LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky has beaten Alabama just twice in 39 tries in a series that dates back to 1917.
The Wildcats first win over the Crimson Tide was a 6-0 shutout. The next wouldn’t come for another 75 years and one overtime.
Former NFL No. 1 overall pick Tim Couch found wide receiver Craig Yeast for a 26-yard score that secured the 40-34 win. The fans in Lexington rushed the field and tore down the goal posts on that October 1997 night.
It was Kentucky’s first win over Alabama since 1922, and the last one.
We caught up with a few former Wildcats who were on the 1997 team, Hal Mumme’s first year as coach, ahead of Saturday’s 7 p.m. matchup between the two programs.
That 1997 Alabama team only finished 4-7, but Kentucky WR Craig Yeast, RB Anthony White and DT George Massey were a part of a Wildcats team that made history.
Here’s how they remember the night Kentucky beat Alabama for the first time in 75 years.
The lead up
White: “There was a huge deal made about it. I think we hadn’t beat them in like 75 years or something. We had a guy come in and for some reason this sounds odd, but he was the last remaining player from that 1922 team, the last team that beat them. He was really old at that point. He talked to us. He was so old that his speech was kind of limited. He didn’t speak very loud. He said, ‘You know, just go out and win.’ We made a big motivation out of that. We beat ’em once in 100 years and knew we could be the next team to beat them. We made a huge deal about it. I can’t remember what the guy’s name was, but I can remember that pretty vividly. That was a big moment.”
Yeast: “Well, I think, as I can recall, leading up to that week we knew we were paying Alabama. It was Alabama any way you swing it. It was the University of Alabama.”
White: “The game sticks out very big. Me personally, we played them my redshirt freshman year in ’96 and I had a terrible game. I had 6 carries for like negative 16 yards, then 2 fumbles. That’s where the negative came from. I fumbled an option play. So, that was pretty rough coming out after that. The next year I wanted to get some vengeance on them. It stands out to me because the year prior I had the worst game I’ve ever had in my life playing football, but it stands out more because we had a whole team effort. We had a blocked field goal we took back to the house; the offense played good.”
Massey: “We tied it up and went into overtime and thought, ‘This could be one that we could steal.’ No one ever expects us to beat the mighty Alabama, so once we got the confidence that we could play with these guys and we were right in the game with these guys, it was a big turning point for us. Hats off to Craig Yeast and Tim who took it in and brought it on home for us.”
The winning play
Massey: “It was like everything happened in slow motion with the drive. Tim did the little quick dump off to Craig Yeast and Craig Yeast just wiggled his way in there. After that, it was just mayhem — people storming the field, the goal posts coming down. It was just crazy. A crazy, crazy, wonderful time.”
Yeast: “Other than the most memorable, if you go back and you watch that game, that win was just not a play we made at the end of the game, it was an overall team effort; it was an overall team win.”
Massey: “We were all caught up in the fans. Fans hugging players and vice versa. My helmet was gone. I don’t know where my helmet was to this day. Throwing shoulder pads off and just having a great time. It was one of the best times I think we ever had being a Kentucky player. It was awesome.”
White: “Me personally, when this whole thing went down, when everybody started rushing the field, I was cheering with my teammates. We gave chest bumps and hugs. And then I was in the middle of the field and I got hugged by a fan. Then, I got hugged by a fan. Then, I got hugged by another fan and there were three guys. Then, one of them hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. I was like, ‘Uhhh …’ It made me uncomfortable, so I just ran off the field. I remember that because when I got to the locker room, I was the first person in there. I was the only person in there for like five to seven minutes.”
Yeast: “I think just the way the whole game itself, playing at home, playing at night, a lot of things going on, for the game to go into overtime, the way we won it, all of it that added to the fan reaction.”