Date story was published: Sunday, November 23, 1986
Tennessee got Liberty. Kentucky got death.
That was the payoff in yesterday's winner-take-all showdown here.
Tennessee won the game, 28-9, and an invitation to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Dec. 29.
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Kentucky, its season over at 5-5-1, received a painfully familiar termination notice to ponder this winter.
Porous pass defense and an inability to convert scoring opportunities - familiar bugaboos all season - haunted UK once more.
Tennessee quarterback Jeff Francis and split end Joey Clinkscales collaborated twice for touchdown passes, the ninth and 10th surrendered by UK this season.
The Vols, now 5-5, also got a 32-yard touchdown run from former Wildcat recruit William Dotson Howard in the fourth quarter's final two minutes. The meaningless score was Howard's 12th TD this season, a Southeastern Conference high, but only the fourth rushing touchdown given up by Kentucky.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats could not get into the end zone. UK had to settle for three Joe Worley field goals in five attempts. The successful kicks enabled Worley to surpass by one his school record of 16 in a season. But they did no better than keep UK tantalizingly close to Tennessee most of this picture-perfect afternoon.
"It's been that way all year," defensive captain Tom Wilkins said. "When we needed it, the ball didn't bounce our way."
Bad breaks, however, weren't all that beat Kentucky yesterday, Coach Jerry Claiborne said.
"They whipped us at the line of the scrimmage most of the day," the UK coach said. "They put a great pass rush on (Bill) Ransdell and blocked us well when they had the ball."
Much to his discomfort, Ransdell equaled his harried performance against Georgia four weeks ago. He was sacked eight times in each game. Ransdell had to run 14 times yesterday, six less than against Georgia.
The unexpected put Kentucky behind early and the Wildcats never caught up.
Tennessee blocked two of Jay Tesar's first three punts.
The first block, which came on the game's fourth play, was recovered at the UK 35-yard line.
Kentucky escaped unharmed when Tennessee's Carlos Reveiz pushed a 46-yard field goal wide right.
Tennessee took no chances the second time. The Vols' Charles Kimbrough led a convoy up the middle and blocked the kick at about the UK 30-yard line. Freshman Terence Cleveland finally got control of the ball at the 8 and ran it in for the touchdown.
"I don't know what they found," UK snapper Mark Wheeler said of the blocks, "but they must have found something."
UK's weakness was in the middle of the line, said Bryan Kimbro, who had the first block.
"I came up the middle and saw their fullback in front of me," Kimbro said. "Just as I got to him, he moved away to block someone else and this left me free to block to punt.
"Our coaches said we could get a block on them. I think Charles (Kimbrough) got his block the same way."
After Worley missed wide right on a what would have been a school-record 53-yard field goal, Kentucky converted an interception into three points.
Tony Mayes, who would be burned on one of the Francis-Clinkscales touchdowns, intercepted a 36-yard pass in the end zone.
A clipping penalty stalled Kentucky's drive and Worley connected from 49 yards.
Kentucky drove to the Tennessee 13-yard line on its next possession, but got no points.
After Ransdell was hurried into a poor pass on third-and-three from the 13, Worley hooked a 31-yard field goal short and wide to the left.
The miss left Kentucky dominating the statistics, if not the scoreboard. UK had 144 yards rushing to Tennessee's 35 at halftime and had one more first down (six to five).
Yet, the blocked punt and UK's field-goal offense left the Cats trailing 7-3.
The first of Clinkscales touchdowns made it 14-3.
UK had seen the scoring pattern before.
Francis hit a timing pattern to Clinkscales, a floating 17-yard pass against Mayes, who was in no mood to talk about it after the game. "I don't think anything," the UK defensive back said. "I've got nothing to say."
Clinkscales, who caught four passes, said: "Jeff underthrew me a little, but I was so even with the defender that gave me a chance to come back."
UK answered, driving 55 yards. Ransdell hit Cornell Burbage twice with third-down passes to keep the march alive.
On second-and-10, Ransdell appeared to hit Burbage with a scoring pass. Burbage, who was bumped on the play twice with the ball in the air, was ruled out of bounds.
"He grabbed my arm," Burbage said of the defender, Terry McDaniel, "and he sort of bumped me out of bounds. I think we got some bad calls, but that's part of the game."
After a run into the center of the field, Worley kicked a 49-yard field goal to make it 14-6.
Kentucky finally got a break when Howard fumbled 13 seconds later. Mike Velotta recovered at the 34.
The Wildcats reached the 10, but on fourth-and-two Claiborne elected to kick another field goal.
"Even if we had scored a touchdown, we'd have needed a two-point conversion to tie," Claiborne said. "If we get three, then a touchdown wins. The thing we needed then was points.
"We were back in the ball game, but we didn't come up with the big play on defense."
Tennessee then ran right at Kentucky for 46 yards on a 75-yard drive.
Clinkscales scored again, this time catching the ball in front of Ron Mack, who slipped as he rushed to make the tackle. Clinkscales easily pranced into the end zone.
"I think he thought I was going to take it up, but I hitched it up," Clinkscales said. "Then it was just a matter of one on one, me trying to beat him."
With a 21-9 lead and only 8:50 remaining, Tennessee teed off on Ransdell.
The Vols recorded four sacks in the time remaining.
"Pressure, a lot of pressure," defensive back Charles Davis said of the Tennessee defensive strategy. "We wanted to make sure he didn't have time to throw from a set position."