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Rumph leads strong defensive effort in loss at Vandy

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Donte Rumph (No. 99) had a career-high 10 tackles in UK's loss at Vanderbilt on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Donte Rumph (No. 99) had a career-high 10 tackles in UK's loss at Vanderbilt on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
NASHVILLE, Tenn.  -- Reporters watched as Donte Rumph hobbled from the locker room for his postgame interview.

Naturally, they asked about the reason behind his limp, wondering whether his status might be affected for Kentucky's final two games.

Rumph smiled at the question, almost as if to suggest the pain wasn't even worth acknowledging.

"Just football," Rumph said.

The bumps and bruises were well-earned on Saturday, as Rumph tallied 10 tackles, including one for loss, in UK's 22-6 defeat at Vanderbilt. Coming up with stops at a rate uncharacteristic for a defensive tackle, Rumph agreed the performance was likely the best of his career.

"I think so, but I don't try to pay attention to stats," Rumph said. "I just try to do my job and just try to pull out a win for my brothers and my teammates."

Rumph may have fallen just short of that victory, but it was not for a lack of trying, particularly on the part of his defensive unit.

UK held the Commodores to 313 yards and just 3.1 yards per carry. Vanderbilt was stuck on nine points entering the fourth quarter and the Commodores' first touchdown came on a short field following one of Jalen Whitlow's four interceptions, while the other was on a fourth-down jump pass with less than a minute left and the outcome all but decided.

Vandy generated most of its offense through star receiver Jordan Matthews, who caught 12 passes for 141 yards. Adding in his 31 rushing yards, Matthews accounted for more than half of the Commodores' total offense.

"Other than that," Stoops said of Matthews' big say, "I thought defense played extremely hard and very well. A lot of good stops."

Rumph was in the middle of more than his fair share of plays, but his presence had something to do with them all. The senior seemed to inspire his teammates from the game's opening drive.

"I try to lead by action," Rumph said. "I'm not really a vocal guy on defense. I just try to lead by actions and just do my job. That's it. And just do my job. Nothing incredible, nothing extraordinary. Just do my job."

Rumph's UK career is nearing its end and his chances at playing in a bowl evaporated with last week's loss to Missouri. That doesn't mean he's about to stop.

His teammates are taking notice.

"I feel like he's fighting hard for us and it's remarkable to see the fight because we don't have anything to play for now but our team," linebacker Avery Williamson said. "These guys come out here each week still playing hard, still going for a win and I salute them for coming out and trying each week. It shows the character we have on this team."

Williamson is included in that group of seniors who are refusing to let the disappointment of a losing season sap their effort. The veterans won't be on the field to reap the benefits of the foundation for the future of UK football they are helping to build, but that doesn't diminish the importance of their role.

"That makes me feel good because those guys, they haven't quit on us," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "They're still playing, doing everything they can to help the team win and just trying to get a W. When you got seniors like that that are going to put that type of effort into it, it makes you feel good."

With just two games left in a Kentucky uniform, Rumph has begun to reflect on his four seasons in Lexington. The mounting losses are increasingly more disappointing, but Saturday is proof that Rumph isn't letting them get to him.

"It's definitely emotional, especially as a senior, knowing there's no looking back," Rumph said. "But, I mean, it's just your motivation. Be competitive in football. You can't just give up because your season's going the way you don't want it to and I can't give up on my teammates. I gotta come out and give my hardest every day."

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