Date story was published: Sunday, November 1, 1992
"There were 100 ways to win this game tonight," Doug Pelfrey said.
The crushing truth: Kentucky managed 99.
Jeff Artigues, a little-used senior safety, blocked Pelfrey's 42-yard field-goal attempt with just two seconds remaining to give Mississippi State a dramatic 37-36 victory over the host Wildcats in a wild homecoming heartbreaker last night at Commonwealth Stadium.
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Trailing by a touchdown, the visiting Bulldogs engineered a clutch 66-yard march -- twice converting fourth-down situations, the second by the nose of the football -- to pull to 36-35 with just 37 seconds left. Quarterback Greg Plump hit wide out Willie Harris with a 5-yard touchdown pass.
Running back Kenny Roberts then took an option pitch from Plump and ran in the two-point conversion -- State's third successful two-point conversion on the night -- putting Coach Jackie Sherrill's team ahead by one point.
But Kentucky came right back, moving from its 20 to the State 26-yard line with just 2 ticks remaining on the clock. On came Pelfrey for his seventh field-goal attempt. He had made a school-record five.
"There was no doubt in my mind he'd make the field goal," said Sherrill afterward.
The kick, however, never made it to the line of scrimmage, much less the goal posts. Artigues broke free on the right side for the clean block, giving State the victory and stopping UK's homecoming streak at nine. And in heartbreak fashion.
"Everybody was getting ready to celebrate," UK linebacker Marty Moore said. "And then -- pow!"
"This is tough to swallow," tailback Damon Hood said.
Especially considering how well Kentucky played. Its defense had trouble -- especially tackling -- but its struggling offense erupted for 543 yards. Quarterback Pookie Jones accounted for a school-record 405 yards, throwing for a career-high 357 yards and rushing for 48 more.
"He made unbelievable throws," UK Coach Bill Curry said. "He was outstanding, and we have known that for a long time. There are some people who have not acknowledged it, but they will."
Pelfrey, meanwhile, booted field goals of 52, 21, 22, 41 and 32 yards, plus had a 46-yard attempt smack the right upright.
And yet it was not enough. Mississippi State, ranked No. 24 by The Associated Press, improved to 6-2 overall, 3-2 in the Southeastern Conference. Kentucky dropped to 4-4, 2-4 in the conference.
"They did a good job with their game plan," Sherrill said. "We came in here to do one thing -- stop the run. And then they came out with a one-back set and threw the ball."
Indeed, UK let if fly. Averaging 17 pass attempts an outing, Jones threw 32 times, completing 19. He was 10 of 18 in the first half as the Cats had 243 total yards the first two quarters.
And yet they trailed, forced to settle for four Pelfrey field goals. Mississippi State, meanwhile, got a 44-yard run by Roberts that set up one touchdown and a punishing 39-yard run by Michael Davis for another score, as the Bulldogs led 15-12 at intermission.
The visitors took a 21-12 lead early in the third quarter, when a 26-yard Roberts' run led to a 3-yard Davis touchdown. State missed the extra point but led 21-12 with 10:24 left in the third.
But Pookie brought Kentucky back. First he hit Kurt Johnson for 43 yards. Then he surprised the Bulldogs on a third-and-one, hitting a wide open Corey Reeves for a 23-yard score. When Pelfrey kicked his fifth field goal, a 32- yarder with 3:03 left in the third, Kentucky had the lead, 22-21.
Then a 37-yard pass from Jones to Alfonzo Browning set up a 1-yard run by Hood, extending the Cats' advantage to 29-21 with 13:07 left in the game.
But Mississippi State answered, and answered, and answered. A 71-yard Bulldog drive ended with Tony James scoring on a 6-yard run. Davis bulled into the end zone on the two-point conversion -- State's second of the night -- tying matters at 29-29 with 5:55 left.
Kentucky then moved 73 yards in eight plays to reclaim the lead. Craig Walker took a screen pass 25 yards on a third-and-7, then burst up the middle for 23 yards to the State 5-yard line. Two plays later, Hood score from a yard out. Kentucky led 36-29. But there was 2:25 left.
Taking over at their 34, the visitors threw three straight incompletions, but on fourth down quarterback Plump hit Harris for 12 yards and a first down. After another first down, UK defensive back Marcus Jenkins was called for interferring with Harris, giving State a first down at the UK 26 with 1:31 remaining.
After two more incompletions -- the second of which Jenkins intercepted but was ruled out of bounds -- Plump hit Roberts for 8 yards, etting up a fourth-and-two at the UK 18 with 1:07 remaining.
Roberts then ran the ball off the left side, making the first down by just the nose of the football with 1:01 remaining.
"They made it by a quarter of an inch," Curry said. "School's out if that ball is a quarter of an inch shorter."
"I thought we had it," UK linebacker Marty Moore said. "But then they raised the pole and the ball was even with the pole."
Plump's touchdown pass to Harris came three plays later. Artigues' block came 35 seconds later.
"I can't remember the last time we had a kick blocked," Curry said.
"I don't know where he came from, I had my head down," Pelfrey said. "But there were 100 different ways to win the game. It just didn't work out."
Kentucky was just one way short.