Date story was published||| Sunday, November 16, 1997
NASHVILLE - Jimmy Buffet may be his main music man, the top spin on HalMumme's CD player, but yesterday here at Vanderbilt Stadium the first-yearKentucky coach could have quoted from one of Nashville's own, Vince Gill."Ain't no future in the past."
The past said Kentucky loses games in which it gains just 234 yards,completes less than half its passes, is penalized a whopping 15 times andpunts nine times. The past said the Cats lost unusually ugly games -the lastthree anyway - in this quaint stadium, where the turf is hard and the windswirls and fingers freeze.
Guess what? With fading bowl hopes hanging on the line, the Cats played acarbon copy of those games yesterday, and won, beating host Vanderbilt 21-10.
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Craig Yeast snared a 25-yard fade pass from Tim Couch for one touchdown,then returned a kickoff 97 yards for another. And Derek Homer popped a 31-yardfourth-quarter TD run as Mumme recorded his first Southeastern Conference roadwin and the Cats mastered Music City for the first time since 1989.
"I guess we exorcised one more demon," Mumme said afterward. "It's good toget those out of the way the first year."
It didn't look so good. UK's offense, the SEC's top statistical attack,struggled against Woody Widenhofer's blitzing, swarming defensive scheme.Quarterback Tim Couch completed just 17 of 36 passes for a substandard 168yards and was sacked five times by the SEC's top statistical defense.
"They didn't do anything we hadn't seen," Mumme said. "They just did itbetter than everybody else."
"It felt like they were coming from everywhere out there," Couch said."They're the best defense we've faced."
But the Kentucky defense kept up its end of the bargain, holding Vandy'simpotent offense to just 262 yards as the Cats improved to 5-5 overall and 2-5in the SEC. With the regular-season finale next week against visitingTennessee, Kentucky has its highest win total since 1993 and is one win awayfrom being bowl-eligible.
"This is a big victory for us," said defensive boss Mike Major, whose thintroop had been trampled for 613 yards and 63 points by LSU last time out. "Thekids really wanted to take this back to Lexington and bury some AstroTurf inthe graveyard."
"The big thing we wanted to do was come in here and get a victory to keepour bowl hopes alive," Couch said.
"I've been here a long time, and this is my first win here; it feels good,"senior offensive guard John Schlarman said. "We needed this to keep our bowlhopes alive."
For at least a quarter, however, it appeared the Commodore curse was alive.First drive, Couch completed his first four passes, moving the Cats from theirown 18-yard line to the Vanderbilt 26. The sophomore then strung together 12straight misfires, easily his longest completion drought of the season (orpossibly of his career) - Couch missed seven straight against Florida inSeptember.
"The wind swirled on a couple of them and caught 'em; they sailed on Tim,"Mumme said. "And we had some that hit them in the hands and we just didn'tcatch."
But two plays after Seth Hanson had missed a 40-yard field goal wide left,the Cat defense created a break. Senior free safety Tremayne Martin made hisfourth interception of the season, a diving grab of a Damian Allen pass at theVandy 25-yard line.
On UK's first play, with the 'Dores in an all-out blitz, Couch missed Yeastat the 5-yard line. No matter. Next play, the quarterback changed the play atthe line of scrimmage, bringing the backs inside for maximum protection and,against another Vandy blitz, hit Yeast with a rainbow for the half's onlyscore.
The hosts took the second-half kickoff and moved to a 37-yard John Markhamfield goal. No matter, again. Yeast fielded the ensuing kickoff and took offdown the left sideline. He blew by the stunned Commodores for a 97-yardtouchdown.
"One guy was there, but he kind of turned his shoulder, and when he did, Isort of blew right by him," Yeast said.
"Craig Yeast... I've been saying this for about half the season: He's oneof the best players in the conference," Mumme said.
Vandy quickly chopped the lead to 14-10, though, when Allen toasted theCats with a 55-yard scoring strike to Tavarus Hogans with 7:07 left in thethird period.
Yet the Cats held tough. Linebacker Jeff Snedegar picked off an Allenthrow. Two possessions later, Martin was there again, recovering a JimmyWilliams fumble at the Vandy 40-yard line with 8:12 left in the fourth.
Forty-five seconds later it was over. Homer took a handoff, broke a coupleof Vandy tackles and went 31 yards for the touchdown.
"It was just a 30-call up the gut," Homer said. "I just made the cutback,there was a pretty good hole and a bit of collision, and then I was just ableto go the rest of the way."
For Vanderbilt, the Commodores suffered their 17th straight SEC loss,falling to 3-7 overall and 0-7 in the conference.
"Of course I'm real disappointed," Widenhofer said. "It was a greatopportunity at home."
For Kentucky, the great opportunity comes Saturday in Lexington, againstPeyton Manning and Tennessee, the Cats' bowl hopes still breathing, anotherpiece of the past left to bury.
"We've got a little bit to play for now next week," Mumme said. "We're 5-5and we've got a chance at a winning season."
The first since '89.