Hopewell's heads-up play turns into turning point for Tide

October 10, 2004|MARTY WARREN

LEXINGTON - Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said Andrew Hopewell had the same look in his eyes as he did against Arkansas last season when he blocked a punt and scooped it up for a score.

Hopewell had another chance to block a punt Saturday against Alabama, but his aggressiveness on special teams led to a play the Crimson Tide used to regain momentum and roll over Kentucky.

Hopewell, a Danville High School graduate, got to Alabama punter Bo Freeland so quickly that he forced Freeland to run with the football for a first down and gave the Crimson Tide all the momentum back.

From that point on, Alabama used field position and Kentucky turnovers to its advantage, ripping off 28 of the next 31 points of the game to win going away 45-17.


The Wildcats had pulled to within 17-14 and were forcing a situation that would give them excellent field position. Freshman Dicky Lyons Jr. returned the punt to the Kentucky 40-yard line, but a penalty moved the ball back 5 yards with a chance for another return.

Brooks saw Hopewell break through to the punter and knew he had the block that would change the way things would go the rest of the game. He couldn't believe his eyes when Freeland saw Hopewell out of the corner of his eye, pulled the ball back and raced for a first down.

"Hopewell saw an opportunity to go for the block and went for it," Brooks said. "Unfortunately, (Freeland) pulled the ball back and ran for a first down. That was a chance to be a huge turning point in our favor, but it turned out to be a big play for Alabama."

Hopewell said he noticed on the previous two punts that their blockers were releasing quick.

"After I saw that I knew that I could get it myself," the junior linebacker said. "I went for it and unfortunately I got there too quick. I left my feet for the block, and then he just pulled the ball back. I tried to turn around and get back into the play, but there was nothing I could do. He was already gone."

Hopewell said the Kentucky coaches said all week that if they were going to block a punt, it would be Jacob Tamme, a redshirt freshman from Boyle County High School.

"They noticed that the punter (Freeland) would lean somewhat to his right before he got he kick off," Hopewell said. "That's the side of the field that Jacob plays on, and with his reach, they felt like he could get a block sometime during the game.

"It was a game-changing play, and I just knew I could get it. That's what is so frustrating. I saw Arkansas flashing through my head all over again. The momentum of the game changed on that one play. We were so close, and it was just an unfortunate break for us."

Offensive blues: Kentucky ran only 46 plays for 177 total yards and lost three fumbles during the game. Compare that to Alabama's first half when the Crimson Tide ran 42 plays for 270 yards and had the football for nearly 22 minutes. For the game, Alabama ran 74 offensive plays for 387 yards, including 304 on the ground.

Record breakers: Taylor Begley's point after touchdown following UK's second score was his 65th consecutive successful extra point, setting a school record. He has now connected on 66 straight, surpassing the previous high of Joey Worley, who played from 1984-87.

Begley also kicked a 52-yard field goal, which is a career long. His previous best of 51 yards was two weeks ago at Florida. Punter Sevin Sucurovic also recorded his two longest punts of the season (57 and 54 yards) and finished the day with a 52.5-yard average.

Career firsts: Tight end Jeremiah Drobney scored his first career touchdown on a 38-yard reception. It was Kentucky's longest pass play of the season. Lyons had a 41-yard kickoff return, his longest of the season.

High-flying freshman: With Lonnell Dewalt's block of an Alabama field goal attempt in the first quarter, Kentucky has blocked a kick in each of its five games. Dewalt recorded his fourth blocked field goal of the season, having also blocked kicks against Louisville, Florida and Ohio.

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