Lane Kiffin’s only trip to the University of Kentucky as a head coach is a painful memory for the Big Blue Nation. This Saturday some fans could finally receive vengeance 11 years in the making.
When Tennessee traveled to Knoxville for the final game of the 2009 season, the Volunteers had a 25-game win streak over the Wildcats. This year was different: Phil Fulmer wasn’t on the sideline. The longtime Tennessee head coach had never lost to UK. In his place was a young, flashy offensive guru from the NFL, Lane Kiffin.
In his first season in Knoxville, Kiffin was not a sure-fire winner. An almost upset of Nick Saban’s Alabama endeared him to fans, but in the SEC standings Tennessee and UK were each tied at 3-4. The winner would move into a tie for second place in the Eastern Division with Georgia and likely earn a bid to the Outback Bowl.
The game could not have gotten off to a better start for Rick Brooks’ Wildcats. On Tennessee’s opening drive quarterback Jonathan Crompton’s pass was picked off by Sam Maxwell and returned 56 yards for a touchdown. Kiffin’s Vols promptly responded with a three-play scoring drive that ended with a Montario Hardesty touchdown, the first of three on the day for the running back.
The tone was set for a back-and-forth showdown between the border state rivals.
Kentucky’s defense had seven future NFL players, led by defensive lineman Corey Peters and linebacker Danny Trevathan, while offensive coordinator Joker Phillips leaned on Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke to make plays on UK’s offense. Morgan Newtown attempted 22 passes for 69 yards, splitting the snaps with Cobb at quarterback who accounted for 156 of UK’s 261 yards of total offense (101 of those yards came on the ground, averaging 5.6 yards per carry).
Hardesty was Tennessee’s work-horse, rushing the ball 39 times for Kiffin, while Cobb carried the load for Kentucky. The Wildcats had a 21-14 advantage at halftime that was erased by ten unanswered third quarter points from the Vols.
Trailing by three with 2:21 to play, thanks to a Tennessee fumble Kentucky only needed to go 37 yards to score the go-ahead touchdown and snap the losing streak that lasted more than a quarter century. Brooks and Phillips turned to Cobb to make it happen. Well, they turned to Cobb until they got within ten yards of the end zone.
During Kentucky’s losing streaks to Florida and Tennessee, there were countless moments of frustration for UK fans. Nothing made less sense than what happened on that final drive in 2009. Cobb accounted for every yard until Kentucky reached the ten yard-line, then didn’t touch the ball again. The play-by-play of Kentucky’s final drive is INFURIATING.
Instead of letting Cobb, the Mr. Everything star player that grew up in the shadow of Neyland Stadium, find the end zone and defeat his home state school, UK was forced to kick a field goal. Once overtime began, you’ll never believe this, but the ball never touched Cobb’s hands again. Lones Seiber missed a field goal and for the second time in three years, Brooks lost to Tennessee in overtime.
Kiffin was lucky Kentucky went away from its star in 2009. Eleven years later he’ll need a lot more luck to escape Lexington with another win.
Need to get the bad taste out of your mouth? Enjoy these low quality highlights from Cobb’s career accompanied by NSFW music. It’s slim pickins on YouTube for decades-old UK football highlights.