Top-Ranked Tigers Tumble
The No. 17 Wildcats became the latest team to shake up the national title race and the first in nearly four years to take down the top-ranked team in the regular season.
Andre Woodson stood calmly in the middle of the field Saturday as thousands of fans went crazy around him - the college football landscape upended yet again.
``It proved we're a team that obviously earns a lot more respect now,'' Woodson said in the middle of the on-field celebration. ``We've come a long way from being a doormat in the SEC to competing with the best teams in the SEC and getting some wins.''
Woodson found Steve Johnson open in the end zone for a 7-yard score in the third extra period. The 2-point conversion, required after two overtimes, failed but it didn't matter.
With a chance to win it, LSU couldn't get a first down on four straight running plays. Charles Scott was stopped by Braxton Kelley a yard short on fourth-and-2. Scott walked off the field in tears.
``He came out of nowhere,'' Scott said. ``I thought I was close.''
As a result, Kentucky (6-1, 3-1 SEC) got its first victory over a No. 1 team since 1964, when it beat Mississippi.
Kelley brushed it off as just another clutch play from another underdog in a season of surprises.
``Football is football,'' Kelley said. ``Each player has the drive to make plays, and all around the nation right now, people are doing that.''
But Kentucky topped them all by toppling No. 1.
No highly ranked team seems to be safe in this season of surprises. It started with Appalachian State knocking off then-No. 5 Michigan in Week 1. In the last two weeks, nine teams ranked in the top 10 have lost, including No. 2 USC falling 24-23 to Stanford last week.
In addition to LSU's loss on Saturday, No. 2 California lost to unranked Oregon State 31-28. This marked the first time the top two teams lost on the same day since Sept. 21, 1996, when No. 1 Nebraska was beaten 19-0 by Arizona State and No. 2 Tennessee fell 35-29 to Florida.
Despite the upsets this season, No. 1 had been safe ... until now.
The last No. 1 team beaten during the regular season happened Dec. 6, 2003 when Kansas State upset top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7 for the Big 12 title.
Another group of Wildcats pulled it off this time, led a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback.
Woodson wasn't sharp early but completed 21 of 38 passes for 250 yards, throwing for three TDs and running in another. He largely had to carry the load with top rusher Rafael Little sidelined with a bruised thigh.
On the final touchdown, Johnson was wide open because defender Jonathan Zenon tripped and fell down. Woodson double-pumped before firing a strike.
``Whenever it starts to look dark, that's when they dig down and find something extra,'' Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said.
LSU (6-1, 3-1) became No. 1 two weeks ago for the first time since 1959. In its first game as the No. 1 team in 48 years, LSU escaped with a 28-24 win over Florida last week when Jacob Hester scored on a 2-yard run with less than a minute left.
This week, LSU couldn't escape and it looks like the Tigers' stay atop the rankings will be a short one.
``I don't think we were good,'' LSU coach Les Miles said. ``I think there's a lot of things we can correct. We all can look at execution. It cost us tonight. It cost us big time.''
The first Bowl Championship Series standings come out Sunday.
Fans at Commonwealth Stadium stormed the field, in a scene reminiscent of 2002, the last time these teams played in Lexington. Only that time, it was a false alarm because Devery Henderson scored on a 75-yard tipped pass as time expired in what is still known in Baton Rouge as the ``Bluegrass Miracle.''
``Maybe redemption,'' Kentucky defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon said. ``I was at home in eighth grade, watching the game on TV, and I see that maniac running out on the field in the purple and gold cow suit. So this is a big win for our program.''
Early on Saturday, it didn't seem like this game was heading to a miracle finish. It didn't seem like the Tigers would need one.
But starting with a minute left in the third quarter, Kentucky scored 13 straight points to tie it at 27. Both teams scored rushing TDs in the first OT and field goals in the second.
Woodson, who earlier this season broke Trent Dilfer's major college record of 271 consecutive passes without an interception, had two picked off Saturday.
``I could have easily put my head down after those two picks, but that's the thing about being a quarterback - you've got to continue being a leader and really have the confidence in your eyes,'' Woodson said.
The Wildcats took an early 7-0 lead after Woodson's tipped, wobbly pass was grabbed in the end zone by T.C. Drake.
The Tigers didn't wait long to answer. Two long runs - 27 yards from Trindon Holliday and 55 yards from Scott - set up Scott's first TD, a 1-yard plunge, to tie the game at 7. The Tigers tacked on another TD by Scott, from 13 yards out, late in the first half.
Kentucky closed the deficit to 17-14 at halftime when Woodson found Steve Johnson on a 50-yard post, then scrambled 12 yards untouched into the end zone.
Until late in the game, Kentucky did little against LSU's top ranked defense, which had allowed fewer than 200 yards a game.
``We are shocked,'' LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith said. ``Anytime you lose, it hurts. We just have to keep our heads up.''
by: Staff Writers - Email Us
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