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By LARRY VAUGHT
When word got out that former NBA star Mookie Blaylock had been involved in a traffic accident in Georgia Friday that resulted in the death of a woman in another car after his SUV crossed a median and hit another car. Blaylock has been charged with driving under a suspended license, improper lane change, crossing the median and driving on the wrong side of the road.
His sons are Kentucky sophomore football players Daron and Zack Blaylock and even though they have lived with their mother and step-father the last 12 years, that didn’t keep current and former UK coaches from reaching out to the twins after the accident.
John Woods, the twins’ step-dad, said former UK head coach Joker Phillips, now an assistant at Florida, called. “He’s a good man,” Woods said.
So did former UK assistant coach Greg Nord. “The boys loved him,” Woods said.
Current UK secondary coach Bradley Dale Peveto also called along with new UK director of football operations Frank Buffano on behalf of head coach Mark Stoops “to check on the boys and how they were” after their father’s accident.
The twins have become especially fond of Peveto, who called when another UK player, Ashley Lowery, was seriously injured in a car accident in Georgia last month and the twins went to visit him.
“He called to see how their visit with Ashley went. I told my wife to answer because most coaches would rather talk to the moms,” Woods said. “He talked to her about 45 minutes, then asked for me and talked another 15 minutes or so. He’s just a super guy.
“Daron and Zack are lucky to have him as a coach. He loves them and they love him. He treats them like his sons and they think he hung the moon.”
The Blaylock twins are now back at Kentucky and Woods said their time at home was a bit more emotional than they could have ever imagined.
“They went and spent a day with Ashley in ICU and then the day before they left to go back to Kentucky they had to see their dad in ICU,” Woods said. “That’s a tough way to start and end a vacation at home.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
During his days at Boyle County High School and Western Kentucky University, Brandon Smith was a quarterback and set numerous records during his prep career. Now he’s the defensive coordinator at South Warren High School and has two players — defensive tackle Adrian Middleton and linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe.
Middleton has offers from Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana State, Western and Middle Tennessee. Iyiegbuniwe only has an offer from Western so far, but Smith expects more schools to soon offer Iyiegbuniwe.
Smith, the son of former Boyle County and UK linebackers coach Chuck Smith, says South Warren coach Mark Nelson has done an amazing job. “To have only played two years of varsity football and have two Division I players on the team says a lot about what kind of coach he is and what he expects of his players. I’m not sure if another school in the state currently has two D1 players,” Smith said.
The 6-4, 275-pound Middleton got a visit from UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown, who played for Chuck Smith, and defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh. They recorded video to show head coach Mark Stoops, who extended the offer to Middleton after he returned from the NFL draft.
Florida — and assistant coach Joker Phillips — has also shown interest in Middleton.
“I think he’s an elite player,” Smith said. “He is a big, strong kid that can move like a skilled kid. It is very hard to find players that can do that. He tremendous explosion off the ball and he is very football intelligent. He doesn’t just guess where the ball is going — he reads it.”
Smith offered these other insights on Middleton and Iyiegbuniwe.
Question: What kind of upside does Middleton have in college and what are you looking for him to improve this year?
Smith: “He has a huge upside. He is very young. He will play his entire senior year at 17 years old. He really hasn’t learned how to use what he has yet. Sometimes you see kids that peak out in high school, but that is not the case with him. His best football is ahead of him.”
Question: What kind of summer plans does he have as far as camps/combines to attend?
Smith: “All of this has hit suddenly in the last couple of weeks. He will have to sit down and figure out a plan of where he wants to visit this summer. He will probably do that in the next couple of weeks.”
Question: Do you expect even more schools to get involved in his recruiting?
Smith: “Yes. Defensive linemen are very hard to find. He is very good at what he does. There are several more SEC and Big 10 schools that have expressed a strong interest and are scheduled to visit him in school in the coming weeks.”
Question: What kind of person/student is he?
Smith: “He is a great kid. He has very likable personality. If you only knew him off the field you wouldn’t think he was capable of the things he does on it. He is always smiling and in a good mode.
Question: What makes you feel more offers will be coming for Iyiegbuniwe and what are his strengths/weaknesses?
Smith: “Joel is a solid 6-2, 210 pounds and can run. He is moving from safety to linebacker this year and that is where the majority of the schools are projecting him as. They don’t have film to go by, so he is going to be a camp guy. If they are not an offensive lineman/defensive lineman, most of the time they (college coaches) want to see you run and change direction. He does these things very well. He has only played football two years (basketball player). He has not even tipped the iceberg of what he’s capable of.”
Question: What kind of summer plans does he have?
Smith: “He has several camps he is planning to attend. Once again, he will have to sit down and plan out the stops he is going to make. I think that will come after all the schools come through and he decides which ones he is serious about.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
One reason John Woods was glad his sons, Daron and Zack Blaylock, came to Kentucky was to play for coach Joker Phillips. However, the Georgia twins and their family could not be happier with the way things have worked out since Phillips’ dismissal and the arrival of coach Mark Stoops and his staff.
“Daron and Zack call quite a bit and seem to love the new coaching staff,” Woods said. “They are very excited. They like (defensive coordinator) D.J. Elliot. They like their position coach. They said Stoops is really involved in the defense. Joker was a great man, but he was not involved in the coaching like Stoops is.
“I’ll admit I was very apprehensive when Joker left. I have a lot of friends and family members who have gone through coaching changes and it was not good for them. Kids transfer or get unhappy. You just hope it will turn out to be a positive thing, but this move seems really positive for the players.”
He said the Blaylocks, both safeties, enjoyed the winter workouts to get ready for spring practice and were “extremely happy” with the team’s attitude and performance during the offseason.
“We’ve got some good reports from people on a lot of things,” Woods said. “One (UK assistant) coach talked to their high school coach and said their grades were both good, which is always good to know. They seem to be having fun and they both are in position to get to play a lot.”
He noted that several other Georgia players could also be starting for UK in the fall based on what he’s heard.
“You could maybe have eight to 10 guys from Georgia starting,” Woods said. “In a couple of years, with the way Stoops is recruiting Ohio, you could see that happen there. You want players from states where football is important and it is important in Ohio and Georgia.”
He’s still enjoying the recruiting process, but Franklin County receiver Ryan Timmons admits it is “getting tough with all the schools firing out right now” to decide where he will play his college football.
He got a scholarship offer from Florida last week and added one this week from Ohio State. Both are schools he’s had a long-time interest in and had been waiting to receive scholarship offers.
“It’s all starting to get really serious right now and I have to think about getting my list down to three or so schools,” said Timmons. “But right now I am still side open. There is not a favorite school or group of schools.”
He has offers from Arkansas, Purdue, Illinois, California, Cincinnati, Missouri, Western Kentucky, Wisconsin and several other schools along with Kentucky. He plans to make his college choice known Feb. 5 — one day before the national signing period starts — during a 1 p.m. ceremony at the high school.
“Ryan doesn’t want word to get out early, so he’s going to let everyone know his decision before signing day,” Franklin coach Chris Tracy said.
Timmons had 72 rushes for 1,260 yards and 25 scores for 12-1 Franklin last season and caught 29 passes for 970 yards and 17 more scores. He had 45 total touchdowns and scored 260 points. Tracy says Timmons, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds at a Kentucky camp, played last season at about 187 pounds and now weighs around 195 after opting not to play basketball this season to concentrate on recruiting.
“He needs to get stronger and turn that 195 pounds into all muscle, but he’s a legitimate 5-11, 195-pound guy with speed who runs good routes,” Tracy said. “His legs are huge. Ohio State was in here and said he was even bigger than they remembered.”
Timmons said he didn’t mind waiting so long for Ohio State and Florida offers. He understood that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had to evaluate his current roster and also honor offers that had been made to players before he got the job last year.
“I just had to wait and let it all play out,” Timmons said. “Now coach Meyer decided to pull the trigger and make the offer.”
Former UK head coach Joker Phillips, now the receivers coach at Florida, has been recruiting Timmons for the Gators. The Franklin senior says “I’ve always been a Florida fan” and that former Gators Percy Harvin and Jeff Demps are two of his favorite players.
He admits it is a “little weird” having Phillips now recruiting him for Florida and not Kentucky.
“I have known Joker since I was a sophomore. I have a good relationship with him. He has a good relationship with my mom,” Timmons said. “He’s not a head coach any more, so he can say more now. It’s not awkward or anything with him.”
Timmons likes new UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown and Franklin ran basically the same offense that Brown uses.
“Coach Brown has been pretty good. He has been on me a lot since he got the job,” Timmons said. “The new staff at Kentucky has me a lot more interested in Kentucky now. It’s a new staff, new start with the same offense I have been under for five years. I know every play. The chance to be part of something new is what coach Brown is selling me on. He wants me to come into an offense I know and can play.
“I want to play as a freshman wherever I go and make an impact on the team. I can be a slot receiver, H-back, running back. I can help on special teams returning kickoffs and punts. I enjoy all of that. I just want to be on the field.”
He doesn’t feel any added pressure as one of the state’s marquee recruits and a main recruiting target for new UK coach Mark Stoops.
“It’s nice to have all the attention. It’s not really pressure,” Timmons, who will run track in the spring, said. “It is nice for me and the school to have this attention and I’ve been working to get to this point for a long time. Coach Tracy has been a big help, but he’s never had a player heavily recruited like this before, so it’s new for both of us. My family is going to be happy wherever I go. They just want me to make the best decision for me.”
Timmons plans to take an official visit to Florida and probably another unofficial visit to Ohio State before his Feb. 5 announcement.
“I probably get asked 10 times a day where I am going to school. I get asked at school or at the store or mostly (basketball) games,” Timmons said. “But I really don’t know yet. It will come down to how I get along with the coach, the type of offense the school runs and how comfortable I am with everything. Right now I can’t even tell you all the offers I have. I just have to find time to sit down and rethink everything and then make my decision.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Franklin County standout Ryan Timmons still is not ready to make his college choice and recently has added scholarship offers from California and Missouri to those he already had and Florida — thanks to receivers coach Joker Phillips — continues to make a push for him.
The versatile Timmons is one of the state’s top players. He had 72 rushes for 1,260 yards and 25 scores for 12-1 Franklin last season and caught 29 passes for 970 yards and 17 more scores. He had 45 total touchdowns and scored 260 points.
Franklin coach Chris Tracy says Timmons, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds at a Kentucky camp, will make his college choice known either Feb. 6 (the first day of the national signing period) or Feb. 7 during a ceremony at the high school.
Tracy says new Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown has “been to see him three or four times” already, including Tuesday night.
“I think he is a priority for Kentucky and this new staff,” Tracy said. “Florida has really jumped back into the picture. They have not offered a scholarship yet, but they are really close. The one thing Florida likes is that he can do it all. They don’t have that type of guy now who can play the slot, play running back, play receiver and just do it all. All through middle school, he was a tailback.”
The coach says Timmons has a “great relationship” with Illinois coaches and that they “have been there from day one” with him.
Kentucky did not seem positioned that strongly with Timmons until the staff changed. However, Tracy says Timmons always liked head coach Joker Phillips and recruiting coordinator Chuck Smith.
“I think his big issue with them had more to do with winning than anything else,” Tracy said. “He really, really likes Joker a lot. He had a great relationship with coach Smith. But it had more to do with winning.
“Being so close to home also plays a role in this. Expectations are different when you stay home to play. That’s something he has to juggle in his mind. Do I want to be that close to home and be the crown jewel as the home state guy? I know he really likes coach Brown a lot. He came in with guns blazing to try and pick him up.
“He will go there and probably know more about the offense than most kids who go through spring practice. That’s our offense. This is my seventh or eighth year running this offense and one of the first clinics I went to about this offense there was a young Neal Brown of Troy University there as a speaker. So Ryan knows plenty about the offense.”
Tracy also always knew plenty about Timmons. Tracy was head coach at Woodford County when Timmons was a freshman and Timmons led Franklin to a win over Woodford.
“They ran the option and he was one of the wingbacks. I remember the quarterback tossing him the ball at the 1 (yard line) and he took it 99 yards in a game against Lafayette,” Tracy said. “That did not have a bearing on me taking the job at Franklin the next year, but there were people there telling me he could be awesome. You could tell he had that special it factor about him.”
He apparently still has it.
“Several college coaches have been telling he has the ability to play in the NFL from what they have seen on film. They say he could put on 10 to 15 pounds and play in the NFL right now,” Tracy said. “I’m so close to him, I don’t see that. But there are coaches telling me that.”
Tracy said at Ohio State’s Friday Night Lights (camp) last summer that Timmons outran everyone he was paired against, including skilled players who have verbally committed to the Buckeyes. “We are not talking by a step or head, but by a yard or more,” Tracy said.
The coach says his star runs “good routes” that make him seem even faster and that Franklin offensive coordinator Eddie James, who has coached Timmons since middle school, designed schemes to take advantage of his versatility. “You just didn’t know where he would be and I would think it would be the same in college for him,” Tracy said.
Tracy isn’t sure exactly what criteria Timmons will use to make his college choice.
“It is a decision him and family will have to make. I try to lay information out to him and let him decide what to do,” Tracy said. “Our defensive coordinator wrote out some questions for him and had him answer about each school and for him to write the pros and cons of each school so he could compare them.
“One thing we have talked about is him making up his mind before Feb. 1 and then telling the program he has committed. But we’ll keep his decision quiet until he can make his announcement to everyone at the same time.”
By ASHLEY SCOBY
If we know anything about the Kentucky football team this year, it’s that they were young. A good portion of this year’s freshman class (as well as redshirt freshmen from last year) played a significant amount. Jalen Whitlow, Khalid Henderson, Patrick Towles, Fred Tiller, Landon Foster – the list goes on of how many had their redshirts pulled this season.
AJ Legree could also be added to that list, although he didn’t play as much as anticipated. Former head coach Joker Phillips pointed to Legree and another freshman, Demarcus Sweat, as two youngsters that could contribute heavily in the receiving game this year. Sweat ended up sitting out the last two games of the season to focus on academics.
Legree, on the other hand, only finished with 12 catches for 113 yards in 2012. If you take out his three catch/47-yard performance against Vanderbilt in a 40-0 loss, he only finished with nine catches for 66 yards – not quite the season you would want to give up your redshirt for. But that lack of playing time only motivates Legree to push forward.
“Of course I wish I could have played more, but learning the offense, having to pick things up on the go, I think I did pretty good with that,” he said after the final game of the season, a 37-17 loss to Tennessee. “I think the coaches started to notice that I was working a lot harder and starting to pick the offense up, so they put me on the field when I was ready.”
Heading into an uncertain future for Kentucky football, Legree’s desire “just to get better, faster, stronger” in the offseason is an important attitude to have. Without a coach being named yet, it’s uncertain what kind of offense Kentucky will have next year. A spread attack? A focus on the running game?
Either way, Kentucky will be losing a good portion of its receiving yardage with the loss of La’Rod King, Aaron Boyd, Gene McCaskill and EJ Fields – the four seniors accounted for 897 of UK’s 2115 receiving yards this season. Another 355 of the 2012 receiving yards came from running backs Jonathan George, Raymond Sanders and CoShik Williams (only Williams graduates from the running back group).
It’s an open field next year for Kentucky’s young receivers. Losing a “go-to” guy like La’Rod King can motivate the younger guys to step into his shoes. It may be Legree that does that, or Sweat, or maybe even a true freshman coming in next year.
A crucial component of who steps up at receiver? Who is tossing the passes? Whether the mobile quarterback, Jalen Whitlow, or the traditional passing quarterbacks, Towles or Max Smith, are chosen by the new coaching staff to lead the offense is a mystery right now. Legree’s second biggest game of the year, however, came thanks to Whitlow.
“(The) South Carolina game, me and Jalen were able to hook up for a couple catches,” Legree said. “Me and Jalen are pretty cool. We hang out a lot. I just hope we can keep that bond going, and hopefully improve in the offseason.”
Whether it’s Whitlow, Towles or Smith throwing passes next year (or a combination of all three), Legree is looking to make more of an impact on offense. For a guy that averaged 9.4 yards a catch this year, that doesn’t seem too out of the realm of possibility.
While Kentucky coach Joker Phillips walked away with a smile on his face after his last game at UK, defensive coordinator Rick Minter didn’t exactly do the same and even offered some advice for the next coach — which is now Mark Stoops after the Florida State defensive coordinator was named head coach Tuesday.
Minter — who has been at 13 schools during his 35-year coaching career and was fired as the head coach at Cincinnati — noted that UK showed little loyalty to Phillips.
“I’ve been through what he’s been through, and I know how tough this is, and how challenging this is, particularly being an alumnus,” Minter said after Saturday’s loss at Tennessee. “You know, ‘this is my school,’ so to speak. Those would be his words, ‘this is my school’, and they threw him out. No matter what you say, they threw him out. And he can say he’s numb, but I guarantee you he’ll feel it, if he doesn’t already. It’s real. He’s just done a great job fooling you guys (in the media). It was a quick trigger, in my estimation. But nobody asked me what I thought.”
Minter, who indicated he would like a chance to coach in the NFL, said the administration has “been really good to us” and then noted how expectations rose to high — at Kentucky — because of the success former coach Rich Brooks had with four straight bowl appearances.
“It’s so unfortunate that perhaps over the last five to seven years, expectations maybe rose, and, of course you want to win – we all do – but maybe the perception was higher than the reality wa,” Minter said. “All of a sudden you don’t have a star quarterback like (Mike) Hartline, and you don’t have a Randall Cobb catching balls, and before you know it, you’re not moving the ball as well,. Then you lose a Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy, and you don’t quite have the forces to replace those guys just yet into your (defensive) system.”
Minter also had a few shots for Brooks.
“Just because he (Phillips) was the coach-in-waiting doesn’t mean he made the decisions that made the program go,” Minter said. “When I was a head coach, I made all the decisions. He’s made them for two years and 10 games. He didn’t make them for five or six years just because somebody said, ‘Hey, someday you’ll be the coach here.’
“Rich Brooks made all those decisions until that one day when he walked in and said, ‘Hey, guess what, I’m out’. That’s when he (Phillips) started changing the staff a little bit and trying to change the culture to fit the Joker Phillips way. It wasn’t necessarily bad or worse than Rich, just different.
So those are the things that really disappoint us as coaches is that we didn’t have a chance to cultivate and grow our team to get more and more of those kinds of guys to where you start reloading like the other teams do, and not once in a blue moon you get a star and lose him, and all of a sudden you fall off the map.”
He said success at UK is “hard to sustain because stars don’t come around very often.”
“When you have them (stars), your expectations rise, and when you don’t have them, you get rid of the coach because he didn’t have any stars,” Minter said.
Minter called Kentucky a “tough place” to coach and blamed the lack of in-state talent as a major hurdle for any UK coach to overcome.
“You have to go outside your state, and to do that takes time to develop the inroads in recruiting,” Minter said.
He argued why give Phillips a five-year contract and then “pull the cord” after two years and 10 games as UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart did when he fired Phillips after three straight losing seasons and a 2-10 mark this season.
“I feel so bad for Joker, I really do. Because he was a lifer here, and he really was on the right track. I know people don’t want to hear that. And he has a great staff. And none of us wanted to go anywhere else,” Minter said. “And when you hire the next guy, if he’s really good, he won’t stay. And if he’s really bad, you get rid of him, too. But you had a lifer here in Joker. Winning was the goal, and not leaving would have been his goal. So we hope the administration will use sound judgment and hire a great guy, and I hope everybody gets behind him and shows some patience.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Since he didn’t always see eye-to-eye with every offensive coordinator he had, former Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen had no trouble sensing there was a disconnect between freshman quarterback Patrick Towles and offensive coordinator Randy Sanders and even coach Joker Phillips this season.
“I don’t think they got along really well. The coaching change can only be good for him,” said Lorenzen, who helped coach Towles at Highlands.
Towles, Kentucky’s 2011 Mr. Football, came to UK expecting to contend for the starting job. Instead, he quickly found himself taking snaps with the scout team and eventually was placed fourth on the depth chart by sophomore Maxwell Smith, senior Morgan Newton and fellow freshman Jalen Whitlow. Only when Smith injured his ankle in the fifth game and Newton was ineffective due in part to last season’s shoulder injury did Kentucky offer to let Towles play. He gladly gave up his redshirt year, but got hurt his first game after directing an 80-yard scoring drive on his first series.
He finished the season completing 19 of 40 passes in five games for 233 yards and one score with one interception. Whitlow played in 10 games and was 87 for 161 passing for 801 yards and three scores with two interceptions and ran for 206 yards and three scores. In three games, Smith threw for 975 yards and eight scores by completing 103 of 150 throws with four interceptions.
Lorenzen often disagreed with offensive coordinator Brent Pease during his time at UK under coach Hal Mumme. Then two even exchanged Twitter taunts before this year’s Florida-Kentucky game (Pease is Florida’s offensive coordinator).
“I don’t know what happened with Patrick and Sanders. Based on what I could see on the sidelines and the way they interacted — or didn’t interact — it was obvious something was wrong,” Lorenzen said. “It was like a bad couple relationship and now they are each going their own way.”
Lorenzen laughed he had one coordinator (Pease) meet him before he got off the field to point out his mistakes. However, he said he had not seen an offensive coordinator walk away from quarterbacks the way Sanders did at times when he would go to one 30-yard line and leave Towles and other quarterbacks at the other 30 after Towles came out of a game.
“Brent and I would yell and scream and then it was done. I never had a coordinator walk away from me,” Lorenzen said. “We never let it carry over to the next series. That’s not fair to the team and why I’ve never seen coaches at one 30 and the quarterbacks at the other 30.”
Last week Sanders said there was “no question who the best one is” when asked about the quarterback and said he would have a “hard time believing” Smith would not be the starting quarterback next year unless the new head coach has a different offensive philosophy than Sanders and Phillips.
While Sanders’ comment upset some, it did not bother Lorenzen.
“I was hoping Max would play this whole year and then have a competition with Patrick next year,” Lorenzen said. “Even if he had to sit behind Max a year or two, he could learn and come in after he leaves. That’s the way it works at most SEC schools. Max was playing really well before he was hurt. Now it will be a three-person race next year for anybody that wants the job. It’s just who steps up the fastest and how Max comes back from that ankle injury. As much of a Patrick fan as I am, I think Max deserves his fair chance next year based on what he was doing this year.”
If Smith had stayed healthy, Towles would still have four years of eligibility instead of three. Lorenzen thinks he may “regret” not redshirting even though Towles, who missed the second of Saturday’s loss to Tennessee when he was “dinged up” after a sideline hit, made it clear he wanted to play.
“I thought it would be best for him to redshirt, and told him that adamantly,” Lorenzen said. “He got in a half a game, then got hurt. He probably does regret playing to some extent. But he did get some good experience and there is nothing better than game reps. He did learn, but I still wish he had a full four years left.”
Can he be a high level SEC quarterback?
“I know he can. We have talked about it. I just told him to put his head down and go,” Lorenzen said. “Heal that ankle and make sure you get 100 percent. Take time off to do that.
“But nobody will go into spring practice with a new coach with the job. Now it is a fight with Jalen also definitely in the mix. But I have full confidence in Patrick that he can be a great SEC quarterback. Nothing that happened this year changed my mind about that,” Lorenzen said.
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tyler Bray threw four touchdown passes without an interception Saturday as Tennessee defeated Kentucky 37-17 to assure that the Volunteers wouldn’t go winless in Southeastern Conference competition for the first time in school history.
Bray went 20-of-34 for 293 yards Saturday and threw touchdown passes to four different receivers. He passed for 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns this season, the second-highest yearly total by any Tennessee quarterback in either category. Peyton Manning threw for 3,819 yards and 26 touchdowns in 1997.
This season finale between two of the SEC’s worst teams pitted a lame-duck coach against an interim head coach. The game drew an announced crowd of 81,841 at Neyland Stadium, though it appeared there weren’t more than 60,000 fans actually in attendance.
Kentucky’s Joker Phillips finished his three-year tenure as Kentucky’s coach with a 13-24 record after being told Nov. 4 that he wouldn’t return next season. One of his biggest highlights was a 10-7 victory over Tennessee last year that ended the Vols’ 26-game winning streak in this annual series. Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney served as the Vols’ interim coach in place of Derek Dooley, who was fired Sunday after going 15-21 in three seasons.
The game featured enough mistakes to make it clear why both teams are seeking new coaches.
A holding penalty on Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio Richardson nullified a 33-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Bray to Justin Hunter. Tennessee (5-7, 1-7 SEC) had to call a timeout after its defense had just 10 players on the field at one point in the second quarter. Kentucky’s Raymond Sanders slipped in the backfield and was stopped for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-inches from the Tennessee 39 late in the first half.
Tennessee’s Michael Palardy had an extra-point attempt blocked, the fifth time Tennessee has missed a PAT this season. Kentucky’s Craig McIntosh was wide left on a 36-yard field goal just before halftime.
Bray threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Zach Rogers and a 42-yarder to Hunter in the first half to help the Vols grab a 20-7 advantage. After Jonathan George’s 45-yard touchdown run and Craig McIntosh’s 29-yard field goal cut the lead to 20-17, Bray answered with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Mychal Rivera and a 21-yarder to Cordarrelle Patterson in the third quarter.
Bray, Hunter and Patterson now must decide whether to return to school for their senior seasons or enter the NFL Draft. All three are projected to get taken in the first two rounds if they choose to turn pro.
Missed opportunities haunted the Wildcats for much of the day.
Kentucky (2-10, 0-8) drove inside the Tennessee 40 on each of its next three possessions after George’s touchdown, but the Wildcats scored a total of three points during that stretch. Kentucky failed to convert on fourth-and-inches from the Tennessee 39 and missed a 36-yard field goal on their final two possessions of the second quarter. The Wildcats kept the ball for 7 ¬Ω minutes on the opening possession of the second half, but they settled for McIntosh’s field goal after having second-and-goal at the 4.
After working from the press box as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator for the first 11 games of the season, Chaney worked from the sidelines Saturday as interim head coach. Tennessee was using an interim coach for the first time since Phillip Fulmer coached the first three games of the 1992 season as Johnny Majors recovered from heart surgery.
The season-ending victory provided some small measure of comfort for Tennessee in an otherwise disappointing year.
Tennessee recorded its third straight losing season, the first time the Vols have finished below .500 in three consecutive years since 1909-11. Tennessee also will not be playing in a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time since being left out four consecutive years from 1975-78.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.