Date story was published: Sunday, October 12, 1986
JACKSON, Miss. - In more ways than one, Kentucky went south yesterday.
Many more ways.
The Wildcats came here unbeaten and intent on making noise in their Southeastern Conference opener. They left as solemn 33-13 losers to Mississippi, thus becoming the first Division I-A team with a winning record to be defeated by the lowly Rebels since 1983.
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What happened? What didn't?
Most surprising this stunning afternoon was Ole Miss' domination on the ground. The Rebel defense stuffed the Kentucky running game. UK's listless ground attack gained just 72 yards. It had been averaging 241.5 a game.
"They played us like a glove," veteran UK guard Brad Myers said of the Rebel defense.
Conversely, a Mississippi ground game that ranked ninth among SEC schools (115.8 yards per game) thrived. The Rebels' option attack ripped Kentucky for 262 yards rushing. Tailback Willie Goodloe led the way with two touchdown runs, the first two recorded this season by the Rebels' starting backfield.
"We'd substitute players and the one coming off the field would say, 'Sorry coach, I didn't take my responsibility,' " UK coach Jerry Claiborne said. "Sorry. That's our problem. We didn't do what we were supposed to do. That's all I can say."
Ole Miss also outpassed Kentucky 156-131. "I was terrible," said UK quarterback Bill Ransdell after an unsteady 15-of-31, two-interception game.
What little life Kentucky showed was weighted down by 100 yards of penalties or blunted by the Rebels, 3-2-1.
UK, now 3-1-1 (0-1 in the SEC), could take solace from two facts.
One: Only an estimated 28,000 bothered to show up at Mississippi Memorial Stadium (capacity 62,000) to watch.
Two: It could have been worse. Ole Miss fumbled away a punt and UK recovered for one of its two scores.
"We got beat every way you can," Claiborne said. "On the line; in the secondary; dropped passes; we didn't take responsibility on the option. Our minds were not on the football game. The intensity was not there.
"Why? I don't know. It's my job to find out."
Those looking for omens had one on Kentucky's first possession. Unlike every other Ole Miss opponent this season, the Cats did not score. Kentucky picked up three first downs and crossed midfield. But on third-and-eight, Ransdell threw behind a wide-open Cornell Burbage at the Ole Miss 30-yard line.
"We weren't on the same page," Ransdell said. "I thought he was going to stop and he took a couple more steps. I just didn't get the job done. I didn't give the defense anything to work with."
After the first of Jeff Nelson's nine punts, Ole Miss drove to a field goal. Bryan Owen, who tied one school record (four field goals in a game) and broke another (14 points in a game), kicked a 39-yard field goal.
Another Nelson punt late in the quarter produced Kentucky's only lead. The Rebels two returners, Ricky Myers and J.R. Ambrose, collided under the kick at the Ole Miss 24-yard line. In the scramble, the ball squirted toward the goal line, where UK's Carwell Gardner reached for it.
Before he could touch it, an Ole Miss player dived under his arms, pushing the ball into the end zone. There, UK's Tony Mayes fell on the ball to give the Wildcats their first touchdown and only lead
"I thought that was going to be a big turning point for us," Gardner said. "I thought we'd done something to get our minds right."
Instead, Ole Miss scored on its next two possessions, beginning a downward spiral UK could not escape.
Goodloe, a 5-foot-6 speedster, scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 3-yard run.
Mark Young's 8-yard pass to Ambrose at the 3 set up the run and typified UK's frustration. Ambrose, whose four receptions moved him into 12th place on the Rebel receiving list, was sandwiched by UK defenders Guy Neal and Ron Robinson on the play. Ambrose simply outwrestled them for the ball.
Goodloe raced 60 yards on a simple straight-ahead play to make it 17-7.
"We call it No. 39," he said. "Just off guard and off tackle. Once I got through a gap, there wasn't any doubt in my mind I'd score."
The rest of the quarter was one UK catastrophe after another.
Joe Worley hooked a 37-yard field goal wide left.
Ransdell threw an interception right to Stevon Moore.
Then, after Owen booted a 48-yard field goal into a stiff wind with 14 seconds remaining, UK fumbled away the kickoff.
Anthony Gardner, a converted defensive back playing on the receiving team for the first time, tried an ill-advised lateral as he was being tackled. Ole Miss recovered at the UK 17 and Owen booted a 34-yard field goal to give the Rebels a 23-7 halftime lead.
Gardner said his lateral was the remains of a trick play called from the sidelines. It was supposed to have him run the kickoff to the right before throwing back to a teammate on the left sideline.
"I knew there was only a few seconds left," Gardner said. "I was just trying to make something happen."
Kentucky's chances for a comeback seemed to vanish early in the third quarter when the Wildcats could not capitalize with the wind to their backs.
Ole Miss improved its field position immediately when Young threw a long pass up for grabs near midfield.
The pop-fly of a pass was halted by the wind, but Ambrose seemed to react sooner than UK defensive back David Johnson. The Ole Miss receiver circled Johnson and made a 38-yard reception at the Kentucky 40.
"He tripped me, that's all there was to it," Johnson said. "It wasn't intentional, but he tripped me."
UK's defense stiffened, but the Rebels' field position allowed All-America punter Bill Smith to drop one at the 5-yard line.
Fueled by a 19-yard screen to Mark Higgs, Kentucky managed to march to its own 44.
However, when Tim Jones dropped a third-down pass and Nelson had to punt again, the ending became inevitable.
Only the final score and Smith's ability to kick a 50-yard punt for the 32nd straight game remained in doubt. He got it, a 54-yarder, with 10:43 remaining.
UK managed a late touchdown. Marc Logan took a screen pass 18 yards for a touchdown. But the Wildcats had to overcome two of the five procedure penalties called against them to keep the 65-yard drive going.
Myers said an Ole Miss defensive tackle and linebacker confused the UK offensive line by yelling "set" throughout the game.
"I told the line judge about it," Myers said. "I said, 'All you have to do is listen,' but he said he didn't hear it."
Any pleas for sympathy UK might have expected from Ole Miss also fell on deaf ears.
"It was good to see someone else do what we've been doing for a change," Rebel safety Jeff Noblin said.