Cats Fall to Vols in 4th OT
The Volunteers stuffed a scrambling Andre Woodson on a 2-point conversion attempt in the fourth overtime to secure a 52-50 victory Saturday against Kentucky and a spot in the Southeastern Conference title game.
No. 19 Tennessee's 23rd straight win over the Wildcats handed the Volunteers (9-3, 6-2) the division title and a shot at LSU in next week's SEC title game.
Tennessee and Georgia finished tied atop the East, but the Volunteers earned the title thanks to their 35-14 win over the Bulldogs on Oct. 6.
Erik Ainge threw for a career-high 397 yards and seven touchdowns and running back Arian Foster had 216 total yards for the Volunteers.
Woodson matched Ainge throw for throw, throwing for 430 yards and six touchdowns, but the Wildcats (7-5, 3-5) let a chance to beat the Vols for the first time since 1984 get away.
Tennessee's winning streak over the Wildcats is the longest active winning streak by one team over another in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Kentucky trailed by 17 points in the second half but had its chances late, none better than in the second overtime after Sam Maxwell intercepted Ainge near the goal line.
The Wildcats ran the ball on three straight plays to set Lones Seiber up for a 35-yard field goal. But the kick was blocked by Dan Williams.
The teams traded touchdowns in the third overtime, but the Wildcats stuffed Foster's 2-point conversion. A personal foul on the Volunteers following the conversion attempt pushed Tennessee back to the Kentucky 40 instead of the Kentucky 25 at the beginning of the fourth overtime.
No matter, Ainge hit a wide-open Quinton Hancock on the first play to put the Volunteers in front. Ainge then found Austin Rogers for the conversion over the middle.
Kentucky responded with a 2-yard touchdown run by Derrick Locke, but Woodson was stopped at the Tennessee 3 caught in between trying to find a receiver and taking off the for the end zone.
The victory capped an improbable run by the Volunteers, who seemed out of the race after being crushed at Alabama last month. Tennessee has now won five straight while Kentucky, which was on the fringe of the national championship hunt after upsetting No. 1 LSU in mid-October, has lost four of its last five.
It wasn't easy. Kentucky trailed 31-14 in the third quarter, but rallied to tie the game on a 20-yard field goal by Seiber on the last play of regulation.
That was just the start of the fun.
Yet whenever the Wildcats seemed to grab control, Ainge or Foster would step up and make a play. Foster ran for 118 yards and caught nine passes for 98 yards and a score.
Rafael Little had 77 yards rushing and caught 11 passes for 108 yards for the Wildcats. Jacob Tamme, Steve Johnson Keenan Burton - who helped usher the Wildcats into the Top 10 earlier in the season - combined for 23 catches, 273 yards and five scores.
The trio is part of a class of 16 Kentucky seniors who had hoped to make their final home game the exclamation point on a two-year period in which the program challenged some of the conference's elite.
Instead, the regular season ended the way most of the 22 before it, with a loss to their border rivals.