Kentucky Downs Samford in Home Finale, Senior Night
Nov. 17, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Freshman Jalen Whitlow passed for one touchdown and ran for another, Raymond Sanders rushed for a career-high 123 yards and a TD and Kentucky blew out Samford 34-3 Saturday night to end an eight-game losing streak.
The Wildcats (2-9) scored their highest point total since beating Kent State 47-14 on Sept. 8. Kentucky's skid led to the Nov. 4 firing of coach Joker Phillips, who will finish the season on Saturday at Tennessee.
Whitlow completed 10 of 13 passes for 66 yards and an 11-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Gene McCaskill. He also rushed for a 20-yard touchdown and finished with 59 yards on seven carries.
Sanders rushed for a 14-yard touchdown that made it 24-3. Tristian Johnson followed with a 25-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Kentucky, which scored on six of its first eight drives, outgained Samford 455-102 including 342 rushing compared to minus-2 for Samford.
Craig McIntosh kicked field goals of 35 and 43 yards as Kentucky won its third straight home finale.
Cameron Yaw's 41-yard field goal provided the only points for Samford (7-4).
To put Kentucky's win in perspective, consider these numbers:
The Wildcats' 31 first-half points alone were their most since a 32-31 overtime loss to Western Kentucky that started their skid.
Kentucky's 266 first-half yards were six more than it totaled in a 40-0 loss to Vanderbilt here two weeks ago, the breaking point leading to Phillips' firing the next day.
Even more impressive, the Wildcats held Bulldogs running back Fabian Truss to just 37 yards a week after he rushed for a career-high 219 against Elon. And they hadn't held an opponent below 200 yards since limiting Akron to 172 on Sept. 18, 2010.
It didn't matter that Kentucky was facing Football Championship Subdivision member Samford for the first time. After going winless for more than two months the Wildcats were just desperate for a victory and the Bulldogs entered the game on a two-game winning streak.
Sentiment also drove Kentucky, which honored 19 seniors in a pregame ceremony. Though their presence has been somewhat overshadowed this season by 46 freshmen and sophomores playing substantial minutes, the underclassmen wanted to make sure the veterans' home finale was memorable.
That feeling extended to Phillips, who chose to coach Kentucky' final two games but stressed all week that he didn't want to be a distraction on a night devoted to his departing players.
McCaskill made his case for Kentucky's seniors on the opening drive.
He capped a 14-play, 69-yard drive by pulling in Whitlow's 11-yard pass for a touchdown that set the tone for a performance last seen against Kent State.
Whitlow made it 14-0 on the next possession with a nifty 20-yard touchdown run in which he initially hesitated, then cut through the middle and the right before getting outside and clearing the pile-on.
It followed a bizarre play in which nobody - except Samford defensive end Brinson Porter - was sure if officials had blown the play dead. There was no whistle, Porter kept on charging and dropped Sanders for a 3-yard loss.
That was one of few first-half highlights for the Bulldogs, who gained just 56 yards in the first half. Even when Samford recovered Sanders' goal-line fumble, its drive went nowhere and Greg Peranich's subsequent punt went just 31 yards.
Sanders sprinted 14 yards for Kentucky's third TD four plays later for a 24-3 lead.
Another miscue followed on the Bulldogs' next possession when Summerfield fumbled while being sacked by Donte Rumph. Tristian Johnson scooped up the loose ball and returned it 25 yards for the touchdown that made it 31-3.