The 2007 Kentucky football team was one of the most talented, fascinating teams we’ve seen at UK in the past several decades, and not many will argue that. Their eight total wins on the year was underwhelming considering the team’s overall talent level, but the product they put on the field was extremely entertaining nonetheless.
Andre Woodson, John Conner, Derrick Locke, Keenan Burton, Wesley Woodyard, Jacob Tamme, Myron Pryor, and Trevard Lindley were just a few of the names with star power on the 2007 roster, and they made for some of the best fan memories on the gridiron at Commonwealth in recent history.
One of those memories was the infamous upset over #1 ranked LSU on October 17, 2007. The Tigers were coming in undefeated at 6-0, looking for another quality victory on the road to solidify their status as the far and away top team in the nation. The #17 Wildcats, however, were off to one of the best starts in team history at 5-1, including a victory over in-state rival Louisville where Stevie Johnson “got loose,” and wanted to prove their hype on a national stage.
As a sibling to a UK student, I witnessed this hype first hand in my experiences with her. Excitement on campus was at an all-time high, and it was contagious enough for a little kid like me to buy in. I was a sports fanatic as it was, but being at the age where football was really starting to seep into my blood like a drug, having this Wildcat team to watch was unbelievable.
These players were my idols, my role models. Most kids look up to professional players and emulate their actions on and off the field/court, but the only thing I wanted in life was to suit up in blue and white and crack some helmets just like these college kids. I was on the Big Blue Nation bandwagon right from the get-go, and this era of Wildcat football only helped kickstart that.
I knew how major this LSU game was as the week leading up to it crept closer to Saturday. We weren’t favored to win, and the odds of us actually pulling off the upset definitely weren’t in our favor. But if we could keep it close and show the entire country our status as a top 20 team in the nation was solidified, it’d be a victory in my mind.
After falling behind 17-7 into the second quarter, Andre Woodson worked the two-minute drill to perfection and led the team down the field for a touchdown to cut the Tiger lead to 3 going into the half. The game was close, and there was optimism for a potential upset, but I wasn’t ready to believe just yet.
LSU regained a 13 point lead as the third quarter crept closer to the end, but a Woodson-to-Tamme touchdown cut the deficit to just six points heading into the fourth quarter. After taking possession again, Lones Seiber drilled a field goal with eight minutes remaining on the clock to cut the lead to just three points. The hype was building, and I was falling for it, as was the rest of the fanbase.
On the following LSU possession, Matt Flynn was picked off on a bomb down the left hash mark by Trevard Lindley with roughly seven minutes left in the game. Stevie Johnson caught a deep Woodson toss on the left side of the field and ran it up to the 20 yard line, where Sieber would eventually drill a field goal to tie it up at 27 a piece. After a huge defensive stop, regulation ended and we were neck and neck with the toughest title contender in the nation.
The first overtime began and we struck the scoreboard first on a Derrick Locke punch up the middle to give the Wildcats a 34-27 lead. The Tigers immediately responded with a score of their own.
LSU nailed a field goal after getting stopped on third down, but Lones Sieber matched with a field goal of his own to tie the game up at 37-37 heading into the third overtime.
On the first possession of the third OT, Woodson darted a throw to the right of the end zone, where Stevie Johnson found himself wide open on a diving grab for the touchdown. He immediately ran over to an erupted student section and celebrated with the famous winged hand gesture he used as his go-to touchdown dance.
The cheering and celebrations quickly died down after a failed two-point conversion attempt, meaning an LSU touchdown and extra point would end the game in favor of the Tigers.
LSU took over on offense in an attempt to break the collective hearts of a ridiculously loud and sold out Commonwealth Stadium crowd. They had been firing on all cylinders for the majority of the game, so optimism began to slowly decline. It quickly felt the Bluegrass Miracle of 2002 would be making a disturbing comeback on this night. Right on the cusp of knocking off the powerhouse Tigers, only to be disappointed in the end.
This was way too much stress on a ten year old kid. Most kids my age were plotting their first kiss on the cheek in the tube slide during recess or asking girls if they could hold their hand on the swings, not on the brink of an anxiety attack, stressing out about a college football game. I was in a fetal position with a bowl of M&M’s as my only comfort in the world at that moment. I rocked back in forth, gripping my knees tighter and tighter like I had just woken up from a nightmare. When I tell you I was obsessed from the start, I wasn’t lying.
Three consecutive runs, each inching closer and closer to the first down marker. If they cross that line, there’s no way our worn out defense can stop them within fifteen yards of the end zone. Not a chance. The game came down to this play.
Fourth and two at the 17 yard line.
Matt Flynn handed the ball off, and time stood still. Charles Scott edged to the left hash mark, where he was met by Braxton Kelley just past the line of scrimmage and brought to the ground.
The game was over. Wildcats win 43-37 in three overtimes.
My brother-in-law, who was a UK student at the time, said the initial reaction by the student section was actually a little anticlimactic when the final horn blew immediately following the play. They kept looking at the scoreboard and asking themselves, “There’s no way it’s actually over… right? We didn’t… actually win, did we?”
When they realized it was actually a reality, emotion set in and they acted accordingly, a celebration that lasted well into the night.
There I sat at home, alone in front of my television. I was afraid of embarrassing myself with a temper tantrum had we lost, so I was in a room to myself where I could let my emotions get the best of me with no shame either way. I jump up and down, making an absolute fool of myself. I scream and yell, making sure my Tiger fan neighbors from three doors down hear me loud and clear. This was my celebration, and no one was taking it away from me.
I turn to the TV and watch the student section and remaining lower bowl crowd flooding the field and slowly but surely ripping down the goal posts. This sounds cliche, but it was magical to see something like that. It was the party of the decade, and the entire Commonwealth was invited.
I just witnessed UK hand LSU their first loss since Oct. 7, 2006, where they suffered a 21-10 defeat in the hands of the Florida Gators.
I just witnessed the greatest upset in Kentucky football history.
There are countless Kentucky football games that stick out as favorites in my vault of most entertaining and unbelievable games, but I honestly don’t believe this one will be topped anytime soon.
The SEC Network will be replaying the game at 8:00 p.m. tomorrow night as part of a University of Kentucky all-day special documenting the greatest games in program history, if you’re interested in reliving the memories yourself. Yeah, I know you are.
Let’s hope the 2016 football squad can give us a thriller upset or two this season en route to Stoops’ first bowl game as head coach. With several SEC juggernauts on the schedule this season, they’ll certainly have their opportunities to make it happen.
Follow me on Twitter at @JackPilgrimKSR.