Remembering "Dash Right, 93 Berlin"

It was the ultimate "Look Before You Leap'' football scenario: Students at the home school were already flooding one side of the field and readying for an assault on the goal posts; their coach was already soaked from a Gatorade bath; a fireworks display to celebrate the victory was already lighting up the skies over Commonwealth Stadium.


Even Jefferson-Pilot, televising the game, had already flashed the score as a final:


Kentucky 30, LSU 27.




That was the backdrop at Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium on Nov. 9, 2002, as the upstart Wildcats had LSU on its own 25 with two seconds remaining.


That's when Devery Henderson entered Tiger folklore by being, more or less, in the right place at the right time on a classic "last play" call – one that never once worked in months of LSU practices.


The play – Dash, Right, 93 Berlin – was basically a "Hail Mary," a throw-the-ball-and-pray-type play.


As he raced downfield, Henderson said he asked for divine intervention, "Let God be with us."


Prayers are sometimes answered to our satisfaction, and this one was.


The pigskin missile launched by quarterback Marcus Randall, who let loose with all the arm strength he had, was in the air for 68 yards. When the ball finally came down in the blur of blue, white, and gold colors, safety Quentus Cumby got a finger on it before it slipped through the fingers of linebacker Morris Lane, then cornerback Earven Flowers tipped it. Henderson took it out of the air at the 18, juggling the ball for 3 yards before running through a tackle by cornerback Derrick Tatum and on into the end zone.


There Henderson euphorically threw his arms to the skies, making himself almost a human version of the "V for victory" sign.



                                                    *     *     *



"I'm still asked about it all the time," Henderson, now a receiver with the New Orleans Saints, said with a smile at the memory, "especially when I'm around a lot of LSU fans, or if I'm home (in Opelousas). Someone will always ask, ‘Do you remember that play against Kentucky?' As if I could ever forget."


LSU returns to Lexington Saturday for the first time since that afternoon; in fact, the Tigers will play football against Kentucky for the first time anywhere since that day.


"Yeah, I kind of thought about it when I saw the Tigers were playing there," Henderson said. "Say ‘Kentucky' and it kind of hits me. That play, and playing on a national championship team in 2003, are the highlights of my time as an LSU Tiger."


Henderson, though, is the first to say there was nothing choreographed about offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher's call.


"What made it work was just instinct and natural reaction than me thinking about what was going on," Henderson said. Reliving that moment, he said, "It was like a dream. I saw it tipped and tipped again. I reached out my hands and it fell in my hands. I couldn't believe it. I just kept running, and all I saw were Kentucky fans, and I couldn't see the goal line. Then someone came and tackled me; then there was a pile on top of me."


The pile consisted of Henderson's victorious teammates.



                                                       *     *     *



Somewhat lost in the retelling of "The Bluegrass Miracle" is the fact that Henderson didn't just come out of nowhere. He was a lightning rod that entire afternoon.


Early in the second quarter, with Kentucky ahead 7-0, Randall flipped a shovel pass to Henderson, who took it and shot 70 yards for the tying touchdown. Late in the period, Henderson caught two passes on a drive that ultimately covered 78 yards: the first for 23 yards, and the second for 30 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with five seconds remaining until halftime.


Henderson finished the day with five catches for 201 yards, a school record-tying 40.2 yards per reception, and three touchdowns.


Still, a lot of things had to fall into place, though, for the theatrics to take place. The first was a late fourth-quarter coaching gaffe by Guy Morriss, who did not allow the clock to run completely down when he sent out Taylor Begley to kick a 29-yard field goal to break a 27-27 deadlock. Instead, after Begley's successful kick, there were 15 crucial seconds remaining.


This is what separates football miracles from routine game-ending plays: The ensuing kickoff was returned by Henderson, who intentionally ran out of bounds at the LSU 13 with nine seconds left to save time.


"Just the way he was coached," Fisher said. After a delay of game penalty, Randall hit Michael Clayton for 17 yards at the 25. "He didn't even try to gain more yards," Fisher said. "He just stepped out of bounds as soon as he made the catch with enough time for one play. It was a long-shot, of course, but up to this point we played things perfectly."


The clock was stopped with those two precious seconds left.


That turned out to be all LSU needed to pull off, if not the impossible, then certainly the improbable.


"I was appreciative most of all of what it allowed me to do," Henderson said reflectively.


The Bluegrass Miracle won an ESPY as the Play of the Year in all of sports in 2002.


"It was special," Henderson said of his trip to Hollywood for the awards ceremony with his mother. "I got the opportunity to give my mom a trip out of LouisianaOpelousas, especially. She hadn't really been to too many places or had the chance to travel. And she had a good time. She even came on stage with me.


"I didn't bring her on stage; she just walked up. I want everyone to know, I was up there and looked back and there she was."



*     *     *


What that game did, aside from creating a memorable moment in LSU football annals, was make a treasure trove of quotes for sportswriters.


Two thousand miles away, another noted Tiger athlete was talking about Henderson's heroics, and Shaquille O'Neal deadpanned, "At LSU we're used to doing the impossible."


Then-LSU linebackers coach Kirk Doll quipped in the locker room afterward, "The first thing I'm going to do when I get back to Baton Rouge is buy a lottery ticket."


Henderson himself echoed what football coaches have told him all his life: "I guess it all goes to prove that football is a 60-minute game."





Marty Mule' can be reached at

Tiger Blitz Top Stories