Date story was published: Sunday, December 02, 2001
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Kentucky football team left its game against Tennessee two weeks ago feeling pretty good.
Apparently, the Wildcats forgot there was still one game to go.
The Cats looked like a program ready to turn the corner when they took the fourth-ranked Volunteers to the wire before falling 38-35.
But that team was nowhere to be found yesterday, as a flat and uninspired group of Wildcats arrived in Bloomington and lost to archrival Indiana 26-15.
UK fell into a 19-7 first-half hole and never recovered. The loss snapped Kentucky's six-game winning streak in the series.
Quarterback Jared Lorenzen and the UK offense had been on a roll for much of the latter half of the season, producing nearly 471 yards a game over the past five contests. Thanks to relentless pressure by the Hoosiers, Lorenzen and Co. came back down to earth yesterday.
Kentucky's only touchdown through the first three quarters came on a Derek Abney fumble recovery in the end zone.
The loss wrapped up UK's second consecutive 2-9 season and sapped much of the momentum gained with the strong showing against the Vols.
About the only time the Cats showed any life was during a bench-clearing free-for-all after the final horn.
"I don't know exactly what happened," UK Coach Guy Morriss said. "We didn't play with the fire that we had (against Tennessee). We're not good enough to just show up and be flat. We have to come out emotionally charged and firing on the same page.
"It was my fault for not having the team ready to play."
It was a happier ending for Indiana and its embattled coach, Cam Cameron. Like Morriss, Cameron's future on the sidelines is expected to be decided in the coming weeks. But winning four of his final five games with victories over archrivals Purdue and UK to close the season couldn't hurt.
"If Indiana does not want me to be its head coach next season they do not owe me a penny," Cameron said. "Indiana has done more for me than I could ever do for the university. If anyone owes anybody something, I owe the university more than it owes me."
Morriss said he'll meet with the players this afternoon and go about his business as usual.
"I'm going to keep coaching football and keep recruiting until (UK Athletics Director Larry Ivy) tells me otherwise," he said.
A fortuitous bounce allowed UK to take a 7-0 first-quarter lead yesterday.
The Cats faced third-and-11 from the IU 19 when Lorenzen found Tommy Cook open on the left side of the field. As he was fighting for extra yardage, Cook was stripped by IU linebacker Justin Smith at the 5-yard line. The ball took a high bounce into the end zone, and Hoosiers cornerback A. C. Carter appeared to have an angle on it. But Abney beat Carter to the spot and fell on the ball for a UK touchdown with 6:32 left in the first quarter.
UK went three-and-out on its next four possessions.
Indiana, meanwhile, was just getting started. The Kentucky defense knew that it would have to slow down quarterback Antwaan Randle El and the IU option game to have a chance to win, and they did just that early on. Coming in, the Hoosiers were averaging 275 yards a game on the ground, but were limited to 34 rushing yards in the opening period.
What the Cats probably didn't count on was Randle El beating them with his arm. With UK overplaying the run, the Hoosiers switched gears and did their best Air Raid impersonation, as Randle El passed 21 times in the first half.
The results weren't always pretty. Randle El was not accurate, and Hoosiers receivers botched several potential big plays with drops and mistimed routes. But IU did enough damage to take a 19-7 halftime lead.
After UK scored first, Randle El completed passes of 14 yards to Travis Haney and 9 yards to Aaron Halterman to set up first-and-10 at the Kentucky 11. A holding penalty on UK moved the ball to the 5, and two plays later Jeremi Johnson bulled in from the 1 to tie the score with 2:47 left in the first quarter.
Randle El kept the Kentucky defense guessing with play-action, and his perfectly executed play-fake left tight end Kris Dielman wide open for a 30-yard touchdown. The failed extra-point left IU with a 13-7 lead, and Randle El's 19-yard touchdown strike to Courtney Roby gave the Hoosiers a 19-7 halftime lead.
Lorenzen couldn't get anything going at the start of the second half, either. Sacks (IU dropped Lorenzen five times) and miscommunications stalled UK's first two drives of the third period, and Johnson's 27-yard burst early in the fourth quarter ballooned IU's lead to 26-7.
How could a team that moved the ball so easily against one of the top teams in the nation stagnate against a defense that had given up 2,422 passing yards?
"They just shut us down," Abney said. "Against Tennessee, we were confident we could get open and get some things done. Indiana had a counter for everything."
Morriss said he didn't see any pre-game signs that his team would come out flat.
"Not at all," Morriss said. "I thought we practiced hard all week, and we were fired up coming out of the locker room. But when the game started, we couldn't find anybody to step up and make a play."
UK mounted a late rally when Lorenzen connected with Aaron Boone for a 7-yard score, and the two-point conversion pass to Martez Johnson brought UK to within 26-15 with 4:07 left.
Indiana recovered the ensuing onside kick, but UK got the ball back one last time and drove to the IU 19 with less than a minute remaining before Lorenzen's pass intended for Boone was picked off by Marcus Floyd with 44 seconds left.
As IU was attempting to run out the clock, Kentucky was whistled for a personal foul after defensive end Chris Demaree shoved Hoosiers tight end Halterman.
When the game ended, both benches cleared and players exchanged punches, pushes and shoves for several minutes before order was restored.
Yesterday's game was originally scheduled for Sept. 15 but was rescheduled after the terrorist attacks. Last week Indiana picked up an emotional 13-7 win against Purdue while the Cats had the week off.
Morriss said after the game that he originally didn't think the open week would affect his team, but he was rethinking that theory after yesterday's poor performance.
"I felt like the week off would help us, as far as letting getting people healed up," Morriss said. "In retrospect, it may have worked against us."