Middle Three Feet Shy of Miracle

By: Steve Moss
By: Steve Moss

Former Georgetown resident and current Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill likely will remember his most recent trip back home to Central Kentucky. That's because his Blue Raiders football team nearly shocked a BCS team for the second straight week.

Former Georgetown resident and current Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill likely will remember his most recent trip back home to Central Kentucky.  That's because his Blue Raiders football team nearly shocked a BCS team for the second straight week.

Coming off what he calls the school's biggest win (MTSU knocked off Maryland last week), Stockstill's team went toe-to-toe with the Wildcats on Saturday night.  In the end, Middle Tennessee came oh-so close: just three feet from pulling off their version of a Bluegrass Miracle.

With the Cats leading, and just :20 seconds remaining, Rich Brooks decided to try a field goal to give his team an insurmountable 9-point lead.  Instead, MTSU blocked Lones Seiber's attempt and nearly "scooped and scored."

Instead of the ball being spotted at the MTSU 48, the Blue Raiders were called for holding on the blocked field goal.  With :08 left, Stockstill had only a Hail Mary left to pull off the Blue Raiders' second upset in as many weeks.

Joe Craddock rolled right and heaved a pass down along the Middle Tennessee sideline.  The ball was tipped, then caught by MTSU's Eldred King.  But Robbie McAtee, who earlier in the game recovered a fumble, made the biggest tackle since Braxton Kelley's stop in the LSU game.  King went down at the UK one, just three feet short of glory.

Players from both teams seemed stunned, handing out congratulatory handshakes, but walking with an uncertainty of what had just happened.  UK defensive lineman Corey Peters just shook his head.  Dicky Lyons, Jr., put his hand on my shoulder, let out a sigh, then said, "I need to go change my pants."  I laughed, but Lyons, known for his sense of humor, wasn't smiling.

Lost in the bewilderment was Stockstill, who had sprinted the length of his sidelines even before the play had ended.  Already smarting from the holding call, Stockstill wanted a pass interference call on the last play.  Since a game can't end on a defensive penalty, MTSU would have had one last shot from inside the UK 20.

After looking at replays, Stockstill probably was right. The replay shows Blue Raiders receiver Malcom Beyah leaping to catch the pass.  Before the ball reaches him, Kelley drills Beyah, which causes the ball to ricochet off his hand and into the arms of King.

Stockstill threw his hat to the ground in disgust, then seeing the officials race off the field, gathered himself and met Brooks at midfield for the customary handshake.

McAtee says the Cats don't practice the Hail Mary on defense, but discuss the fundamentals in covering the play during walk-throughs and team meetings.

Reunited and it feels so good

Of course, Stockstill being reunited with friends from Georgetown wasn't the only reunion going on at the game.

In the press box, former UK All-American Tim Couch and his Cleveland Browns teammate and backup, Kelly Holcomb, were seen clowning around.  Couch opened his Lexington home to Holcomb for the weekend.  The two former quarterbacks (Holcomb played at Middle Tennessee) spent Saturday morning playing golf at Greenbrier.

Holcomb, now the analyst for the MTSU Radio Network, joked about Couch's credentials and whether the Hyden, Ky. native belonged in the media.  "He talks like he's got a mouth full of marbles," Holcomb quipped.  That brought laughter from everyone within earshot.

While Couch and play-by-play man Rob Bromley recorded their pre-game show for the Big Blue Sports Network, Holcomb listened intently to his broadcast counterpart.  "That was great, Tim."  Couch then took a shot at Holcomb, saying, "Thanks, Kelly.  Coming from you, that means nothing."  Both men roared with laughter.

The radio voice of the Blue Raiders is Charlie McAlexander.  Charlie Mac was back in the press box for the first time since 2002, when he was calling games for South Carolina. 

Also in the radio booth was Jeff Van Note.  Van Note and UK play-by-play man Tom Leach were reunited on the air Saturday.  Van Note, who still lives in Atlanta and works on the Falcons Radio Network, was filling in for regular analyst Jeff Piecoro.

Walking wounded

Rich Brooks says three Wildcats are out indefinitely with injuries.  Randall Cobb, Micah Johnson and Ricky Lumpkin were last seen wearing boots and using crutches.

All three suffered high ankle sprains.  Remember Dennis Johnson trying to play with a high ankle sprain?  Johnson missed nearly an entire season with the injury.

Cobb was injured in the first quarter while playing wide receiver.  After lining up in the slot, Cobb was hit by running back Tony Dixon.  Dixon was tackled and went down on Cobb's left leg while the freshman was blocking downfield.

Johnson was having a sensational game when he limped off the field in the first half.  Playing as a spy from his linebacker position, Johnson left with eight solo tackles.

Non-conference streak alive

Believe it or not, with the win over Middle Tennessee, the Cats now own the third-longest non-conference winning streak in the country with 12.  It's the longest since UK won 17 in-a-row from 1954-60.

UK is tied with Georgia.  Boston College currently leads the nation with 18 straight non-conference wins.

Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.

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