Date story was published: Sunday, October 27, 1985
ATHENS, Ga. - Yesterday, opportunity knocked.
Kentucky never once answered.
Of course, that's been the knock against the Wildcats recently.
UK's pacific offense bellied up again here and the Wildcats lost 26-6 to Georgia.
The clawless Cats, now 4-3 overall and 1-2 in the Southeastern Conference, had the ball in Georgia territory four times in the first half. Three of those possessions began on the Bulldogs' side of the 50-yard line.
A fumble and two punts from the Georgia end zone gave UK its wonderful field position early. On the fourth occasion, the Cats displayed a rare offensive spark and pushed 32 yards to the Georgia 39.
What did Kentucky do with all this good fortune?
Joey Worley, who picked an awful time to start kicking blanks, was wide right on a 39-yarder on one of the possessions. It was the second of his three misses on the afternoon, extending his current string of misfires to six.
UK had to punt on the other three possessions.
Georgia, 5-1-1 overall and 2-1-1 in the SEC, methodically wore down the Kentucky defense. In a test of strengths, Georgia ran its ground attack against the proud Wildcat wide-tackle-six. The offense won, grinding out 375 yards on the ground. Until yesterday, UK's run defense (which had been ranked fourth nationally) had given up just 446 yards in six games.
The Bulldogs managed a first-quarter touchdown. Then Georgia seemed to fight a holding action until UK's defense finally withered in the third quarter. The Bulldogs increased their 10-0 halftime edge by 16 points in the third period. Georgia got a gift field goal when Mark Logan fumbled at the UK 10 on the quarter's second play. Two more touchdowns on a combined 16 running plays extended the lead to 26-0.
UK finally got on the scoreboard, its first points of any kind after seven scoreless quarters, in the final quarter. Redshirt freshman Ivy Joe Hunter dived over from the 1 with 10:18 remaining to cap an 80-yard drive. The rest of Kentucky's possessions netted only 97 yards.
"We did nothing," said quarterback Bill Ransdell, who saw his first action since the Clemson game on Oct. 5. "The defense played a helluva game. They've been doing it for five weeks. They got nothing from us (the offense)."
For the second straight week, UK coach Jerry Claiborne tried more than one quarterback. Kevin Dooley, who inherited the starting job when Ransdell suffered multiple injuries on the first play against Clemson, played the first half. He was hindered by a invisible running game (UK netted a minus nine yards on the ground in the half) and a fierce pass rush (three sacks).
Ransdell, wearing elaborate padding to protect a broken rib, played the second half. After a shaky start (his first four passes fell incomplete), Ransdell went on to complete eight of 13 passes, including a 30-yard bullet on the run to tight end Mark Wheeler that set up Hunter's touchdown.
But, otherwise Ransdell's return could not light the offensive fuse.
"You can't blame anything on Dooley," Claiborne said. "We didn't get much done in the second half, either."
UK's best chances came on four straight possessions that began late in the first quarter. The Wildcats got the ball on the Georgia 47, 47 and 35 and could improve its position only by a net nine yards.
"We're having a hard time getting the offensive adrenalin flowing and getting (the offense) excited," Claiborne said. "The way we played defensively, it gave us opportunities."
With Georgia up 7-0, Kentucky got its first chance for an equalizer when Barry Alexander recovered a Tim Worley fumble at the Georgia 47.
However, Dooley threw three incompletions, the third a catchable ball dropped by Tim Jones at about the Georgia 25.
Jay Tesar, who has punted 20 times in the last two games, came on and put one down at the Georgia 4.
Three plays later, the Bulldogs punted and UK took over at the 47 again.
Two passes to backs and a Mark Logan run netted a first down at the 35. Then Mark Higgs, who gained just 35 yards on 12 carries, lost 5 yards.
On third down, Dooley was sacked by Greg Waters for a loss of 11.
Tesar again punted, and Georgia's usually reliable John Little fielded it at the 1-yard line. Little, an all-SEC candidate at roverback, barely avoided a safety and was downed at the 1.
"I didn't say anything to him at that point," Georgia coach Vince Dooley said. "I counted to 100 and then said something at halftime. He knows better than that."
Asked what Little could have been thinking in making such a play, Dooley said: "Whatever he was thinking, it was bad thinking."
Three plays after Little's poor judgment, Georgia again had to punt, and UK took over at the Bulldog 35-yard-line this time.
Even a fluke play couldn't help Kentucky. The Cats escaped with an 8-yard gain when a Wheeler fumble flew in the air, was knocked from linebacker Steve Boswell's arms and was scooped up on the first bounce by Eric Pitts.
A holding penalty and two incompletions, the second when a Georgia player climbed on Logan's back to break up the pass, stalled the drive.
It was then that Worley missed wide right on a 39-yard attempt from the left hash mark.
"When the defense turns it over and you get nothing, not only does it hurt your defense, your offense gets the blahs, too," Claiborne said. "It hurts the whole football team.
"One of the things we had to do was keep the offense on the field longer. The best defense is your offense."
Kentucky's offense finally put together a drive late in the second quarter. With Dooley picking up 25 yards on a pair of passes to Cornell Burbage, the Cats went 32 yards to the Georgia 39.
Then, Waters, who moved within two of Jimmy Payne's school record of 12 sacks in a season, struck again.
On successive plays, Waters put Dooley down for losses of 11 and 10 yards.
"His quickness bothered me," said Vernon Johnson, the UK offensive lineman whom Waters beat for his three sacks. "I had trouble getting out of my stance. I'd be backpedaling and he was already in my face."
Waters, a 6-foot-3, 233-pound senior, now has 10 sacks on the season.
Asked if he advised Johnson that he'd be back for more after his first sack, Waters said his coach, Vince Dooley, frowns on such taunting.
"I didn't tell (Johnson) that," Waters said, "but I had the feeling I would be back."
Georgia's good vibrations extended to its offensive line.
As the game continued, Georgia's ground attack gradually became dominant. The Bulldogs threw only one pass in the decisive third quarter and it was intercepted.
Georgia ran the ball 19 times and gained 4 or more yards on 13 occasions. Two running-play-only drives of 69 and 80 yards netted touchdowns. Worley took a pitchout 9 yards to increase Georgia's lead to 19-0.
Backup quarterback Wayne Johnson dropped back to pass, then scrambled up the middle 27 yards for another touchdown with 15 seconds left in the quarter.
"In the fourth quarter, they were definitely exhausted," Georgia center Peter Anderson said of UK's defense. "They were trying to show a lot of character, and they do have a lot of character, but it's awfully tough to keep up when we were grinding it like that."
Georgia threw for only 43 net yards, a figure almost as humbling as Kentucky's net of 36 rushing yards.
It was on the ground, against a UK defense that had yielded an average of just 74.3 yards per game, that Georgia feasted.
Asked why Georgia decided to test the strength of Kentucky's defense, Dooley said: "We didn't have any choice."
It was then that Dooley's two sons, Daniel, 22, and Derek, 17, began laughing.
"What they're laughing at is our passing," Dooley said. (The Bulldogs completed just three of 10 passes.)
"Today, our strength was better."