AUBURN, Ala. — It was, said Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks, "the ultimate team win."
He sure got that right.
To describe Kentucky's 21-14 upset of host Auburn on Saturday night at Jordan-Hare, let us praise now-famous men.
Praise the Kentucky quarterbacks, no doubt, starting with true freshman quarterback Morgan Newton, who showed promise in not just his first collegiate start, but his first collegiate game.
Praise Will Fidler, the junior backup who was told early in the week that Newton would start. Fidler took the news "like a man," said assistant Joker Phillips, plus he had not been able to throw much all week because of a sore shoulder.
And all Fidler did was enter the game in the fourth quarter and engineer the comeback with two scoring drives that became Kentucky's second victory ever in the loveliest little village on the plains.
Praise Randall Cobb, no doubt, who ripped off the 61-yard run on the go-ahead drive that set up his 4-yard go-ahead score.
Those were the names that got the publicity all week. Who would play quarterback? Who wouldn't play quarterback? How much would they play the Wildcat?
But it took a full ensemble for the Cats to pull off his major road triumph in a league where road triumphs are so hard to achieve.
"I thought this was really an ultimate team win," Brooks said with a warm glow on a cold Alabama night. "There really wasn't one thing that stood out above the others."
Not when everything stood out.
It took a gutty, disciplined Kentucky defense that held the SEC's No.1 offense to just 315 total yards and one offensive touchdown.
It was a defense that wasn't worn down by Auburn's up-tempo attack, that didn't get out of its lanes and allow a big Tiger play, the staple on which Gus Malzahn had built his early success.
"I'm going to say this about our guys," said Steve Brown, the defensive coordinator. "What a great, great effort. I'm not just talking about the defense; I'm talking about the team, period."
"One of the biggest keys to me was field position," Brooks said. "Other than one short punt before the half ... I thought we managed the field position to where we had an advantage on them."
Praise Ryan Tydlacka, the Kentucky punter, who after shanking a 5-yarder last week at South Carolina, twice pinned the home team inside the 5-yard line when it counted most.
And please pile the praise on the unsung Kentucky offensive line, which opened the way for the Cats to have not one but two 100-yard rushers — Derrick Locke gained 126 yards on 19 carries; Cobb 109 yards on 12 carries — and battered the host Tigers for an amazing 282 net yards rushing.
That's how you win on the road.
And credit Brooks and his staff, the same staff that in the face of doubt and criticism that comes with a three-game losing streak, no matter who the three losses were to, that stuck to its guns, without its starting quarterback and its best cornerback, put together a game plan that worked.
"My top three wins since I've been here," said Micah Johnson, the UK linebacker, grouping it with the Cats' win over No. 1 LSU two years back, and the first victory over Louisville.
But those were home wins. This was a road win. An SEC road win, against a team that started the year 5-0, that as late as a week ago was ranked No. 17 in the nation.
An Auburn team, by the way, that had lost only once to Kentucky at Auburn, and that one was way back in 1961.
"The (road win) we had at Arkansas several years ago (2007) was a really good win, particularly having to come from behind and score 21 points in the fourth quarter to do it," said Brooks. "But from where we are, and where we were going into this game, and what had transpired, I think this breathes a little life back into our fan base, back into our locker room, and I think it's a huge win for us."
Especially when it was a team win.
Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or email@example.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.