Date story was published: Sunday, November 10, 2002
The scoreboard at Commonwealth Stadium read 0:02, and LSU was stuck at its own 25-yard line.
Thousands of Wildcats fans were surrounding the sidelines ready to storm the goal posts. Guy Morriss had already been doused with a bucket of water by Antonio Hall and Jared Lorenzen. And after LSU quarterback Marcus Randall's desperation heave left his hands, victory fireworks exploded in the background.
Surely the last two ticks and 75 yards were a mere formality, right?
Painfully, the Wildcats and their fans found out that they weren't. By the time the last two seconds had ticked off the clock, LSU's Devery Henderson was on his way into the end zone and the Cats had another potential big win snatched out of their claws.
Henderson brought in Randall's twice-deflected desperation pass at the UK 15 and ran it in for a touchdown as the Tigers pulled out a 33-30 miracle in front of 66,262 stunned fans.
Even though UK football history is rife with last-minute disappointments and improbably bad luck, this defeat was in a class by itself.
"The first thing I said (to the team) was, `I don't have any comfort for you; I know you're going to hurt,' " Morriss said. " `But the thing you've got to walk out of this dressing room understanding is that we've got to play every play in the ball game until the fat lady sings. It's never over until it's over.' It's a hard lesson to learn, but as long as there's time on that clock, you've got to play hard every down."
It was the second straight year LSU left Lexington in miraculous fashion. The Tigers pulled out a 29-25 win last season on Michael Clayton's touchdown catch with 13 seconds left.
But that winning TD came at the end of a 10-play, 80-yard drive. Yesterday, Randall rolled out at his own 17, heaved the ball downfield, and watched it ricochet off UK's Quentus Cumby and Earven Flowers and into the hands of Henderson, who bobbled the ball twice before bringing it in at the 15 and splitting cornerbacks Derrick Tatum and Leonard Burress and taking it in for the score.
"You just don't expect to see something like that happen," said senior running back Artose Pinner. "Maybe in video games or in the movies."
LSU Coach Nick Saban admitted that his team has been the recipient of good fortune in the Bluegrass.
"This is two years in a row we won this game but did not defeat them," he said.
While the Cats will be scratching their heads for a long time wondering how they gave up a 75-yard touchdown on the last play of the game, the seeds of destruction actually may have been sown seconds earlier on Taylor Begley's go-ahead field goal.
With the score tied at 27, UK faced a second-and-1 at the LSU 13. Lorenzen picked up the first down to temporarily stop the clock. But instead of letting the clock run down and allowing Begley to kick the go-ahead field goal on the final play of the game, the Wildcats called a timeout with 15 seconds on the clock.
Begley would nail the 29-yarder to put UK ahead 30-27, but LSU still had 11 seconds to work with.
Morriss said the timeout was called inadvertently, although he declined to name the player responsible for calling it.
"We had told Jared when he came to the sideline, if he makes the first down, we were not going to call a timeout," he said. "When he went into the huddle, he told the team, but apparently they didn't get the message."
Kentucky also made other key mistakes. With the score tied at 7 late in the first half, the Cats allowed LSU to drive 78 yards in a little more than three minutes and take a 14-7 advantage on Randall's 30-yard TD pass to Henderson with five seconds left in the half.
After UK went three-and-out on its first possession of the second half, LSU running back Joseph Addai took a pitch and bolted 63 yards for a score on the Tigers' first play from scrimmage less than two minutes into the third quarter.
"A minute before the half and a minute after the half we gave up 14 damn points," UK defensive coordinator John Goodner said.
Making the loss even harder to swallow was the manner in which UK rallied after the Tigers had seized control in the third quarter. Lorenzen shredded the country's top-ranked defense for three second-half TD passes. His 3-yard, play-action pass to Chase Harp narrowed the gap to 21-14, and after John Corbello's 49-yard field goal, Lorenzen hit Aaron Boone with a 25-yard strike to bring UK to within 24-20 with 10:05 left.
The Cats tied the game at 27 on Boone's third touchdown catch of the game, a 44-yarder with 2:24 remaining.
"Our kids hung in there and battled back," Morriss said. "It's just unfortunate that one play at the end has to cost them the ball game."