Date story published: Sunday, September 30, 2001
It was a theme all too familiar for the Kentucky football program.
After three subpar showings, the Wildcats offense finally came to life yesterday, producing 31 points.
The special teams were solid, getting several nice punt returns from Derek Abney and some booming punts from Glenn Pakulak.
But the UK defense that had shown so much improvement in the first three weeks of the season went AWOL against Mississippi.
Led by quarterback Eli Manning, the Rebels piled up nearly 500 yards and outscored the Wildcats 42-31 in front of 60,814 spectators at Commonwealth Stadium.
Wasted in the loss was a season-high 239 yards rushing by the Cats, 130 of which came from running back Artose Pinner.
"We've got to find a way to get all three phases of our football team playing together on the same day," Morriss said. "We can't have our defense play great one Saturday and our offense not show up, and vice versa."
Manning was especially sharp early, as he led Ole Miss to touchdowns on its first three drives, including touchdown passes of 26 yards and 5 yards to Chris Collins and Omar Rayford.
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound sophomore finished 19-for-36 passing for 268 yards and two touchdowns.
The Rebels punted only once in the first two quarters.
"We just can't come out of the gate like that," UK safety Patrick Wiggins said. "We just didn't execute at all defensively in the first half. Our offense really came out and gave a valiant effort. We've just got to put the offense and defense together and play as a full team."
The UK defenders, who had already gone up against two high-profile quarterbacks in Louisville's Dave Ragone and Florida's Rex Grossman, were impressed with Manning.
"I think he's the best quarterback we've played against," cornerback Jeremy Bowie said. "He made some smart decisions, didn't force any passes. For a young quarterback, he did a hell of a job today, basically."
Still, the UK offense went toe-to-toe with the Rebels for the most part. Quarterback Shane Boyd scored on a 1-yard sneak to tie the game at seven late in the first quarter, then added a 19-yard scamper that tied it at 14 with 9:31 left in the second quarter.
Manning's touchdown throw to Rayford sent the Rebels into the locker room with a 21-14 lead, and Ole Miss scored quickly to start the second half.
It took just four plays. Joe Gunn had runs of 17, 38 and 19 yards to the UK 1-yard line, and Toward Sanford scored on the next play to give Mississippi a 28-14 lead just 92 seconds into the third quarter.
Ole Miss had run for just 41 yards in the first half, and Morriss said the opening drive of the third quarter caught him off guard.
"I was in a little bit of shock," Morriss said. "Coming into the game, I didn't think they'd run the ball like they did."
Kentucky came right back. On the next play from scrimmage, Pinner burst through a hole in the middle of the Ole Miss line and ran 66 yards to the end zone, making it 28-21.
At that point, the Wildcats' offense began to stall. Boyd could produce only one first down in UK's next three possessions, and Ole Miss expanded its lead to 35-21 on a 38-yard end-around by Collins with 7:03 left in the third.
Morriss then made a quarterback switch, inserting former starter Jared Lorenzen. The Commonwealth Stadium crowd cheered loudly upon the entrance of Lorenzen, who didn't play in UK's previous two games.
"We've said all along if we felt like one of them were struggling or we might need a spark or something we might make a change," Morriss said.
It didn't take long for Lorenzen to get ready.
"About a minute," he said. "(Boyd) went three-and-out, and I just kind of looked at Coach and he said, 'Go get warmed up.' "
Boyd said he didn't have a problem with the move.
"When I'm on the field, I do my best to help the team win, and when Jared's on the field I'm on the sidelines helping him out," Boyd said. "He took the reins today and I'm happy as long as this team is moving in a positive direction."
The Cats went three-and-out on Lorenzen's first series, but helped by a 41-yard punt return by Abney to the Ole Miss 22 and a pass-interference call on Abney in the end zone, Lorenzen got UK to within 35-28 on a 1-yard run by Pinner with 12:18 left in the game.
UK got the ball back and faced fourth-and-5 at the Ole Miss 14 still trailing 35-28, but Morriss elected to go for the field goal. Seth Hanson booted a 31-yarder to make it 35-31 with 7:39 left.
"We felt like we had plenty of time in the game to get the ball back," Morriss said. "And if we had stopped them and gotten the ball back, we would have had a chance to win the football game."
Manning made sure that wouldn't happen. Facing first-and-10 at his own 48 on the Rebels' ensuing possession, he executed a perfect play-fake and found Jamie Armstrong for a 43-yard gain to the UK 9. Sanford scored his third touchdown of the day three plays later to make it 42-31 with 4:06 remaining, and many of the fans started heading for the exits.
Boyd finished 7-for-20 passing for 72 yards with an interception. He added 37 yards rushing. Lorenzen went 5-for-13 passing for 32 yards and had one carry for 15 yards.
After the game, Morriss was non-committal about which quarterback would start at South Carolina on Saturday.
"I don't know yet," Morriss said. "I think it's a situation just like we do every week. We'll go in and look at the game tapes, see who did what and how effective each one of them was, talk to them, see how they react, and see how it goes.
"That's the good thing about having two quarterbacks; you don't really feel afraid of using either one of them."