This season marks my 20-year anniversary of covering UK football. As UK football fans know, we’ve seen a lot of highs, but we’ve also seen a lot of lows. I prefer to talk about the highs!
So with that in mind, I’ve come up with what I consider the “Top 10 UK football plays of the last 20 years”. We start with the 1996 football season, so Billy Jack Haskin’s magical run against Tennessee isn’t included on the list because it
happened the season before I moved to Lexington in 1995.
Here goes… #10 is now a tie!
10 MacGinnis for the win! – This game just happened. After watching their lead disappear in the final minute against Mississippi State, it all came down to a 51-yard field goal attempt by kicker Austin MacGinnis. WIth everyone in Commonwealth Stadium holding their breath, MacGinnis’s kick just cleared the crossbar giving UK an exciting 40-38 win. The win was exactly what Mark Stoops and his football program needed.
10 McCord’s reverse vs LSU – Back in 1998, Hal Mumme took his Kentucky Wildcats into Death Valley to take on the 21st ranked LSU Tigers. Late in the game, Mumme surprised everyone by calling a reverse for Quentin McCord. McCord took the end-around for 38 yards, which set up a game winning 33 yard field goal by Seth Hanson as time expired, and giving the Cats the 39-36 upset over the Tigers.
9 Lindley’s INT vs Georgia – UK head coach Rich Brooks needed that
coveted “signature win” to jump start the Cats program in 2006. He got it against a Georgia team that had beaten the Cats 9 years in a row, and he got it in front of a raucous homecoming crowd at Commonwealth Stadium. As Georgia mounted a final potential game winning drive in the final minute, Trevard Lindley intercepted a Matt Stafford pass to preserve the 24-20 come from behind win for the Cats, which led to the fans storming the field and the goal posts coming down.
8 Abney did it again – Derek Abney was a human highlight reel during the 2002 season when he returned 7 kicks for touchdowns. But nobody was ready for what Abney did against Mississippi State when he tied an NCAA record with not one, but 2 punt returns for touchdowns in one game against the Bulldogs. When he finally hung up his helmet, Abney had broken or tied 6 NCAA records, 11 SEC records and 14 Kentucky records, but none more exciting than his 2nd punt return for a touchdown against Mississippi State.
7 Dupree’s pick-6 vs South Carolina – Similarly to coach Brooks needing
a signature win in 2006, new coach Mark Stoops found himself in a similar situation in 2014. Playing Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks in front of a packed house and “black out” crowd, Commonwealth Stadium exploded when senior Bud Dupree intercepted the pass that had been deflected by Mike Douglas, and took it 6 yards for the game winning touchdown. UK had come from behind twice to beat the Gamecocks 45-38 as the fans stormed the field in celebration.
6 Lorenzen throws it over his head – UK’s Jared Lorenzen had many memorable moments during his 4 years as the Cats quarterback, but none better that his record setting game against 12th ranked Georgia in 2000. Starting as a redshirt freshman, Lorenzen rewrote the record books by throwing for an incredible 528 yards, including one pass completion over his head. For the game, J-Lo hit on 39-58 passes and 2 touchdowns, and he also ran for a touchdown, only to watch Georgia come from behind to beat the Cats 34-30.
5 Cobb TD beats Spurrier – No person was a “cat killer” like Steve
Spurrier. Coming into the 2010 game against UK at Commonwealth Stadium, Spurrier had beaten the Cats 17 times in a row. After trailing 28-10 at halftime, UK and head coach Joker Phillips rallied. Then with only 1:15 remaining in the game, Randall Cobb put the embarrassing streak to rest when he hauled in the 24 yard touchdown pass from Mike Hartline to give UK the stunning 31-28 win over Spurrier’s 10th ranked Gamecocks. In the game, Cobb also became UK’s all-time touchdowns leader.
4 A receiver at quarterback? – Who would ever believe that Kentucky would start a receiver at quarterback against the mighty Tennessee Volunteers who had beaten the Cats 26 straight times? But that’s exactly what happened back in 2011, when Matt Roark was forced into the starting lineup at quarterback after an injury sidelined starter Maxwell Smith. Roark rushed for 124 yards and led the Cats to a 4th quarter touchdown and a 10-7 win over the Vols snapping the embarrassing losing streak. Roark ended his UK career by being carried off the field on his teammates shoulders.
3 Stevie got loose! – Going into the 2007 season, Rich Brooks was still looking for his 1st win over the rival Louisville Cardinals. As a matter of fact, not one player on the UK team had tasted victory over U of L. To make matters worse, the Cards were ranked in the top 10 in the country and boasted Heisman trophy candidate Brian Brohm at quarterback. The Cats were behind and running out of time, until Andre Woodson launced a 57 yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson with only 28 seconds left to give UK a 40-34 win over U of L. To this day, I’ve never heard Commonwealth Stadium louder than at that moment.
2 Couch to Yeast – Going into this 1997 match-up with Alabama, Kentucky had not beaten the Crimson Tide in 75 years. Let that sink in, 75 years. But everything changed on this October night in Commonwealth Stadium as the Cats took Bama to overtime. In the OT, we got to witness history. Tim Couch hits Craig Yeast for a 26 yard touchdown and a 40-34 win. UK football fans celebrated like they never have before tearing down both goal posts and parading them through the streets of Lexington.
1 Kelly stops #1 LSU – There is no doubt that the play that stunned the college football world came when the Cats shocked #1 LSU at Commonwealth Stadium on October 13, 2007. UK was ranked 17th in the country at the time, but found themselves trailing 27-14 late in the 4th quarter. The Cats tied the game and sent it into overtime. It went into a 2nd overtime, and then a 3rd overtime when Andre Woodson hit Stevie Johnson for a touchdown. UK couldn’t convert the 2-point conversion, so the score stood 43-37. LSU took over, and on 4th down, linebacker Braxton Kelly stopped Charles Scott short of the 1st down, and the celebration began.
Granted, if the Braxton Kelly tackle against LSU is number 1, the Tim Couch to Craig Yeast pass to beat Alabama is more like 1a. I do have to admit, of all the UK games I’ve watched at Commonwealth Stadium over the last 20 years, ironically two games that I didn’t attend – the LSU game and the Alabama game. I see a pattern here.