Date story was published: Sunday, November 18, 2001
Late in yesterday's game between Kentucky and sixth-ranked Tennessee, visions of goal posts started dancing in the heads of Coach Guy Morriss and his football team.
Trailing 38-35 with a little more than two minutes remaining, the Wildcats had just crossed into Tennessee territory. And with the way the UK offense had moved the ball on the Volunteers all afternoon, a game-winning touchdown and the program's first win over the Vols in 17 years seemed within reach.
That surely would have set off a celebration that would have had UK Athletics Director Larry Ivy picking up the tab for a new set of goal posts.
"I'd be lying if I didn't think the posts were coming down," Morriss said. "I don't think there was any doubt on our sideline that we were going to score and win the football game. It was a good feeling, because it kind of replaces the feeling of 'Oh, no, here we go again.' "
But as the clock struck zero at Commonwealth Stadium, Morriss and the Cats were left once again with that same feeling.
Kentucky's dreams for one of the biggest wins in school history were shattered when Tennessee's Eddie Moore knocked the ball away from UK tight end Chase Harp after a 21-yard gain to the Tennessee 31. Defensive end Will Overstreet then fell on the fumble, allowing the Vols to run out the clock and hold on for a gut-wrenching 38-35 victory in front of 69,109 fans.
The narrow escape allowed Tennessee (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) to keep alive its hopes for an SEC title and berth in the Bowl Championship Series.
For Kentucky (2-8, 1-7) it was another addition to the long list of 'should've, would've, could've,' joining the LSU, Georgia and Mississippi State games.
But this had to hurt the most. The Wildcats, who snapped their 15-game SEC losing streak last week against Vanderbilt, controlled the game from the outset, taking a 21-0 lead on the shell-shocked Volunteers.
The scoreboard didn't even tell the whole story of UK's early domination. The Vols went without a first down for the game's first 25 minutes and 24 seconds and were outgained in the first half 279-91.
"They certainly emotionally and physically outplayed us for a part of the game," Tennessee Coach Phil Fulmer said.
Wildcats quarterback Jared Lorenzen continued his outstanding late season, passing for 406 yards and four touchdowns. He played a hand in all 21 first-half points by throwing short touchdown passes to Tommy Cook and Harp and adding a 2-yard score on a quarterback sneak.
And a UK defense that ranked last in the SEC by giving up nearly 500 yards a game stuffed the Vols early, limiting them to just 3 yards rushing in the first two periods.
But late in the first half, Tennessee began to realize that UK's secondary had no answers for its passing game, particularly wide receiver Donte Stallworth. It was a realization that would change the course of the game.
Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen found Stallworth locked in one-on-one coverage with cornerback Jeremy Bowie and hit him for a 59-yard touchdown that got the Vols on the board with 4:06 left in the second quarter.
That was just the beginning. Clausen continued to pick on Bowie, hooking up with Kelley Washington on a 58-yard touchdown pass midway through the third period that brought the Vols to within 21-14.
Clausen said that UK's defensive focus on running back Travis Stephens forced them to go to the air.
"They had eight guys in the box, so we had to do it with the passing game," Clausen said. "They were covering one guy with two guys and covering our outside guy one-on-one."
A bizarre play allowed Tennessee to tie the game in the third quarter. With UK facing first-and-10 at its own 47, Lorenzen's pass was deflected by defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth into the hands of Rashad Moore at the UK 40. Moore rumbled to the Kentucky 11-yard line before being stripped by Chad Scott. The ball then skidded out of the hands of UT cornerback Andre Lott and into the end zone, where Constantin Ritzmann fell on it for a Vols touchdown that tied the score at 21.
Lorenzen answered, marching the Cats 72 yards in 10 plays and hitting Derek Abney for a 4-yard touchdown pass to put UK up 28-21 with 1:56 left in the third.
Stallworth then went to work on Bowie again, beating him on a 23-yard fly pattern to knot the game at 28 with 9:32 remaining.
After UK failed to convert on a fourth-and-2 at the Tennessee 47, the Cats inserted true freshman Mike Williams for Bowie. Stallworth got the better of him, too, shaking loose for a third touchdown, this one from 38 yards, to give the Vols their first lead of the game, 35-28, with 5:26 to go.
Stallworth, who also caught three touchdown passes in Tennessee's 49-28 win over Memphis last week, finished with 169 yards on eight catches, six of which came after halftime.
"At halftime, Coach told us (Kentucky) hadn't seen Tennessee yet," Stallworth said. "We had to come out and play Tennessee football the second half."
Lorenzen had one more bullet, a 62-yard pass to Champ Kelly with 3:23 left in the game that tied the score at 35.
And after having a counterpunch to every Tennessee rally, the Cats were feeling good about their chances down the stretch.
"I knew we were going to win," Kelly said. "There was no doubt in my mind."
It took Tennessee less than a minute to get into field-goal range, and Alex Walls delivered a 44-yarder with 2:49 left to give the Vols a 38-35 lead.
That gave Kentucky one last chance, and it started at its own 35 after Walls shanked the kickoff out of bounds. Lorenzen hit Tommy Cook for a 17-yard gain, and then found Harp on the left side. The 6-foot-4, 243-pound junior was fighting for extra yardage when Moore came in and jarred the ball loose. Lorenzen was right behind the play.
"His helmet hit directly on the ball and it just popped out," Lorenzen said. "Unfortunately, that's kind of the way our season's gone, something bad happens to us."
Afterward, Fulmer gave the Cats credit for their gutty performance.
"That's the way I remember Kentucky-Tennessee games as a player and assistant coach," he said. "Always a battle."
But Lorenzen said coming close only to come up short is getting old.
"Everybody says, 'Well, you've got a bunch of moral victories'; that doesn't mean anything," Lorenzen said. "It doesn't get you to a bowl game, it doesn't do anything for your character, it doesn't get you respect, and that's what we're trying to get. Respect."