Five games in, Kentucky owns its most significant football win in decades. Happened on a Saturday when SEC powers scrambled the standings, left us to see Tennessee and Vanderbilt at the bottom and, ahem, that basketball school near the top.
In Lexington there is revelry in the land this week. Mid-October and Kentucky folk are abuzz with Air Raid … JoJo Kemp … Bud Dupree and nary a word about Willie and The Twins.
In fact, beyond Auburn and Mississippi schools, buzz across the Southeastern Conference is about “that basketball school up north.”
• “Kentucky did whaaaaat to South Carolina? Must be misprint.”
• “Anybody notice Kentucky is thisclose (at Florida) to being, well, unbeaten?”
Last Saturday, the heavens opened and football gods put stars in new alignment. v At a little before 8 o’clock, the Spurriers punched Kentucky in the mouth, put the home crowd on mute, led 14-0. Behind his plastic play card, the Ole Ball Coach must have yawned and whispered, “prime time TV, huh? Let’s show off a little.” v Carolina’s Mike Davis buzzed through Kentucky’s front as if it were a scout team on a Wednesday. The Wildcats’ old bugaboo was back: “Can’t stop the run.” v Home team helped early. Lost poise eight times – gifting Carolina 80 yards in penalties with macho man foolish momentum killers.
Then, everything changed. The football gods winked at one another.
The Gamecocks had provided a story line, Kentucky’s All-New-People provided drama, Neil Brown directed the show, and JoJo Kemp starred in it.
By halftime, Carolina had 17, but All-New-People Kentucky also had 17, and Big Mo. v End of third quarter, Carolina had punched the Wildcats again, gone up 31- 17 and Old Familiar began buzzing in the crowd, “… we gave ’em all they could handle. Nice try, boys, get ’em next year.” v Suddenly, quarterback Patrick Towles was a wide receiver and Carolina was befuddled. Couldn’t defend between the guards. JoJo Kemp became a Heisman guy and Steve Spurrier was outcoached. v UK play calling was imaginative, nothing short of brilliant. v Then came the mystery. Carolina abandoned its run offense that had produced 282 yards. The Spurriers would throw their way back into the game. Nada. At 2:29 to go, barely 17 seconds after Kemp and Austin MacGinniss had tied the game, defensive tackle Mike Douglas and linebacker Bud Dupree rose up and sealed it. v Bonkers for Big Blue Nation; Signature win for Mark Stoops Inc.
Count me among those who believe his brain was already gauging impact on recruits: “Did you see what we just did?”
Under Stoops, the infusion of true and red-shirt freshmen with speed, quickness and savvy is obvious. The all new part: v Holdover players bought in, embraced their coaches’ package. v Expect to win for 60 minutes instead of play gallant then surrender in 45-50 is new. v Aggression coupled with confidence levels that build on themselves. v At game’s end, JoJo Kemp turned a predictable “How heroic are you?” question into “It’s not just me. It’s ‘Hey, Why not Kentucky?” commercial (for prospects).
Epilogue: From football gods to Big Blue Nation: A wink and nod and bolt of lightning then whisperings of bowl game eligibility.
Typically put in media half-shadow by Big Blue Nation big noise, Eastern Kentucky University’s gem of a 5-0 start (2-0 in OVC) has not earned a large headline yet.
To set the tailgate and add suspense – four of EKU’s five wins have come on the road. This week, a home date with OVC newcomer Eastern Illinois (1-4).
Suspense factor: The Colonels clubbed Austin Peay 31-0 last week. EIU’s lone win was September 20, Austin Peay, 63-7.
Best of the best among Kentucky football coaches, Jimmy Feix left us at 83.
For me, qualifications of a hero. Leader of men with a bark when necessary, but always a grin and twinkle in the eye.
All the wins, trophies, titles, newspaper headlines and accolades are dust now. Feix’s departure leaves us with these questions: Did I contribute well to humankind? Was I loyal to something beyond self?
He did, and more.
“Coach Feix was a legendary figure in so many ways,” Todd Stewart, director of athletics at Western Kentucky University said in a release. “His influence transcended far beyond his role as WKU’s head football coach and athletics director.”
The ever-affable Man from Henderson was best of the best among college ball coaches in Kentucky with whom I dealt through decades. Forthright, good humored, effervescent personality, a contrast too many in his profession then and now. And, Feix kept a firm grip on who he was in the grand universe.
Most admirable, his loyalty. Feix left the friendly confines of Henderson in the 1940s for Bowling Green, earned success as a football player, then ball coach and director of athletics. He gave Western 27 years of his professional life and the rest of it to community.
Legacy? His sons are Doctor Jimmy B. Feix of Milwaukee and Doctor Jeff Feix of Nashville.
Writer/philosopher Dr. Joseph Campbell said: “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
And so it goes.