kentucky 31, South Carolina 28inside

John Clay: Cats finally stick one on Spurrier

UK's rally ends spurrier complexCats Escape Visor Grip after 17-game losing streak

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistOctober 17, 2010 

If after 17 straight defeats, you're finally going to beat Steve Superior, this is the way to do it.

You play first-half defense so poorly you make Steve Spurrier think his offense will never be stopped.

You fall behind 28-10 by halftime.

You stage a second-half rally, even take the lead by three points with 75 seconds remaining.

Then you watch the South Carolina coach drive right back down the field in the final seconds, have him get all the way to the 20, and make the ol' Ball Coach, the greedy ol' Ball Coach think, just for a moment, about how much fun it will be to beat the still-Kentucky Cats one more time.

And then, just like that, you finally snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

If you're Kentucky, that's been a far-fetched dream.

Instead, Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium, the dream became reality.

Kentucky 31, South Carolina 28.

"I'm still shaking," said Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips afterward.

Over in the other lockerroom, you just knew the ol' ball coach was shaking, too.

After all, was this the greatest comeback in Kentucky football history, better even than 2007 when the Cats rallied from a third-quarter 27-14 deficit to beat top-ranked and eventual national champ LSU 43-37?

It just might have been.

"We'd come off three pretty tough losses," said Phillips, speaking of the 48-14 loss at Florida, the 42-35 loss at Ole Miss two weeks back, and the 37-34 loss to Auburn on the game's final play eight days before. "Two of those losses by 10 points. Two really tough losses back-to-back."

Then Kentucky fell behind by 18 points at halftime, only to score 21 unanswered points in the second half, the final points coming when quarterback Mike Hartline hit a wide, wide open Randall Cobb for a 24-yard touchdown, on a fourth-and-seven play with 1:15 remaining, to put the home team up a point. (A two-point conversion run by Cobb made it 31-28.)

Then when South Carolina charged back down the field to a first down at the UK 20-yard line with 11 precious seconds remaining, Spurrier dismissed a tying field goal to go for the dagger, only to shoot himself straight through the heart.

UK safety Cartier Rice tipped quarterback Stephen Garcia's throw to the end zone and fellow defensive back Anthony Mosley intercepted it to secure Kentucky's dramatic win over the 10th-ranked Gaemcocks, and first over Spurrier.

"At halftime, we told them we were in a street fight," said Phillips, the first-year head coach who picked up his first SEC victory. "We said, 'Who's got our back?' And they all had our back. We dressed 80 guys, and they all had our back."

Kentucky's defense went from porous to powerful, holding the Gamecocks to just over 100 yards in the second half. Nor did it hurt the Carolina cause when star freshman running back Marcus Lattimore left with a sprained ankle.

On the other end, the USC defense that stopped top-ranked Alabama a week ago couldn't stop Kentucky. Hartline was magnificent, completing 32 of 42 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns, the fourth one he didn't even see thanks to a strong Carolina rush. That one put UK ahead for the first time all night.

But back came Spurrier. Back came the Gamecocks, all the way to where Coach Superior went for the win, eschewing OT for a shot at that 18th straight W.

Think back to 1993, victory No. 4 in the streak, when Spurrier was the coach at Florida, when his Gators threw seven interceptions against the Bill Curry-coached Cats and still pulled out the 24-20 triumph when in the final seconds Danny Wuerffel threw 28 yards into the end zone for Chris Doering.

Only, Spurrier doesn't coach at Florida anymore, and back then it was the opposite end zone at Commonwealth Stadium, and those Cats then are not the same as these Cats now.

In 1993, Doering made the catch.

In 2010, Anthony Mosley made the interception.

If you wait long enough, dreams do come true.

Reach John Clay at 859-231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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