Seniors motivate Wildcats

November 12, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Kentucky can't have a winning season and has known for weeks it won't be going to a bowl game.

The offense has struggled to score points and the defense has been just as vulnerable during a seven-game losing streak.

Perhaps that's why the Wildcats are using Senior Day as a rallying point as they prepare to host Vanderbilt Saturday.

"It is the last game our seniors have at home," said junior linebacker Jon Sumrall. "We want to do our best to send them out on a good note. Those guys have been through a lot."

The fifth-year seniors were recruited by Hal Mumme and played one year for him before playing two years each for Guy Morriss and Rich Brooks. In that time, they've been on one winning team - and that team was denied a bowl berth because of NCAA sanctions.

"It is my hope that our players will really go out and sell out and play their hearts out to try to bring some positive things for those seniors in their last home game," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "These guys have basically been through one good season and most of their time has not been up to their expectations."


That thinking helped convince Brooks to give senior Shane Boyd the starting nod at quarterback against Vanderbilt. Redshirt freshman Andre Woodson led UK to its only 17 points in last week's loss to Georgia. He sprained his ankle late in the game, but will play Saturday.

"It's Senior Day and a freshman shouldn't start," Woodson said. "He's earned the right to start in his last game. I wouldn't want it any other way, not after all Shane has done for this program and me."

Fifth-year receiver Gerad Parker certainly has not done all he wanted, partially due to a series of injuries as well as the coaching changes. Plus, his cousin died in a car wreck in July.

He caught 238 passes for 4,184 yards and 52 scores at Lawrence County. All were state records and he still ranks fourth nationally in career receiving yards. He expected more of the same at UK.

"I came in here expecting to get a lot of opportunities to catch the ball. It didn't work out that way," Parker, who has 14 catches for 160 yards this season, said. "But I've also learned that life is about more than touchdowns."

Vandy also has had disappointing season

Vanderbilt's season has been just as disappointing. With 21 starters returning, the Commodores thought they could contend for a bowl bid and build on the momentum that started last year when they beat Kentucky - a win that touched off a victory celebration in Nashville that ended with fans tearing down the goalposts.

"Our class really felt like we could turn things around and get to a bowl game," Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, who injured his ankle last week and isn't sure how much, if any, he'll play Saturday, said. "I really believe there is a time when both Vanderbilt and Kentucky can compete for the SEC title. We both have to get better recruits, but I know we thought this would be the year we started turning things around."

Despite Vanderbilt's struggle, Cutler said his team wants to beat Kentucky.

"Every win is still special," he said. "We know Kentucky will be ready for us, but we still believe we can win."

Vanderbilt defensive end Jovan Haye knows the Wildcats didn't like the postgame celebration at Nashville last year.

"But I remember how much our fans enjoyed the win," Haye said. "I just thought our fans did what any other fans would do. If I had been watching, I would have been out there with them."

Sumrall isn't sure what Kentucky fans might do if the Wildcats can win, but he knows what it would mean to him and his teammates.

"The way we have played this year, there is no telling what our fans might do if we can just get a win," Sumrall said. "But I know I would cherish a win because you don't always know when you will get the next one."

Central Kentucky News Articles