Date story was published: Sunday, November 21, 1993
It is still Peach Bowl bound, but that Big Blue canoe is one leaky vessel.
Tennessee, ranked No. 7 with a bullet, delivered the biggest blow yesterday, ruining UK's regular-season finale. Heath Shuler threw for 221 yards and three touchdowns. Charlie Garner rushed for 186 yards and one score. And the Volunteer defense handed post-season-bound Kentucky its worst loss in 72 seasons yesterday as UT destroyed the Cats 48-0 at Commonwealth Stadium.
"It was embarrassing," said UK center Wes Jackson.
"A hell of a way to go out," said tight end Terry Samuels.
"It's just hard to explain," said quarterback Pookie Jones.
It was Kentucky's most lopsided loss since Centre College blanked the Cats 55-0 in 1921. It was the first time UK had been held scoreless since the 1985 Vols beat UK 42-0.
As for the '93 Vols, kept from the SEC Championship Game by an early-season loss to Florida, kept from the traditional big-shot bowl games by their conference's deal-making with lesser affairs, they continue their statement making. Counting yesterday, UT (8-1-1 overall, 5-1-1 SEC) has outscored its last three foes by a combined count of 148-13.
"This Tennessee team is one of the best teams I've seen in a long time, anywhere," said UK Coach Bill Curry. "It's certainly the best Tennessee team I've coached against and this is my 14th year of facing them."
As for Kentucky, it was not the way to end a season, not a winning (regular) season, not a bowl season. At 6-5 and 4-4, UK remains the choice of the Peach Bowl, executive director Robert Dale Morgan confirmed yesterday, though an official invitation is not expected before early this week. But to be blown out is not the way to go out.
"They're embarrassed," Curry said of his team. "We're a much better football team than we showed tonight."
Or the last three weeks. Since leading 23-3 at halftime at Mississippi State on Oct. 27, UK has held on to beat the Bulldogs 26-17, has lost to Vanderbilt 12-7, has struggled to top East Carolina 6-3, and, finally, has been routed by Tennessee.
"We were just badly beaten by a terrific football team," Curry said. "That's your story."
"The offense, defense and kicking game got it done," said Tennessee Coach Phil Fulmer.
First possession, the Vols drove 81 yards in 10 plays with Shuler hitting Cory Fleming for an 8-yard score. Tennessee 7-0.
Early second quarter, the Vols drove 59 yards in six plays for a 35-yard field goal from John Becksvoort. Tennessee 10-0.
Late second quarter, the Vols marched 55 yards with Garner scoring from 6 yards out. Tennessee, 17-0.
It only got worse in the second half. Shuler threw 19 yards to Fleming to make it 24-0, later burned a Cat blitz with a 23-yard pass to Jeff Kent to make it 34-0. Even backup quarterback Jerry Colquitt got in on the act, tossing a 70-yard touchdown pass, again to Kent, to make it 41-0.
"We just stunk it up," said UK defensive coordinator Mike Archer, whose unit entered the game 10th in the nation in scoring defense. "We lost our poise on the no-huddle and we've seen that all year. We didn't tackle well. The thing that disturbed me at halftime was that we just weren't attacking people the way we had all year. We've played reckless, and we weren't reckless at any time."
What about Tennessee, which piled up 571 yards of offense? What of Shuler, who completed 23 of 34 passes? What of Garner, who had runs of 29, 24, 18, 17, 16, 12 and 11 yards?
"They're as good as everybody says they are," Archer said. "No question they're one of the top five teams in the country."
Meanwhile, the Kentucky offense continued its monthlong, season-ending slump. Six first-half possessions -- not counting when UK ran two plays just before halftime -- ended with six punts. The Cats did open the second half with a drive to the Tennessee 23-yard line, but Nicky Nickels missed a 40-yard field goal. Moe Williams fumbled away the football on UK's next possession.
Kentucky did take the football to a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter. But on fourth-and-goal at the 3, Tennessee defensive tackle Paul Yatkowski intercepted Jones' pass intended for Alfonzo Browning.
In its last 14 quarters, Kentucky has managed just one touchdown and 16 points.
"Teams seem to be overloading the option on us," said Jones.
"They're not respecting our inside running game," said Williams, who was held to 31 yards on 10 carries.
"I think had we not been so tentative in the early going, we could have made a better showing," Curry said. "But Tennessee just whipped us."