Couch '50-50' about going pro
Posted: Friday January 01, 1999 06:39 PM
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- It was an uncharacteristic moment of flamboyance from the normally businesslike Tim Couch.
On second-and-five from the Penn State 33 in the third quarter of Friday's Outback Bowl, the Kentucky quarterback found a seam in the defense and took off running up the right side. Refusing to slide, Couch broke a pair of tackles and gained 14 yards, popping up from the turf to gesture with his right arm in a first-down signal.
In the end, it was Penn State's defenders who had the last laugh, throwing the signal right back at Couch after sacking him twice on what turned out to be Kentucky's final drive.
"I don't regret it," Couch said of his gesture following Kentucky's 26-14 loss. "I love playing the game. I just reacted out of pure love for the game and just to have a good time. I wasn't really trying to be derogatory to them, it was just kind of having a good time. I like playing football, that's the way it is."
In what may have been his final college game, Couch finished 30 of 48 for 336 yards and two touchdowns. He threw two first-half inteceptions, one of which led to the field goal that cut Kentucky's lead to 14-13 at the half.
Couch said the interceptions would probably be what he remembers from his first bowl game. "That's just the way I am," he said.
Yet he gave pro scouts watching in anticipation of a possible decision to enter the NFL draft just as many, if not more, things to be impressed with.
He made quick reads and completions in the face of defensive pressure and showed determination on several scrambles, including a 30-yard second-quarter run. And he exhibited toughness in the face of a battering by Penn State rushers, who sacked him five times and drove him into the turf at Raymond James Stadium time and again.
Each time, Couch returned for another snap, winning the respect of Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington, who along with Courtney Brown sandwiched Couch on one particularly bone-crunching play in the fourth quarter.
"The only time I hit a quarterback as hard as I hit Couch was the Wisconsin quarterback, and I hurt myself hitting him," Arrington said. "Couch is a great athlete."
"He got me pretty good," Couch said of Arrington. "He knocked the breath out of me."
The Nittany Lions' rush was helped by a secondary that disguised its coverages and rolled into effective double coverage of Couch's favorite receiver, Craig Yeast, who was limited to just two catches for 31 yards, his lowest totals of the season.
"They were doing a lot of different things, ... all kinds of different looks," Couch said. "We expected them to give us a lot of different looks, and they came out and did it and did a good job of disguising it."
Couch, who finished the season with 4,611 passing yards and 38 touchdowns, said he plans to announce next Wednesday or Thursday whether he will return to Kentucky or turn pro. He has repeatedly been mentioned as a possible top pick by the expansion Cleveland Browns, who hold the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
"It's kind of 50-50 right now where I'm at," he said. "I'm kind of torn between living out a dream -- making NFL quarterback -- or coming back and playing with my teammates that I set all these goals with."
Couch said he plans to go home to the mountain town of Hyden, Ky., and think things over. "I'll probably go up on some big mountaintop somewhere," he said. Then, he said, he will talk things over with his parents and his coach, Hal Mumme, before making his announcement.
Asked what factors might keep him at Kentucky for another year, Couch said, "It's just the love I have for the state of Kentucky, being from this state, the camaraderie I've made with my teammates over the last three years, with all the goals that we've set for our team over the last three years."
"It's hard to walk away from those guys," he said. "It's going to be a tough decision for me and one that I have not made yet."
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