Date story was published: Sunday, September 12, 1999
The first clue came when Hal Mumme brushed by sideline reporter Dick Gabriel as he left the field, the UK coach blowing off his customary halftime interview with the wave of a hand.
The second clue came in the tunnel back to the locker room, when the full Gatorade bottle the coach was holding suddenly went whizzing by the head of free safety Anthony Wajda.
"It went about six inches over my head," said Wajda, his hand making a pass over his cranium. "It would have busted my eye open. He threw it as hard as he could."
The third clue came when Mumme, his team's offensive coordinator, made a rare appearance on the defense's side of the locker room. It was something less than a courtesy call.
"I heard him yelling a couple of times," said tight end James Whalen, on the offense's side. "I just shut the door, turned around, and put the headphones on."
Hal was not happy.
"If I was in the same mood I was in at halftime I'd probably be dead right now from a stroke," Mumme said afterward.
But he lived to tell how his wilting Wildcats threw a school-record 28-point fourth quarter on Division I-AA Connecticut for a 45-14 victory over the Huskies yesterday. It was a second-half comeback that overshadowed a first half in which the team with 63 scholarships played the team with 85 scholarships to a 14-14 tie.
Or was it?
"It's like I told them after the game," Mumme said. "We can't begin games playing not to lose. We've got to begin games attacking. And we didn't do that very well on either side of the ball."
By the time the attack was over, quarterback Dusty Bonner had completed 34 of 40 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns, setting a school-record with 16 straight completions. After losing two fumbles in the first quarter, Anthony White rushed for 119 yards on 19 carries. And the embattled Cat defense held UConn to just 47 yards on 27 second-half plays.
It had also gotten under the skin of UConn Coach Randy Edsall who, apparently thinking the host Cats had run up the score, refused to shake hands with Mumme after the game.
"I think you saw what we did," said Edsall, who also instructed his players not to shake hands, "I think that speaks for itself."
Trouble was, on the Kentucky side, it took so long for the attack to begin. "It was like two different games for us," Mumme said.
Here were the Cats, supposedly hot from the Saturday no-show the week before - doubled up 56-28 by their cross-state rivals - a young group ready to go out and prove itself.
Instead, after taking an early 7-0 lead, the Cats contracted a case of the butterfingers. Or Anthony White did. The senior lost only one fumble all last season. Yesterday he lost two in the first quarter - the first at his own 6-yard line, setting up UConn for a 7-7 tie.
"It caused us to bench him for a while," said Mumme, who had already demoted Derek Homer for his 10-carry, six-yard performance against Louisville.
In the second quarter, the UK defense got caught in a game of keep-away. UConn had the ball. And kept it. Taking over on their 1-yard line with 11:41 left in the quarter, the Huskies marched 99 yards in 20 plays and 9:59 before back Taber Small scored on a 9-yard run for a 14-7 lead.
Even a crisp two-minute drill that ended with Bonner finding Quentin McCord for a 9-yard touchdown and a 14-14 tie, four ticks before halftime, couldn't soothe Mumme's mood.
"I threw a bottle of Gatorade against the wall," admitted the coach. "I cussed a lot. Yelled at everybody in sight. Nearly had a nervous breakdown. Then I calmed down and got ready for the second half. It took about a three- or four-minute tantrum, though."
Most of it directed at his defense, which rarely sees the head coach during the half.
"That's the first time since I've been here he's come in with us," said Wajda, a sophomore. "That was an embarrassment to be tied at halftime. They got beat last week by Hofstra. I've never even hardly heard of Hofstra."
"Let's face it," Mumme said, "we weren't playing Florida."
"He had a few harsh words," said tackle George Massey. "He said we were better than what we were playing. He fired us up."
Apparently so. UConn had the football six times the second half. It punted five times, and threw an interception. Right to Wajda. "I inspired him to make that interception," joked Mumme afterward.
"He came back about 10 minutes later and apologized and said he didn't see me," Wajda said of Mumme. "But I would have understood if he didn't apologize. You got to get people fired up."
Meanwhile, the UK offense finally fired, piling up 199 yards total offense in the fourth quarter. Bonner helped account for three of the four scores, running 5 yards for the first, then throwing 9 yards to White for the second.
White ran 2 yards for the third, and finally Bonner threw 6 yards to McCord for the fourth.
"The second half we just relaxed," Bonner said. "We knew we should be moving the ball, and we just went out and did it. Instead of hanging our heads, we just got fired up."
No more fired up than the head coach.
"Maybe I ought to begin the game by throwing a Gatorade bottle," Mumme said.