The sports page of the Baton Rouge Advocate on November 10, 2002, the day after the "Bluegrass Miracle." The top photo shows Kentucky defenders deflecting the pass, and the large center photo shows LSU wide receiver Devery Henderson right after catching the pass.
The "Bluegrass Miracle" refers to one of the most improbable finishes in NCAA college football history. It was a 74-yard game-winning touchdown pass by the #14 LSU Tigers with no time left on the clock against the Kentucky Wildcats on November 9, 2002 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky.
Kentucky, the home team, was the underdog to the defending SEC champion Tigers. LSU was ahead by as many as 14 points at one point and led 24–14 after a field goal with 13:58 left in the fourth quarter, but Kentucky came back with a 13–3 run to tie it at 27. However, a Kentucky player called the Wildcats' last timeout on first down from the LSU 11 with 15 seconds left on the clock, and rather than risking a turnover or a tackle within the field of play that would leave the clock running and the Wildcats unable to line up to spike the football, head coach Guy Morriss opted to send kicker Taylor Begley out to kick a 29-yard field goal, giving the Wildcats a 30–27 lead with 11 seconds left on the clock. LSU would get the ball back, but the ensuing kickoff pinned them at their own 9 yard line. On the first play of the series, the Tigers would quickly get the ball to their own 26 yard line on a pass from quarterback Marcus Randall to wide receiver Devery Henderson. An LSU timeout stopped the clock with 2 seconds left, and set up a desperation Hail Mary pass. The chances for success were considered slim because Randall's arm was not strong enough to reach the opponent's end zone from 70+ yards away. Kentucky players were so confident that they had won the game that they gave head coach Guy Morriss a Gatorade bath before the final play had taken place.
On the final play of the game, Tigers quarterback Marcus Randall took the ball and threw it from his own 18 yard line as far as he could downfield. Soon after Randall released the ball, triumphant Kentucky fans stormed the field around him. The pass was 25 yards short of the end zone. However, the ball was deflected off the hand of a Kentucky player between the Kentucky 30 and 25 yard lines, into the hands of LSU wide receiver Devery Henderson just short of the 15 yard line. He broke the shoestring tackle of the last Kentucky defender, and ran into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
Confusion and aftermath
While Henderson crossed the end zone, the Jefferson Pilot Sports television broadcast accidentally posted the graphic "Kentucky 30, LSU 27—FINAL." LSU had actually just won the game 33–30. After the touchdown, Jefferson Pilot Sports play-by-play announcer Dave Neal called the play, "The most shocking, improbable, unbelievable sequence of events. LSU will go home with a victory." In his television interview right after the play, LSU head coach Nick Saban said, "I don't know what to say. I feel bad for Kentucky's players. But this is a big moment for us and I'm happy as heck for our team....Well, sometimes you gotta be a little lucky and I think that was our luck right there." Kentucky fans who were already on the field could not believe what had happened. Fireworks were shot off when the game clock read "0:00", even prior to the Hail Mary pass. After the play, Tom Leach, Kentucky's radio play-by-play announcer, said, "How much heartbreak. Kentucky fans are up on the goal posts. I don't know why." LSU's play-by-play announcer Jim Hawthorne, was equally shocked and was also at a loss for an explanation; he initially said that LSU defensive back Jack Hunt (who had converted from wide receiver in 2002), not Devery Henderson, scored the touchdown. Hunt's uniform number was 8 and Henderson's was 9.
Naming the play
On the day after the game, Baton Rouge's daily newspaper, The Advocate, ran the headline "HAIL TIGERS" on the sports page. The headline is a reference to the Hail Mary pass used to win the game. On back of the sports page, it also provided a shot-by-shot camera sequence of the play. The page also included a graphic outlining the sequence of events. They were accompanied by the headline "Dash Right 93 Berlin," which was the team's name for the play that won the game.
The play became permanently known as the "Bluegrass Miracle" after a poll of LSU fans was conducted on the LSU Sports website days later. Other website suggestions for the name included "The Bluegrass Bomb" and "Miracle on the Bluegrass." The website also received write-in votes for such names as "The Divine Deflection," "It Works Devery Time," and "The Lexington Longshot."
Awards and records
The "Bluegrass Miracle" also won the 2003 Best Play ESPY Award award. It beat out plays from Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Michael Vick and Barry Bonds. Devery Henderson accepted the award on behalf of the LSU team. It was the second time an LSU miracle play won an ESPY award: Warren Morris had won the 1997 Showstopper of the Year ESPY Award for his two out, walk-off home run in the 1996 College World Series.
It also marked the second time in as many years that LSU foiled a Kentucky football comeback in the final moments of the game. In the 2001 game, also at Kentucky, the Tigers won 29–25 on a touchdown pass from Marcus Randall to Devery Henderson with 13 seconds left in the game. Earlier in the game, Kentucky had overcome a 12-point halftime deficit to take the lead in the 4th quarter. Kentucky would have better luck in 2007, when they finally did upset LSU at Commonwealth Stadium, who at the time was #1 ranked. This was only the third time in school history UK upset a top ranked football team.
- LSU's Bluegrass Miracle 10 Years Later youtube video