Date story was published: Sunday, September 3, 1995
Veteran observers of Kentucky football had seen it enough times before that surely they knew the cutting climax by their own bruised hearts -- the momentary hope of victory crushed by yet another last-minute defeat.
But not in this game.
Not against archrival Louisville.
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That, as it turned out last night, was the lone new thing in this opening of a new season. A new miserable experience.
After the Wildcats had driven 90 yards to take a four-point lead with less than 5 minutes to play, Louisville quarterback Marty Lowe cooly trumped the Cats with a scoring drive of his own, marching his Cards 72 yards in nine plays for a 13-10 Louisville victory in the Clash of '95.
It was the first victory for U of L in the series that was resumed last year after a 70-year hiatus.
Lowe, a senior, completed four of five passes for 62 yards in his final possession, which concluded with iron-horse tailback Calvin Arrington dancing into the end zone from a yard out with 1:29 left, making Ron Cooper's debut as Cardinal coach a success.
"I've coached before," said Cooper afterward, downplaying the outcome. "This isn't my first year, this is my 13th year in coaching."
And this is Kentucky's 105th year of football -- and who knows how many times it has had defeat ripped from the jaws of victory in the final two minutes.
Quarterback Jeff Speedy's 14-yard touchdown run with 4:58 left had given Kentucky a 10-6 lead, before the Cards responded with a touchdown drive of their own -- the winning touchdown drive that sent Kentucky to its 11th straight defeat.
"We tried so hard, tried so hard and were just so close throughout the game," Lowe said. "Luckily, our coaching staff found a way and we did it at the end."
One play after taking over on his 28, Lowe hit wide-out Robert Bates for 17 yards to the 48. Two plays later, he found senior wide receiver Coswell Sims over the middle for 10 yards to the UK 37. Two plays after that, Lowe found the 165-pound Sims on the right sideline again for 21 yards to the 15.
The biggest play came next. Lowe hit Arrington over the middle on a delay pattern, and the Cardinal scampered 14 yards to the one.
Arrington, who rushed for 133 yards on 37 carries, then took a pitch right and raced into the corner of the end zone for the winning score.
"We didn't exactly make him make tough throws," said UK Coach Bill Curry, who was not in the mood afterward to give much credit to his opponents, or Lowe. "Those are the types of passes you want them to complete. We just didn't come up and make the tackle."
Nor could the Cats avoid blasting themselves in the paw. A holding penalty in the first half nullified a dazzling 70-yard touchdown run by true freshman Craig Yeast. This time, on the Cats' last-chance drive, an incorrect formation was the killing blow.
On fourth-and-15 from his own 30, Speedy found O'Ferral over the middle for a 36-yard gain to the Louisville 34, putting them in range for at least a tying field goal by Brian Sivinski.
One problem. UK lined up in a formation that made the tight end ineligible to go out for a pass. The tight end, however, went out for a pass. Illegal receiver downfield. Bring the play back.
"When a guy goes into the game he tells another guy to come out and that's it," said Curry, who said afterward it looked to him as if his team had 12 men on the field. "That didn't happen."
And this did: "The story of this game was too many free gifts," Curry said. "Absolute freebies. Penalties that led to continuing drives. Dropped interceptions. Long droughts on offense."
Indeed, UK's new one-back, double-tight end offense produced the same amount of yardage (280) that led to previous coordinator Daryl Dickey's dismissal after his team averaged just 279.7 last year.
After a first-quarter Sivinski 48-yard field goal, Kentucky went nine straight possessions without changing the scoreboard.
"We didn't play well enough to win," said new offensive coordinator Elliot Uzelac. "The defense played very well. But when you make the mistakes we made tonight, you're not going to beat anybody."
The Cat defense did play fairly well through 52 minutes, holding the visitors to a pair of David Akers' field goals; a 25-yarder in the second quarter and a 36-yarder with 8:03 remaining that put U of L up 6-3.
Kentucky responded with its best drive of the night, going 90 yards for Speedy's go-ahead score.
"(But) that should have been the one to put it out of reach, not just the one to put us ahead," said Curry.
And they weren't ahead for long. Lowe, who completed nine of 13 passes for 127 yards (and three of the four incompletions were drops) in the final quarter, saw to that.
"Yes, we played hard; yes, we're improved," Curry said. "But that's not enough."