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November 22, 2009

Brooks, UK vanquish ghosts of '77

ATHENS, Ga. - In the days leading up to Kentucky's road trip to Georgia on Saturday, Kentucky coach Rich Brooks recalled his very first game as a head coach - Sept. 10, 1977 when Oregon lost in Athens.

"I remember getting off the bus up by the railroad tracks and walking down the hill to go in and get ready for the game," Brooks said. "A bunch of the fans were throwing rocks yelling, 'Dawg meat, dawg meat, dawg meat."

Six weeks later, Kentucky rolled into Athens and spanked Georgia 33-0. One would never think it at the time, but that was the last time the Cats would beat Georgia between the hedges.

Until now. Kentucky forced four turnovers and blistered Georgia 28-7 in the second half for a stunning 34-27 victory that positions the Cats for a strong run at the Chick-fil-A or even Outback bowl.

"I told my team today about my first game as a head coach was here and how we were leading late in the third quarter before we fumbled going in to score," Brooks said. "I said I've been waiting a long time, long before they were born and before their parents even met or married. But we finally got one back for the old man today. It's a great win."

In the first 30 minutes it appeared that 1977 represented two indisputable facts, a year marking the last time we'd ever see a Kentucky victory in Athens and the last time anybody would hear anything from disco.

After marching in for the game's first touchdown and a 6-0 lead, Kentucky appeared to have forgotten how to play. At intermission, Georgia led 20-6 and owned an incredible 286-63 advantage in total offense.

"I told them a lot of stuff at halftime," Brooks said. "First you get mad and irate and you talk about how that isn't us and that's not how we play. Then you calm down and try to make sure they understand we can play better and male sure they understand we had 30 minutes to correct it."

It exactly one play for the tide to turn. On the opening kickoff of the second half, Moncell Allen delivered a crushing tackle that jarred the ball loose and Matt Roark recovered. Two plays and 14 yards later, Kentucky had made it a ball game at 20-13 less than one minute into the second half.

"Big spark for us," wideout Randall Cobb said of the abrupt shift in momentum. "You don't get many chances in life and we had a second chance tonight."

The special teams play had the same affect on Kentucky as David Jones' kickoff return to open the third quarter in last year's Liberty Bowl.

Trailing 27-13 midway through the third quarter, Kentucky answered Georgia's final touchdown with its own 51-yard scoring drive, capped by a dazzling grab by freshman wide receiver LaRod King for a 21-yard touchdown.

Early in the fourth quarter, freshman quarterback Morgan Newton dumped a screen pass to Derrick Locke, who raced 60 yards for the touchdown and a 27-27 tie.

Georgia then turned the ball over thanks to a Shane McCord interception setting up the Cats at the Bulldogs' 8. Cobb rushed one yard for the score and UK led 34-27.

Any thoughts of a Georgia comeback were squashed when Danny Trevathan recovered a fumble at the UK 1 yard line and then Sam Maxwell ended it with an interception in the closing minute.

"We like the road," UK offensive head coach Joker Phillips said. "We try to treat it like it's us against the whole stadium, like it was us against the whole state of Georgia."

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