Date story was published||| Sunday, October 19, 1997
It was just your average, run-of-the-mill Tim Couch passing performance, the Kentucky quarterback throwing for six touchdowns and a school-record 428 yards.
It was just your average, run-of-the-mill Craig Yeast receiving performance, the junior catching seven passes for a career-high 130 yards, two for scorching scores, on the path to breaking a pair of school marks.
It was just your average, run-of-the-mill Kentucky offensive performance, with Lance Mickelsen catching three touchdown passes, and the unit rolling up 586 total yards, the second-highest figure in school history.
It was just your average, run-of-the-mill Kentucky rout, the Cats ripping Northeast Louisiana 49-14 for homecoming last night at Commonwealth Stadium.
Then again, only the feel was run-of-the-mill. There is no such thing (or there wasn't) as your average Kentucky rout.
"It feels real good to exorcise another demon around here," said head coach Hal Mumme.
Indeed, the last time Northeast Louisiana traveled to Lexington, the Indians added salt to the gaping wound that was Kentucky's 1-10 season in 1994, pulling off a 21-14 victory.
A lot has changed in three years - or even a year, for that matter. This time the Cats entered last night as a rare 25-point favorite. And Mumme's club did exactly what it was supposed to do, ringing up its largest margin of victory since beating Kent 35-0 back in 1993.
Couch completed 23 of 26 passes for 293 yards in the first half alone. At one stretch, the Heisman Trophy candidate completed a school-record 12 consecutive passes, the 12th coming when under a heavy Indian rush. Couch threw left-handed to true freshman running back Derek Homer, who turned it into an 8-yard gain.
"We work on that," joked Mumme. "We coach that."
By night's end, the sophomore had completed 34 of 43 passes with one interception. His 428 yards eclipsed his own school record of 398 passing yards against Louisville in the season opener. His six touchdowns missed by one of tying the school record he set on Sept. 20 when he fired seven scoring strikes in a rout of Indiana.
Said Northeast running back Marquis Williams, who rushed for 54 yards on 15 carries, "The only word I can say is, 'Couch.' "
Or Yeast. The junior from Harrodsburg ran his season reception total to 48, eclipsing the record of 47 set by Neal Clark in 1991. Yeast also became the school's all-time leading receiver, his 98 career catches surpassing Tom Hutchinson's total of 94.
"Craig may be the best player in the conference right now," said Mumme.
Kentucky, meanwhile, ran its record to 4-3 overall, before the Cats return to conference play next Saturday at Georgia, which beat Northeast 42-3 earlier this season.
"I was proud of the guys and the way they played after that bitter defeat last week at South Carolina," said Mumme of the 38-24 loss in Columbia that came a week after the Cats had upset then-No. 20 Alabama. "I thought we looked more athletic on defense tonight. We put the stops on them early in the game when we needed to. And I thought the offense played well."
"We went out and executed from the get-go," said Couch, who was critical of his own play at South Carolina. "And we just kind of kept it up the whole game."
Indeed, the Cats wasted no time getting started. For the fourth time this season, Mumme's script accounted for a touchdown on UK's first possession. A 35-yard kickoff return from Yeast gave the Cats a start at the Northeast 45-yard line. Seven plays later, Couch sneaked in from the 1-yard line.
Fifth play of the second possession, Couch hit Yeast with a short screen pass left. Yeast made a move, got blocks from wide receiver Marvin Love and offensive guard Mike Webster, and streaked 38 yards for a 14-0 UK lead.
Third possession, Couch completed passes of 20 yards to Yeast, 26 yards to Kevin Coleman and 15 yards for a touchdown to Jimmy Robinson, making it 21-0.
In the second quarter, Kentucky faced a third-and-37 from its own 27, and simply completed a 32-yard pass to Micklesen. On fourth-and-five, Couch threw eight yards over the middle to Anthony White for a first down at the Northeast 33. Two snaps later, Couch threw a perfect 33-yard strike to Mickelsen for a 28-0 lead.
Northeast got on the board with a 56-yard drive. Freshman quarterback Daniel Jeremiah traveled 11 yards for the score. But Kentucky answered when Couch hit Mickelsen for an 18-yard score just 51 seconds before the half, making it 35-7.
The Cats extended the count to 42-7 on their first possession of the second half. Third play, Couch hit Kevin Coleman for 26 yards. Fourth play, Couch hit Yeast on another screen, and Yeast did the rest, going 31 yards for a touchdown.
Finally, after Northeast got its second touchdown, Couch and Mickelsen caught the Northeast secondary biting on a hitch play and connected on a 41-yard touchdown, making it 49-14 with 12:28 left, and giving the signal to backup Dusty Bonner.
"I thought the kids played real well," said defensive coordinator Mike Major, whose unit had been criticized for giving up 31 of the 38 points last week. "The first drive that they scored on they got a big kickoff return. And the second drive, they got us in an all-out blitz and we missed the coverage. We held them to 218 yards and that's good."
"We played well," said end Bamidele Ali, who ran his SEC-leading sack total to seven. "But we've got a big game next week at Georgia. This needs to be short-lived. We need to get back to work very soon."