Date story was published: Sunday, November 8, 1992
By the final horn yesterday, Commonwealth Stadium was neither a pretty nor pleasant place to be.
Only a couple of thousand fans remained scattered among the aluminum and concrete. Most were dressed in black and gold, smiles upon their faces, warmth in their hearts. The cold, swirling air meant nothing to them. For the rest, the few home folks stubborn enough to see the end, a surly confusion accompanied the chill.
But in what has been a puzzling football season for the bewildering Wildcats, logic was as elusive yesterday as a First down Kentucky. Before a smallish crowd listed at 45,350 for the year's final home game, Vanderbilt, of all teams, placed a 20-7 thumping on its inept host.
"There's no excuse for what you saw today," UK head coach Bill Curry said.
Marcus Wilson, a Louisville native and senior Vanderbilt quarterback, set up one Commodore score with a 57-yard run. Brad Brown, a Russellville native and junior Vandy linebacker, took an interception 13 yards for another score.
Breaking a four-game losing streak, Coach Gerry DiNardo's team improved to 3-5 overall and climbed out of the SEC East cellar at 2-4.
"This was really a big win for us," the coach said, "because when you lose four in a row like we have, your team can lose its confidence."
But the story of this day was how Kentucky, now 4-5 overall, became the occupant of the division basement at 2-5 in the SEC. After beating LSU 27-25 on Oct. 17 -- its first road win in 14 games -- to go 4-2, Curry's team has lost three straight, all three at home.
"It's unbelievable that this football team, the same group that played last Saturday, can give up one touchdown defensively and come out and be absolutely embarrassed on the other side of the ball," Curry said. "Stonewalled, whipped, stopped, couldn't protect our passer, couldn't protect the ball, all those things you saw. It's really hard to understand what happened."
After last week's 556-yard explosion against Mississippi State, UK's offense squeezed out a mere 123 yards, 48 on the ground. Quarterback Pookie Jones, who threw for a career-high 357 yards last week, managed just 75 yesterday. He completed only seven of his 27 passes. He was sacked five times.
Nine of UK's 15 possessions were limited to three-plays-and-punt. It converted just one of 15 third-down situations. Its deepest penetration was to Vandy's 34-yard line. If not for safety Brad Armstead's 70-yard touchdown run off a first-quarter fumble, the Cats would have suffered their first blanking since 1985.
Post-game was no prettier. A first puzzled, then angry Curry ripped fans for boos he believed were directed at his sophomore quarterback. Jones then lost his composure during a television interview and was led from the interview room wiping back tears.
"I could not believe that people booed him," Curry said.
But the unbelievable was plentiful. After all, Kentucky had ridden a suddenly exciting offense to the wire against (now 7-2) Mississippi State last Saturday before losing on a blocked field goal.
"That did take something out of me," center Matt Branum said. "But I had gotten it back by today."
Yet the Cats performed as if the air had never returned to their balloon. The offensive line was whipped by Vandy's quicker defensive front. Backs found few holes. The quarterback was either hurried, or sacked. When Jones did have time to throw, his deliveries were often off target, or dropped.
"I've really got no comment," said Jones, in his brief interview room appearance. "I don't know what happened."
The UK defense was more lucky than good. The Commodores converted just three of 15 third downs, and Robbie Chura missed field goals from 23, 43 and 40 yards.
"We got a little frustrated," Wilson said. "We made some mental mistakes, some little things, and stopped ourselves a lot."
Yet it was Wilson who sparked the game's first score, taking an option keeper 57 yards to the UK 9. Two plays later, freshman fullback Royce Love bulled in from a yard out for the touchdown.
Kentucky caught a break on Vandy's next possession -- Armstead scooping up Eric Lewis' fumble, then returning it 70 yards for a score. "I really thought that would pick us up," Armstead said.
No such luck. Vandy's Alan Young intercepted a Jones pass, which set up a 37-yard field goal by Chura for a 10-7 halftime lead.
Forty seconds into the final quarter, Brown stepped in front of Cat fullback Craig Walker and picked off a Jones pass in the right flat. He waltzed 13 yards untouched for the touchdown. "I don't know if Pookie got spooked out of the pocket or what, but he threw the ball right to me," Brown said.
That made it 17-7. A 37-yard field goal from Chura with 6:01 left completed the scoring.
"Our defense played outstanding -- outstanding," DiNardo said. "We played better up front, our pursuit was much better, our tackling much better."
Kentucky, meanwhile, showed its enigmatic self. Up one week. Down the next. Only yesterday may have been as low as this team -- or its fans -- have gone.
"I will find out what happened," Curry said. "But right now I certainly don't know."