Date published: Sunday, November 14, 2004
When Shane Boyd sailed a pass toward the end zone late in the fourth quarter of Kentucky's game with Vanderbilt yesterday, there was nothing that suggested anything good was about to happen.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Boyd was under pressure from Vandy defensive end Lamar Bivens, and the ball flailed in the air forever without a clear destination in sight."If I had a shotgun, I would have shot it," UK Coach Rich Brooks said. "It looked like one of those ducks up there flying around."
And last but not least, there's history, which tells us good things almost never happen for Kentucky in those types of situations.
But instead of being picked off, or landing in the stands for an incomplete pass, Boyd's mini-Hail Mary did something unforeseen.
Junior receiver Glenn Holt outmaneuvered Vandy defensive back Dominique Morris, leaped up, and grabbed Boyd's pass in the back of the end zone for a game-winning 25-yard TD reception with 1:39 remaining as UK ended a seven-game losing streak with a 14-13 win over the Commodores.
Not only did the win end the losing streak, but it allowed Kentucky's 20 seniors to go out as winners in their last game at Commonwealth Stadium before an announced crowd of 55,278. But not before a few tense moments.
"It was kind of like, `No, No, No!, then `Yes, Yes, Yes!," senior receiver Gerad Parker said about Boyd's heave.
"It wasn't one of my best balls, but it was one that gave him a chance to go up and make a play," Boyd said.
Holt said the play was originally designed to go to fellow wideout Scott Mitchell.
"I was a decoy," he said. "I was supposed to run my guy off so Scott could come up from behind, but on the snap, I saw the middle was wide open."
Holt then ran toward the back of the end zone and managed to come down with the ball and keep his feet in bounds as he leaped in the air, brought in the ball and fell backward.
"I just looked it all the way in," Holt said. "It was kind of a wounded duck, but I was able to make a play on the ball."
That was just one of the atypical plays on what turned out to be an atypical afternoon for UK football.
Down 13-0 going into the fourth quarter, it appeared as if Kentucky would play out the string en route to a 1-10 finish.
Boyd, who got the start at quarterback on Senior Day, struggled in the first quarter, and redshirt freshman Andre Woodson hobbled around on a sprained left ankle the entire second quarter.
That forced Brooks to go back to Boyd.
"I told Shane at halftime that it was his game to win," Brooks said.
The UK offense came to life thanks to a 52-yard run by junior tailback Arliss Beach, who had been relegated to mop-up duty in previous weeks.
Beach took a handoff from Boyd, faked a reverse handoff to Holt, and then broke down the left sideline before being run down at the Vandy 17. UK ran a similar play in the first half with Beach handing off to Lonnell Dewalt for a gain of 10, and Beach said that's when he noticed the possibility for a big gainer if he kept it.
"I went back to the sidelines and told my position coach (Ron Caragher), 'Man, it's open,' " Beach said. "He relayed it to Coach (offensive coordinator Ron) Hudson, and we came back to it in the second half."
That set up Boyd's 7-yard TD strike to Holt that trimmed the deficit to 13-7 with 12:12 left.
Kentucky set itself up to take the lead when Dennis Johnson blocked Astin Iranmanesh's punt and Jacob Tamme recovered at the Vandy 31.
But Boyd's fourth-and-goal pass from the 10 intended for Holt was broken up by Vandy corner Bill Alford.
Usually, such missed opportunities result in the kiss of death for the Cats, but the UK defense forced the Commodores to go three-and-out and got the ball on the Vandy 36 with 2:44 remaining following Rafael Little's 11-yard punt return.
And in a situation where they've fallen short before, Kentucky finally came up big.
"I figured with all of the things that have happened to us this year, maybe we were due for a little good fortune," Brooks said. "I know the history of some of the games that slipped away. Even after we took the lead, I don't know that anybody was comfortable. But the players stepped up in those situations and made the plays they needed to make to keep the victory in our column."