By LARRY VAUGHT
Midway of the 2006 football season LSU not only beat Kentucky, it embarrassed Kentucky 49-0. The winners rolled up 546 yards while holding UK to 227.
Some thought the loss might cost coach Rich Brooks his job — but his players told UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart they wanted him to stay.
Kentucky had an open date before it played Mississippi State. That’s when sophomore receiver Dicky Lyons Jr. guaranteed that Kentucky was going to win the game — a boast that infuriated Brooks.
But 11 years later, Lyons — a Louisiana native and son of former UK star Dicky Lyons — has no regrets about what he said.
“I was just embarrassed. I grew up, came here and was fascinated with my dad and Kentucky football,” Lyons Jr. said. “It was everything I loved and grew up wanting. It was a big dream of mine going to LSU and winning. My junior year (of high school) I watched the Bluegrass Miracle (when LSU beat Kentucky on a Hail Mary pass on the game’s final play). But I had dreamed I would be an all-SEC receiver and we would beat LSU. Losing to LSU like that crushed me.”
Teammate Keenan Burton remembers Lyons’ guarantee — and that Kentucky won 34-31 at Mississippi State. Lyons had a spectacular, one-handed touchdown catch in the end zone but also had a career-high eight total receptions for 117 yards in the win that might have been his best overall game at Kentucky.
“Nobody other than Dicky would have guaranteed a win. Having somebody like him do that put the season in perspective. It was a high risk, high reward deal for him,” Burton said. “Dicky always had the tools to be a great receiver. But when he got to Kentucky he was used to doing what he wanted to do. It was different being part of a team.”
Brooks made Lyons run — and then run some more for what he said before the Mississippi State game. At times after practice Brooks would even run around the field with Lyons.
“I think me running around the field with him after we’d already had conditioning, and kept running and kept running and kept running and all the players sitting there watching it and they kept saying ‘Don’t let him break you! Don’t let him break you, Dicky!’ … I think it brought our team together,” Brooks said. “I thought it gave our team a purpose. And I thought it was part of the major turnaround that happened with this football team.”
Teammates started running with Lyons during the 5 a.m. sessions he had to have with then offensive coordinator Joker Phillips.
“It got to the point that he did not want to put all us though this at 5 a.m. for him. He got to where he was caring more about the team than himself,” Burton said. “Obviously he did what he did but maybe seeing how it impacted innocent people changed him. We thought if we ran with him maybe he would change his mindset, and he did. He’s one of the greatest receivers ever to play here.
“We all knew he loves us and wanted to be a great teammate. He did not want to see us keeping going through all that. Once he got his mindset right, he was great. And he did play a great, great game.”
Lyons finger-tip catch of the 18-yard touchdown pass from Andre Woodson still ranks as one of the best all-time catches in UK football history. Considering that the catch and win started a streak of five consecutive bowl games for UK just makes the play even more remarkable.
Kentucky beat Georgia the week after it knocked off Mississippi State. Kentucky fans stormed the field and tight end Jacob Tamme was so overwhelmed he cried during the postgame celebration.
“I knew I was going to say something that people didn’t like when I guaranteed the win,” Lyons said. “A lot of the guys were beginning to think that we’d win three or four games and call it a season like ‘old Kentucky.’
“I wanted to do something to light a fire so I just said that we would beat Mississippi State just like LSU beat us. I meant every word and I also believed we would win.”
Lyons had another memorable play in 2007 when UK beat eventual national champion LSU when he pancaked LSU safety Craig Stelz — a high school friend. He flattened the LSU defensive back on national TV.
The two had run track against each other in high school. He made his bone-jarring block on a reception by Stevie Johnson.
“I squared up, and made a nice, clean hit that really got him,” Lyons said. “If Stevie would’ve followed me, he would’ve scored a touchdown. But that’s a play I obviously will never forget, either.”