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MUCH-MALIGNED DEFENSE SHINES AS UK TOPPLES NO. 20 RAZORBACKS 31-20

Date story was published: Sunday, October 03, 1999

For Mike Major, it was a tough week.

Not for the reason most might think: Monday night's shootout on the Big Blue Line. Kentucky's defensive coordinator wasn't even listening when a caller to Hal Mumme's radio show demanded the defensive coordinator's head, provoking a sharp response from the UK head coach.

"I didn't really know anything about it till Wednesday," Major said.

The tough part started Wednesday, when Major's wife, Laura , who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, was admitted to the UK Medical Center. She was discharged Friday, then yesterday began feeling ill again .

Major said he called his wife from the team hotel about 6:30 yesterday morning, " and she was feeling awful again . I called her doctor and we took her back in and they ran some tests.... I'm going to take her back Monday. She'll be all right."

Here's a get-well card: Kentucky 31, Arkansas 20.

"I'd like to talk about that guy on the Blue Line that called and wanted to fire the defensive coordinator," Mumme said.

The fire yesterday came from the Cats defense, which flew to the football, harassed the quarterback, shut down the star receiver, came up with the key turnovers and helped the Cats upset the No. 20 Razorbacks.

"I think, yeah, this was our best game, this year," Mumme said. "Against a Top 20 team like that, it was just a tremendous effort on all sides of the ball. It was a team win."

Quarterback Dusty Bonner threw four touchdown passes , two to Quentin McCord and one each to Dougie Allen and Garry Davis. Derek Homer and Anthony White combined for 115 yards rushing. And Marc Samuel drilled a 42-yard field goal as UK improved to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Southeastern Conference .

But at the end of a week dominated by harsh talk about UK's defense, or lack of it, surely yesterday belonged to that side of the ball.

"One of the more stunning things," Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner said, "is that we weren't moving the ball well offensively."

The Cats limited the Hogs to just 315 yards total offense. Stoerner was benched for most of the second half after completing just six of 13 passes for 32 yards in the first half. Star receiver Anthony Lucas, who came in averaging 29.8 yards a catch, had just two catches for 14 yards.

"I thought the defense did a tremendous job," Mumme said. "They had a great game plan, and they got their kids to execute it."

The plan was simple:

1. Shut down the Razorbacks run.

2. Play some extra coverages when needed.

3. Mix it up with the pass rush.

4. Just fly around.

"We had a big meeting (Friday) night and we just sat down and we just talked about things that we needed to do as a defense," Major said. "We got to start playing as a unit. We got to start playing with a purpose out there. Don't play not to lose, but play to win. Play with a little passion out there."

"We had a lot of loose legs, a lot out of guys out there just eager to play," linebacker Marlon McCree said. "We knew our assignments. The coaches did a great job of preparing us this week."

They also made breaks. On the game's second series, with Kentucky leading 7-0, Arkansas back Chrys Chukwuma dropped a handoff. UK safety Willie Gary was there to scoop it up at the Razorbacks 14. Two plays later, Allen made a wonderful on-the-ground catch of a Bonner aerial for a 24-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Wildcat lead.

Two possessions later, the Razorbacks got a couple of quick first downs before UK senior linebacker Jeff Snedegar tripped up Cedric Cobbs for a short gain off a pass. Then sophomore end Chris Demaree forced Stoerner into a bad throw on third down.

Kentucky took advantage, driving 82 yards in eight plays, a drived aided by tight end James Whalen's 35-yard catch . Then Bonner hit McCord with an 18-yard scoring strike for a 21-0 lead.

"You get a lead like that and it allows you to relax a little bit," said Bonner, whose team had played from behind each of the first four weeks.

Not that the defense wanted to relax. When Arkansas cut the lead to 28-14 late in the third quarter, and took over at the UK 40 with 13:35 to play, Major's unit shut down the Razorbacks on four straight incompletions.

Arkansas got the ball right back three minutes later, taking over at the 44 with 10:56 left. But two plays into the drive, Anthony Wajda intercepted an errant throw by backup quarterback Robbie Hampton.

"After we shut them down the first couple of drives," McCree said, "we knew we were better than them."

Even if the critics did not. So how did Major make it through such an emotional week?

"I just coached football, that's all I know how to do," he said. "I was never worried about any of that. She was getting the very best care."

And of his defense, Major saslug: "We just told them, 'You can only talk about it and plan for it, but every now and then you've just got to go take that hill.' And now was the time for us to take that hill."

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