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OFFENSE STRUGGLES, BUT DEFENSE, SPECIAL TEAMS CARRY UK PAST IU 31-27

Date story was published: Sunday, September 20, 1998

What's that thing they are always saying? You know, these Mummes. Thatlittle saying they keep repeating, the saying they used for the title of JuneMumme's book, the saying the players read daily on the big sign just insidethe Nutter Training Center, the saying Hal Mumme coaches by.

Play the next play.

OK, well how about three plays. Here in Kentucky's 31-27 comeback win overa surprising Indiana yesterday at Commonwealth Stadium, at least three playsmade all the difference in bringing the rapid-response Cats back from thebrink and to its first 3-0 start since 1984.

And here's the thing: None of the plays was produced by the offense.

"It just shows," said quarterback Tim Couch, "that we don't have to have a great day offensively to win. The defense and the special teams won for us today."

Indeed, on a day when the nation's No. 1 attack was committing high crimesand misdemeanors (six turnovers), it was UK's young defense, its improvedspecial teams and the head coach's usual sense of daring that saved the day.

Down 20-3, Craig Yeast's 89-yard kickoff return set up a score beforehalftime and brought the Cats back to the land of the living. "Our offense wasin a daze," Mumme said. "They couldn't believe this was happening."

Down 27-10 late in the third quarter, it was the Mummes - father Hal calledit, son Matt executed it - who turned a fake punt into a 79-yard scoring tossfrom Mumme to Garry Davis.

Then down 27-24 after Anthony White took a short Couch pass 48 yards for atouchdown, it was middle linebacker John Rader who grabbed a tipped IU shovelpass out of the air and went 46 yards for the TD with 11:36 left.

"It was sort of a pitch or a shuttle pass, I guess, and I just went withthe flow," said Rader, a sophomore from Jackson. "I saw the ball pop out and Ijust got it."

Before that, Cat fans had seen their team getting it. On the chin.trailing 20-3 to the same Cam Cameron-coached team it had whipped 49-7 a yearago.

Its first six possessions, UK turned the ball over three times. All threewere Couch interceptions, the junior completing 38 of 53 passes for 301 yards,just one touchdown and four interceptions on the day. "I'd say this wasprobably my lowest performance," Couch said afterward.

"It wasn't all Tim's fault," said Mumme. But he added, "When the offensesees the film they're going to want to throw up."

Not that picks were the only form of Cat turnovers. Their first series ofthe second half, senior center Jason Watts sent a shotgun snap over Couch'shead into the end zone. A wild scramble saw IU's Aaron Williams fall on theball for a 27-10 Indiana lead. "I wished I was dead," Watts said.

But if UK fans figured their team was dead, the seeds of the comeback hadalready been sewn - "Play the next play" - starting at the end of the firsthalf when Yeast had taken a kickoff from his 4 to the IU 7-yard line.

"I thought I was going to get in," said the senior, who otherwise had itrough, dropping a couple of sure catches and losing a fumble.

Three snaps later, facing fourth down, the Cats still needed 2 yards forthe touchdown. Eschewing the field goal, Derek Homer found the end zone.

"There's one person who deserves the credit for that, and that's TimCouch," Mumme said. "I called a pass play there and he saw the opening andchecked off to the run."

The score made it 20-10 at the half. But thanks to the bad shotgun snap,the Hoosier lead was back to 17 points, 27-10, three minutes into the secondhalf. It remained the same seven minutes later, when the Cats faced astaggering fourth-and-21 from their own 21-yard line.

Hunch or desperation?

"What's the politically correct answer?" said father, Hal.

"Actually we had watched film all week and knew that we could get them onthe fake," said son Matt, a backup quarterback who often lines up as anup-back in punt formation. "I knew it was there even before I got the snap. Ilooked out there at Garry and gave the signal. It was just a footrace afterthat."

"It was almost like slow motion," said Davis of the feeling after gatheringin the throw and finding nearly clear sailing down the sideline.

It was a fuse that ignited the sellout crowd, bringing its decibels backinto the game. "The crowd really helped us in the third and fourth quarters,"Hal Mumme said.

"The kicking game cost us the game, period," Cameron said.

If that didn't, a final IU mistake did. Just after White's score had pulledUK to within 27-24, IU faced a first-and-20 from its own 45. Elusivequarterback Antwaan Randle El slid down the line, was hit by freshmandefensive end Dennis Johnson, then forced a pitch/shovel pass to tailbackDe'Wayne Hogan, who was being hit by linebacker Marlon McCree.

The ball popped up and into the hands of Rader. "After I got it, I just sawa lot of open field," said the linebacker, who estimated he scored 32touchdowns at Breathitt County. "I don't think any were as big as this."

From then on, the UK defense kept the clamps on the Hoosiers. Indiana neverdrew closer than the Kentucky 35-yard line, that on the final, unsuccessfuldrive.

"I feel bad somebody had to lose that game out there. If somebody had to,it probably should have been us," Mumme said. "But it's probably the mark of agood team that you can play that bad and still win."

The mark of play the next play?

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