Sport: Vanderbilt hands Kentucky football worst loss in Mark Stoops era: 3 takeaways

Kentucky football exposed in blowout loss to No. 3 Tennessee as Vols stay unbeaten

  Kentucky football exposed in blowout loss to No. 3 Tennessee as Vols stay unbeaten Kentucky football’s hopes of remaining in the SEC East race ended in embarrassing fashion Saturday with a 44-6 loss at Tennessee. For just the third time in 118 meetings between the programs, both Kentucky and Tennessee entered a matchup ranked. The No. 3 Volunteers were strong favorites thanks to their undefeated record and win over Alabama, but the No. 19 Wildcats had actually been picked to finish ahead of Tennessee in the East this summer and were coming off a bye week following a win against a ranked Mississippi State team. There was reason to wonder if Tennessee might look past Kentucky to its matchup with No.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — That was ugly. No two ways about it.

Even if Kentucky football had beaten Vanderbilt Saturday, it would have been a Pyrrhic victory. Barely topping a Commodore squad that hasn’t tasted triumph of the SEC variety in more than three years? It’s not acceptable for a Wildcat program that has distanced itself from the Commodores during Mark Stoops’ tenure. At the outset of every season, Kentucky (No. 24 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings) should pencil in a “W” beside the Vanderbilt contest.

SEC football power rankings: Tennessee is at 2.5 and why Georgia should've never slipped

  SEC football power rankings: Tennessee is at 2.5 and why Georgia should've never slipped The Georgia-Tennessee and Alabama-LSU football matchups were guaranteed to shake things up this week; it was only a question of where chips would fall. They fell hard for Tennessee, as the Vols' hopes of a trip to Atlanta were all but dashed. They fell just as hard for Alabama, where similar aspirations met pending doom. On the other end, the bottom five teams in the rankings all justified their places with an L. And now, an apology is in order ... © Joshua L.

But that didn't happen Saturday.

Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

Saturday’s shocker, a 24-21 Vanderbilt victory, will go down as arguably the worst setback of Stoops’ decade-long stint as coach.

Looking ahead:These players have committed to Kentucky football's 2023 recruiting class

Vanderbilt quarterback Mike Wright threw for just 184 yards on 12-of-23 passing — with an interception and only one touchdown. But that lone score proved to be the difference. Wright hit Quincy Skinner Jr. with 32 seconds left for an 8-yard score that put the Commodores up for good. UK's subsequent drive ended with quarterback Will Levis getting sacked on third down and throwing an interception on fourth down as time expired.

Three takeaways from Kentucky basketball’s Champions Classic loss to Michigan State

  Three takeaways from Kentucky basketball’s Champions Classic loss to Michigan State Three takeaways from Kentucky basketball’s 86-77 double-overtime loss to Michigan State in the Champions Classic on Tuesday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse: 1. Same site, same result for the Cats Back in March, in the first round of last season’s NCAA Tournament, No. 2 seed Kentucky lost to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s 85-79 in overtime at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse. This season, in the Champions Classic in mid-November, No. 4-ranked Kentucky lost to unranked Michigan State 86-77 in double overtime at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse. In March, the Cats were 4-for-15 from three-point range for 26.7 percent. On Tuesday, the Cats were 7-for-25 from three-point range for 28.

While the game-winning score came through the air, there was a bigger issue for the Wildcats’ defense. It was a sieve against the visitors’ ground game. Vandy finished with 264 yards. Two rushers eclipsed the 100-yard mark: Wright had 126 and a touchdown on 11 carries, while backfield mate Ray Davis had 129 yards on 26 attempts.

Kentucky kicker Matt Ruffolo had an up-and-down day. He took the field Saturday having made just two of his last seven attempts. Ruffolo made his first two Saturday — from 47 and 27 yards, respectively — but had his third kick (37 yards) blocked. He bounced back to make his final attempt, this one from 39 yards, to trim Vanderbilt’s lead to 14-9 with 3:42 to go in the third quarter.

But reread that last sentence.

'More like Greatfellow':Kentucky football fans are Venmoing punter Colin Goodfellow

Through more than 40-plus minutes of play Saturday, Kentucky had managed just six points against Vanderbilt’s defense. The same defense that had given up 27 or more points seven times this fall. The same defense that had permitted 45-plus points four times, and 50 or more three times — all coming in consecutive games (55 to Alabama, 52 to Ole Miss and 55 to Georgia). The same defense that allowed an SEC-worst 36.8 points per game.

Gonzaga basketball beats Kentucky: 3 takeaways as Drew Timme gets better of Oscar Tshiebwe

  Gonzaga basketball beats Kentucky: 3 takeaways as Drew Timme gets better of Oscar Tshiebwe Tshiebwe and Timme played to a draw in the much-hyped meeting, but the Zags handed Kentucky a second loss in a week.Back-to-back plays featuring two of the best, and most well known, players in college basketball.

Yet the Wildcats managed only two touchdowns.

With top-ranked Georgia on tap next week, followed by a surging Louisville squad in the regular-season finale, Saturday’s performance means two more defeats are staring UK in the face later this month.

2023 opponents released:Here's who the Wildcats will play

Here are three takeaways from a perplexing loss:

Vanderbilt claims first SEC win since 2019

Vanderbilt defensive back Jaylen Mahoney (23) celebrates with Vanderbilt defensive lineman Nate Clifton (90) after getting a stop against Kentucky during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb) © Michael Clubb, AP Vanderbilt defensive back Jaylen Mahoney (23) celebrates with Vanderbilt defensive lineman Nate Clifton (90) after getting a stop against Kentucky during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb)

For the first time since Oct. 19, 2019, Vanderbilt walked into the locker room after a conference game on the right side of the scoreboard, stunning UK 24-21.

To say the result was unexpected isn’t going far enough: Kentucky was a 17-point favorite. The Commodores entered Saturday with one of the longest streaks in league history: a 26-game skid, the third-worst stretch in the SEC’s annals. (The only longer dry spells: Sewanee went 0-for-37 from 1933 to 1940, losing every conference game it ever played; Vandy lost 33 straight league games from 1976 to 1981, and 35 of 36. Of note: Vanderbilt lost 23 SEC games in a row between 2000 and 2003, and also suffered 22 straight conference setbacks between 1995 and 1998.)

$46 to get into Lions game? Ticket prices sinking along with Green Bay Packers' fortunes

  $46 to get into Lions game? Ticket prices sinking along with Green Bay Packers' fortunes Two of remaining three home games have get-in price below $100.The average get-in price for two of the Packers' remaining six games are below $100 and all but one dropped in the last week, after the Packers lost to the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau Field on Thursday. Prices are determined by averaging the lowest prices at 10 secondary market sites.

For more than three years, the Commodores had no answers when they faced their SEC brethren; they had all the answers Saturday.

Not one of Stoops's best moments:Looking back at milestone wins en route to a Kentucky football record

Chris Rodriguez nearly bails out UK in second half

Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez Jr. celebrates scoring a touchdown against Vanderbilt.Nov. 12, 2022 © Scott Utterback/Courier Journal Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez Jr. celebrates scoring a touchdown against Vanderbilt.Nov. 12, 2022

After two quarters, Rodriguez, the Wildcats’ star tailback, had just 24 yards on nine carries.

He finally got going after halftime — and Kentucky needed every yard he could muster. In the early portion of the fourth quarter, he dashed into the end zone for a 5-yard score to put the hosts on top 15-14. After Vandy kicked a field goal to retake the lead, 17-15, Rodriguez only took one snap to change the score again: He ran 72 yards for another touchdown.

In sum, Rodriguez ran for 162 yards and a pair of scores on 18 carries. But it wasn't enough to help the Wildcats avoid the most embarrassing loss under Stoops’ watch.

Despite Rodriguez's stellar showing, it will be lost to time. The only thing people will remember about this contest in the years to come is the Commodores' signature victory.

Bird's eye view:Why Kentucky believes Rich Scangarello's move to booth will pay off in final games

Kentucky Fried Chicken pioneer dies aged 88

  Kentucky Fried Chicken pioneer dies aged 88 Ex-Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown Jr., who bought Kentucky Fried Chicken chain and turned it into a fast-food juggernaut, married a Miss America and bought the Boston Celtics has died aged 88. Brown's family released a statement on Tuesday which said that 'everyday was an exciting adventure' for the former Democratic governor, who served Kentucky from 1979 to 1983.'He was a true Kentucky original who beamed with pride for his home state and its people,' the family said.'He had many prominent accomplishments, but most of all he loved his family with all of his heart, and we in turn loved him with all of our hearts.

Passing attack never gets off the ground

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis puts on his helmet before an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb) © Michael Clubb, AP Kentucky quarterback Will Levis puts on his helmet before an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb)

On paper, Saturday had the looks of a game where Levis and his complement of receivers should thrive. Vanderbilt had the SEC’s worst passing defense, giving up 314 yards per game. It’s an average that ranked 130th in the 131-team FBS, bettering only Ohio’s 316.2-yards-per-game mark.

Blame the weather. Blame the early kick. Blame the opponent.

Whatever the reason, Levis and his pass-catchers never got into a rhythm. Levis finished with just 109 yards and less than a 50% (11 of 23) completion rate.

Though Levis appeared to move as well as he has since injuring his foot in a loss at Ole Miss last month — keeping plays alive in the pocket and scrambling for yards when need be — his usually reliable arm wasn’t there Saturday.

Reach Kentucky men’s basketball and football reporter Ryan Black at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @RyanABlack.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Vanderbilt hands Kentucky football worst loss in Mark Stoops era: 3 takeaways

Blaming Kentucky’s big-game losses on a lack of practice? What about the Bahamas trip? .
Amid a brutal eight-day stretch for his Kentucky basketball team — bookended by losses to Michigan State and Gonzaga — John Calipari kept falling back on an argument that was met with eye rolls and incredulity. Why did his Wildcats look so out of sync — especially on the offensive end — in the only two games they played against top-notch competition? To paraphrase what the UK coach said on several occasions over those eight days: “We haven’t practiced together.” That excuse yielded a collective, “Huh?” from anyone who heard it.

See also