BATON ROUGE - It was one of those moments that you can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when it happened. Ten years ago today on Nov. 9, 2002 in Lexington, Ky., LSU pulled off one of the most miraculous last-second wins in college football history when Marcus Randall connected with Devery Henderson on a 75-yard TD pass as time expired in what is now known as "The Bluegrass Miracle".
Down 30-27 to Kentucky with just two seconds left and 75 yards separating LSU and the endzone, the Tigers needed a miracle to overcome what would have been one of the most disappointing losses in the Nick Saban era.
Actually at the time, it seemed like not even a miracle would help LSU overcome these odds. With Kentucky fans lining the field, the Wildcats coach having already been given a Gatorade bath, and with students hanging on both goal posts to celebrate what would have been a signature win for Guy Morris and the UK football program, the likelihood of an LSU touchdown seemed like a million-to-one shot.
But in what felt like a blink of an eye, something else happened instead. The Kentucky fans stopped cheering and they climbed down off the goal posts. Those who charged the field retreated back to their seats. Heck they probably wish they could have figured out a way to get the Gatorade back into the cooler. Kentucky fans were stunned, LSU fans were hysterical. The television broadcast even signed off displaying the incorrect score, "Kentucky 30, LSU 27".
LSU had just pulled off the "Bluegrass Miracle", but how?
Maybe it was all of the premature celebration or the fact that the Kentucky fans were tearing down the goal posts with time still left on the clock.
Or maybe, it was just one of those once in a lifetime moments where everything aligned perfectly from Marcus Randall's 65-yard pass in the air - which took flight just a fireworks were being set off to celebrate the victory just outside of the stadium - or Michael Clayton not jumping quite high enough to tip the ball - which was what he was instructed to do - thus keeping the ball on the same flight path, and Devery Henderson - who was said to be out of position - running in stride where the ball was cradled in his outstretched hands. With the ball secured, Henderson raced the final 15 yards for the touchdown in the most unlikely of finishes as the Tigers stunned the Wildcats, 33-30.
For a moment, it seemed as if time stood still. From the sidelines, where I stood and watched this all unfold, I couldn't believe it. LSU needed a miracle and they got in the form of Dash Right 93 Berlin, the play that was called down from the press box to the field by offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher.
Those players involved in the play say that Dash Right 93 Berlin had never worked in practice. They claim it was always either incomplete or intercepted. But for some reason on that cool November day in Lexington, Dash Right 93 Berlin worked to perfection.
Tom Leach, Kentucky's radio play-by-play announcer may have put it best when he said, "how much heartbreak. Kentucky fans are up on the goalposts. I don't know why."
Now 10 years later, "The Bluegrass Miracle" finds its way into conversations about LSU football routinely. It will go down as one of the most memorable plays in not only LSU history, but college football history.
Where were you when it happened? I bet you can say exactly what you were doing and where you were when Henderson crossed the goal line for the game-winning touchdown. Ten years doesn't really seem like that long ago after all.
Quotes from the Bluegrass Miracle:
"It was like a dream. I saw it tipped and tipped again. I reached out my hands and it fell into my hands. I couldn't believe it. I just kept running and all I saw was Kentcuky fans and I couldn't see the goal line. Then someone came and tackled me, then there was a pile on top of me."
"We practice that play every week, but it never works. Michael (Clayton) was supposed to be the tip man, but the tip guys turned out to be Kentucky players. How could you figure something like that? All I remember was bobbling the ball and pulling it in, then running like hell."
- Devery Henderson, LSU WR
"Coach Saban said, 'Just throw it as far as you can.' I just let it go."
"I was thinking, 'How often does that really happen?' You know, they keep playing that over and over. I guess they'll keep replaying this one. This is the biggest play of my life."
- Marcus Randall, LSU QB
"We always practice it on the last play of practice. We throw the jump ball, get them to spread out and do what you got to do."
"To be honest with you it's hard to remember. Because it was just, it was like you weren't watching what happened. You were numb. It was just a freak, unbelievable thing."
- Jimbo Fisher, LSU Offensive Coordinator
"I don't know what I compare that to. It's just like winning the lottery, I guess. Your number being called."
- Norman LeJeune, LSU SS
"Well, you know we always say we need to play for 60 minutes. I guess that's the reason why, right there."
- Nick Saban, LSU Head Coach
"If you threw the ball 1,000 times you might complete it once, much less for a touchdown. We've just got to finish. We learned today that you have to play for 60 minutes."
- Jared Lorenzen, Kentucky QB
"That's the kind of thing you see in the movies."
- Artose Pinner, Kentucky RB
"If the final play of the game held any real interest for them (Kentucky fans), they didn't show it.
"Poor innocent souls. Little did they know that the Tigers had just drawn up a play with a rabbit's foot, blessed it with rosary beads, crossed their fingers as they broke the huddle, rubbed a nearby kid's crewcut, dusted off an old lucky penny, and then sent everybody in a gold helmet running long and deep through a whole bed full of four-leaf clovers.
"Sometimes you have to pull out all the stops."
- Scooter Hobbs, The American Press (Lake Charles, La.)
"(LSU-Kentucky) is the best ending to a college football game I have seen in the last few years. Guy Morriss got doused, the fans were ready to rush the field and even the broadcasters were referring to the score as final. It was a tremendous play and that is what college football is all about."
- Mark May, ESPN GameDay
"My feeling is that the Cal finish against Stanford is the only final-play saga that comes close to Saturday's game, and that is only because it was so comical.
"What LSU did to Kentucky was tragic, dramatic and unreal."
- Peter Finney, Times Picayune
"Those of us from here thought of someone else.
"Of Christian Laettner, in cleats."
- John Clay, Herald-Leader (Lexington, Kent.)
"A 'Giants-win-the-pennant!' moment. Randall and Henderson will never have to buy a meal in Louisiana again after Saturday's game-winning 75-yard touchdown pass as time -- and Kentucky -- expired.
"Randall threw the ball at least 60 yards -- farther than he's ever thrown a pass. Henderson caught the bomb after several UK defenders tipped the thing, then he dodged a tackle, and then he ran into the end zone for the miraculous score. Meanwhile, Kentucky fans -- thinking their Wildcats had won the game -- were already tugging at the goal posts at the other end.
"And then, depression set in."
- Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN the Magazine
"Hopefully they've used up the rabbit's foot this week."
- Dennis Franchione, Alabama Head Coach
"Play of the year."
- Richard Rosenblatt, AP National Football Writer
"Fans are up on the goal post. I don't know why?"
- Tom Leach, Kentucky Radio Announcer