NASHVILLE — The Kentucky Wildcats had taken such good care of the ball that they ranked tied for second in the nation for the fewest turnovers this season.
Jalen Whitlow, who had been intercepted only once all season, was picked off four times Saturday, and the Kentucky Wildcats lost 22-6 to Vanderbilt in dropping their 14th straight Southeastern Conference game.
"It was a frustrating day for Jalen, we didn't play good enough at that position," first-year coach Mark Stoops said. "I thought he had tough runs and we moved the chains. We're doing the best we can; we need to get mores support around him."
The Wildcats (2-8, 0-6) turned the ball over six times in the first four games then went without a single giveaway over the next four games. The turnovers Saturday hurt the Wildcats on a day where they outgained Vanderbilt 246-172 through three quarters but just couldn't finish off drives.
Kentucky also had three sacks, all in the first half.
Stoops said this loss hurts more than some of the others. Kentucky now has lost seven of the last eight.
"We told our guys at half time we completely controlled the game, yet we're still down three," Stoops said. "We played extremely well on both sides of the ball. The turnovers and the blocked PAT were big differences in this one."
Kentucky led 6-2 when the first interception happened with 2:08 left in the first quarter. Whitlow's pass was high and went off Demarco Robinson's hands to Vandy cornerback Andre Hal, and he ran it 12 yards to the Kentucky 26. Vanderbilt needed only three plays before Brian Kimbrow ran 21 yards for a TD putting the Commodores ahead to stay.
"It was just a bad pass, a little bad luck on our part, but you know, we work hard to make it better," Robinson said. "We just have to keep going."
The second interception ended a drive at midfield, and Kentucky took a shot at the end zone at the end of the first half. Whitlow's pass was picked off by Andrew Williamson near the goal line.
"It's just momentum," Kentucky receiver Javess Blue said. "We need to learn how to pick things up. When a penalty is called on us, we can't just get down from there on. We just have to learn how to bring ourselves back together and get the first down."
Those weren't Kentucky's only mistakes.
After Jojo Kemp capped the opening drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, Adam Butler blocked Joe Mansour's extra point with Steven Clarke picking it up and running it back for a safety. A fake field goal was stopped for a 2-yard loss in the third quarter, and Landon Foster had a 13-yard punt.
"Obviously, if I could go back and do it over I would," Stoops said. "It wasn't a guarantee we'd make that kick. It was 48 yards into the wind and Joe's leg was looking a little off on kickoffs. I didn't think he'd have enough pop to hit it through the wind and I thought it was a decent percentage of us making that play, it just didn't work."
Vanderbilt (6-4, 3-4) now has won three straight in this series, and the Commodores became bowl eligible for a third straight season by dominating the fourth quarter. They held the ball nearly 11 minutes, outgained Kentucky 141-16 and scored 13 points to seal the victory.
"I'm really glad we got to that threshold (six wins) because now we can just focus on beating our next opponent," Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels said. "Our coaches keep us really in the moment."
Brian Kimbrow scored on a 21-yard run, and Jordan Matthews caught 12 passes for 141 yards in becoming the first Vanderbilt receiver with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Patton Robinette sealed the win with a 13-yard TD pass to Kris Kentera with 47 seconds left.
Now the Wildcats head to Georgia next followed by the season finale in Lexington against Tennessee. Defensive end Alvin Dupree, who had 1 1/2 sacks, said they'll keep working to get better.
"Eventually we'll push through," Dupree said.