August 06, 2006

The day I questioned God's existence...

Devery Henderson is the DEVIL!

Living in Lexington, Kentucky, I have attended my fair share of UK football games. Generally UK is not a winner. Heck, parades would be arranged in Lexington for any coach who could show up and win consistently. I am not talking championships, I am just asking for a coach who could make regular bowl trips.

We currently have Rich Brooks who calls a spade a spade and inherited a horrible probation stemming from the Hal Mumme days. UK, put on probation for the 2001 season, is now finally back to full strength capabilities. For what UK hasn't done, they have recruited well in recent years, at least according to the eye test. Our linemen are topping 300 pounds, and LB Micah Johnson looks like he could step into the Florida program and play this season.

However, the bane of existence for UK football in my lifetime of watching (since 1982, 0-10-1 season that year) has been losses of inexplicable description. Kentucky has largely made losing an art form. The fanbase has a general malaise that sweeps over the stadium when a team starts to make a comeback against UK.

"Oh no, here we go again."

1987. The Cats are 5-5. The annual Tennessee border battle (not so much of one in my lifetime) features a UK team trying to get a win to go to a bowl. 24-20, UK gets a first down at the Tennessee 1-yard line with time running out. Four cracks at the end zone and the Cats call four running plays up the middle with All-SEC running back Marc Logan. Four times Logan fails to hit paydirt. Tennessee takes a voluntary safety and wins the game, 24-22.

1988. UK had good athletes under Jerry Claiborne. There usually was not much depth and the team would wear out in the fourth quarter. UK leads Alabama 17-0 at half, loses 31-27 after 17 fourth-quarter points by the Tide.

1993. Florida throws 7 interceptions but the Cats only get 20 points. Spurrier is forced to put in freshman Danny Wuerffel (your welcome Gator fans) who promptly finds Chris Doering in the end zone from 28 yards out to give the Gators the 24-20 win. UK led the whole way but squandered their chances.

Same year... Peach Bowl. Kentucky leads Clemson 13-7 but the Tigers are marching. Clemson moves the ball down close to the endzone but throws a ill-advised pass that heart-and-soul of the team, LB Marty Moore picks off. Moore rumbles down the field, ensuring the win for the Cats until he is stripped of the ball by a Clemson offensive player. With new life, Clemson QB Patrick Sapp finds Terry Smith in the endzone. Ball game. Clemson 14, Kentucky 13.

1994. Off the field. Reserve lineman Trent DiGiuro is shot and killed on July 17th sitting on his front porch. DiGiuro had quickly become a team leader and his death hung over the team. UK beat Louisville in the opener, 20-14, but finished the season 1-10 including a 73-7 loss to Florida on national TV. The worst part? The case is being re-tried this year after a series of weird events.

Hal Mumme arrives and Lexington gets hope. With a vaunted passing attack, football games at Commonwealth Stadium become hot tickets. UK wins with gimmicks, but none the less, wins. SEC powers start to take notice. UK even wins a thrilling game in dramatic fashion over LSU in Baton Rouge, 39-36. However, it all comes crumbling down after the Cats are revealed to be cheaters and land on probation. It seemed our one moment of glory in my lifetime was over.

Enter November 9, 2002.

I still remember the joy of the stadium after Begley's kick. My good friend who is an LSU fan just slumped when it went through. I remember thinking that the previous year's heartache against LSU was exonerated. (29-25 LSU after a Davey to Clayton TD with :13 left in Lexington - yes, the 2002 game was a repeat due to a change in SEC scheduling.)

I remember being ready to celebrate. I remember the fireworks going off, I remember the students starting to storm the field, and then I remember the ball never hitting the ground. Devery Henderson made a great catch off the play and I was left to suffer.

One footnote: Friend and I are going to Baton Rouge this year. It will be the first time UK has played LSU since that day. I can imagine the good natured ribbing I will get from Tiger fans. They honestly made the day bearable. I got an invite to a person's house in Baton Rouge whenever we wanted it. I had another LSU fan come over and tell me this was Stanford-Cal all over again. Generally, they made it okay. We laughed after I got over the stunned shock.

It still hurts to think about but the incredible part of the play did make it memorable. However, at that moment, I had simply had too much pain from God about UK football to make me believe there was someone still above...

1 comment:

Vince said...

It doesn't make you feel better that henderson has done nothing as a pro, has it? I still remember the look on J-load's face, I thought he would throw up.

At least you have the Judds at hoop season. I am looking forward to whatever athlete you all put at TE this year - either should be fun to watch with Rafael Little as an outlet.

Vince Mullins

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Heavenly time period: College football season until the championship game of March Madness.