Alvin "Bud" Dupree had dreamed of this moment his whole life.
Kentucky’s senior leader had never returned an interception for a touchdown and when he did, he had a dance at the ready.
But there he was after scoring the go-ahead touchdown in Kentucky’s 45-38 win over South Carolina on Saturday night and he froze.
“I couldn’t do it,” the defensive end said. “Everybody was running at me and then I was thinking. I just wanted to play it smart so we could win the game.”
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Dupree was so buried under teammates that he could barely play in the final series, he said.
“It’s a great feeling, though,” he said.
It seemed only fitting to players and coaches alike that the most important defensive plays, the ones that sealed the victory over South Carolina, came from seniors like Dupree and Mike Douglas, who tipped the pass into the air before Dupree came down with it.
Or even Ashely Lowery, who had an interception on the final desperation drive for the Gamecocks.
For Dupree, he saw Douglas get a hand on the ball and he waited.
“Seemed like it took forever,” he said. “I thought someone was right behind me waiting to tackle me.”
It felt even longer to Coach Mark Stoops.
“I saw it floating in the air and it felt like it was up there for five minutes,” Stoops said. He had to ask if it was even Dupree that came down with it.
Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said it made him happy to see those veterans make the final big plays.
“He’s done so much for this program and the fact that he was the one that made the play it just, it’s a great feeling for him and the team,” Eliot said of Dupree’s big play.
Not to mention Douglas and Lowery.
“Guys that have kind of bought into what we’re doing here, and it was something that was very rewarding,” Eliot said.
It was a good payoff at the end for a defense that had been struggling this game to stop the South Carolina attack, giving up 500 yards of offense.
“Defense played horrible tonight,” Douglas said. “We played horrible tonight, and I thank Pat (Towles) and everybody on offense for keeping us in there.
“When it came to crunch time we had our teammates' back. Because a lot of times we let the offense down, I'm glad they gave us just one more opportunity to go out there. We bowed up when it counted the most.”
After South Carolina had rammed the ball down the Cats’ throats early in the second half, Stoops had some choice words to say to his group.
“Quit looking around for guys to make plays; you make a play,” the head coach told them. “That's where I started challenging them. That's where I had enough. Quit looking around. Quit looking for a call. Somebody dig in and make a play.”
And those somebodies did at just the right time.
“That's one of the best feelings I've had since I've been playing football,” Dupree said of his big touchdown. “I hope I can continue to make more plays like that.”
There was plenty of star power dotting the Kentucky sideline on Saturday before the game.
Three-stars and four-stars -- and one all-important five-star recruit from just down the interstate -- pondering committing to UK.
And previously where UK’s coaches have had to promise future success, sell the prospect of competing in the Southeastern Conference, there was a serious shift on Saturday.
“I think we’ve been selling a lot of hope and ‘This is what we’re gonna do,’” offensive coordinator Neal Brown said after the win. “And now, triple-overtime game at Florida that we really felt like we could and should’ve won and to come back here and beat Coach Spurrier and beat South Carolina, what they’ve done the last three years, I think it solidifies the vision we’ve had.”
Brown said there’s no doubt in his mind that UK will build on this victory.
“We had a bunch of good players here today,” Brown continued. “A lot of really good players. I think for the in-state kids, they’re probably a lot like me, feel a tremendous amount of pride in the way that stadium was and the fan support. It’ll just build. This is a start.”
For one player that had to sort of imagine the future and take the leap, UK’s success is coming far quicker than even he imagined.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen this fast at all. I mean it’s happening, so I’ve just got to appreciate everything that’s going on,” defensive tackle Matt Elam said.
Brown barely had finished talking to the media when what he said showed up in the form of four-star junior cornerback Jordan Griffin, committing to Mark Stoops and UK.
‘Don’t let him lie to you’
After much was made last week of Stoops getting his swerve on in the locker room, dancing with players after they snapped a 17-game losing streak to SEC foes, the head coach said there was no dancing after this win.
“No, we just jumped up and down,” the head coach said. “I'm done with the dancing. But it was a lot of fun. Guys were celebrating.”
Not so fast.
At least one player in the locker room said Stoops was back at it.
“Aww. He danced. Don’t let him lie to you,” Elam said. “He definitely was dancing and everything and I was right behind him.”
Elam said he took a chance on the moment and dumped some Gatorade on his head coach, too.
Did Stoops’ moves get any better than they were following the Vandy win?
“Definitely,” Elam said. “I don’t think he could drop down from last week.”
Others, like quarterback Patrick Towles, described the post-game locker room as “a party.”
He did plenty of celebrating, too.
“I feel like a million dollars right now, because I’m as big a Kentucky fan as I am a Kentucky player,” he said. "This is awesome.”
Man falls from upper deck
A man fell from the upper level of Commonwealth Stadium to a lower level during Saturday night's game.
The fall was reported at about 11 p.m.
Emergency medical workers who were transporting the man to the hospital said that the man had fallen 35 feet.
UK spokeswoman Katy Bennett said the man was taken to UK Hospital, but no further information was immediately available.
A South Carolina cheerleader was injured during the first quarter.
The cheerleader was carried off the sideline on a stretcher. South Carolina officials said the cheerleader, Lauren West, was stabilized as a precaution, but that she was moving all of her body parts.
The injury was the second such incident to take place at Commonwealth Stadium this season.
Brooke Gibbs, a sophomore on Kentucky's cheerleading team, was treated and released from the UK Hospital after a fall during the fourth quarter of UK's win over Tennessee-Martin on Aug. 30.