Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White is not afraid to admit it. He hates to lose.
Last season, Vanderbilt came to Lexington and upset Kentucky 24-21 inside Kroger Field. White hopes that the memory from that game can help motivate his unit as the Cats and the ‘Dores tangle on Saturday in Nashville.
“I think any loss that you have, if it doesn’t linger with you or stick with you, maybe I question your competitive nature,” White said. “The losses should stick with you way more than the wins. And I know they do for me. Every time you face an opponent that got the best of you the year before, you should have a little added something about, OK, can’t let this happen again, I remember that feeling.”
White knows that tough losses sting for a very long time.
“We talk about the feeling of five minutes after a win and how glorious that time is in the locker room. The flip side of that and the reverse of that is the agony and the pain and the disgust from a loss,” White said. “It sticks way more than five minutes. The only way to get that taste out of your mouth is to put in the work, show up and you’ve got to find a way to get it done on Saturday.”
One of the standouts for the UK defense so far this season is linebacker Trevin Wallace. The Jesup, Georgia, native leads the Cats with 24 tackles and 3.5 sacks. White knows that some of that is a credit to Wallace and some of it is a credit to his teammates.
“I think it’s both, it’s a combination. He would be the first to tell you, the guys around him have to do the right things for that to fall into place,” White said. “Some of those sacks, the coverage is really nice. The quarterback is having to hold the ball, he’s able to shed a running back that’s trying to cut him and then he’ll make the play when the QB steps up. That all started with good coverage behind but then it turns into some individual effort that he doesn’t get cut to the ground, that he’s strong enough to bring down the quarterback.”
The Cats will have to be on their game Saturday to handle Vanderbilt quarterback AJ Swann. The sophmore has thrown for 1,101 yards and 11 touchdowns in four games. White has been impressed with Swann on tape.
“Special arm strength. It has a lot of similarities to Will (Levis),” White said. “It comes off his hand, an easy flick of the wrist and the ball can travel. Crisp on his accuracy. Does a nice job when the play breaks down, because of that arm strength, he can get that ball way downfield in a hurry. Big challenge, really good player, he’s playing at a high level.”
White is hoping that the sting of losing to Vanderbilt last season can provide extra motivation for his defense this week as they hit the road for the first time in 2023.