Final pass rewrites UK history

Column by Chris DeLottell

After Andre Woodson released The Pass, all he could do was hope Steve Johnson would haul it in. The preseason All-American, who has led the resurgence of UK football, watched just as helplessly as the 70,857 fans in Commonwealth Stadium did.

“The only thing going through my head is, ‘Stevie, please catch the ball,’ ” Woodson said. “Once he caught it, I knew.”

Woodson knew the four-game losing streak to the University of Louisville was over, he knew UK had its first win over a top-10 team since 1977, and he knew the exclamation point had been provided for Rich Brooks’ turnaround of the UK program.

Woodson wasn’t the only one who knew. Everyone knew. The Pass erased any thoughts that last season was a fluke. The Pass propelled this program into the national consciousness. Completed 30 years after UK’s victory over No. 4 Penn State, The Pass will be remembered for another 30 years.

While this game was about much more than The Pass, it stood for everything this game was about.

No. 9 U of L took the lead three times, and three times UK responded. After the Cards took a 21-19 lead just before halftime, UK answered with a touchdown drive to open the second half. After the Cards returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to reclaim the lead, UK drove for another touchdown early in the fourth quarter. After the Cards punched in a go-ahead score with 1:45 left, UK responded with The Pass.

“This team just kept coming back, kept coming back,” Brooks said. “No matter what went wrong, they found a way to make it right.”

And doesn’t that make the team sound a lot like its coach? How solid does Brooks’ rebuilding plan look now?

But this win wasn’t about the coach, the athletics director or the school president. That was Georgia last season. This win was about the players who stuck it out through five years of brick-by-brick building.

“I’m so proud of this team and particularly our seniors, who have been through so much with this program to come back and win a game of this

significance,” Brooks said. “It’s just a huge, huge win for them.”

In the praise of The Pass, and glory to the seniors, an unheralded set of Cats could get lost in the shuffle. The members of UK’s defensive line played brilliantly. They pressured Brohm, hurrying the heralded U of L quarterback, and they stunted U of L’s running game. The Cardinals rushed for only 101 yards.

“Our game plan was simple,” said defensive end Jeremy Jarmon. “Our front four needed to be more physical. We needed to make them know that they were not going to be able to run the ball consistently on us. They hit us here and there, but they were never able to run the ball consistently on us.”

And in the rundown of heroes, forget not Woodson, who finally overcame Brohm where it counts — on the scoreboard.

“He won the game,” Brooks said. “That’s what Andre has been preaching all along — it isn’t really a battle between Brohm and Woodson. It’s a battle between the Cardinals and the Wildcats, and we were fortunate enough to get the win.”

Woodson’s play had Brooks effusive in praise.

“Andre Woodson is a great quarterback,” Brooks said. “He proved it tonight. He’s proved it forever.”

Woodson proved it on The Pass. And we’ll remember that forever.

Chris DeLotell is an education senior. E-mail [email protected].