Date story was published: Sunday, September 19, 1993
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Perhaps the bus was hijacked on one of those Indiana back roads, the real Kentucky football team replaced with a group of inferior impostors. Or someone put something in the water at that Four Winds Resort and Marina where the team lodged Friday night. Or maybe last week's Florida performance was a fluke. Or maybe Kentucky football is just forever cursed to keep repeating the past.
"This was not us," said a Cat who at least looked exactly like backup quarterback Antonio O'Ferral. "I don't know who was out there today."
Whoever they were, they filled the afternoon with a long list of "weren'ts" yesterday in Memorial Stadium. Weren't ready to play and weren't able to:
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Run the ball.
Throw the ball.
Avoid following up a tough loss with an abysmal one.
Latest example: Indiana 24, Kentucky 8.
"It was pretty obvious we were whipped," said UK Coach Bill Curry. "I really didn't believe anybody could do that to us this year. But I was wrong."
Yes, the host Hoosiers did some serious whipping, holding the inept Kentucky offense to 29 yards and one earned first down -- another came by penalty -- in the first half and just 64 yards through three quarters.
In fact, the Cats came dangerously close to posting their first shutout since 1986. Not until backup quarterback O'Ferral hit backup fullback Michael Woodfork for a 24-yard touchdown pass against the backup Indiana defense with 1:24 remaining did UK crease the scoreboard.
It was a far, far cry from a mere Saturday ago when Curry's club fought seventh-ranked Florida toe to toe to the wire before losing 24-20 in the final three seconds in Commonwealth.
"I really don't know what happened," Curry said. "I felt like our preparation was excellent. I don't know how to explain it."
And instead it was eerily reminiscent of a year ago when, after a 37-36 loss to Mississippi State, the Cats came back and fell flat on their faces, losing lousily 20-7 to Vanderbilt. Only this time, UK had predicted all week there would be no replay.
"It was a lot like that," said tight end Corey Reeves. "I don't want to compare anything to last year. But it seemed like whatever we tried to do they just stopped."
Could that have been because of the left ankle quarterback Pookie Jones sprained Wednesday? The junior made his 21st consecutive start, nonetheless, but was ineffective, losing 51 yards on 13 carries. He was sacked eight times.
"Who can say?" said Curry when asked how much Jones' ankle affected his play. But Indiana knew.
"He grimaced every play, even if he completed a pass," said Lamar Mills, a Hoosier defensive end who had a pair of sacks.
"He had a little bit of a glassy look about him," said Hoosier linebacker Jay Davis, who also had a pair of sacks. "The line was really frustrated they couldn't help him."
Jones, too, was frustrated, saying, "I just felt slower than last week. . . . I don't want to play Thursday (against South Carolina) if I'm like this. It was embarrassing."
The embarrassments began early. On the game's first series, Bill Mallory, IU's normally button-down coach, suddenly turned into a wild-and-crazy guy, going for it on fourth-and-one at his own 29. The gamble failed as Kentucky held. But two plays later, Indiana linebacker Charles Beauchamp sacked Jones for a 10-yard loss. And it didn't get any better.
The Cats went three-plays-and-punt on each of their first five possessions. Asked if the UK players did much on-the-field talking, Mills said, "They really didn't say too much because they were only out there three plays (at a time)." UK didn't make a first down (and that on an IU penalty) until 2:55 was left in the half.
In all, after empty promises of a rhythm passing game, Kentucky threw the football just twice the first half. It ran the ball on its first 10 first-down situations -- though to be fair, two of those runs were actually sacks.
"We didn't want to put pressure on Pookie early by throwing the ball a lot," Curry said.
"We wanted to throw the ball," said coordinator Daryl Dickey. "But there's not a lot you can get going when it's three plays and out."
And yet, the Cats were in the game, at least on the scoreboard, just down 3-0 at the half. "We were definitely in it," said linebacker Marty Moore. "Even when they came out and scored right away, we were still in it."
On IU's first possession of the third quarter, back Michael Batty raced 40 yards, followed by a 39-yard touchdown run from Jermaine Chaney.
Then early in the final period, down 17-0, came Kentucky's crowning blow. A 41-yard pass from Jones to Mark Chatmon set up a second-and-goal from the 1. But the Cats moved before the snap, sending the ball back to the 6. On fourth- and-goal from the 2, Jones was smothered for a two-yard loss.
"We called an identical and Terry (Samuels, the tight end) didn't hear it," Jones said. "We just made too many mental errors."
They just weren't themselves.
But if not, who were they?