From the way the flow of the game was going defensively for the Kentucky stars, the final outcome looked drab. Faces were long and some hand wrenching was occurring on the Kentucky sideline. On one occasion, yours truly, while make my way from one end of the field to the other, passed by the KY bench and Assistant Game Director Rich Wood whispered in my ear, "we can't stop them," because at the time the Tennessee stars were easily having their way their opponents.
Then along came offensive lineman Phillip Hibbard in the second half! Only in this case, he was in the defensive line? Because he is involved in a summer class at his high school, what limited practice he had during the week, all of it was in the offensive line, the position he was recruited for at UK - and play, he did!
The coaching staff took advantage of his quick feet and 6-foot-7, 300-pound frame, when they made the halftime decision to play him in the defensive line. They lined him up on the same side of fellow UK signee, Bowling Green, Kentucky's Stuart Hines. Hines was also signed to play the offensive line at UK, but out of necessity, played defensive line all week for the all-stars. At one stretch in the third quarter, Hibbard made back-to-back tackles for losses and jammed up several other plays. In the fourth quarter, when it was essential to come up with a third and long stop, Hibbard ran down the Tennessee quarterback from across the field and hit his arm as he was attempting to release the ball – IMPRESSIVE! In tandem, Hibbard and Hines shut down that entire side of the line and cut Tennessee's water off. "Our game plan was, we wanted to wear their offensive line down," head coach Joey Downs said. From the looks of a weary Tennessee team in the fourth quarter, it appears that the game plan worked.
On national signing date, coach Rich Brooks expressed excitement about signing Hibbard. He was amazed in wonderment as to how everybody missed on this youngster and how UK almost did. Brooks described him as a kid that had very good feet and could really run for his size. In the game, Hibbard confirmed that description. Of course, one would never hear much said about him by the recruiting services because none of them ranked him, but everybody, coaches alike, make mistakes in recruiting.
Sources say that in casual conversation, Brooks is almost giddy about Hibbard and when he get the report of Hibbard's performance in the game, Brooks might jump out of his skin.
Hibbard, who moved to Kentucky from Florida when he was in the eighth grade, was asked how all the other big schools missed him? "I think maybe it's because I've only been playing football for three years," Hibbard said. "And maybe it's because my grades weren't the best." Recruiting services don't deal in academic transcripts.
Hibbard may not have walked away with any MVP hardware, but he proved instrumental in holding Tennessee to three points in the second half while the Kentucky racked up 24-points in a 38-24 win.