Date story was published||| Sunday, August 31, 1997
It began with Jimmy Buffett blasting through the public address system and ended with a Big Blue glee club standing at the 50-yard line belting out "On, On, U of K."
This is not your father's Kentucky football.
This is Hal Mummeball, and in terms of a debut this one flat-out sang in golden tones yesterday as the host Wildcats thumped archrival Louisville 38-24 before the second-largest crowd in Commonwealth Stadium history.
"The way I envisioned it they didn't score as much as they did," said the happy coach afterward, a Samoan lei around his neck, a victory gift from the family of defensive tackles coach Mike Fanoga. "But I'll take it."
Cat fans will frame it, thank you. Heard the line about things never turning out to be as good as advertised? Check this out: Sophomore quarterback Tim Couch completed 36 of 50 passes for 398 yards and four touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Kio Sanford caught six passes for 120 yards, including one for a crushing 80-yard touchdown. Sophomore running back Anthony White gained 94 yards on 10 rushing plays and 89 more on six receptions.
In all, the Kentucky offense, ranked 109th out of 111 Division I-A schools in total offense last year, racked up a whopping 519 total yards on a defense ranked fourth nationally a year ago. And the Cats snapped a two-game losing streak to Coach Ron Cooper's Cards.
"They beat us fair and square," said Cooper. "No tricks, no nothing, they just beat us."
Better still, Kentucky did so with a cluster of principal performers who, for one reason or another, appeared enchained by previous systems.
Couch played in but one of UK's final four games a year ago. White, a starter early last year, quit the team in disgust last November only to earn a second chance when Mumme arrived. Sanford, a burner from Bryan Station High School, caught five balls all of last season. In his three-year career, he had never caught a scoring pass.
"We're just finally getting a chance to show what we can do," Sanford said. "That's what it's all about."
"This is very satisfying," said Couch, the heralded prep passing star who sat the bench last year as Bill Curry's team ran the option. "We've got guys who were recruited to do these things, but it's like they've been kind of locked up for three or four years. Some people might be surprised, but we're not surprised."
Neither was Mumme. The 45-year-old Texan arrived from Division II Valdosta State with a successful passing system, an eye for innovation and a mandate to put fun in UK football. The tone for that was set a couple of hours before kickoff when the laid-back, good-time sounds of the Man from Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett, a Mumme favorite, played over the P.A.
"They let me pick some of it," the Parrothead said afterward. "They wouldn't let me pick it all, but they let me pick some."
That was the first of his good choices. Midway into the first quarter, on a third-and-12 from the Card 16-yard line, offensive coordinator Mumme called a pass to the left corner of the end zone for wideout Lance Mickelsen. Couch delivered. Kentucky scored. And the fun was just beginning.
Louisville fumbled the ensuing kickoff. One snap later, Couch hit new wideout Jimmy Robinson for a 16-yard touchdown. Next, UK defensive end Robert Jones hit Card quarterback Chris Redman from the blind side, forcing a fumble that middle linebacker Bob Holmberg scooped up at the Card 41. Two snaps later, Couch scrambled, then found White, who weaved his way to a 23-yard TD.
Score: Kentucky 21-0 with 3:53 left in the first quarter.
Louisville rallied. Arnold Jackson's 70-yard punt return set up a 1-yard Otis Floyd touchdown run. When Redman hit Ibn Green for a 17-yard score, the Kentucky lead was 21-17 with 5:11 left in the third quarter.
Remember, at least for this day, this is not your father's... Mumme's First Rule of Offense: Throw the ball short to people who can score. Couch did, firing a quickie to Sanford, who got a block from center Jason Watts, and rocketed 80 yards for the touchdown. The backbreaking touchdown.
"I knew that would happen," said Sanford. "It was just a matter of time."
The rule? "That would be a prime example of that right there," said Mumme smiling.
A 29-yard Brian Johnson field goal made it 31-17. Louisville pulled within a touchdown with 10:20 left, but the Cats responded with a 76-yard, eight-play drive, highlighted first by a 25-yard run from White, then by a 7-yard touchdown run, basically icing the outcome with 6:58 left.
Guy Morriss, UK's offensive line coach, got a game ball after his unit kept the Cards from laying hands on Couch, who was sacked just once.
"You got to give the credit to the offensive line," Couch said. "I can only remember getting hit like twice all day."
Mike Major and the Cat defense, a concern coming in, got a game ball for forcing four turnovers and holding the 'Ville to 291 yards. And running backs coach Tony Franklin got a game ball after his backfield ran out the clock in the fourth quarter, rushing for 91 yards on 18 carries in the final period.
Best of all, the Cats got to sing. In yet another break from the past, Mumme kept his team on the field after the game, where the happy Cats gathered at the 50 to basically shout out the fight song. It wasn't "Cheeseburger in Paradise," but it was close.
"We went through the hard times," Couch said. "Now we're ready for the good times."