Date story was published||| Sunday, October 05, 1997
The goal posts are gone.
So are the ghosts and the painful past and the streak and 75 long years ofempty-handed history. All of them gone, all carried from the floor ofCommonwealth Stadium at the end of one extraordinary night. All last night.
It took an extra period to do it, but Kentucky quarterback Tim Couchhooked up with wide receiver Craig Yeast in overtime for a 26-yard touchdownpass and a dramatic 40-34 win over Alabama before the second-largest crowd instadium history.
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It was the Cats' first victory over the vaunted Crimson Tide since 1922,and only the second in the 34 games played between the two SoutheasternConference schools. Alabama entered last night leading the series 31-1-1.
"This is what I dreamed about when I came here," said Couch, the sophomorefrom Hyden who completed 32 of 49 passes for 355 yards and four touchdowns. "Idreamed about winning games like this."
A game where, after trailing 27-17 in the third quarter, Alabama's BrianCunningham kicked a 37-yard field goal with eight seconds left in regulationto tie the score at 34 and send the game into overtime. It was the firstovertime in not only the history of Commonwealth Stadium but also in Kentuckyfootball history, the overtime rule being added to Division I-A just lastseason.
It was also the first time that the goal posts were torn down in the25-year history of the facility. At 10:22 p.m. the goal posts in the end zoneclosest to the Nutter Field House bit the dust in a mob of delirious Cat fans.A short time later, the opposite posts hit the ground in the midst of asimilar swarm.
"You couldn't even move after the game," said senior linebacker BobHolmberg. "It's just unbelievable. I can't put it into words."
Here's how it happened:
It happened mostly with big plays. Alabama got the first one, running backCurtis Alexander speeding 58 yards up the middle for an early 7-3 Crimson Tidelead.
Then Kentucky got the second, true freshman running back Derek Homer takinga Couch flare pass, then doing a jump step - "My Kio Sanford move," said Homerafterward - to elude a couple of Tide defenders, reversing field and going 62yards for a 10-7 Kentucky lead.
"That was just an electrifying play," said UK Coach Hal Mumme.
Then it was Bama's turn again. Wide receiver Chad Goss made a beautifulone-handed catch of an off-target throw from quarterback Freddie Kitchens,turning the mistake into a 34-yard score and a 14-10 Alabama lead.
It was 17-13 Tide midway through the third period when suddenly Kentuckyscored twice to open up a 10-point advantage. A 6-yard Couch pass to AnthonyWhite accounted for the first score. Then, standing in against an Alabamacorner blitz, Couch heaved a pretty 14-yard pass to Kevin Coleman for a 27-17Kentucky lead with 5:15 remaining in the third quarter.
"That was the best play I've ever seen on that particular call," said Mummeafterward. "He knew that guy was coming, and he made the throw."
Then Alabama made its throw. It was Goss again, taking a handoff for whatlooked like a reverse. Or it did to the UK defense. Goss stopped and threw toa wide-open Quincy Jackson, who had sneaked behind the overanxious Catdefenders, for a 47-yard touchdown, making it 27-24.
Next possession, at the 50-yard line, the Cats' Darrin Clark sailed a puntsnap over the head of Jimmy Carter, and Alabama recovered at the 16. CurtisAlexander took a shovel pass from Kitchens and scored from 6 yards out,putting Alabama in front 31-27 with 13:25 left.
But then, with 6:54 left, David Ginn may have changed history. The seniorfrom Cincinnati blocked Cunningham's 44-yard field-goal attempt.
"Mark Jacobs and Marvin Major got great penetration, and I was able to getup behind them," said Ginn, who rushed from the middle. "I got it pretty goodwith my right hand, I believe."
The ball bounced to a waiting Anwar Stewart.
"I was just thinking get to the end zone, get to the end zone," saidStewart who got to the end zone 68 yards later, putting Kentucky in front34-31.
But Alabama came back yet again. Starting at the 33, Kitchens engineered adrive that included a terrific 4-yard run on a fourth-and- 3 from formerKentucky Mr. Football Shaun Alexander. That gave the Tide a first down at theUK 30 with two minutes remaining.
The Kentucky defense held, however, forcing Cunningham's kick and overtime.
Kentucky won the toss and elected to go on defense. First play, Alabama'sMookie Moore was called for pulling down UK defensive end Anthony Watson, aholding penalty that put the ball back at the 37.
Two plays later, Alabama quarterback Freddie Kitchens hit Chad Goss overthe middle. But then UK strong safety Tremayne Martin hit Goss.
"When we came in at halftime Coach (Darrell) Patterson, my safeties coach,had chewed me out," said Martin, a senior from Apopka, Fla. "He told me Ididn't look like myself, that I was missing too many open-field tackles. So onthat play, I knew if I could square up and make the tackle there was thepossibility the ball could come out."
It did, and true freshman Jeremy Bowie recovered, giving the Cats the ball.
First play, from the Alabama 25, Couch tossed an incompletion under a heavyTide rush. Next play, Couch found Yeast on a quick screen for a 1-yard gain,but an Alabama facemask penalty took it to the 19-yard line. The next play,however, Kentucky was called for holding, moving the ball back to the 30.
A Couch pass to tight end Darrin Clark moved it 4 yards forward to the 26.On the next play, Couch rifled a pass to Yeast, the junior catching the ballat the 10-yard line, then shaking free from a pair of Alabama defenders andhigh-kicking it into the end zone.
"I knew if Craig caught it he would probably score because he wasn't goingto be tackled," said Mumme. "He just had that look in his eye."