Hal Mumme on Mike Leach, their 15-hour talk, and Kentucky’s game-winning play vs. Alabama in ’97

Wednesday was a tough day for Hal Mumme.

The former Kentucky coach and architect of the “Air Raid” was still mourning the loss of his good friend and former offensive coordinator Mike Leach.

“The reality of Mike not being here anymore in sinking in,” Mumme said during an appearance on “The Opening Kickoff” on WNSP-FM 105.5.

Leach, the Mississippi State coach, died Monday following complications from a heart condition.

He began his career – in large part – with Mumme at Iowa Wesleyan and Valdosta State. They worked together at Kentucky breaking offensive records along the way.

Leach, the football coach, is well documented, but nobody knew him quite like Mumme. It started in 1989 when Iowa Wesleyan gave him a 1984 Ford Taurus to get out on the road and recruit. It was on these trips Mumme would spent long periods of time with Leach.

“I got the 10-hour dissertation wherever we were going,” Mumme said. “It was beautiful. All I had to do was give him a topic.”

His personal record, though, was a whopping 15-hour conversation – by phone – with Leach.

There he was on a bus curled up on a bus for what he called “one of those overnight, sleep-on-the-bus-Thursday-get-there-Friday-morning deals.

“We talked about nearly everything: my ex-wife, whether there is Bigfoot or aliens,” Mumme said when confirming the story was indeed true. “We talked about what is better: In and Out Burger or Whataburger. We talked about various forms of stupid defenses. We talked about how people migrate to politics but don’t know what they are doing.”

He admitted the first couple of hours were rough as he was fighting the effects of Ambien.

“I had to fight to stay awake, but it was so entertaining. I didn’t care. He called when I was rolling outside the Jackson city limits. We hung up and were rolling into Williamsburg, Kentucky.”

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Perhaps the biggest moment in the Mumme-Leach regime came in October of 1997. It was then when Mumme’s Kentucky Wildcats upset No. 20-ranked Alabama 40-34 in overtime.

Tim Couch completed a 26-yard touchdown pass to Craig Yeast for the first win over Alabama in 75 years.

On third-and-11 at the 26, Yeast caught a pass at the 10 and dashed to the end zone. Fans charged onto the Commonwealth Stadium field to congratulate the players and then pulled down both goal posts.

So which offensive genius called the game-winning play? Was it Leach or Mumme?

“Neither one of is called it,” Mumme laughed, admitting both may have taken credit for the call for recruiting purposes. “The great thing Mike and I did was connected on our players. We probably learned more from players than anyone else. We called timeout before that play. Couch came over and Leach and I were talking about a couple of possibilities with Couch. Craig Yeast came running into that huddle and he goes, ‘Just throw me’ – and I can’t the words on the radio – ‘the ball.’

At the time, the win was Kentucky’s second victory over Alabama in the 34-game series. The Wildcats won 6-0 in 1922, battled to a 7-7 tie in 1939, and then lost the next 14 meetings to trail 31-1-1 in the series going into the overtime win.

Mark Heim is a sports reporter for The Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Heim.

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