Date story was published: Sunday, September 13, 1998
All Marlon McCree heard was the roar of the crowd. He had slipped the blockof the fullback and grabbed the tailback in the backfield. He knew he hadprobably gotten a hand on the football.
"But I didn't really know what happened until I heard the crowd," saidKentucky's sophomore linebacker. "I looked up and we were scoring."
The crowd was cheering, the Cats were rocking, freshman David Johnson wasthe one scoring, the roverback gobbling up the loose football on EasternKentucky's fourth play of the game and motoring 21 yards for a touchdown.
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It was the first Kentucky defensive touchdown in the Hal Mumme/Mike Majorera.
"I'm happy," said Major, UK's defensive coordinator. "Our guys are doingeverything we're asking them to do."
Indeed, Major had nothing but smiles on a day when Kentucky throttledvisiting Eastern Kentucky 52-7, even though the head coach was upset with asecond-half lapse by his turbocharged offense. "Hal's just a perfectionist,"Major said. "He wants everything running at top speed."
Major added: "We're just trying to keep the boss happy. Get him the ball."
Eastern's 184 total yards was the lowest offensive output against aKentucky defense since the Cats held Kent to 177 yards in a 35-0season-opening win in 1993. The Colonels passed for just 41 yards, the lowestair total against a UK defense since Cincinnati managed a meager 39 passingyards in a 31-0 loss in 1989.
The Colonels' tailback tandem of Derick Logan and Corey Crume combined for34 yards on 24 carries. And 83 of EKU's 184 yards came in the form of threereverses (33, 33 and 17 yards) by wide receiver Anthony Boggs.
"When you've got guys that can run you're always susceptible to the reversebecause they fly out of there so fast," said Major.
He will take the speed. Short on speed and depth a year ago, the Catsstruggled on the defensive side. They countered with an influx of younger,quicker feet.
A week ago, in Kentucky's 68-34 trashing of Louisville, the Cats held theCardinals to a little more than 230 yards through three quarters before Majoremptied the bench. Yesterday, EKU managed just 79 yards in the first half.
"The only chance we had in this football game was to execute our offense,"said EKU Coach Roy Kidd. "Our main objective was to keep Tim Couch on thesideline."
Instead, Couch completed 32 of 41 passes for 372 yards and five touchdowns.
Meanwhile, EKU's heralded transfer quarterback, Jon Denton, completed justthree of 10 passes for 41 yards and a touchdown.
"We tried to confuse him," said Major. "We'd show him a blitz on one sideand then blitz him opposite."
"We blitzed more today than anytime since I've been here," said juniorlinebacker Jeff Snedegar.
"He was doing a lot of bickering out there," McCree said of Denton. "Itkind of distracted him as far as his focus. He was more concerned with callingus names and pointing his finger."
Eastern's first series may have fractured the Colonels' focus. To have achance at keeping the game close, the Division I-AA Colonels needed to avoidturnovers, especially early. And especially after UK marched 73 yards in 14plays on its opening possession for a 7-0 lead.
Ex-Cat Tony Woods returned a kickoff out of the end zone to just the 9-yardline. Three plays later, on first-and-10 from the 24, Logan took a handoff,and boom, McCree was on him and the ball was loose. "We coach that every day,strip drill," said Major.
"And David was just in perfect position to scoop and run with it," saidMcCree.
"It felt like the longest 20 yards of my life," said Johnson.
Anwar Stewart returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in the Cats'dramatic win over Alabama last year. But this was the first UK touchdown byinterception or fumble return since Mumme's arrival a year ago.
"That (play) was what we're talking about," said Major. "Guys that can dothings in a very fast mode. Warp two, and warp three."
Not that the Cats failed to make plays on offense. The prettiest was a54-yard Couch to Craig Yeast TD strike with 2:27 left in the first half for a35-0 lead.
"I thought that was one of the better plays of the day," said Mumme. "Theydid a great job bluffing the blitz. They came up and faked the blitz. Tim gotus in a blitz pass call, and then they bailed too late and they couldn't getback in coverage. Tim threw a beautiful pass to Craig."
The Cats opened the second half with a 10-play, 56-yard scoring drive.After that, however, the offense failed to make a first down on three straightpossessions, causing Mumme to keep his starters in even with a 45-7 lead.
"At halftime it's 35-0 and we go out there the second half and just gothrough the motions," said Mumme. "I'm still mad about it."
Major was all smiles. Two games with his "young pups" and it's so far, sogood.
"This week we improved," said the coach. "The coverage improved. Tacklingimproved. Knocking the ball loose improved. We got better."