MVP Penix saves best for 2nd half

June 20, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Danville football fans have long known that Charles Penix can often get better as the game wears on.

He showed that talent again Friday, saving his best work for the second half of the Kentucky-Tennessee All-Star Football Classic.

After barely touching the ball in the first half, Penix became one of his team's best sources of offense in the second half as the Kentucky all-stars rallied for a 28-23 victory at Neyland Stadium.

Penix was named Kentucky's most valuable player after accounting for 130 yards and scoring the winning touchdown.

"That's a great feeling," Penix said. "It's a feeling I never imagined.

"I never thought I'd get the chance to do that, but I still believed in myself. Fortunately, the coaches gave me the opportunity to do what I can do, and I made the best of it."

Penix ran for the first and last touchdowns scored by Kentucky, which has won three straight games and four of five in this series. He had 85 yards rushing on 10 carries and caught three passes for 45 yards (though official statistics credited him with only two catches).


He had only one run for three yards and one catch for eight yards in the first half, but he said he wasn't worried that he was a forgotten man.

"I wasn't afraid (of that)," Penix said. "I knew the coaches' plan.

"Coach told us to be ready, because our offensive line was so big, we were going to take it to Tennessee's defensive line."

Kentucky's offense was under the direction of Breathitt County coach Mike Holcomb, who is known for his love of the passing game and who had two talented quarterbacks and a bevy of big-name receivers to work with in this game.

But Holcomb said he knew he also had something special in Penix.

"He's just an outstanding running back," Holcomb said. "(Danville assistant coach) Marty Jaggers said last week that he runs strong and gets stronger as the game goes on, and fortunately he did for us.

"You could see it late in the game. He kind of took the game over for us."

That was no surprise to Danville coach Sam Harp, who watched Penix's performance from the stands.

"I'm real proud of him," Harp said. "Charles is one of those kind of kids, you give him the ball, and he keeps getting better and better as the game goes on."

Penix, an Eastern Kentucky University signee, was the only player listed at running back on the Kentucky all-stars' roster by game time, so he knew he'd see plenty of time on the field.

Mark Dunn of Harrodsburg left the team Wednesday for the birth of his child and never returned, and Alexis Haskett of Christian County was injured in practice.

"I came out ready to play and carry the team on my shoulders," Penix said.

Penix made his presence known early in the second half, gaining 20 yards on a pass from Mason County quarterback Dustin Grutza on the third play of the third quarter, then scoring four plays later on a 9-yard run.

On Kentucky's next series, he had runs of seven and two yards inside the Tennessee 10-yard line to set up a 1-yard sneak by Grutza that gave Kentucky a 15-14 lead.

Tennessee had taken a 23-22 lead with 7:18 to play when Penix turned a short pass into a 17-yard gain to the Tennessee 45 to open Kentucky's next drive. After another pass play gained 13 yards, Penix carried the ball on four of Kentucky's next five plays for a total of 27 yards.

He scored the winning touchdown on an 8-yard run, bowling over Tennessee defensive back Alvin Bailey to get to the goal line.

"That was a good feeling, to run over somebody like that," Penix said.

He said he had plenty of help from an offensive line that was having its way with Tennessee's defenders.

"Our line was huge," Penix said. "The right side of the line really tore their defensive ends up, and the coaches stayed with them."

And it paid off with a pair of touchdowns Penix will never forget.

"To score in Tennessee's stadium, that's something I never dreamed I'd do," he said.

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