Date story was published: Sunday, November 20, 1994
KNOXVILLE -- After the off-the-field distractions and on-the-field ineptitude, the batterings and the blowouts, all the record-setting impotency of this utterly forgettable season -- if only it could forget -- Kentucky finished with a final act of football futility.
Holding the Cats' throwback Stack-I offense to just 60 yards the first half and a season-low 162 for the afternoon, Tennessee, ranked ninth in the SEC defensively, closed Kentucky's season from hell with a 52-0 blanking yesterday at Neyland Stadium.
James "Little Man" Stewart rambled for 143 yards, Aaron Hayden added 73 and two touchdowns. Freshman quarterback Peyton Manning threw for two more scores as the Volunteers easily retained the traditional Beer Barrel, winning for the 10th straight year.
But then this was a game of 10s. It was UK's 10th straight SEC loss and 10th straight defeat overall. Even in this long, hard season, not one of those defeats had included the disgrace of a goose egg, however. In fact, UT's 48-0 shellacking of Bill Curry's Cats in last year's season finale was the last time Kentucky had failed to dent the scoreboard. Even in its most distressing defeats, the Cats were at least good for their usual late, lone touchdown. Until yesterday.
"Tennessee dominated every aspect of our team," said Curry, who then proceeded to set possibly another record by spending the rest of his post-game news conference talking about everything but the game, saying, "It's never as dismal as it appears," before proclaiming, "I will be here next year."
But this was definitively dismal. Until its final drive, Daryl Dickey's offense could only wave to the end zone in the distance, never drawing closer than the UT 46. Heading into the fourth quarter, the number of UK quarterbacks who had seen action (4) doubled the number of UK pass completions (2).
"We just couldn't get anything going," said starter Jeff Speedy, who on the day threw one incompletion, one interception and completed one pass for 2 yards. Antonio O'Ferral, the second QB to try his luck, did not throw a pass. Third-stringer Matt Hobbie put up stats (1-for-3 with one interception) identical to Speedy's, except his completion covered 15 yards.
Fourth-stringer Billy Jack Haskins, who entered the game late in the third quarter with UK trailing 45-0, completed five of 11 passes for 55 yards. But after driving the Cats to the Tennessee 16-yard line with 2:31 remaining, the redshirt freshman's 12th hurl went directly to UT defensive tackle Billy Beron, killing the Cats' only threat.
Tennessee, meanwhile, not only threatened all day, but made good on those threats. The Vols rolled up 471 yards, including 336 on the ground. The first half alone, UT outgained the Cats 227-60. The Vols rushed for more yards in the first half (164) than Kentucky gained the entire game.
Not that this was any surprise, of course. Of all UK's inadequacies this season -- and there have been plenty from which to choose -- an inability to stop the run has topped the laundry list. And Tennessee boasted one of the SEC's more experienced and talented offensive lines, with five starters returning from the year before.
So the inevitable began when, on its first possession, the Big Orange drove 70 yards in 15 plays for a 7-0 lead, Hayden scoring from a yard out. After a John Becksvoort 40-yard field goal made it 10-0, the Vols benefited from terrific field position, set up by a defense that continually stopped the stalled Cat attack.
Taking over at its 49, UT took nine plays to make it 17-0. Taking over at the 50, the Vols needed six plays for a 24-0 lead at halftime. "I thought we played hard the first half until they got that last touchdown," said Mike Archer, UK's defensive coordinator. "Then you could sense a letdown."
Tennessee had the football three times the third quarter. It scored touchdowns all three times. A 71-yard drive, directed by Manning, produced the first. A 39-yard march, set up by middle linebacker Craig King's interception, accounted for the second. A near carbon-copy 39-yard drive, directed by backup Branndon Stewart, manufactured the third, putting the Vols up 45-0.
"It's very pleasing when you come out and run the ball like we did today," said UT guard Kevin Mays.
"I'm really proud of this football team, in the continued improvement they have made," said UT Coach Phillip Fulmer of his now 6-4 squad. "They play hard. We practice very well. It is paying off for them as we go along."
For Kentucky, meanwhile, this long, long, long season is finally over, the Cats winding up 1-10 overall, 0-8 in the SEC.
Afterward, Curry said that a friend had called him and said, "Do you enjoy walking on piano wire across the Grand Canyon?"
Answered Curry, "I have fallen all the way to the bottom so many times and scrambled back up the side, that is a habit. So I know what to do. I would have thought by now that it would certainly be done and certainly we would not perform this way in our fifth year. I would have predicted very strongly that it was impossible, but it happened, and we have to face it."