It finally happened.
The University of Kentucky made the key plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter last night to knock off ninth-ranked Louisville 40-34 in front of 70,857 at Commonwealth Stadium.
Quarterback Andre Woodson connected with receiver Steve Johnson for a 57-yard touchdown pass with 28 seconds left to put the Cats in front for the final time in a back-and-forth game.
"We had noticed a little earlier that the corner on that side was squeezing into the middle," Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks said. "The corner sucked into the post. Andre looked him off and hit Stevie in stride."
On the final play, Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm launched a Hail Mary pass inside the Kentucky 15-yard line that the Wildcats' Trevard Lindley tipped and Louisville's Harry Douglas caught before he was brought down at the 11 to end the game.
The last-second tackle by Wesley Woodyard and Marcus McClinton preserved UK's first win over a top-10 team since it beat No. 4 Penn State in 1977. It also ended a four-game losing streak to the Cards.
"It had more twists and turns than a Dickens novel," Brooks said of a game that went back and forth the whole way.
UK got the fast start that it needed thanks to Cardinals turnovers.
Trent Guy fumbled the opening kickoff, immediately setting up the Cats with a first-and-10 at the U of L 20.
"We limited ourselves in terms of possessions with early turnovers," U of L Coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "Any time you minimize the number of opportunities you get, you minimize the number of times you can score."
The Cats were forced to settle for a 36-yard Lones Seiber field goal, but they got the ball right back when Lindley picked off Brohm's first pass attempt and returned it to the Cardinals 18.
Kentucky was able to score six this time, as Woodson rolled left and hit a wide-open Johnson in the back of the end zone to give the Wildcats a 10-0 lead just three minutes into the game. Seiber tacked on another three-pointer from 31 yards out to make it 13-0.
The Cardinals offense finally got going late in the second quarter. Brohm hit Douglas on a pair of 15-yard passes, setting up an 8-yard scoring strike to Anthony Allen to get the Cards on the board and narrow the gap to 13-7.
Rafael Little responded with a 10-yard touchdown run to pad the lead to 19-7 before Brohm went back to work with his second TD strike, a 3-yarder to Douglas that made it 19-14 Cats. The Kentucky defense had no answer for Douglas all night. He caught 13 passes for 223 yards.
The Wildcats were driving with a chance to take a double-digit lead late in the first half when the Louisville defense delivered a momentum-changing play. On fourth-and-1 from the UK 36, the Cats tried an option play to the left side only to have Lamar Myles stuff Little for no gain.
U of L then needed just five plays to go 63 yards. Douglas beat UK corner Paul Warford for a 42-yard gain, setting up another short touchdown pass from Brohm to Allen to give the Cards a 21-19 lead with 1:05 left in the first half.
UK drove 78 yards in 11 plays to start the second half and take a 26-21 advantage on a Woodson dump-off to fullback John Conner that resulted in a 7-yard score.
Guy then made up for his earlier fumble, as he burst down the right sideline untouched for a 100-yard kickoff-return touchdown that quickly put the Cards back up 28-26 with 9:31 left in the third.
But "this team just kept just kept coming back," Brooks said. "No matter what went wrong, they found a way to make it right."
Little carried four times for 36 yards on UK's next possession, and tight end Jacob Tamme outfought U of L corner Rod Council for a jump ball in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard TD to regain the lead at 33-28 with 13:47 to go.
"Our running game was critical," Brooks said of Little, who finished with 151 yards on 27 carries. "One, it rested our defense a little. Two, it kept their offense off the field."
The Cats' defense then made a huge stop, bringing U of L tight end Gary Barnidge down 2 yards short of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal play from the 6 with 9:27 left.
Kentucky wasn't able to run much clock, however, giving Brohm the ball on his 17 with 6:22 left. He promptly drove Louisville 83 yards with Allen taking it in from 2 yards out for a 34-33 U of L lead at 1:45. The Cards missed the two-point conversion attempt.
"Hopefully, this will solidify the faith the fans have in this team," Brooks said.
Woodson finished 30-for-44 passing for 275 yards and four TDs. Little rushed for 151 yards on 27 carries. Burton caught nine passes for 99 yards.
Brohm finished 28-for-43 for 366 yards and two TDs with an interception.
Date story ran: Sunday, September 16, 2007