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UK GAMBLES, BUT GEORGIA HITS JACKPOT RISKS BACKFIRE IN 23-13 DEFEAT

Date story was published||| Sunday, October 26, 1997

ATHENS, Ga. - Live by the sword, die by the sword.

For seven games, for Kentucky, life with the sword was good. Aggression wasits personality, its claim to new-found fame. No Mildcats these Wildcats. Theytreated fourth down as just another offensive snap, a punt as just anotherchance at surprise, a possession as another shot at six. Surely much of thegood feeling about Hal Mumme's first season as UK's coach was linked to thatattitude, that live-by-the-sword.

Only yesterday, as Kentucky lost 23-13 to No. 16 Georgia at SanfordStadium, it was the Cats who got cut. And they bled Georgia red.

The line score shows that the electric Robert Edwards popped touchdown runsof 80 and 47 yards. The heady Georgia defense held Kentucky to its lowestpoint total of the season. And Jim Donnan's meticulous Bulldogs - who wereoutgained 436-275, but who did not commit a turnover for the fourth straightgame - ran their record to 6-1 overall, 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference.

And yet, in that same line score, wrapped inside Edwards' bookend runs, wasthe play that sliced UK's throat. "The play of the game," Donnan called it.

Less than 30 seconds remained in a first half Kentucky had dominatedeverywhere but the scoreboard. A little more than a minute earlier the Catshad finally cracked the end zone, tying matters at 7. They had welcomed thefootball back with 63 seconds remaining. Two draw plays quickly earned a firstdown at the UK 33.

"I got greedy," Mumme said. "And I made a bad call."

Greed being his lust for points. Forget the clock. A tiger can't change hisstripes. "We don't curb aggression," Mike Major, UK's defensive coordinatorand Mumme's longtime friend, said afterward. "That's the way Hal plays, andthat's the way we play."

On this play, however, there was a steep price to pay. The call itself wassafe enough. Tim Couch took the snap, shuffled his feet right and threw shortto Kevin Coleman. The ball never arrived. Brandon Tolbert, Georgia's outsidelinebacker, tipped the aerial at the line of scrimmage, directing it insteadto teammate Ronald Bailey.

Half of Georgia's blood-brother combination at cornerback, the senioreluded a pair of tacklers and ran 37 yards for his second score in as manyweeks.

There were 16 seconds left. Suddenly a 7-7 halftime became a 14-7 surge ofGeorgia adrenaline.

"I called something that wasn't there," Mumme said, a kick-myself tone inhis voice, "and they got lucky and scored a touchdown."

The Cats cursed their luck. "Everybody at halftime was mad. At me. Theyshould have been," Mumme said of his players. "They were mad they weren'tahead."

They could have been. Talk had been that Georgia would use its potentground game - "You've got to run the ball and stop the run to win in thisleague and Kentucky hasn't been able to stop it," Donnan had said - to keepthe Kentucky offense, ranked fourth in the nation, off the field. Instead, theCats' attack kept its own defense off the field.

Instead of going all-out at Couch, the Bulldogs dropped into thickcoverage. They gave turf on draw plays to keep Couch away from the big play.

First possession, the Cats drove to the Georgia 32 only to lose the ball ondowns. Third possession, Couch hit running back Derek Homer for an 8-yardscore, only to have the six pulled from the board when the officials ruledHomer pushed off before making his catch. "I'm not commenting on officiating,"Mumme said.

Seth Hanson's subsequent 34-yard field goal was blocked. Next play, Edwardsroared 80 yards down for his first score.

Next possession, Mumme faked a punt on a fourth-and-six from UK's own22-yard line. Punter Jimmy Carter took an option pitch from upback DustyBonner, the backup quarterback. The play went nowhere. Thankfully for UK,neither did Georgia. Jeff Zurcher, UK's Rhodes scholar candidate, blocked HapHines' 42-yard field-goal attempt.

Finally, in the second quarter, the Cats chewed up yardage, the clock, andscored, using a whopping 20 plays and 9:14 to go 75 yards. Couch sneaked infrom the 1-yard line - on fourth-and-goal, of course - to tie it at 7.

Even after the disaster, i.e. the Bailey interception and run, Georgia washeld to a Hines 24-yard field goal for a 17-7 Bulldogs lead with 6:27 left inthe third quarter.

Couch then moved his club to the 25-yard line, where on fourth-and-sevenhis pass just missed Anthony White at the 5. Next, Couch directed a 66-yarddrive in 13 plays, hitting Craig Yeast for a 2-yard score, and (after Hanson'sextra point was blocked) it was 17-13.

Only 2:49 remained, however. The try at an onside kick - Marc Samuel fakeda kick left; and Seth Hanson immediately kicked it right - was touched beforeit had traveled the necessary 10 yards. Next play, Edwards motored to hissecond touchdown. And that was that.

In the end, Kentucky (4-4 overall, 1-4 in the SEC) had gone for it aseason-high eight times on fourth down (making five), faked a punt, tried anonside kick, and paid for its second-quarter greed.

"We just felt like Georgia's so good we had to take some chances," Mummesaid. "That's why we went for it on fourth down a number of times, that's whywe did the fake punt. We just felt like we had to create some turnovers withour offense."

Someone asked if Mumme thought he took too many chances. The coach thoughtfor a second.

"No," he said. "Are you asking me if there are some I'd like to take back?You're going to have some takeaways on both sides."

The sword cuts both ways.

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