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TAILBACK'S 272 YARDS HELP UK ROLL 33-14

Date story was published: Sunday, November 12, 1995

Two weeks back, a visitor bumped into an NFL scout in the press box during halftime of the Kentucky-Mississippi State clash in beautiful downtown Starkville.

"So what do you think of Kentucky?" asked the visitor during the course of the conversation.

"I'd hate to see them without Moe," said the scout.

Perish the thought.

Just 25,231 (the smallest crowd in the facility's history) braved the bitter cold and the piercing wind yesterday at Commonwealth Stadium, but the die-hards were rewarded with the sight of perhaps the best running back in Kentucky football history strutting his superior stuff. One more time.

Yes, through the losing streak and the coaching speculation and the will Moe-go-pro, Moe is still the man. And Moe Williams, Kentucky's junior tailback, ripped through the elements -- "It was freezing," he said afterward -- and the bad vibes for an astounding 272 yards and three touchdowns as an embattled Kentucky dominated visiting Cincinnati 33-14.

Williams scored on runs of 37, 2 and 2 yards. His 25-yard ramble set up one score; his 46-yard dash set up another. He gained 71 yards the first quarter, 81 the second, 32 the third and 88 in the final frame on the way to the second-best rushing day in school history -- trailing only his own 299- yard extravaganza Sept. 23 at South Carolina.

"Moe," UC Coach Rick Minter said, "is a fantastic back and should be an All-American."

And it was Minter who, when asked earlier in the week what worried him most about Kentucky, said, "We can't let Moe pull one of those South Carolina games on us."

Sorry, coach, for not only did Williams pull another gold-medal performance, he also pulled the Cats from the doldrums of a three-game losing streak that had dropped UK's record to 3-6 and its coach into that proverbial hot seat.

"I knew when we came out of the locker room today we were going to win this game," Williams said. "This is the way we should have played all year."

Others were not so sure, however. After last week's 14-10 loss at winless Vanderbilt, the SEC Wildcats found themselves a three-point underdog to the Conference-USA (next year) Bearcats, who hit town riding a four-game win streak.

And when the Cats failed to cash in on an early Lamont Smith interception -- Brian Sivinski missing a 29-yard field goal -- did the home team foresee more of the same?

Not with Moe, anyway. Third possession, ball at the UC 37, Williams took a handoff, popped up the middle, got an excellent block from true freshman wide receiver Kevin Coleman -- "I just ran right off his butt," Williams said -- and streaked into the end zone. Suddenly, Commonwealth grew a little warmer.

"It's definitely fun watching Moe run," senior tackle Barry Jones said.

The fun didn't stop there. Before the pain in his separated left shoulder forced his exit, quarterback Billy Jack Haskins found Coleman with a 33-yard scoring strike to make it 12-0. Then a tackle-busting 25-yard run by Williams set up his own 2-yard score to make it 19-0 Cats at the half.

Cincinnati tried to make a game of it the second half, driving 62 yards early in the fourth quarter for its first score. Tailback Orlando Smith found the end zone from 2 yards out, making it 19-7 with 11:53 left in the game.

But there was just too much Moe. With 8:40 left, Williams took a Jeff Speedy handoff and barreled around right end for 46 yards to the Bearcat 23.

Next play, the UC safeties, expecting more Moe, tiptoed up to the line of scrimmage. "So we checked off," said Speedy, who changed the called play. "We figured we could get Kevin behind them."

He was right. Coleman, a true freshman from Niceville, Fla., playing in just his second game, got the step, and Speedy lofted a floater that settled into the rookie's arms in the back of the end zone with 8:23 left. Ball game.

"The key to the game today No. 1 was zero turnovers," said Coach Bill Curry, who has felt the heat since last week's fifth straight loss to Vandy. "When you don't turn the ball over and you get it four times, you really should win regardless of what happens.

"And the second thing is we played physical football, Wildcat football, the way we had not played in several weeks."

Indeed, Curry's club outgained the Bearcats 466-237. It intercepted four UC passes, with safety Leman Boyd picking off two. It had fun.

"We can't get those last three games back," linebacker Mike Schellenberger said. "But this does ease the pain a little bit."

Best of all, for a little while longer at least, the Cats still have Moe.

"He is an exceptional back," said UC safety Sam Garnes.

Yeah, they know.

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