Charles D. Smith
With 24 seconds left in the game, Vanderbilt ran the ball on third down to the Kentucky 32 yard line. Kentucky took its second time out. Nursing a four-point lead, the Commodores decided to go for a field goal to extend the lead to seven and make UK score a touchdown in order to force overtime.
As Vanderbilt lined up for the three-point try, Nerlens Noel, receiving a huge ovation from the overflow crowd and sporting a custom-made helmet to match his hair style, trotted onto the turf to line up under the Vandy goal post. With the ball set to split the uprights, Noel rose up and swatted the ball back into the field of play. Archie Goodwin scooped up the ball as it was rolling just outside the end zone and headed down the field, bowling over several Commodores on the way and finally being run out of bounds at the UK six.
Ryan Harrow came in as QB to run the option and was tackled for a one-yard loss. Kentucky called its final timeout with three seconds remaining. On the last play of the game, Harrow faked the option and lofted the ball high to the back of the end zone: Willie Cauley-Stein went up over two defenders and came down with the winning score. Radio play-by-play man Tom Leach’s “Touchdown Kentucky!” could be heard all the way down to the playing field. With the win, Kentucky kept hopes alive for a BCS bowl game and sent a packed house of 71,000 off into the night and completely satisfied.
With all due respect to the millions of fantasy football players, this is total fantasy football – Kentucky style.
Reality last Saturday was quite different and nowhere near as exiting or appealing.
“The old gray bowl” (as a friend calls Commonwealth Stadium), was mirrored by the inverted ashen sky that shortly before kickoff began spitting a cold November rain. A killer schedule, numerous injuries, questionable coaching decisions and several lackluster performances, plus the weather, all factored into the smallest crowd in the stadium’s 39-year history as the Wildcats hosted Vandy.
The dreary game that followed will do nothing to improve the sad state of UK football 2012. Vanderbilt scored pretty much at will, winning 40-0, shutting out Kentucky for the first time at home since 1993, when Tennessee beat the Cats 48-0.
Less than 24 hours after falling to 1-9 and 0-7 in the Southeastern Conference, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, in an open letter to the Big Blue Nation, announced that Joker Phillips would not be returning next season as Kentucky’s head coach. The search for a new coach can now begin in earnest. Maybe the new head man can do something that happens only infrequently for UK football: make reality much more appealing than fantasy.