Date story was published: Sunday, November 17, 2002
Clinging to a precarious 28-21 lead over Vanderbilt and pinned at UK's own 20-yard line with 4:32 remaining, and with visions of last week's fiasco with LSU still fresh in the minds of just about everybody at Commonwealth Stadium, Kentucky Coach Guy Morriss had a simple message for Artose Pinner.
"I just told him to get ready," Morriss said. "We're fixing to wear you out. Hang on to the football and go to the (end zone)."
As he has done all year, Pinner answered the call. This time, Pinner almost single-handedly carried the Wildcats 80 yards for the game-clinching drive as the Cats put Vandy away 41-21 in front of 51,114 cold fans.
The drive capped a day in which the 5-foot-11, 230-pound senior ran roughshod through the Vandy defense for 224 yards on 31 carries and four touchdowns.
The rushing yardage was the most by a Wildcat since Moe Williams gained 272 against Cincinnati in 1995, and the four rushing touchdowns tied a school mark shared by three others.
"Coach Morriss told me before we got the ball back that he was going to ride me all the way down the field," Pinner said. "(Morriss) said, 'I hope you're in shape.' The offensive line starting making blocks up front, and I was just reading the holes and making the most of the opportunities given to me."
Pinner now has 1,363 yards rushing this season and 2,054 for his career, which places him fifth all-time at UK. He is 238 yards away from breaking Williams' single-season mark of 1,600 set in 1995.
The win improved UK to 7-4 overall and 3-4 in the Southeastern Conference, and wrapped up UK's first winning regular season since 1999.
"That was big," senior Ronnie Riley said. "We definitely wanted to make sure we finished with a winning record, and to do it today on Senior Day was real special for everybody."
UK's final drive was vintage Pinner.
He carried the ball nine straight times, bursting through arm tackles for gains of 11, 18 and 36 yards before plunging into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line to give UK a 35-21 lead with 16 seconds remaining.
"He's just a big, strong running back," Vanderbilt Coach Bobby Johnson said of Pinner. "He just doesn't quit. His legs keep driving, and he gets a lot of yards after contact."
The game was much more competitive than the final score indicated.
Early on, it looked as if Morriss would be able to clear the bench on Senior Day, as the Cats used three first-half TDs by Pinner and a 95-yard kickoff return by Abney to take a 28-7 lead early in the second quarter.
But the Wildcats gave up a touchdown just before halftime for the second week in a row -- a 19-yard strike from Jay Cutler to Dan Stricker with 11 seconds left -- allowing Vandy to go into the locker room trailing 28-14.
The Commodores rode that momentum into the third quarter. A 1-yard run by Cutler capped a 10-play, 60-yard drive that trimmed UK's lead to 28-21 with 51 seconds left in the third.
Pinner saved the day, and Otis Grigsby's fumble recovery in the end zone padded the final score. But afterward, Morriss lamented his team's inability to put four quarters together. The Cats will have one last chance to accomplish that feat against Tennessee in two weeks.
"I'm glad this game is over. I'm glad that we won and it's out of the way," Morriss said. "We've been through 11 games now, and I really don't think we've put together a complete game yet. That's really bothering me.
"Maybe we can save our best for No. 12."