“There’s two wideouts each way as he drops to throw it. Steps up into the pocket—it’s deflected up into the air, IT’S INTERCEPTED! TOUCHDOWN! KENTUCKY! BUD DUPREE CAUGHT IT AND RAN IT IN!”
—Tom Leach on the UK radio call
In Year 2 of the Stoops rebuild, UK was looking to get off the ground after a dismal 2-10 2013 that featured no SEC wins—an exact replica of the 2012 season that got Joker Phillips fired. In the first two games they easily handled FCS UT Martin 59-14 and MAC Ohio 20-3.
In Week 3 they came inches away from defeating Florida in the Swamp, a feat that would’ve turned BBN’s world upside down, but faltered in 3OT. Real paydirt came a week later with a 17-7 home win over Vanderbilt—their first SEC victory since 2011 that not only improved them to 3-1 but showed that the program was beginning to step forward, if in baby steps.
On October 4th, the 3-2 South Carolina Gamecocks came to Lexington for a night game against these 3-1 Wildcats. 62,135 fans filled then-called Commonwealth Stadium—a season high for attendance. A win would move UK to 2-1 in the conference and 4-1 overall going into a very winnable game over the Sun Belt’s UL Monroe. Most UK fans knew going into 2014 that going bowling was highly unlikely, but beating Vanderbilt and South Carolina in back-to-back weeks along with racking up three non-conference wins would get them right at the cusp of one. A 5-1 start for Kentucky in just Year 2 of the rebuild? It seemed unthinkable before the season but so very manageable after the Vandy win.
I imagine this thinking was what filled the seats that 52 degree night, and boy did they get their money’s worth.
South Carolina controlled the first quarter and a bit of the second to gain a 14-0 lead early. Eventually UK’s Jojo Kemp got the ‘Cats on the board with a 3-yard TD run 21 minutes in, and after a USC field goal UK got a big run from Braylon Heard to make it 17-14 just before halftime. South Carolina wasted no time driving down field, trying to grab more points before halftime, but then UK’s A.J Stamps picked them off and returned it 50 yards to get the ‘Cats near field goal range. Instead of entering halftime down six or ten, thanks to Stamps and sharpshooter Austin MacGinnis the game was tied.
The Gamecocks almost ran away with it in the third quarter, grabbing a 31-24 lead and bloating it out to 38-24. UK wasn’t done yet, even though they were trailing by 14 with just over 11:00 to go in the 4th. Jojo Kemp punched it in again to make it 38-31 three minutes later, and after forcing a punt Kentucky completed the comeback: the unstoppable Jojo Kemp, so tired he could barely stay in the game, got his third rushing touchdown of the night with 2:46 to play to tie the game.
Kentucky fans bit their nails with anxiety as South Carolina began their drive. Would their beloved team fall short yet again like they did with Florida? So close yet so far was the theme for the unlucky program, and while they were thrilled about the 14-point comeback confidence was pretty low.
It was 2nd & 10 on the South Carolina 20. Dylan Thompson dropped back to pass, despite their dominant rushing attack that had torched UK all night. As he fired a throw to a receiver downfield, a meaty hand shot up, deflecting the football high into the air. It floated, gracefully, into a small mob of players trying to catch the prize. Bud Dupree, now a Tennessee Titan, let it fall into his gloves, and sped into the end zone that lay right in front of him.
The crowd of 62,135 exploded with noise, screaming and whooping as they bounced around their seats and spilled their popcorns, nachos, and Cokes. It had all happened in a blink of an eye, but the reaction was immediate. It was an explosion, a bomb that brought UK football a kind of win it hadn’t seen in several years and started parties all over the Commonwealth.
The Gamecocks never came close to tying it—the damage had been done. After throwing another pick and watching UK take victory formation, the Gamecocks took cover as Big Blue Nation stormed the field. Dupree’s pick-six had given them a 45-38 win over Steve Spurrier, improved them to 4-1, given them back-to-back SEC victories for the first time since 2009, and most importantly had instantly entered UK lore.
The rest of the 2014 season was all downhill from there. While they did defeat UL Monroe to be 5-1, the wheels fell off against the grueling conference slate of the SEC. They lost every other game to fall to 5-7 and miss out on bowl season. It wouldn’t be until 2016 that they broke through and went 7-5.
What was seen as incredible and thrilling progress in a three-week stretch where they almost defeated the invincible Gators on the road in triple-overtime and won back-to-back SEC games was largely erased by those six consecutive losses and a similar 2015. Kentucky football has come a long way since then, earning far more impressive wins that make the 2014 Gamecocks thriller pale a bit in comparison (like actually beating Florida in the Swamp, or beating AP teams ranked #11, #12, and #14). But this game was important and is still fondly remembered by Big Blue Nation for a reason: Bud Dupree’s pick completely lit up Commonwealth Stadium with a noise level I don’t think it’s seen since. I bet fans who saw that game still remember it more fondly than more impressive home triumphs of late, such as 2018’s 21-point win over #14 Mississippi State. Why? I like to think it’s because a game like that stands out—it was instantly a classic. There’ve been seven or eight pick-sixes in the Stoops Era, but Dupree’s is by far the greatest.
It was the pick that, for one night, despite all the football that would be played the rest of that season and the seasons after, made a packed Big Blue house explode like they’d won the SEC title.