17 Days to Kickoff- Flashback to ’07


The year was 2007. I was in 8th grade, “Irreplaceable” by Beyonce was the #1 song of the year, Rich Brooks was in his 5th season as the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats.

photo by al.com

September 1st, 2007: 6 p.m. kickoff in Commonwealth versus Eastern Kentucky; attendance- 66,512. First snap of the season senior QB Andre Woodson throws a 51-yard touchdown pass and from there UK was all gas and no brakes. They scored five touchdowns on their first eight drives and punted once the entire game- in the fourth quarter. They shut EKU out 17-0 in the first quarter, held them to a field goal and 10 unanswered points in the 2nd, EKU scored one touchdown in the third and was shut out again in the 4th leaving the Cats 1-0 with a 50-10 win.

September 8th, 2007: 6 p.m. kickoff at Commonwealth Stadium versus Kent State; attendance- 67,380. The Cats had six rushing touchdowns and 266 rushing yards combined when Andre Woodson, Tony Dixon, Alfonso Smith and Derrick Locke each had a rushing TD- John Conner had two. Woodson also hit Keenan Burton for a 51-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. The Cats cruised to a 56-20 win and a 2-0 record.

September 15th, 2007; 6 p.m. kickoff, Commonwealth Stadium; attendance 68,857.

The stage was set for the battle of the Governor’s Cup against #9 Louisville. Kentucky opened the first quarter with 13 points to Louisville’s seven. Kentucky took a 19-7 lead to open the second quarter when Rafael Little ran up the middle for 10 yards. To open the second half, Woodson threw a touchdown pass and Louisville answered with a touchdown return. Kentucky answered again with a Woodson to Tamme TD. Louisville answered, yet again, with an 84-yard touchdown drive for the lead. Woodson hit Stevie Johnson with a 57-yard touchdown play with 28 seconds left (yes, Stevie got loose) and the rest is history. Cats took the Cup back to Lexington with a final score of 40-34 and a 3-0 record. This was the first time Kentucky had beat a team in the top 10 in 30 years. Woodson went 30 of 44with 275 yards and four TD passes. Woodson also broke David Green’s record when he ended the game with 275 passes without an INT- he was 14 passes short of Trent Dilfer’s all-time mark.

September 22nd, 2007: 7 p.m. kickoff, Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas

#21 Kentucky is taking on Arkansas. The Hogs outscored us 10-7 the first and second quarter leaving us going into the locker room at the half down 20-14. UK held Arkansas scoreless in the third quarter while answering with a touchdown to take the lead 21-20. The Cats turned up the heat in the fourth, outscoring Arkansas 21-9 and ending the game with a final score of 42-20. UK is now 4-0 on the season.

September 29th, 2007: 1:00 p.m. kickoff, Commonwealth Stadium; attendance 61,927

#14 Kentucky faces off with Florida Atlantic. In the opening drive, Woodson gave Dicky Lyons Jr. the ball for a 14 yard TD. The Owls answered with 3 on the board, and Kentucky drove down the field again- Woodson connecting with Stevie Johnson. Woodson threw a career-high five touchdowns, but threw his first interception of the season, ending his consecutive pass record at 325. Florida Atlantic was coached by UK alum Howard Schnellenberger who received credit for restoring Louisville and Miami’s football programs. Kentucky stopped the Owls 45-17 moving on to a 5-0 record.

October 4th, 2007, 8 p.m. kickoff; Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, South Carolina

Prime time ESPN, #8 Kentucky versus #11 South Carolina. Kentucky had a short turn around between their Saturday game against Florida Atlantic and this game against the Gamecocks. Both teams headed into this game undefeated, but the Cats struggled. Woodson was sacked and fumbled and Spurrier’s star defensive end tied an NCAA mark with 2 touchdowns on fumble returns that game. The Gamecocks took an early 7-0 lead, but Kentucky had came back in the 2nd quarter to tie it 10-10. Woodson lead the team down the field to the SC 9 yard line before throwing his second interception of the season. Coming out of the half, Woodson’s pass intended for Conner was returned for 6, putting the Cats down 24-10. Stevie Johnson caught a 6 yard pass in the end zone with just under 7 minutes to make the score 31-23, but the Gamecock offense scored on the next drive sealing Kentucky’s fate. Woodson was 23 of 40 and had 227 yards- but was sacked three times. Rafael Little had his fifth 100 yard rushing game of the year but it wasn’t enough for the Cats down in Columbia, they took the first L of the season with a final score of 38-23; they were now 5-1.

October 13th, 2007, 3:30 p.m. kickoff; Commonwealth Stadium; attendance 70,902

Falling from the top 10 after the loss last week, the Cats had some extra recovery and practice time before taking on #1 LSU on CBS that fateful day. The Cats opened up with an early lead, Woodson to T.C. Drake in the end zone, the pass was tipped, but somehow Drake managed to grab it and Kentucky has 7 on the board. It didn’t take LSU long to answer and tie the game up; however, they were up a touchdown heading into the second quarter. Before heading into the locker room Woodson hits Johnson on a 50 yard post route and Stevie got loose (!!) on a 12 yard break to the end zone, giving the Cats a 3 point advantage heading into the half, 17-14. LSU’s defense gave Kentucky a hard time and until this had not allowed more than 200 yards per game. Their defensive coordinator at the time? A guy named Bo Pelini who attended high school with none other than our own Vince Marrow. With 1:13 in the third, Woodson finds Jacob Tamme to put the Cats down 6. With 7:57 in the fourth Lones Seiber kicks a 33-yard field goal: LSU 27, Kentucky 24. Another field goal at 4:21, this time a 27 yarder, and it’s a tied ballgame. Derrick Locke scores on a rushing TD in the first OT, answered with an LSU rushing TD- both kicks are good. 2nd OT- LSU hits a field goal, they’re up 37-34. Kentucky answers with a field goal of their own- tied ballgame, yet again. I’m still nervous as I write this- but in the third overtime, Andre Woodson finds Stevie for a 7-yard pass and six on the board and just like that, down goes #1- Kentucky takes it 43-37. Woodson was 21/38 passing, Lindley had 1 interception and Kentucky had 3 sacks. For the first time in nearly 4 years the #1 team was beaten in regular season.

 October 20th, 2007: 3:30 p.m., Commonwealth Stadium; attendance 71,024

Kentucky has regained their #8 ranking after defeating the #1 team in the country. This broadcast on CBS featured the defending national champion #15 Florida Gators and the Kentucky Wildcats. Urban Meyer and Heisman candidate (and eventual winner) Tim Tebow are in Lexington, Kentucky to give the Cats all they can handle (Tim Tebow was actually knocked unconscious this game). Tebow was 18 of 26 for 256 yards and 4 TD’s, breaking his career high. His previous career high of 3 had occurred against none other than WKU and Troy (where Neal Brown was on staff at the time). Heading into the locker room Florida was up 21-10. Woodson showed quick in the second half he wasn’t the only talented QB in this game, firing a pass to Jacob Tamme where he hit a spin move 10 yards out and ran it in for 6, then hit Dicky Lyons Jr. on another short pass, which turned into a 50 yard TD- juking a number of defenders on the way in. The Gators answered and led the game 38-24. Tebow sealed the win driving the Gators on a 40 yard pass to the two and running it in himself. Woodson took 6 sacks that game, but neither team had a first half penalty and neither team had a turnover. The Cats fell 37-45; this was the Gator’s 21st straight-win over UK.

Photo by Birmingham news

October 27th, 2007: noon kickoff, Commonwealth Stadium; attendance 64,173

Kentucky drops from the top 10 again after falling to Florida, now with a 6-2 record (2-2 SEC). The Cats are set to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs for the homecoming game. Rich Brooks described this game as an “all-systems failure” and this game ultimately took Kentucky out of the SEC title race and Woodson out of the Heisman watch. Kentucky had six second-half turnovers including one by Tim Masthay on special teams. Stevie Johnson had two touchdowns, including one where he leaped over a defender to land in the end zone, but ultimately it was not enough. Mississippi State downed UK 31-14.

November 10th, 2007: 3:30 kickoff, Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

Kentucky has now dropped from the top 15 and is barely hanging in the top 25 ranking in at #24 to take on the Commodores after 2 consecutive losses. Kentucky had a season-high penalty count that totaled for 123 yards. RB Rafael Little was sidelined early, injuring his leg in the opening drive. It was a sloppy game, but Kentucky fans traveled so well it was nearly a home game for the Cats pulled it out. Locke’s 4-yard touchdown run sealed Kentucky’s fate with six minutes left. The Cats prevailed 27-20 and clinched consecutive 7-win seasons for the first time since ’76-77. The Cats were now 7-3 (3-3 SEC).

November 17th, 2007: noon kick, Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia

Kentucky up 2 spots from the previous week after a win at Vanderbilt we’re set to take on #8 Georgia in their 4th road game of the season. With nearly 93,000 in the house- the Cats we’re in for a tough battle. Georgia’s defense gave Woodson all he could handle. He came in leading the SEC with 29 touchdown passes, but threw just one- going 24/41 and 268 yards; he was sacked 5 times. Mathew Stafford went 12/22 with two touchdowns on 99 yards and one rushing TD. Kentucky opened with a 10-0 lead and a 3-point lead heading into halftime. In the third Georgia scored two touchdowns and Kentucky could only answer with a field goal and the Dawgs shut out the Cats in the fourth, leaving the final score 24-13 in UGA’s home finale for the season. Kentucky hadn’t won in Athens since 1977 and wouldn’t until the 2009 season. The Cats were now 7-4/3-4

November 24th, 2007: 3:30 p.m., Commonwealth Stadium; attendence 64,814

Senior day for the Wildcats and Kentucky is taking on #19 Tennessee on CBS. Kentucky has dropped from the rankings completely after 4 losses in 5 games including the last two and are looking to snap a 23-year losing steak to the Vol’s. Woodson and Vol’s QB Erik Ainge were throw for throw; Tennessee with 397 yards for 7 TD’s and Kentucky with 430and 6 TD’s. Arian Foster ran all over Kentucky’s defense with 216 total yards. Kentucky tailed by 17 points at one point in the second half, but tied it up to head into overtime. Each had 7 in the first OT, and both we’re held scoreless in the second. Both teams scored touchdowns in the third overtime- both went for two unsuccessfully. In the fourth overtime, Ainge opened up the 15:00 with a touchdown to Quinton Hancock and found Austin Rodgers for a conversion up the middle. Woodson responded with a pass Derrick Locke, but Woodson taken down at the Tennessee 3 looking for a receiver to convert. Tamme, Johnson and Burton who had literally rushed the Cats into the top 10 earlier this season combined for 23 catches, 273 yards and 5 scores, those three, along with 13 other seniors would leave Kentucky without a Tennessee win as Kentucky fell to their neighbors to the south 52-50. Some remember this is any other home Tennessee game pre-2011, I remember this as my first home Kentucky game.

 December 31, 2007; 4:00 p.m.; LP Field, Nashville, Tennessee; attendance 62,661.

Ah post season, I remember it well. It seems like the Music City Bowl was created for none other than Rich Brooks and his Wildcats. Coming off two straight losses the Cats were set to take on Florida State on ESPN. Woodson threw four touchdown passes to defeat Bobby Bowden and the Noles 35-28 with back-to-back bowl wins. This hadn’t happened since good ole Bear Bryant was at Kentucky in 1951-1952. What we like to forget about this game is that FSU was THREE DOEZEN players short due to injuries and suspensions from an academic scandal. The game was back and forth, but Kentucky took over in the third and never gave it up after Woodson’s 2 -yard slant to Little resulted in a TD. Woodson capitalized on FSU’s lack of depth and finished the season with 40 touchdown passes, breaking Tim Couch’s school-record 37 set in 1998. It was the 19th consecutive game with at least 200 passing yards and a scoring pass for Woodson. The Cats ended their season with a 35-28 win over the Seminoles and a record of 8-5, winning just 3 in the SEC.

photo by SECsportsfan.com

This season, while it didn’t end how we anticipated, was one of the better ones in Kentucky football history. With a stacked roster and memorable wins it’s one we still talk about regularly. While the days of cracking the top 10 seem long gone, it’s 17 days until Mark Stoops and his crew start a new era of Kentucky football.