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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky’s football season suddenly looks a lot more promising.
Even without starting quarterback and cornerback Trevard Lindley, the Wildcats did what many thought was impossible and won a Southeastern Conference road game at Auburn Saturdaynight 21-14.
Once again, the Cats made a fourth-quarter comeback, something that has become a habit in coach Rich Brooks’ tenure. Now they return home with a 3-3 record and facing three straight home games against teams they can all beat.
Kentucky should feel great. Freshman quarterback Morgan Newton was adequate in his first start. “He’s going to be a really good player and this will give him a lot to build on,”Ã‚Â Brooks said on his post-game radio show. “Three straight home games will give him a chance to settle into the offense more.”
But junior quarterback Will Fidler came in the second half and played well. He led a scoring drive and directed another drive that ended with a missed field goal. He completed passes. He ran. He played with confidence.
Then there was Mr. Everything, Randall Cobb. Needing a touchdown to win, Kentucky basically turned to him and he delivered spectacular runs, including the winning touchdown run. He’s special and the kind of player others rally around.
Yet if I was giving game balls, they would go to UK’s offensive line. The Big Nasties chewed up Auburn and allowed both Cobb and Derrick Locke to run for over 100 yards.
Defensively, the Cats were solid and only gave up one score. The hitting was terrific. The tackling was the best it had been all year. Cornerback Paul Warford was tremendous coming back from a quad injury. The linebackers were all good. Safety Winston Guy punished runners.
What lies ahead? Don’t laugh, but there’s not a game left on the schedule UK can’t win. No, I am not predicting 9-3 — even though I did correctly predict UK’s win both on a live chat at ukathletics.com Wednesday and on the WLAP pregame show Saturday — but UK should find itself favored in perhaps every game except at Georgia. And that includes a home game with Tennessee, a team that lost to visiting Auburn.
Kentucky has played a brutal schedule. Two weeks ago a Big 12 coaching friend told me that “90 percent of the teams in the country would go 0-4 against UK’s schedule” of home games with No. Florida and No. 2 Auburn and then road games at South Carolina and Auburn.
But Kentucky got the win it desperately needed for Southeastern Conference respect and bowl positioning. In fact, one could argue that this is one of the top five wins in Brooks’ coaching career behind the victory over then No. 1 lSU, goal-post win over Georgia and bowl victories over Clemson and Florida State.
So don’t starting the countdown to basketball just yet. Remember to savor what could still turn out to be a special season for Brooks’ gritty Cats.
KENTUCKY POSTGAME NOTES
Final Score: Kentucky 21, Auburn 14
October 17, 2009 * Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.
Team Records and Series Notes
* Kentucky improves to 3-3 on the season, 1-3 in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn is 5-2 overall, 2-2 in the league.
* Auburn leads the series, 24-6-1.
* This is UK?s first win over Auburn in 43 years. UK?s last victory was in Lexington (17-7) in 1966.
* This is only the second time in school history that Kentucky has won at Auburn. The other time it happened was 1961.
* Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats play host to Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. The game will be televised by selected regional channels on the Fox Sports Network.
UK Team Notes
* Kentucky limited Auburn to 14 points and 315 total offensive yards. The Tigers entered the game averaging 38.3 points and 489.8 yards total offense per game.
* UK totaled a season-high 282 rushing yards. It marked the most rushing yards since 297 yards vs. Norfolk State in 2008 and the most against an SEC opponent since 301 yard vs. Mississippi State in 1995.
* Kentucky had two 100-yard rushers in the game (Derrick Locke with 126 and Randall Cobb with 109) for the first time since Shane Boyd (130) and Tony Dixon (105) rushed for over 100 yards vs. Indiana on Sept. 18, 2004.
* It marks the first time since 2006 that Auburn has allowed two 100-yard rushers in a game. The last time was against Arkansas when Darren McFadden and Felix Jones rushed 145 and 104 yards, respectively.
* Kentucky is 14-8 in the last 22 games decided by 10 or fewer points.
* Kentucky has won 23 games since mid-season 2006, with 11 of those wins coming as fourth-quarter comebacks.
UK Individual Notes
* Randall Cobb finished with 12 carries for a career-high 109 yards. It marks the first 100-yard rushing game of his career.
* Cobb rushed four yards for UK?s go-ahead score with 3:17 remaining in the game. He set up the touchdown with a career-long 61-yard run on the previous play.
* Derrick Locke rushed 19 times for a career-high 126 yards. It marks the first 100-yard game of his career.
* Locke and Cobb are the first Wildcats to rush for 100 yards in a game since Rafael Little ran for 152 vs. Florida State in the 2007 Music City Bowl.
* Locke moved past three former players for 22nd place on the UK career rushing list. Locke now has 1,283 rushing yards as a Wildcat. He needs 14 more yards to move ahead of Don Phelps (1946-49) at No. 21.
* Making his first collegiate start, freshman quarterback Morgan Newton completed 5-of-13 passes for 39 yards.
* Newton also rushed for his first collegiate touchdown in the second quarter, a four-yard run. He finished with eight carries for 15 yards.
* Quarterback Will Fidler finished completed 4-of-9 passes for 36 yards. He also ran two yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. It is his first collegiate touchdown.
* Strong safety Calvin Harrison?s interception in the first quarter is his second pickoff of the season.
* Linebacker Danny Trevathan had a career-high 14 tackles. His previous high was 10 vs. Alabama earlier this season.
* Linebacker Sam Maxwell charted a career-high 10 tackles. His previous high was seven on two occasions.
* First career starts for redshirt freshman DE Taylor Wyndham and freshman QB Morgan Newton.