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Late mistake allows Tennessee to hold off Kentucky

Nov 25, 2006 - 9:31 PM KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Kentucky had its chance to finally beat Tennessee. Unfortunately, quarterback Andre' Woodson did not have his eyes on the clock.

The Wildcats were plagued by a late delay-of-game penalty and Erik Ainge threw for 240 yards and a touchdown as the No. 19 Volunteers squeaked out a 17-12 Southeastern Conference victory.

Dropping its 22nd consecutive game to Tennessee - the second-longest current slump against one opponent in Division I-A - Kentucky (7-5, 4-4 SEC East) was plagued by a handful of missed opportunities, including one down the stretch that showed its inexperience in big games.

"Obviously, this was a very disappointing loss," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "I thought we were in a good position a number of times, but we failed to execute in the red zone and we let them out of their short end of the field a few too many times."

Playing for second place in the SEC East Division, the Wildcats were driving for the potential game-winning score in the closing minutes when Woodson failed to notice the game clock on a 2nd-and-goal at the Vols 3.

The costly delay penalty with 3:58 remaining pushed Kentucky back five yards, forcing the team to throw on its final two downs after managing just two yards running up the middle on second down. Tennessee linebacker Rico McCoy deflected a pass in the middle of the end zone on third down and Woodson had a pass intended for tight end Jacob Tamme float out of bounds on fourth.

"We just didn't do a good job of executing in the red zone," Woodson said. "It happens, we just have to do a better job and we didn't today. We have to address it and get ready for the bowl game."

After the Vols took over on downs, Ainge found star receiver Robert Meachem for a 15-yard gain on a 3rd-and-3 at their own 13 to snap the Wildcats' four-game winning streak.

"Our team played hard (today) but not particularly well," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "But, we've got nine wins. I've been on the other side of that coin, when we played well and didn't win."

Ainge completed 19-of-33 passes and Meachem had six catches for 116 yards for Tennessee (9-3, 5-3 East), which took the lead for good at 17-12 on a one-yard TD run by LaMarcus Coker 58 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Following a 24-yard field goal by James Wilhoit midway through the first quarter, the Vols pulled ahead 10-0 on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Ainge to Meachem with 2:46 to play.

Kentucky rallied in the second quarter as Lones Seiber sandwiched a pair of field goals around a five-yard TD pass from Woodson to Rafael Little, pulling ahead, 12-10, with 18 seconds left before halftime.

"(At halftime) we talked a lot about pride," Fulmer said. "We just didn't seem like we had the energy we normally have been playing with (early)."

The Wildcats had a chance to add to their lead with 6:39 remaining in the third quarter, but Seiber missed a 33-yard kick after a lengthy 12-play drive.

The Vols came right back with a 15-play drive that Coker finished off with his fourth touchdown for the season. Coker finished with 94 yards on 22 carries and had four receptions for 51 yards.

"Coker showed some toughness today," Fulmer said. "He got dinged pretty good, but he came back and finished strong."

Woodson finished with 282 yards passing and Tamme had seven catches for 120 yards for Kentucky, which recorded 410 yards of total offense.

Little rushed 23 times for 122 yards and had five receptions for 21 yards for the Wildcats, who finished with their best record in four seasons despite the tough loss.

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