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Vols deny Cats in Phillips' finale
The Wildcats were seeking their first back to back wins over the Volunteers since 1976-77, but fell victim to a 293-yard, four-touchdown passing performance by Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray in a 37-17 loss Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
It marked the final game for Phillips, who was dismissed as head coach on Nov. 4. Kentucky finished 2-10 overall and 0-8 in SEC play in his third season with the Wildcats. The former UK letterman went 13-24 and missed the postseason in 2011 and 2012 after the Cats had made five consecutive trips to bowl games.
Tennessee (5-7, 1-7 SEC) avoided its first winless season in league play in the program's history. The Volunteers were led by interim coach Jim Chaney, who stepped in after Derek Dooley was fired in the aftermath of last week's 41-18 loss to Vanderbilt.
Bray ensured it would be a happy ending for the Vols, completing 20 of 34 passes and throwing touchdown strikes to four different targets -- Zach Rogers (21), Justin Hunter (42), Mychal Rivera (29) and Cordarrelle Patterson (21).
"They have one of the best offensive teams in the league," Phillips said of the Volunteers. "We knew it would have to be a shootout, and we just didn't come up with enough points.
"(Bray) is so accurate throwing the ball down the field. A solid player, and it helps with those two big-time receivers (Hunter and Patterson) on the perimeter."
Kentucky had one of its better offensive games of the season from a yardage standpoint, nearly matching the Vols' 457 with 412 of its own, but could not capitalize on several trips deep inside UT territory. The Cats were twice stopped on fourth down and inches and also missed a short field goal. They finished 10-for-21 on third down and 0-for-3 on fourth down on the day.
"Again, missed opportunities," Phillips said. "We had our chances."
The Cats trailed 20-14 at the half and cut the deficit to three with a field goal by Craig McIntosh early in the third quarter, but Bray connected on TD passes to Rivera and Patterson late in the third quarter to seize control of the game.
Jalen Whitlow led UK with a season-high 225 yards passing on 29 of 45 attempts. The freshman quarterback threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to fullback D.J. Warren on the Cats' first possession of the game. Junior running back Jonathan George accounted for UK's other touchdown with 45-yard run in the second quarter.
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