Date story was published: Sunday, October 1, 1995
The Southeastern Conference found an antidote for Kentucky's two-week case of winning football. Auburn was the antidote.
Still smarting from a loss at LSU their last time out, and with two weeks to prepare, Terry Bowden's Tigers hit Commonwealth Stadium with a scoreboard show last night that not only knocked off the host Cats 42-21, but wiped the smile from Bill Curry's face.
"I am bitterly disappointed in that performance," the UK coach said afterward through gritted teeth, his career mark now 0-12 versus the Plainsmen. "That is not the football team that we have been. What it would have been like had we played alertly, had we been sharp, had we tackled, had we played our coverages, I suppose we'll never find out. It's a crying shame we never gave ourselves a chance."
Moe Williams turned in another stellar effort, gaining 164 yards and scoring two touchdowns, even though UK dipped to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in the SEC.
But to most of the 58,250 in attendance, it appeared it was Auburn that did not give the Cats a chance, playing like the Auburn that Sports Illustrated picked in the pre-season as the second best team in the country.
Tiger quarterback Patrick Nix threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns in just three quarters -- part of a performance in which he engineered five touchdowns in five first-half possessions as Auburn cruised to a 35-7 intermission lead.
Indeed, the Tigers were a sharp, focused offensive machine the first 30 minutes, compiling a whopping 352 total yards, and ending up with 584 for the game in improving to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC.
"Everything worked, and when we did make a mistake, we came back," Bowden said.
Did they ever. In a 12-6 loss at LSU two weeks back, the timid Tigers managed just 274 yards total offense and zero touchdowns. So Bowden said he took his team's off week last week to work on his team.
"I feel like we've got a good plan for Auburn," he said Monday. "Now we've got to get a plan for Kentucky."
Apparently they did. With Nix at the helm, the Tigers were unstoppable the first half, constantly converting third-and-long situations. (They were 9-for- 13 on third downs for the game.)
"It was frustrating," UK defensive end Chris Ward said. "We'd get them where we wanted them, third-and-long, and then they would make the play. We just weren't doing what we were supposed to be doing."
True, the Cats did help the visitors along a bit, especially with mistakes in the kicking game, starting with punter Jimmy Carter setting up Auburn's first score.
The redshirt freshman dropped a wide snap and then recovered it, but on his 49-yard line. It took Auburn five plays to draw first blood. After a textbook play fake, Nix found tight end Andy Fuller alone on the right sideline for a 36-yard TD. Auburn 7-0.
Second possession, the Tigers went 74 yards in 11 plays. UK actually had a chance to stop the march on the seventh play, when wide receiver Tyreece Williams fell down and Nix's pass sailed into the end zone toward a backpedaling Leman Boyd. But the Cat strong safety could not keep his balance long enough to make the interception. "What is there to say?" said Curry. "You've got to catch that."
Four plays later, fullback Fred Beasley scored from 6 yards out. Auburn 14-0.
When Auburn increased the margin to 21-0, UK finally got on the board. Moe Williams scored from 6 yards out, cutting the Tiger lead to 21-7 with 10:53 left in the second quarter.
It took Auburn just 24 seconds to answer back, however. Taking over at the 19, Beasley burst down the middle of the field for a 37-yard romp. Then Nix hit a wide-open Robert Baker down the left sideline for a 44-yard touchdown. Tigers 28-7 with 10:29 left.
UK's Kio Sanford helped the visitors increase the margin to 35-7 just 32 ticks before halftime, by fumbling away a Matt Hawkins punt at his own 20. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, Bowden inserted backup quarterback Dameyune Craig, who took the shotgun snap and scored on a sweep around the right side.
Nix was 10-of-16 for 191 yards in the first half. Beasley, usually second fiddle to former Heisman hopeful Stephen Davis in the Tiger rushing attack, had 60 yards on just seven carries. And Auburn was basically home free.
Oh, Kentucky did play a bit better the second half. Mike Schlegel blocked a 47-yard Auburn field goal and the Cats turned that into a score when quarterback Billy Jack Haskins hit an open Marcus Cross for a 3-yard touchdown.
But Bowden's boys put to bed any hopes of a stunning comeback the next series, a 74-yard march. Davis scored from 2 yards out, making it 42-14 with 2:44 left in the third quarter.
"This is unacceptable," Curry said. "It's not a couple of weeks and everybody rah-rahs and flips out and forgets how to play."
Or did Auburn just remember how to play?