Tamme finds his niche at tight end

November 28, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - As the losses continued to mount for Kentucky this season, Jacob Tamme would think back to his Boyle County High School playing days for inspiration.

However, Tamme might have felt like he was playing for the Rebels again Saturday. He caught four passes for 55 yards and two touchdowns - all in the first half - against Tennessee.

Even though Kentucky eventually lost 37-31 after leading 17-7 in the first half and 31-22 entering the fourth quarter, Tamme still hopes this signals the start of better days for the Wildcats.

Boyle won four straight state championships during Tamme's prep career. But Saturday's loss was UK's ninth in 11 games this year and 17th in 23 games since he signed with the Wildcats.


"I've been thinking a lot about what Boyle County had to go through to get where it is now," Tamme said. "It took a lot of hard work before we started winning championships. I think that happens everywhere. One of these years will the year we break out here, too."

Made position change two weeks ago

Tamme, a redshirt freshman, certainly had his breakout game against the Volunteers thanks to a position switch. He had 12 catches for just 106 yards while playing wide receiver in UK's first 10 games. He started Saturday's game at tight end, a position he started playing in practice the last two weeks.

"I think Jacob Tamme is going to be a hellacious tight end," Kentucky assistant coach Joker Phillips said. "We caught them off guard with him. He's a force there, and after we moved him I thought to myself that he could have caught 40 or 50 balls this year at tight end."

Phillips said when Tamme was tried at tight end during the two weeks of practice UK had after its win over Vanderbilt, the package for him kept expanding.

"By the end of the week, I told him he wouldn't be playing any wide receiver today," Phillips said. "He has great body control and great hands. Obviously, he can stretch the field, too."

Tamme had no problems making the move.

"Whatever the coaches want, I will do it. I want to win," Tamme said. "Wherever they think I can help the team the best, that's where I will play. I just hope everybody has that attitude. Playing in the SEC has been fun, but once we start winning it will be a lot more fun."

Wide open for touchdown

Tamme's value at tight end didn't take long to see. On UK's second series, he released off the line and was wide open for a 20-yard touchdown catch, his first as a Wildcat.

"I faked a block on a screen play we had run earlier, and they just bit on it and left me wide open," Tamme said.

On Kentucky's last series of the first half, he caught two tight end screen passes for first downs and then made a leaping catch over Tennessee linebacker Omar Gathier and came down inbounds for another touchdown.

"Shane (Boyd) just threw a perfect ball. It was like being back in high school," Tamme said.

The second half, though, he didn't play as much. Kentucky's offense amassed 270 yards the first half, but had just 53 total the second half and failed to pick up a first down on its last three possessions.

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said Tamme would have played more if UK's offense had been more productive. Tamme said he played less because the Cats wanted a bigger tight end to block for the running game.

"Tennessee also adjusted to me more after the second touchdown," Tamme said. "But we still could have won."

Believes in the future

Despite the 2-9 finish, Tamme believes in the future.

"I believed we were going to win today. I want to win the SEC championship before I leave here," Tamme said. "We have three left to do that. I think we can get to that goal. When I first got here, we didn't even have the SEC championship game on our schedule. Now we do because that's where we want to be.

"This season didn't turn out the way any of us wanted. Everybody that has anything to do with this team did not want this. But I really believe that the guys we have here now believe we can turn it around. I can't speak for past years, but a lot of guys here now are ready to keep fighting until we get this done."

Still, he knows the Cats let a chance to build momentum for future seasons slip away when they failed to beat Tennessee, something UK has not done since 1984.

"We just need to pull out one of those big wins much like Boyle finally had to get that first big playoff win to get things going," Tamme said. "If we beat Arkansas last year. If we had beat Florida. If we beat South Carolina this year. We have to learn to make it happen and quit saying what if.

"This was the game that could have really turned things around if we had just finished the deal."

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