Five games into Hal Mumme’s first season as a head coach in the Southeastern Conference, Tim Couch orchestrated an overtime win over the Alabama Crimson Tide with one pretty pass across the field to Craig Yeast at Commonwealth Stadium. “Couch to Yeast” will forever live in UK lore as one of the program’s greatest plays.
The play was one small step for the Wildcats and one giant leap for the spread offense.
This week ESPN’s Bill Connelly is chronicling how the spread offense transformed college football. Once perceived as Mumme’s ‘Air Raid’ gimmick, last year LSU used its principles to complete one of the most dominant seasons in the history of college football. Mumme’s first big win at Kentucky proved the offensive plan could be successful at the highest level of the sport.
After three years at Iowa Wesleyan and five at Valdosta State, Mumme was hired away by Kentucky in 1997. (C.M. Newton, the UK athletic director at the time, gets a spot in the spread offense hall of fame for this massive roll of the dice.)
It took Mumme only about a month to make a big impression. In front of what was then the second-largest crowd in the history of UK’s Commonwealth Stadium, Anwar Stewart returned a blocked field goal 68 yards late in regulation, Tim Couch connected with Craig Yeast for a 26-yard score in the first overtime (he threw for 355 yards on the day), and the Wildcats beat the Crimson Tide for the first time since 1922.
As the Montgomery Advertiser’s John Zenor put it the next morning, “Times change. Sometimes they change gradually, sometimes with the full force of a barreling Mack truck.” Mumme couldn’t establish much program momentum in Lexington, but others would soon successfully spread the gospel.
“Couch to Yeast” is one of the 25 most important games in the spread offense’s revolution, a piece that will fascinate history buffs and college football fans alike. Before you read that, you might want to check out “How the spread offense conquered college football, from Hal Mumme to Joe Burrow.” If the title alone doesn’t pique your interest, nothing will.