her concerns personally Ã¢â‚¬â€ and he said Phillips did.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It just shows how serious she was and how strong our connection is. She paid a lot of money just to come talk to him, and they respected that a lot,Ã¢â‚¬Â Russell said.
Her trip did serve one other purpose Ã¢â‚¬â€ it motivated him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I always talk to her. With her coming up for that one day I was just happy to see her. It is kind of hard for her to come to lot of games because of the cost. I was very happy to see her. All the emotions and frustrations went out the window just because I got to see her. It was good to see her and helped me a lot,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
He did regret that his mother, who came to the Georgia game, couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be at his first 100-yard rushing game.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am pretty sure I will be talking to her a long time tonight and all my family and friends as well, too. They will all want to hear all about the game,Ã¢â‚¬Â he smiled and said.
Russell might have played even more if he had not rolled his back on a kickoff return in the first quarter. Phillips planned to play Russell two series, then Williams one. After RussellÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s slight injury, the two alternated series. Williams ran for 95 yards and three scores.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I thought both of them did a good job of getting the ball in the end zone and taking care of the ball,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said.
Russell felt the same way.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was great that we both had good games because thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s how we help the team,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I just hope everyone realizes now thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all I want to do, and all my mother wants me to do. I just want to win, and she just wants me to be happy. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nothing more to it than that and never was.Ã¢â‚¬Â