Story published: Sunday, October 01, 2006
Kentucky came into last night's game with Central Michigan knowing they needed a win, and they got it.
That's about the best thing you could say about the Wildcats following a wild-and-woolly 45-36 shootout with Central Michigan.
The Cats were dominated on the stat sheet, allowing the Chippewas to roll up a whopping 558 yards of total offense, including 411 through the air.But all that really matters for Coach Rich Brooks is that his team is 3-2 with South Carolina coming to town next weekend.
"It's a win," Brooks said. "There's no such thing as a bad win. Am I happy about everything? No, I'm not, but you can't take the win away. That's the happiest thing of all."
The only saving grace was Central Michigan's generosity, as the Chippewas put themselves in a 28-7 second-quarter hole thanks to four turnovers, including three fumbles.
But once Central Michigan figured out how to hang on to the ball, it had its way with the UK defense. Chippewas backup quarterback Dan LeFevour threw for 360 yards and four touchdowns in less than three quarters of action.
Central Michigan closed to within 38-36 on LeFevour's 23-yard pass to Bryan Anderson with 6:58 remaining, but Anderson couldn't hold on to the ensuing two-point conversion pass.
UK could finally exhale when Rafael Little responded with a 4-yard TD run at 4:30 and the Cats stopped Central Michigan on downs at the three-minute mark.
The Cats looked to be on easy street in the first quarter. Andre Woodson hit Keenan Burton for a 3-yard touchdown pass on UK's first drive, and a Marcus McClinton interception led to a Woodson-to-Jacob Tamme 19-yard strike for a 14-0 UK lead with seven minutes left in the first quarter.
Central Michigan's third fumble led to a magical 24-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Little. Woodson, under heavy pressure, managed to get the ball in the flat to Little, who gave a stutter-step and shook Central Michigan defensive back Tim Brazzel before dancing down the right sideline. That put Kentucky up 21-0 less than two minutes into the second quarter, and left Central Michigan Coach Brian Kelly scratching his head.
When asked about his team's slow start after the game, Kelly said, "I don't know. No bacon, no sausage maybe."
But the big early lead also gave UK what, in hindsight, was a false sense of security.
"I think we lost our stinger a little bit, and we obviously didn't get it recaptured very well," Brooks said. "They threw at will on us."
Central Michigan closed to within 28-17 by halftime, and offensive coordinator Joker Phillips said his unit has to take part of the blame as well, as UK failed to capitalize on a pair of Chippewa turnovers and committed turnovers of their own. Woodson was picked off trying to go to Dicky Lyons Jr. in the end zone, and Tamme fumbled at the Central Michigan 21.
"We screwed it up early," Phillips said. "If we had scored on either of those possessions, that could have been the game. I read somewhere that they wanted to see if they could get it to the fourth quarter and see what happened, and that's exactly what they did."
LeFevour and the Central Michigan receivers continued their onslaught in the second half. Burton turned a short screen into a 42-yard touchdown for a 35-20 UK lead, but LeFevour answered by finding Damien Linson for an easy 15-yard score.
The teams traded field goals to make it 38-30, and it took less than two minutes for Central Michigan to hit the end zone for the potential game-tying score before UK held on the two-point conversion. The Chippewas converted five third downs on 10 yards or longer.
Both defensive coordinator Mike Archer and the players supported Brooks' claim that the Cats relaxed after the early turnovers led to the big lead.
"Not to take anything away from them, but I think we lost a little fire and got complacent," junior safety Roger Williams said. "And we're not good enough yet to get complacent."
"We still haven't figured out how to win," Archer said. "We're not mature enough to get ahead 28-7 and put people away. They thought the game was over. We had the kinds of looks on our faces like we did at Louisville. We lost our poise."
But at least the Cats were able to accomplish their mission and get a win.
"We weren't playing chopped liver," Brooks said. "This team did the same thing and came back on Boston College. We know we've got a lot to work on. But the good news is we get to work on them being 3-2."