UK Football

From our archives: Peyton Manning and Tim Couch’s epic 1997 duel

Tennessee's Peyton Manning and Kentucky's Tim Couch, after the Volunteers 59-31 win over the Cats, Nov. 22, 1997 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.
Tennessee's Peyton Manning and Kentucky's Tim Couch, after the Volunteers 59-31 win over the Cats, Nov. 22, 1997 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. Herald-Leader file photo

As long as football is played in Commonwealth Stadium, there may never be a show like the one put on Nov. 22, 1997 by quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tim Couch.

The much-hyped game featured the two quarterbacks — both with Heisman aspirations — combining to throw for 1 yard short of 1,000 yards.

The game had 42 plays of 10 or more yards, 21 plays of 20 or more, 11 plays of 30 or more, seven plays of 40 or more, five plays of 50 or more and three plays of 60 or more. There were 1,329 yards of total offense. There were 57 first downs, 12 touchdowns and 90 points, 59 by Tennessee and 31 by Kentucky.

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

Manning, a senior, was a perfect 11-of-11 for 267 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. His 523 passing yards set a UT school record. Tennessee’s 695 yards of total offense were the most ever against a Kentucky defense.

“Peyton just picked us apart, basically,” UK senior defensive end Lamont Smith said.

Not that Couch was crummy in comparison, mind you. The UK sophomore star completed 35 of 50 passes for a school-record 476 yards.

Said Kentucky coach Hal Mumme, “I enjoyed watching both quarterbacks.”

With the news of Manning’s retirement after 18 years in the NFL, our historical photo blog, KyPhotoArchive.com, pulled this picture from our archives. The blog updates daily, highlighting nearly a century of Lexington and Kentucky history. Follow them on Twitter @KYPhotoArchive.

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