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COUCH SETS RECORD NUMBERS DESPITE KENTUCKY'S 59-31 LOSS

Date story was published||| Sunday, November 23, 1997

On your mark, get set, take out your calculators.

There were 42 plays of 10 or more yards, 21 plays of 20 or more, 11 playsof 30 or more, seven plays of 40 or more, five plays of 50 or more, threeplays of 60 or more.

There were 1,329 yards of total offense, including 1,021 yards of passingoffense. There were 57 first downs, 12 touchdowns and 90 points, 59 byTennessee and 31 by Kentucky.

The winning quarterback, Peyton Manning, trying to win the Heisman Trophy,threw for 523 yards and five touchdowns. The losing quarterback, Tim Couch,hoping to win a future Heisman, threw for 476 yards and two TDs.

The winning team's top running back, Jamal Lewis, rushed for 128 yards andthree scores, and also caught a touchdown pass. The losing team's top runningback, Derek Homer, rushed for 137 yards and caught a score.

Offense was Sony PlayStation crossed with Nintendo 64, a megabyte explosionof big plays and big yards. Those weren't script sheets the two opposingcoaches were holding on the sideline, they were control pads for shootingscreaming arcade rockets at each other.

Defense was merely a rumor.

"Ever seen a 1,300-yard game before?" said UK defensive coordinator MikeMajor afterward, through a what-else-are-you-going-to-do-but smile.

Across the national landscape this morning, college grid nuts will perusethe linescore of Tennessee's wild, wild win yesterday over Kentucky before arecord crowd -wasn't everything yesterday some sort of record? - atCommonwealth Stadium and think, 'What in the world was that?'

It wasn't of this world. Not the normal Tennessee-Kentucky world, where theBig Orange rolls up the big yards and the big points as that winning streakover its northern neighbor keeps growing bigger and bigger.

The streak didn't snap yesterday. Tennessee has now won 13 straight"Battle(s) of the Beer Barrel," and is 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the SEC. PhilFulmer's club needs a mere home win over 3-7 Vanderbilt next week to win aspot in the conference championship game.

Kentucky, meanwhile, finished its season 5-6, a victory short of a winningrecord and a possible bowl berth, but one victory ahead of last year's slate.

"We're disappointed," said offensive guard John Schlarman. "We thought wecould win this game. But we've got a lot to be proud of."

Yes, there was a difference. The difference in this UK-UT match was the UK.With Hal Mumme at the pass and Tim Couch in the saddle, the Cats tried theshootout approach - score, score, score - in hopes of toppling the nation'sfifth-ranked team. And if it didn't quite work, well, it was still a heckuvashow.

"It was kind of fun, wasn't it," Mumme said.

You bet, especially the first half when the Cats managed to hang with theTNT that was Tennessee. This ordinarily would be the part of the game storythat includes some play-by-play description. In the interest of leaving roomfor other stories in this newspaper, however, an effort will be made tocondense that to plays of - yikes - 30 yards or more.

That includes UK's first possession, when Homer turned a Couch flat passinto a sharp 37-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Kentucky lead.

After Tennessee's Jeff Hall kicked a 49-yard field goal to put the visitorson the board, Manning isolated wide receiver Marcus Nash on linebacker LeeWesley, hit Nash, and Nash did the rest himself, completing a 59-yardtouchdown for a 10-7 Tennessee lead.

The Vols had stretched the lead to 17-7 when UK receiver Kio Sanford did anear replay of his 80-yard screen and score against Louisville in the seasonopener.

This time, Sanford took the pass, somehow eluded a traffic jam of whiteshirts and burst into the clear, staying upright when UT's Dwayne Goodrichclipped his heels at the 10, then diving into the end zone for an 87-yardscore, cutting the lead to 17-14.

Just three plays later, however, there was Nash again, this time bashingthe Cats with a grab of a Manning pass over the middle for a 66-yardtouchdown.

Next, Homer burst a run off left tackle for 63 yards, setting up an AnthonyWhite 3-yard TD, slicing the UT lead to 24-21 with 2:54 left in the quarter.

And the Cats had a chance to either take the lead or tie the game rightbefore halftime, taking over at the 46 with 1:15 left. But with no timeouts.Three plays moved the ball to the Tennessee 18-yard line, but the clockexpired as the Cats tried a slant pass to Jimmy Robinson, who was tackled atthe 13.

"My error," Mumme said afterward. "I got greedy. I just didn't think a tieor a field goal would help us that much there."

He turned out to be right. The way Tennessee played the second half,Kentucky needed six-pointers, and lots of them. It scored just one, a 1-yardWhite run with 9:02 left.

By that time, Tennessee led 45-24 thanks to a three-score third quarter.Manning caught the Cats in an all-out blitz and hit Jamal Lewis on a 50-yardtouchdown pass for the first. A wide-open Lewis caught a 46-yard pass to setup the second. Nash sprinted behind the secondary to gather in a 31-yardManning pass for the third.

Get this: Manning was a perfect 11-of-11 for 267 yards and two touchdownsin the second half. His 523 passing yards set a UT school record. Tennessee's695 yards of total offense were the most ever against a Kentucky defense,eclipsing Indiana's 650 yards in a 59-29 steamrolling of the '94 Cats.

"Peyton just picked us apart, basically," said senior defensive end LamontSmith.

Not that Couch was crummy in comparison, mind you. The UK sophomore starcompleted 35 of 50 passes for a school-record 476 yards. Said Mumme, "Ienjoyed watching both quarterbacks."

So did most everyone.

"But it got to be a scoring battle," Schlarman said. "And they scored morepoints."

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