Are you ready for football season yet?
I really got ready for it recently when I inadvertently remembered what I thought was the most inspiring performance I’d ever witnessed from a UK football player. Then I thought: What are all of the most inspirational performances in my lifetime?
So here’s the deal: I was born in 1979. Whether that negates some great performances I really don’t know, but here’s the contemporary ones that I remember most. The fifteen best – count it down with me. (Why 15 you ask? Because these are the ones I came up with, that’s why).
Without further ado, get inspired:
15. James Whalen Jr., 1999 Music City Bowl – UK was 6-5, building a program without Tim Couch, and looked to be ready to win a bowl game for the first time since 1984. The Cats were favored by 3, and Whalen led the way, with four catches for 79 yards in less than a quarter. He was the best player on the field until he dislocated his elbow. He did not play the final three quarters and UK was never the same in a 20-13 defeat. We can only wonder what may have been had Whalen stayed healthy.
14. Craig Yeast, four touchdowns vs Indiana, 1997 – Sophomore Tim Couch shattered a 47-year-old school record with seven touchdown passes — four to Craig Yeast — as Kentucky kept the “Bourbon Barrel” for a third consecutive year with a 49-7 pasting of Indiana.
13. Mike Hartline upsets South Carolina, 2010 – Hartline (32-of-42 for 349 yards and four TDs passing) leads the Cats to the 31-28 comeback over the No. 10 Gamecocks. Hat tip to Randall Cobb, who caught the game-winner and went for eight catches, 63 yards, and to Chris Matthews, who caught 12 balls for a ridiculous 177 yards.
12. Wesley Woodyard is the MVP, 2006 – Kentucky upsets Clemson in the 2006 Music City Bowl by shutting down a powerful offense. Woodyard leads the way with 12 tackles.
11. The UK Defense stops LSU in OT, 2007 – Give it up for the corners, and for Braxton Kelly and the linebackers for helping to stop LSU 2007. Also give a nod to Lones Sieber for his big kicks, Stevie Johnson for the game-winner, and Dicky Lyons Jr., who may have changed the game with a hellacious block.
10. Jared Lorenzen vs Matt Jones, 2003. UK vs. Arkansas. Seven overtimes. Need we say more?
9. Tim Couch takes down Alabama and the goalposts, 1997 – Couch (355 yards and four TDs passing) hit Craig Yeast with a 26-yard scoring toss for the win: UK 40, No. 20 Alabama 34 (OT)
8. Andre’ Woodson vs Tim Tebow, 2007 – ESPN GameDay was there. The place was rockin’. Andre’ did all he could, throwing for five TDs, but Tebow won.
7. The Offense vs UofL, 2007 – Yes, Stevie Johnson got loose (three catches for 65 yards and two TDs), but so did Keenan Burton (9 catches, 99 yards) and Rafael Little (27 rushes, 151 yards and a touchdown) in the 40-34 win.
6. Derek Abney – vs Florida 2002 – That was the Derek Abney game, where the UK wide receiver/kick returner went off the charts, catching a touchdown pass, returning a kickoff 100 yards for a TD and returning a punt 49 yards for another score.
5. Antonio O’Ferrel vs UofL, 1994 – O’Ferrel was pushed into action to start and led his team to a 20-14 victory. Who really thought that would happen?
4. UK Defensive line vs Dave Ragone, 2002 – UK’s lineman destroy Louisville and their QB, 22-17.
3. Bud Dupree vs Louisville, 2014 – Bud did all he could to bring home the win last year, but the Cats lost the shootout 44-40.
2. Matt Roark vs. Tennessee, 2011 – The 26-year losing streak was over – and it took Matt Roark to do it.
1. Billy Jack Haskins vs. Tennessee, 1995 – Billy Jack played with one arm, and still scored a 40-plus yard TD. It was the damnedest – and most inspiring – thing I may have ever seen in sports. Still, we lost to No. 4 Tennessee 34-31, but the kids did all they could. Nod to Moe Williams in that game, too, who rushed for like a million yards.
Well, what did I miss? Leave your comments below and let us know. Or email me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter: @rhinoKSR or my website: ForRyanOutLoud.com and maybe I’ll share them.