Date story was published: Sunday, September 9, 1984
Yesterday, Kentucky learned how the other half lives. In style.
Whistling while they worked over Kent State, the Wildcats rolled to a 42-0 season-opening victory at Commonwealth Stadium.
For one glorious day, it was the Wildcats who had superior numbers. It was a UK victory that was inevitable.
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"It felt real good," said George Adams, who rushed for 106 yards and three touchdowns in little more than a half. "I was out of the game (for good) in the third quarter. I didn't know how to act."
He and the other Wildcats ad-libbed just fine.
Instead of being driven off the field, as had become custom for UK coaches, Jerry Claiborne rode off. Perched high upon Big Blue shoulder pads, Claiborne was carried to console his coaching counterpart, Dick Scesniak.
Claiborne surely knew how the Kent State coach felt. As recently as two years ago, UK took the beatings.
"We're just happy to get that first win," a diplomatic Claiborne said. "The competition next week (Indiana) will be a lot more stringent."
Scesniak, whose team fell to 1-1, was more blunt.
"They were a little bit too much for us," the Kent coach said, "but we contributed too much. We did basic things wrong, showed inexperience and a lack of ability."
Scesniak was asked to elaborate on what adjustments he would make before a rematch.
"Are you a sadist?" he said, laughing. "I would recruit for two more years first. Or maybe equip the players with howitzers and blackjacks."
Besides Adams, UK's standouts included new quarterback Bill Ransdell. The sophomore from Elizabethtown was nearly picture perfect on the nearly picture perfect late summer afternoon. He completed 14 of 18 passes, including a 4- yard touchdown flip to Oliver White.
UK's ground game also was right on the Mark -- Logan and Higgs, that is. Logan ripped off 67 yards on 11 carries and scored his first collegiate touchdown on a 1-yard dive. Higgs got his initial TD, too. The speedball from Owensboro scored from 41 yards out, proving along the way that he can break tackles as well as avoid them. In all, Higgs made six carries worth 74 yards in his eagerly anticipated debut.
By no means was UK's defense left out of the fun. The Wildcat defenders, new linebackers and all, recorded the school's first shutout in six years (Nov. 4, 1978: UK 28, Virginia Tech 0).
"The kids pretty much carried out the game plan," said Terry Strock, UK's de facto defensive coordinator. "They (Kent) didn't do much we didn't expect. They had more dropback passes, but some of that had to do with the game."
Indeed. UK held the Golden Flashes to a net 48 yards on the ground and 236 total yards, less than half of the Wildcats' total of 477 yards. Kent got no closer than the UK 24-yard line until late in the fourth quarter, when the Wildcats had long since waved in the substitutes. Kent got to the 11 on its final thrust. But all the visitors had to show for the day were field-goal attempts hooked wide left from 49, 42 and 28 yards.
And this UK defense came against an offensive unit that returned 10 starters from a group that broke or tied 13 school records a year ago.
Kentucky's new linebackers? Larry Smith, the converted fullback, shared the team lead in tackles with end Brian Williams. Each had seven. Cam Jacobs, the other linebacker, had five first hits.
Kent's vaunted kicking game wasn't spared the onslaught. Besides the three missed field goals, the Golden Flashes got only 5 yards on the one punt return they attempted.
So dominating was UK, that as the score mounted, press box occupants searched for a more lopsided victory. Bear Bryant at Kentucky? Adolph Rupp at Kentucky? Actually, the Cats had a 49-point yawner against Vanderbilt (52-3) in 1978.
Still, for all that, UK looked anything but a powerhouse in the early going. Two fumbles in the first 10 minutes stalled the Cats. "I was afraid we were going to have a comedy of errors," Claiborne said. "It looked like we were never going to get on the scoreboard."
Ransdell fumbled a snap on UK's first possession. Although he recovered the ball, the miscue helped take the life out of a budding drive. That play came moments after Logan had seemingly zigged and zagged 71 yards for a touchdown. But it was ruled the sophomore from Bryan Station had stepped out of bounds 8 yards past the line of scrimmage.
UK crossed midfield on its next possession. Then, Joe Phillips took a reception, spun from a defender and headed for the goal line. The only problem was he left the ball at the scene of the spin. "My only thought was to recover the ball," he said sheepishly. He and UK didn't.
With that, Claiborne cut out the fancy stuff. He inserted regular guards Joe Prince and James Reichwein into the game and gave the ball to Adams.
Adams, who gained 91 yards in the half, carried eight times in a 13-play, 91-yard drive that opened the scoring. He bullied in from 5 yards out for the first of UK's six touchdowns with 12:21 remaining in the second quarter.
Before halftime, UK was up 21-0. A blindside hit by Williams caused Kent quarterback Stu Rayburn to fumble the ball away at his own 28. Three plays later Adams went over from the 1 to make it 14-0. Later, Ransdell hit White for a score on a drive highlighted by three Higgs' rushes that netted 24 yards.
"I've been waiting for this a long time," Higgs said of his college debut. "I've been thinking of it every night when I go to bed."
UK fans had been looking forward to it, too. The young man many consider the finest high school runner ever produced in the Bluegrass state made the wait worthwhile on the first play of the fourth quarter. He took a handoff around the left side, broke a tackle and "just thought about scoring."
"I needed to score to build up my confidence," said the short -- not little -- 5-foot-7 freshman. "I had some doubts I could break a long run in college football."
Among the first in the end zone to congratulate Higgs were Logan and Adams. The first, however, was Ken Brown, a 6-6, 273-pound freshman. "I saw him coming and thought 'Oh no,' " Higgs said.
On a day when hardly anything went wrong, Higgs should have known he was in no danger. This nearly perfect opener gave the Cats a big win, no serious injuries and a chance to use plenty of players (six offensive guards, six linebackers and four centers played).
"We had better personnel," Logan said. "We wore them out."