24 years of futility was within their grasp. All the football Wildcats had to do was force Tennessee, which hasn't lost to Kentucky since 1984, into a punting situation, by holding the Vols on third and 18, midway through the third quarter.
With the Cats clinging to a 21-14 lead, Tennessee's Jonathon Crompton completed a pass to former Madison Southern star Luke Stocker, now a UT tight end, for a gain of 30 yards and a first down. Drive alive. Streak alive.
Four plays later, the same two hooked up again, this time for a 16-yard score. Game tied at 21.
From there, UK had to muster a 23-yard field goal from Lones Seiber, with :33 remaining, to send the game into overtime, tied 24-24.
In the extra period, the Cats appeared discombobulated, to say the least. Going on offense first, Kentucky lost yardage, thanks to a poorly-timed, poorly executed pitch play to Derrick Locke. Seiber's 49-yard field goal attempt was wide left, leaving the door open for Tennessee to drive a stake through UK's heart.
Montario Hardesty ran untouched from 20 yards out to give the Vols a 30-24 win, their 25th consecutive over the Cats, and sent the sixth-largest crowd in Commonwealth Stadium history (70,091) home disgusted, wondering when, if ever, the streak will end.
Wildcat fans now are left to play the ol' "iffin'" game...
Get off to a fast start. Check.
Get Randall Cobb off and running early. Check.
Grab a lead heading into the locker room at halftime. Check.
The Cats scored first, on a Tennessee turnover, when Sam Maxwell intercepted Crompton and returned it 56 yards for the score. It was Maxwell's sixth pick of the year and his first score. UK now has returned three interceptions for touchdowns this year, the most since 1974.
Randall Cobb was sensational for most of the night. After converting a fourth and one, the sophomore from Alcoa, Tenn. ran for a 17-yard score in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Cobb completed a 31-yarder to Chris Matthews. Cobb helped set up Kentucky's third score of the night by returning a kickoff 43 yards.
In all, Cobb rushed for 101 yards, caught four passes for 24 and finished the night with 186 all-purpose yards.
Cobb uncharacteristically fumbled twice -- Tennessee recovered one.
Kentucky found itself in great position to win the game, leading 21-14 at the half, but couldn't move the ball in the second half.
But now only questions linger.
The Cats inability to throw the ball allowed Tennessee to load up on the run. After carrying eight times in the first half, Derrick Locke had only three rushes in the second half and one in the overtime. Locke was held to 30 yards, well below his average of 80.2 yards per game.
Freshman quarterback Morgan Newton completed 10 of 22 passes for 69 yards.
Still, after being blown off both sides of the ball in the second half, the Cats found a ninth life, thanks to Ashton Cobb's fourth quarter hit on Stocker, which resulted in UK recovering a fumble.
Starting at the UT 37, Randall Cobb carried four times, spotting the ball at the Vols' 10 yard line. After a timeout, the Cats inserted Newton back under center. Three plays later, the Cats had to settle for the game-tying Seiber field goal.
Given the Cats inability to throw the ball, and Newton's struggles for much of the night, many were left to wonder why Cobb wasn't under center with a chance to win the game. Rich Brooks said after that his team doesn't run the "wildCobb formation" in their 2-minute drill.
Similarly, after Cobb led the Cats to a fourth quarter score at South Carolina, Brooks inserted Will Fidler on the ensuing two-point conversion. Fidler's pass was knocked down and the Cats fell 28-26.
Five bowls sent Representatives to Saturday's game at Commonwealth Stadium. But after UK's loss to UT, the Cats could be headed back to Tennessee for the holidays. All the talk after the game has the Cats playing in the Music City Bowl in Nashville.
Two representatives from the Liberty Bowl were present at the post-game press conference.
ESPN.com projects the Cats will play UConn in the PapaJohns.com Bowl in Birmingham.
Life of Riley
It was good to chat with former Wildcat linebacker Ronnie Riley. The San Antonio native now lives in norther Virginia, where he works for the Dept. of Defense.
Riley, who always was vastly underrated and much too small to play linebacker in the SEC (6-foot-2, 230), has lost nearly 50 pounds and is in amazing shape. Yours truly had to look twice to make sure it was Riley.
Riley, along with former Wildcat David Johnson, took in the Lexington Christian game on Friday and the Tennessee game on Saturday.
Big Cuz and the freebies
DeMarcus Cousins is spending extra practice times these days shooting free throws.
After the trip to Cancun, which saw Cousins purposely miss a free throw, coach John Calipari made his freshman big man attempt 250 free throws during one practice.
Cousins is second on the Wildcats with 36 FT attempts. Cousins has made only 18 (.500). For a guy who gets to the free throw line as much, he could become a late-game enigma if his team is holding a slim lead (think, Hack-a-Shaq).
Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.