LOUISVILLE — In this series, all the stars had been on offense.
It didn't matter the venue, or the year, or even the winner. It was either Tim Couch and Craig Yeast, or Chris Redman and Michael Bush, or Brian Brohm and Harry Douglas, or Andre Woodson and Steve Johnson. When it came to the history of our very own Governor's Cup, all the lightning and thunder had come on the offensive side of the football.
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Until with a little less than three minutes to go at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, in a play that symbolized the previous 38 minutes of what was Kentucky's 27-2 defensive domination of host Louisville, there was the sight of 305-pound Myron Pryor, UK's senior defensiv e tackle, having just gathered up a fumble, chugging toward the end zone.
Just to be clear: The end zone sat 72 yards in the opposite direction.
Go, big man, go!
"When I got it," said Pryor afterward, sitting on a chair, having taken a ribbing from his teammates for the pain that burst in his ribs that caused — by eyewitness estimate — a six-minute disgorgement episode (look it up), "I felt like nobody was going to stop me."
No one did.
"When a guy like Myron can score from that far out," said senior wide receiver Dicky Lyons Jr., his eyes wide, "that's pretty good."
For the Cats, it was all good. New quarterback Mike Hartline managed the game well for a kid making his first collegiate start. Tim Masthay's leg helped corner the field-position market.
But in a series that has been dominated by scores of 68-34 and 56-28 and 40-34 (twice) and 59-28, this was a day for defense. The Louisville defense looked much-improved. But on this day the Kentucky defense, which had garnered the lion's share of the pre-season hype, was as advertised.
"There's a lot of different ways to win a football game," said UK Coach Rich Brooks. "This was one of them today."
Let's hear it for diversity.
The Kentucky offense managed just 210 yards, the lowest total in a UK victory since a 203-yard day in a 13-9 victory over South Carolina in 1992.
Sure, you could say Louisville's offense was drop-dead dreadful (205 yards), that the butterfingered home team showed a talent for turning over the ball — five times for the day.
"There you go," said Brooks. "There's the story of the game."
The turnovers weren't gift-wrapped, however; they were created. The game's first touchdown came when Pryor slammed into U of L running back Bilal Powell — "I didn't know what happened; I just tackled him," said Pryor — with enough force to jar the ball loose. UK defensive back Ashton Cobb scooped. Cobb scored, going 28 yards for a 10-0 Kentucky lead.
In the fourth quarter, with UK up 13-2, defensive end Ventrell Jenkins batted a Hunter Cantwell pass into the hands of Trevard Lindley. The junior raced 24 yards to the Cardinal 2-yard line. A penalty pushed it back to the 7. Tony Dixon skipped into the end zone from there.
Then came the Cats' capper: Pryor's Tyson Gay imitation.
Linebacker Johnny Williams grabbed Cantwell's arm. The ball separated. Pryor pounced. Those remaining in the crowd of 42,696 — third-largest in Papa John's history — gasped as the Louisville native started down thunder road.
"He was kind of lumbering at the end," grinned Brooks. "I thought he might cramp up, but he made it."
"He was looking back three or four times, and I was like, 'Man, you can make it,'" said teammate Ricky Lumpkin, who was right behind his buddy. "I was looking for someone to block, but I didn't want to get a 15-yard penalty and ruin his moment. Hopefully, he'll get on ESPN's top 10."
How about that, a defensive player, in the Governor's Cup, as highlight-reel candidate?
Here's the kicker: It was Myron Pyror's first touchdown in a game. Ever.
"I had one in a scrimmage once," he confided.
So someone asked, how did it feel to score your first touchdown, in your own hometown, in a game traditionally dominated by those glamour guys on offense?
Myron Pryor smiled.
"It felt really good," he said. "Really good."