Date story was published||| Sunday, August 31, 1997
It began with Jimmy Buffett blasting through the public address system andended with a Big Blue glee club standing at the 50-yard line belting out "On,On, U of K."
This is not your father's Kentucky football.
This is Hal Mummeball, and in terms of a debut this one flat-out sang ingolden tones yesterday as the host Wildcats thumped archrival Louisville 38-24before the second-largest crowd in Commonwealth Stadium history.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
"The way I envisioned it they didn't score as much as they did," said thehappy coach afterward, a Samoan lei around his neck, a victory gift from thefamily of defensive tackles coach Mike Fanoga. "But I'll take it."
Cat fans will frame it, thank you. Heard the line about things neverturning out to be as good as advertised? Check this out: Sophomore quarterbackTim Couch completed 36 of 50 passes for 398 yards and four touchdowns. Seniorwide receiver Kio Sanford caught six passes for 120 yards, including one for acrushing 80-yard touchdown. Sophomore running back Anthony White gained 94yards on 10 rushing plays and 89 more on six receptions.
In all, the Kentucky offense, ranked 109th out of 111 Division I-A schoolsin total offense last year, racked up a whopping 519 total yards on a defenseranked fourth nationally a year ago. And the Cats snapped a two-game losingstreak to Coach Ron Cooper's Cards.
"They beat us fair and square," said Cooper. "No tricks, no nothing, theyjust beat us."
Better still, Kentucky did so with a cluster of principal performers who,for one reason or another, appeared enchained by previous systems.
Couch played in but one of UK's final four games a year ago. White, astarter early last year, quit the team in disgust last November only to earn asecond chance when Mumme arrived. Sanford, a burner from Bryan Station HighSchool, caught five balls all of last season. In his three-year career, he hadnever caught a scoring pass.
"We're just finally getting a chance to show what we can do," Sanfordsaid. "That's what it's all about."
"This is very satisfying," said Couch, the heralded prep passing star whosat the bench last year as Bill Curry's team ran the option. "We've got guyswho were recruited to do these things, but it's like they've been kind oflocked up for three or four years. Some people might be surprised, but we'renot surprised."
Neither was Mumme. The 45-year-old Texan arrived from Division II ValdostaState with a successful passing system, an eye for innovation and a mandate toput fun in UK football. The tone for that was set a couple of hours beforekickoff when the laid-back, good-time sounds of the Man from Margaritaville,Jimmy Buffett, a Mumme favorite, played over the P.A.
"They let me pick some of it," the Parrothead said afterward. "Theywouldn't let me pick it all, but they let me pick some."
That was the first of his good choices. Midway into the first quarter, on athird-and-12 from the Card 16-yard line, offensive coordinator Mumme called apass to the left corner of the end zone for wideout Lance Mickelsen. Couchdelivered. Kentucky scored. And the fun was just beginning.
Louisville fumbled the ensuing kickoff. One snap later, Couch hit newwideout Jimmy Robinson for a 16-yard touchdown. Next, UK defensive end RobertJones hit Card quarterback Chris Redman from the blind side, forcing a fumblethat middle linebacker Bob Holmberg scooped up at the Card 41. Two snapslater, Couch scrambled, then found White, who weaved his way to a 23-yard TD.
Score: Kentucky 21-0 with 3:53 left in the first quarter.
Louisville rallied. Arnold Jackson's 70-yard punt return set up a 1-yardOtis Floyd touchdown run. When Redman hit Ibn Green for a 17-yard score, theKentucky lead was 21-17 with 5:11 left in the third quarter.
Remember, at least for this day, this is not your father's... Mumme's FirstRule of Offense: Throw the ball short to people who can score. Couch did,firing a quickie to Sanford, who got a block from center Jason Watts, androcketed 80 yards for the touchdown. The backbreaking touchdown.
"I knew that would happen," said Sanford. "It was just a matter of time."
The rule? "That would be a prime example of that right there," said Mummesmiling.
A 29-yard Brian Johnson field goal made it 31-17. Louisville pulled withina touchdown with 10:20 left, but the Cats responded with a 76-yard, eight-playdrive, highlighted first by a 25-yard run from White, then by a 7-yardtouchdown run, basically icing the outcome with 6:58 left.
Guy Morriss, UK's offensive line coach, got a game ball after his unit keptthe Cards from laying hands on Couch, who was sacked just once.
"You got to give the credit to the offensive line," Couch said. "I can onlyremember getting hit like twice all day."
Mike Major and the Cat defense, a concern coming in, got a game ball forforcing four turnovers and holding the 'Ville to 291 yards. And running backscoach Tony Franklin got a game ball after his backfield ran out the clock inthe fourth quarter, rushing for 91 yards on 18 carries in the final period.
Best of all, the Cats got to sing. In yet another break from the past,Mumme kept his team on the field after the game, where the happy Cats gatheredat the 50 to basically shout out the fight song. It wasn't "Cheeseburger inParadise," but it was close.
"We went through the hard times," Couch said. "Now we're ready for the goodtimes."