Opening statement… “Quite a first half. I’m very proud of them. Our team fought hard. We had a great chance. We were in it. We were ahead 13-10 a couple years ago when we came up here at the same point and we were able to get it done. Today we weren’t quite able to get it done. The second half collapse was very difficult to sit there and watch. Third quarter it was 17-13 and Randall Cobb took over. He did a great job.”
On how much this game boils down to Kentucky having Randall Cobb… “Well, they have a lot of good players. I don’t want to sell anybody short. (Mike) Hartline, I told you coming up here, is the most improved player, in my opinion, in the SEC. He does a great job, hits his receivers. Randall’s (Cobb) not the only guy he’s just a guy you have to keep attention to.”
On stopping Randall Cobb in the ‘Wildcat’ formation… “Well, you all are too young to remember, but that one scramble he had reminded me of Freddie Solomon from years ago. He dropped back about 30 yards, and ends up gaining about 40. I think he probably ran 80 or 90 yards to gain 40 right there. It was impressive to watch but also very disappointing that we didn’t get him on the ground.”
On feelings coming out of this game… “We made some progress. We weren’t able to sustain it for whatever reason. It starts with me because I’m at the head of the class. It was very disappointing to see. I really thought at halftime we had a great plan, made some good adjustments and were ready to go. And for whatever reason we’re pretty fragile. If we don’t have something good happen it’s just hard to sustain momentum. That’s just where we are.”
On defensive adjustments Kentucky made in the second half… “They blitzed a little more. Obviously our offensive line is pretty young and didn’t know how to handle some of the things even though they’ve been through it quite a bit. Once panic sets in a little bit it’s hard to calm them down.”
On the play of Kennard Reeves… “I was impressed, I thought he ran pretty good. It was probably the most he’s played in his career in a pressure situation. He did really well. Obviously, Wesley (Tate) wasn’t ready to go, he’s hurt. But he tried to give us what he could. And Eric Samuels did a good job moving over there. I wish we would have had a little more time to practice him where we could have gotten him the ball more. But there’s just so much you can teach him as well as DB (defensive back) he had to pick up on.”
On Randall Cobb’s performance... “He is a great player. His feet move faster than I have ever seen in my life. There was one time I thought I had him wrapped up, but his feet just kept moving and I couldn’t wrap him up. Hats off to him. We definitely didn't do as well as we wanted to do with him. You have to go high on him.”
On their feelings heading into the locker room at halftime... “All year long we have been putting together good quarters here and there. We played three great quarters of football here today. That third quarter we lost it. You cant play a bad quarter. We had a great game plan coming in, we were excited about our position at halftime, but we let up some big plays and everything just went downhill from there.” On if this game felt like an 18-point loss … “No, not at all. All of these losses are really tough. We have so many guys going out there giving it their all, playing hurt, banged up left and right. It is awesome to see all the guys giving it their all and it really sucks when we come up short like this.” #28, Kennard Reeves, RB
On his overall day … “Coach Caldwell challenged me to help get our team off to a great start. We wanted to get good things going early and try to have a great game.”
On his running style… “I have always tried to run hard and run downhill. I try to never lose yards as well. All I’m trying to do is show the coaches that I can be in the rotation and contribute.” On the importance of establishing the running game in the first half to establish a lead… “It was vital because it kept Kentucky’s defense honest. We made them respect the run which opened up some things in the passing game which we saw early on in the game.” #49, John Stokes, LB
On Randall Cobb’s performance … “We just didn’t tackle him well. I think that’s the bottom line. We had a good plan. We had people there. But without seeing the film, I just don’t know.”
On where Randall Cobb ranks in the SEC … “He is up there (as one of the best players in the SEC). In terms of an individual player who can run, throw, catch, he is probably as good a player as we have faced.” On if he thought Randall Cobb took over in the third quarter … “Yeah, I believe so. He beat us last year. Our game plan was to try to find a way to stop him. In the early parts of the game, we did that, but he just tore us up in the second half. We didn’t execute or tackle well. And we also didn’t play well on defense.” Kentucky Head Coach Joker Phillips
COACH PHILLIPS: Injury report. Danny Trevathan was a little light-headed, missed a couple snaps, which is the reason he was late getting out at half. La'Rod King has a couple stingers that kept him from going late in the game. Then Brian Adams pulled his hamstring on the kickoff cover team. We should get all those guys back. Brian will be the guy that will be in question, Brian Adams will.
One of the things, I wish we could play the second half in the first half every game. But I'll tell you one thing that I'm really disappointed in, before we go anywhere else with this thing, is I'm really disappointed in the personal foul. We will not be that team. We will not be that team that has personal fouls. We will not be that team that's throwing punches, and I'm disappointed in that.
We will get that corrected. It's really ridiculous for a guy to retaliate after somebody has thrown a punch on him. We will not tolerate that from our players here at Kentucky. It's not what we're about. We will not be about those types of things, throwing punches.
But I really liked the effort. We challenged the team at halftime. We challenged them before the game also. But at halftime, we actually put it on the team, put it on those guys, told them, ‘Don't come out if you're not ready to play inspired football.’ We talked about 'juice'. I came in with juice before the game. Coach (Greg) Nord, Coach (Ray) Rock (Oliver), we can have as much juice as we want. If they don't have juice, don't matter, it really, really doesn't matter.
The second half, I thought they came out and played juice. Defensively we knocked them back in the second half. We felt like we were losing the battles up front on both sides of the ball. At halftime they had rushed for 134 yards against us, averaging about 80, 89 yards, and we had only rushed for 43 yards. You look at the stats at the end of the game, they rushed for 60 something yards in the second half and we rushed for almost 300. That's where we won it, up front, in the second half.
And I think (Randall Cobb) was a big part of that. He did get a minus, one minus on the sloppy throw. Got to get the thing up in the guys' face. But he didn't have many minuses today. He made play after play after play, got us a huge win. We got a huge win, giving us a chance of another guaranteed game. We talk about we have 12 guaranteed. Well, we just got another one guaranteed to us.
I'm proud of this senior group. We talked last night. They didn't want to let this thing go. They want to be a part of this thing as long as they possibly can. Only way they can be any longer is to get ourselves into an extra game, and they went out and did that.
Q. 13-10 at halftime just like last year. Same type of conversation?
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah, we had to win the battles up front. When you go in to win the physical battle up front, the physical battle is determined on who rushes the ball the best. Rushing the ball came down to us getting the ball into (Derrick) Locke's hands and to Randall (Cobb)'s hands. That's two guys that rushed over 140 yards, 170, 145. That's how we won this game last year, getting the ball into those guys' hands, letting those guys rush for yards.
Q. When you talk about juice, are you thinking about Randall (Cobb) that brought it for your team?
COACH PHILLIPS: I don't know who did the talking in there. He changed it with the big play he made. The defense also went out and got a stop also. I think that changed the juice on that side of the ball for the whole game really. Then Randall's big run got the momentum back on our side. Q. How close to a hundred percent is Derrick (Locke)?
COACH PHILLIPS: I don't know. It's hard to tell because on third-and-18, we hit the screen. When he came on our side, I just made mention to our offensive guys that he doesn't look the same. He didn't look like the same Derrick. Even on the long run, Derrick Locke, I mean, he steps away from those guys, and he didn't step away from them like he had been earlier in the season. They didn't tackle him. But he steps away from those guys, and they don't get a chance to get a hand on him. So he didn't look the same. But he looked good enough to win today.
Q. On the consequences of the punch …
COACH PHILLIPS: If it's for fighting, he's out. If it's for punching, I think he'll be able to play next week. We got to get a ruling from the conference office and go from there.
But it's unacceptable. Unacceptable. It falls on me. I just grabbed him and told him, he's building a résumé. He is, he's building a résumé with his play. His résumé up until this point has been pretty good, okay? And now he has that on his résumé. That's not good.
But he will get it corrected. Hopefully somebody punches him next time, somebody soon, so we can see the correction.
Q. Couple times he was going at it with their guys. Was it building up?
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah, it was. He mentioned, ‘Am I supposed to let the guy punch me?’ Yes, you are. You are supposed to let the guy punch you all day. Then from whistle to whistle, you punch him with your pads, not with your fists.
So, yes, it was building up all day. He cannot get frustrated with that. He's got to continue to play. He's one of our better players, one of our better tacklers. We cannot afford to have (Martavius) Neloms on the sidelines with us.
Q. What does it mean in your first year to get this team Bowl eligible?
COACH PHILLIPS: It doesn't have anything to do with me. It means the world to me to have especially the fifth-year seniors that came here, myself and Rich (Brooks) went into their homes, sold them our vision, our dreams. It was only our vision and our dreams. They had nothing to do with it. They hoped that we would get in Bowl games and those things. For us to be able to sell them our vision, our dreams, and they believed in them. Now going out with five straight Bowl games, that means the world to me.
Q. Was it your plan ahead of time to put Mike (Hartline) in for one play and take him out (towards the end)?
COACH PHILLIPS: It just kind of came to me. I mean, we thought Mike deserved that, we really did. The guy is a stand-up guy, he is. He has handled everything that's happened to him like a man. We had 16 seniors today, and Mike's one of those guys that we talk about being ready to go out in the real world. Those guys are more than ready to handle all the things that come up in this world because of the things they've been through here in the last five years, and especially Mike Hartline.
Q. Do you ever overstate Randall's performance on the football field and all that he does?
COACH PHILLIPS: You tried to describe what it was. I remember seeing your article. Wasn't even close. I mean, he made a play on that long run. Somebody came by and said, ‘You can't coach that. You can't. You can't coach what he has.’ We just hope to see it again here soon.
Q. Could you tell right away that the offensive line was playing at a different speed or level than the first half?
COACH PHILLIPS: No, I couldn't. I think the run (Randall Cobb’s 73-yd run) helped. You know, I think the long run helped. It helped them with their confidence. I'm not sure if they blocked anybody on that run. But everybody beats on their chest nowadays when they miss a block. It turns into a long run. I'm sure they got confidence. May not have been any blocks. We got to see. Because he made a lot of people miss, okay? But I think it helped our confidence in understanding that we can beat this team if we just take care of business.
Q. Could you tell Randall had it back in high school when you were recruiting him?
COACH PHILLIPS: No. Well, when he came to camp, you know, Coach (Randy) Sanders, did an unbelievable job in recruiting and selling Randall Cobb. It wasn't a hard sell. He said we're going to put him at quarterback. He's at quarterback. Not sure if he's a quarterback, got to give him a chance to see if he can be a quarterback. But he probably needs to offer him as a wide receiver to get him offered because we only had X number of quarterback slots, but we had a couple of receiver slots in that year.
So he went outside. He threw the ball. He threw the ball well enough to be a quarterback. But he was only a 5-foot-10, 5-foot-11 guy. Then he comes outside. Never played wide-out before. He goes out there and he's making plays.
So we just thought we had to recruit the guy. And we trusted in Randy Sanders, who trusted in their coaches. We had a relationship with their coaches. Their coaches told Randy about his heart, about his desire, about his ability. So we trusted in that and we got 'it.' Let's not call him Randall anymore, let's call him 'it.'
There hasn't been a day, in my opinion, we are biased, that he has not been one of the best players on the field here, any game we've been in. We just hope to see it again.
#5, Mike Hartline, QB
On senior day and the emotions you had… “It was really emotional the day before. Before the game we met as a team at the hotel and the seniors got up in front of the team once and shared their experience here. Personally, I got up in front of the offense and had to get up in front another group of people. It was just a very emotional day, especially Friday night and just trying to express yourself to your teammates. Probably things they’ve never heard before. It was good to go out like this.”
On what he told his teammates … “Honestly, I told them, ‘Everyone was asking me how am I going to leave my legacy? What am I going to do to leave my mark here?’ I told them, ‘All I’ve really thought about this week is you guys. I thought about how hard I need to prepare and practice for you guys to get the win.’ I wouldn’t be sitting here toda and I wouldn’t be talking to you guys about how good of a year I’ve had if it wasn’t for them. So I gave all the credit to them.”
On being down at half and then really relying on (Randall) Cobb and (Derrick) Locke to come back and win … “We knew we had a good chance to run the ball on them. They were giving up quite a bit a game but we still knew they were a tough defense. We still knew that no one had physically beat them really bad, big plays and things like that. Florida was a different story. They were a solid defense but we knew if we got the creases, got the leverage we would be able to run it very well. Randall (Cobb) came off really tired a couple of times and really banged up and I told him they’re going to need a stretcher to take you off because you’re going to go all day. He looked at me and nodded and at the point we were pretty confident we were going to be able to run the ball today.”
On going to a bowl game every year you’ve been here … “It feels great. It definitely makes you proud to be the first class that came in and started the bowl streak and to go out going to another one. I think it really sets the foundation of the guys younger than me to keep it going, to keep it alive, and to make them realize what they’re working towards. All we have to do is keep working to get it done and we have another game two weeks from now and it going to be bigger than anything we’ve done this year.”
#18, Randall Cobb, WR
On does a game like this energize you … “Yeah, it does. The heart we showed in the second half and the way we were able to come back and just the things we were able to do in the second half. We expect to play the whole game like that and we have to start finding a way to do that.”
On did you think about during the game that this might be it for you … “For a second it did but you know I am not going to focus on that, I’m not going to worry about that. I just want to make sure I’m getting everyone ready and focused for Tennessee. We have two weeks to prepare and were going to get ready and take care of business.”
On do you feel like you left it all out there … “I did. There was a point at the beginning of the fourth quarter I was ready to lay down on the sidelines and take a nap. I was just so tired and gassed. Just the recovery that (Ray) Rock (Oliver) has instilled in us with the training we’ve done and how fast we can recover. I was able to catch my breath and get my legs back under me.”
#20, Derrick Locke, RB On getting bowl eligible … “We needed this win. It was very important and now we have one more team standing in the way. I don’t know if they want to take a six and six team and we don’t want to chance it. We need to get out there and get this win and make sure we go to a bowl game.” On putting it in yours and Randall’s hands … “At halftime coach Joker (Phillips) was kind of mad. All the coaches just left, they said what they had to say and left it to us. Do what you all got to do before you come and if you don’t want to win then don’t come out. He gave a little speech and (Mike) Hartline gave a little speech and that just kind of amped us up and we went out there and played good.”
On was that the first time that the players decided to take charge in the locker room … “Yeah, the coaches just left. They were like if you all don’t want to win then you all just stay in here. Don’t come back out here. I’m going to give you a minute to talk about what you want to talk about but don’t come out if you don’t want to finish this game and win.”