JOEY COUCH: One play changed UK's season

JOEY COUCH: One play changed UK's season

Editor's Note: Joey Couch is a former all-Southeastern Conference defensive lineman at Kentucky. What a difference a play makes. While sitting there almost in a blank stare as I was watching fans filing out of Commonwealth Stadium with each tick of the clock was easily the most helpless, frustrating drive I've ever seen. It was the longest 10 minutes for several reasons.

Arkansas was driving to put the final points that would put this game out of reach because our offense had looked so inept to this point. With each tick of the clock and every yard Bobby Petrino's bunch of hogs were slowly driving the final nail in the reams of many fans, players and coaches on an opportunity to take our program to the next level. All I could think of was what a wasted opportunity.

On play 20 of the drive our "D" finally stopped the bleeding in the form of Sam Maxwell lowering the boom on running back Michael Smith to put a halt to the drive at the 8-yard line and forced Arkansas to settle for a field goal. Bend but don't break has almost been the theme of this year tough defense. Back in the late 80's under the underrated, unappreciated teams of Jerry Claiborne's Wide Tackle 6, that was our theme and it worked more times than it didn't. I know because I was in the middle of that D. This year defense has been fun to watch and has laid it on the line each game.

Even though the Cats were only down two scores, another wave of cold blue blooders made their way to the exits. Even though it kills me to see the mass exit, it felt like the game was over. Done deal. A chance to take to our program where no Kentucky team had been in 50 years (three straight bowls) seemed to leave like the taillights fading away in the distance from the stadium. Then a chain of events took place on the gridiron right before my very eyes that would change that.

The Cats took the kickoff with a different swagger. I really think they were mad as they had watched a large part of the crowd already leave. The drive which eventually was stopped around the 50 again looked promising. A couple of nice runs mixed in with nice pass plays.

I thought coach Joker Phillips changed his play calling from cautious to lets just to what we can to keep it close and hopefully hit them with something they don't expect to a no-huddle, fast-past style that is better for a young team because obviously they have less time to think about what happened the last play. I was disappointed in the fourth down call for an inside screen that was definitely checked into by either the coaches or Mike Hartline. Either or it was a bad read, call, execution or Arkansas making another big play to win this game.

With a little more than 5 minutes left even the folks in our K-man section had seen all they could stomach. I heard several comments from people leaving. "How do you check into a inside screen that hasn't worked all night. Enough is enough, I can't take this any more."

My son and I made a pact a long time ago to stay to the end unless for some reason we have to leave. We were looking at each other trying to decide whether to stay or go. I know what its like to watch people leave the stadium when all hope is seemed to be lost. I can say it hurts.

But I don't blame the fans in some ways for heading to warmer cover early.

It might have awoken a sleeping giant on this team. I know this is a totally different way at looking at what took place in the final minutes of that game, but sometimes it's the strangest things that will draw teams together. The only thing you could hear and see after that play was Aaaaaaaaaaawe PIG Suewy and a happy sea of red over in the northeast corner of Commonwealth.

Arkansas just needed a couple of first downs to seal the deal. On the final play of the previous drive when Maxwell lowered the boom on Smith it gave Smith a game ending injury (concussion) so this forced Arkansas to count on Arkansas most heralded recruit for the 2007 class, De'Anothony Curtis to pick up the couple of first downs to run the clock out. Arkansas was content to just hand the ball off to Curtis and which seemed perfectly logical but somehow, someway the completely drained UK defense made The Play that could and will make this and many more seasons to come memorable.

It's hard to say which was bigger — the tackle Maxwell made that sidelined Smith or the players involved in the turnover to spur the comeback of all comebacks. It's hard to imagine Smith fumbling that football considering he was involved in the play that turned the momentum in last years 42-29 come from behind victory by the Cats. His fumble and Trevard Lindley's scoop and score was the game-changer in that game.

For those of us still there (maybe 20,000), the comeback of all comebacks was getting ready to happen right before our very eyes. The Wildcat D never gave up and when UK's offense ran back on that field the fans that stuck it out were treated to possibly the most amazing five minutes of a team that came together and won when not a person in that stadium thought they could.

It could have been, as we will see, the moment a UK offense found a leader in Hartline, a unbelievable playmaking receiver in Randall Cobb and most importantly a confidence that they can trust each other even when things looked hopeless. I really believe in those five minutes that we saw a team come together and find out what the word team is really about. Never never quit. Good teams never quit because they truly believe in each other.

I truly believe that a team usually takes on the personality of its leader. Coach Brook's doesn't know what the word quit means. He's a fighter and I believe during those five minutes the uphill battle that Brooks and his staff have stood for came out.

To watch coach Brooks walking off the field pointing to the crowd that was still there and was instrumental in the chain of events that took was fun to watch. There's no quit in him and the same can be said about his 2008 Wildcat team. I would like to personally that the coaches , players and fans for letting my son Braxton and I have one of the coolest father-son moments you could ask for as a Dad. He's 12 and I was acting every bit 13 as we screamed, smacked the bleachers and hugged and high-fived all the way home. What an experience and just think it all happened because of one play that will live in infamy and I was there to see it with my own two eyes.

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