John Clay

Brooks proud of Cats' big second half

John Clay
John Clay

ATHENS, Ga. — Prince Charles, you really should have been here.

It had been 30 years since you crossed the pond and witnessed the historic American college football event in which the Kentucky Wildcats, led by Derrick Ramsey, Art Still and Co., chewed up the Georgia Bulldogs 33-0 at Sanford Stadium, in a performance that an Englishman might have considered boring.

And we know you're busy with Camilla and all that royal stuff, but the guess here is that 30 years later, Prince Charles wouldn't have found the last 30 minutes Saturday night at Sanford Stadium boring.

Kentucky found it beautiful.

"If we ever learn how to play 60 minutes," joked Rich Brooks, the proud Kentucky coach, "we might be all right."

Ah, the kids were all right, all right. They shrugged a first-half sleepwalk off their shoulders and woke up just in time for a second-half explosion that buried the host Bulldogs under an avalanche of points and turnovers on the way to a 34-27 win.

Kentucky's first victory between the hedges since — you got it — 1977.

Down 20-6 at halftime — Brooks admitted he got into his team a little bit at the break — the Cats forced a fumble right off the bat, on the second-half kickoff. Matt Roark, a Georgia boy, recovered.

Two plays later, Randall Cobb scored from 12 yards out and the comeback was on. And just like that, a first-half blowout was a one-touchdown game. A game that Kentucky would seize.

"It was a very strange game," Brooks said.

That's strange in a good, good way. After Georgia hit a long touchdown pass to go up 27-13, the never-say-quit Cats came right back with 21 unanswered points.

La'Rod King got it started with an outrageous one-handed catch-and-run for a 21-yard score off a pass from fellow true freshman Morgan Newton. Then less than four minutes into the second half, after Joker Phillips had been saying that Kentucky was not a screen pass team, Derrick Locke took a screen pass, got the edge, and was gone 60 yards to tie the score at 27.

Then defensive lineman Shane McCord, another Georgia boy, intercepted a screen pass, returning it to the Bulldogs 8-yard line. And Cobb scored from a yard out with 9:55 left to put the Cats up 34-27.

There was plenty of nail-biting and saving plays after that. Georgia botched a pitchout down on the goal line and UK's Danny Trevathan recovered the loose ball at the Kentucky 2. And late, very late, linebacker Sam Maxwell, yet another Georgia boy, sealed the deal with his fifth interception of the season.

"The turnovers did us in, without question," Georgia Coach Mark Richt said after his Bulldogs turned it over four times. Kentucky played "clean," as Phillips put it. No turnovers.

And now here's the real deal: Not since 1977 had Kentucky won in Athens (no more), and not since 1977 had Kentucky won three SEC games on the road in the same season (no more).

The trio of road victories this season came the same way. The Cats rallied from a 14-7 fourth-quarter deficit at Auburn to win 21-14. The Cats rallied from a 13-10 halftime deficit at Vanderbilt last week to win 24-13. On Saturday at Georgia, the Cats rallied from a 20-6 halftime deficit, a 27-13 third-quarter deficit, and a 27-20 fourth-quarter deficit to win 34-27.

"I'm not totally sure it has sunk in yet," Brooks said as the player celebrations were ongoing through the locker room door. "As you can tell they're enjoying something that hasn't happened here since 1977."

And then, said Brooks, "I can't tell you how happy I am and how proud I am of what happened in the last 30 minutes."

Thirty years of failures gone in 30 minutes.

Prince Charles, you really should have been there.

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