November 9, 1997 in Sports

Kentucky Qb Plans To Be More Than A Passing Fancy Couch Looks For Improvement On His Fine Stats As A Sophomore

Bruce Schreiner Associated Press
 

Every time Tim Couch cocks his strong right arm, college passing records seem to fall and his stature grows.

His dazzling play, first as a prep sensation and now as quarterback at Kentucky, has become an autumn staple in the bluegrass. After struggling as a freshman in an ill-suited option offense, Couch is flourishing in the wide-open attack brought by new Kentucky coach Hal Mumme.

Couch leads the nation in yards passing and TD passes and is second in total offense. With two games left in the season, he has broken or tied 16 school records, five Southeastern Conference marks and one NCAA record.

Everyone seems impressed - except for Couch. He considers this season a learning process under Mumme and promises he’ll get better.

“I’ve got a long way to go, but I’ve also come a long way in a year,” he said. “Things are just going to get better with time.”

Couch gives himself mixed reviews after nine games.

“At times I would give it an A, but other times probably a C or B because I’ve just made some mistakes,” Couch said.

He looks beyond all the completions and touchdowns to the throws he forced into tight coverage - trusting his strong arm to beat the defenders. He has completed 311 of 461 passes for 3,240 yards and 34 touchdowns, while throwing 16 interceptions. His TD total set an NCAA season record for a sophomore - breaking the mark of 32 by BYU’s Ty Detmer in 1989 and Houston’s Jimmy Klingler in 1992.

Mumme won’t be drawn into comparing his young quarterback with others, but said Couch has the potential to reach the top.

“I think Tim can be as good as there has ever been,” Mumme said.

Mumme said the 6-foot-5 sophomore possesses all the physical attributes needed for greatness - size, arm strength and maneuverability.

To complement the physical skills Couch has developed intangibles, reading defenses and displaying leadership, his coach said.

“He has a tremendous passion for the game,” Mumme said. “Every bit as good as his physical tools, his mental tools are better.”

Wide receiver Kevin Coleman has seen his roommate’s dedication - all the extra time on the practice field and in the film room. He’s also seen Couch’s competitiveness, even away from the football field.

“He always has to be first in everything,” said Coleman, a junior who has 49 receptions for 579 yards. “When we’re in the car, he has to roll up the window first, he has to get out of the car first.”

The praise isn’t limited to his coach or teammates. Georgia defensive coordinator Joe Kines calls Couch a “classic quarterback.”

“He has all the things that you look for in a drop-back passer,” Kines said. “He has a great arm and a quick delivery. He has a real good presence of the game.”

Couch hit 41 of 55 passes for 324 yards and a TD despite rain during the second half of Georgia’s 23-13 win over Kentucky last month.

He’s also shown courage standing up against pressure from rugged SEC defenses. Couch was shaken up late in Kentucky’s 63-28 loss to LSU last weekend.

“I went over and asked him, ‘We’re not going to win this. You can come out if you want to,”’ Mumme said. “And he said ‘No, I don’t want to.’ He wanted to finish it. He wanted to go down with the ship. To me, that’s the mark of a real competitor and a courageous player.”

While Couch has surpassed 300 yards passing in all but one game, the Wildcats have been inconsistent in compiling a 4-5 record.

They were impressive in beating Louisville and Indiana as Couch threw 11 touchdown passes. Couch’s 26-yard TD pass to Craig Yeast lifted Kentucky past Alabama 40-34 in overtime, prompting Wildcats fans to storm the field and pull down the goal posts. But Kentucky has lost five of six SEC games heading into its next game at Vanderbilt after an open date this weekend.

Mumme said his job is to recruit talented players to surround Couch.

“We’d just like to get some guys who are as good as he is at their positions,” he said.

Couch will set higher personal goals the next two seasons - more passing yardage and touchdowns. He talks openly of wanting to win the Heisman Trophy - not bragging but in a quietly confident manner. He thinks that day may come, but probably not this season.

“You kind of have to lay a little groundwork for it first,” he said.

But Couch wants something more. Having spurned scholarship offers from football powerhouses, the native of the Appalachian town of Hyden wants to help build a winning football tradition at the school he rooted for since boyhood.

“I just want to be the first in a long line of quarterbacks that play here that’s going to break all these records.”

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ON THE COUCH Records set by Kentucky sophomore quarterback Tim Couch:

Kentucky records Single game records: Most passes completed: 41 vs. Georgia and LSU. Consecutive completions: 12 vs. Northeast Louisiana. Most passes attempted: 66 vs. LSU. Most passing yardage: 428 vs. Northeast Louisiana. Most touchdown passes: 7 vs. Indiana. Most total offensive plays: 74 vs. LSU. Most total offensive yards: 423 vs. Northeast Louisiana. Season records Most passes completed: 311. Most passes attempted: 461. Most passing yardage: 3,240. Most touchdown passes: 34. Most 300-yard passing games: 8. Most total offensive plays: 508. Most total offensive yards: 3,121. Career records Best completion percentage: .629 (343-545). Most 300-yard passing games: 8.

SEC records Most passes attempted, game: 66 vs. LSU (tied record). Most passes completed, game: 41 vs. Georgia and LSU. Most passes completed, season: 311. Most touchdown passes, game: 7 vs. Indiana (tied record). Most touchdowns responsible, game: 7 vs. Indiana (zero rush, seven pass) and Northeast Louisiana (one rush, six pass) (tied record).

NCAA record Most touchdown passes by a sophomore: 34.

This sidebar appeared with the story: ON THE COUCH Records set by Kentucky sophomore quarterback Tim Couch:

Kentucky records Single game records: Most passes completed: 41 vs. Georgia and LSU. Consecutive completions: 12 vs. Northeast Louisiana. Most passes attempted: 66 vs. LSU. Most passing yardage: 428 vs. Northeast Louisiana. Most touchdown passes: 7 vs. Indiana. Most total offensive plays: 74 vs. LSU. Most total offensive yards: 423 vs. Northeast Louisiana. Season records Most passes completed: 311. Most passes attempted: 461. Most passing yardage: 3,240. Most touchdown passes: 34. Most 300-yard passing games: 8. Most total offensive plays: 508. Most total offensive yards: 3,121. Career records Best completion percentage: .629 (343-545). Most 300-yard passing games: 8.

SEC records Most passes attempted, game: 66 vs. LSU (tied record). Most passes completed, game: 41 vs. Georgia and LSU. Most passes completed, season: 311. Most touchdown passes, game: 7 vs. Indiana (tied record). Most touchdowns responsible, game: 7 vs. Indiana (zero rush, seven pass) and Northeast Louisiana (one rush, six pass) (tied record).

NCAA record Most touchdown passes by a sophomore: 34.


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