Date story was published: Friday, September 30, 1994
AUBURN, Ala. -- ESPN's Thursday Night Football last night was a night in which Kentucky either had too many men on the field, or not enough. And it made no difference either way.
It was a night when Auburn stretched the nation's longest win streak to 16 games, ripping Kentucky 41-14 at Jordan-Hare Stadium with a good, but by no means overwhelming, combination of smart, physical, opportunistic football.
Indeed, from their second possession -- a smash-mouth 81-yard, 15-play, all-running-plays-all-the-time drive for a touchdown with 2:09 left in the first quarter -- Terry Bowden's team dominated the scoreboard.
"It was a game where we took control early and never let go," said Bowden.
And from that point on, it was a night in which UK played neither smart nor opportunistic, when the Cats, in falling for the fourth straight game, played as if the house lights were on, but nobody was home.
"Very obviously you can't make that many mistakes against a good football team without getting soundly beaten," said UK Coach Bill Curry afterward. "Those things are certain death."
Things such as:
Facing the SEC's best run defense, allowing a minuscule 1.85 yards per rush -- "We have to keep them off balance," Curry had said during the week -- UK optimistically opened with nine straight running plays. They netted 30 yards.
Already down 21-0 in the second quarter, the Cats picked up a first-and- goal at the Auburn 4-yard line when Moe Williams gained a yard on third- and-one, only to have the play called back because 12 Cats were on the field. Next play, Brian Sivinski missed a 37-yard field goal.
"We sent a unit on the field that was very specific," Curry said. "One of the players of the other unit didn't come out."
Early in the third quarter, the score still 21-0, Auburn downed a punt at the UK 1-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Antonio O'Ferral and fullback Damon Hood miscommunicated on a handoff, causing a fumble, which Auburn recovered at the 2.
"That was my fault," O'Ferral said. "I hesitated at the line, and then I just forgot what the play was."
The Tigers quickly hustled their offense onto the field, and lined up for the next play. Problem was Kentucky's defense was still on the sidelines. The panicked Cats raced onto the field, tried to line up -- with Howard Carter still carrying his helmet in hand as he ran onto the field -- then called a time out before Auburn snapped the ball.
"He was told to go in the game and he simply didn't," said Curry of his defensive end. "Apparently he didn't understand."
No matter. Time back in, fullback Joe Frazier hurdled into the end zone to make it 28-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, even though it was a touchback, UK somehow managed to block an Auburn player in the back, moving the ball back to the 10-yard line. Six plays later, from the 16, O'Ferral, dropping back toward his own goal line, threw a pass/lateral that Williams bobbled and dropped, the ball bouncing into the end zone. UK made little effort to recover the ball.
Neither did Auburn, until defensive tackle Mike Pelton fell on it for a touchdown to make it 35-0 with 8:40 left in the third quarter.
"It's coaching," said Curry of his team's mental miscues. "It's my responsibility. It's my fault, all of it. It's my job to teach them those little things and I have not done that."
Stephen Davis, Auburn's battering ram of a 230-pound tailback, played just the first half, gaining 71 yards on 12 carries. Tiger quarterback Patrick Nix lasted just eight snaps into the second half, hitting 11 of 16 passes for 120 yards. Auburn outgained the Cats 374-261.
"By halftime, with the success of the running game and the defense, we had everything under control," Bowden said. "I was pleased until it got sloppy in the second half, but it was a good win."
And yet, said O'Ferral afterward, "I wouldn't put (Florida and Auburn) in the same breath, that's all I'm going to say."
Though early on, the Tigers looked a bit like the Gators, who pasted UK 73-7. Taking over on their own 19, the home team just went about beating the Cats physically.
Davis popped for 19 yards. Fullback Joe Frazier reeled off 14. Davis made 7 yards, then doubled that with his next carry, taking it to the 28. Frazier burst up the middle for 11. Davis went for 9 more, then 4 more. Frazier picked up 2 yards to the 1. Davis did the honors from there.
Fifteen plays. Fifteen running plays. Ball game.
After that, Auburn's defense accounted directly for three scores. Cornerback Ken Alvis returned an O'Ferral interception 37 yards for a touchdown. The fumble recovery at the 2-yard line led to another score. Pelton's recovery of UK's end-zone lateral was the third.
All this after, in Curry's eyes, his team had taken a step forward last week, despite losing 23-9 at home to South Carolina.
"We're struggling so now," said the coach last night, "it's hard to tell what is a step forward and what is treading water."