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WILDCATS DRIVE OUT OF ROAD SKID 27-25

Date story was published: Sunday, October 18, 1992

BATON ROUGE, La. -- For the gorilla to die, Kentucky needed 6:17. Not a second more. Not a second less. Beat the clock and beat the jinx. Hand-in-hand. Simple as that.

As it turned out, the Wildcats did just that, thank you, finding the antidote for their well-documented travel woes in a suddenly spectacular clutch offense that outlasted host LSU 27-25 last night at Tiger Stadium, snapping a 13-game road losing streak.

Coach Bill Curry's much-maligned offense scored on each of its first three second-half possessions, owned the football for a stunning 40:56 on the night, did not commit a single turnover and was successful on 12 of 19 third-down conversions -- a healthy 63.2 percent for a team that entered the game with an SEC-low 23 percent in that category.

And yet UK's best possession may have been the one in which it did not score. After the host Tigers had chopped the lead to 2 points with 6:17 left, the Cats used 14 bruising plays to run out the clock -- and shake the growing gorilla from its aching back.

"We've told our team that there comes a time when everybody in America knows, when your grandmother knows you have to run the football, you just have to do it," Curry said. "And that's what we did."

The Cats had not escaped victorious from a foreign venue since a 15-11 win over Vanderbilt in 1989. Now, they sit 2-2 in the SEC East and 4-2 overall.

LSU, meanwhile, saw its losing streak stretch to five games for the first time since 1956. Curley Hallman's club fell to 1-6 overall and 1-4 in the SEC.

"This was a very, very disappointing ball game for this team," Hallman said. "We put ourselves in a position to win it once again, and we fell short."

Mainly because UK's offense rose to the occasion with an A-plus performance. "We used fear," Curry said. "They didn't even have a choice. We told them that if they couldn't do it, we would put people in there that could. We told 'em that every day for the past two weeks. It was a simple incentive plan."

It worked. UK gained 244 yards on the ground. Craig Walker picked up 73 on 11 carries. "Our backs were just running through tacklers," Curry said. "I thought they were all terrific."

And if quarterback Pookie Jones did not match the numbers of LSU quarterback Jamie Howard -- Jones was 12-of-20 for 105 yards; Howard was 16- of-23 for 218 yards -- he made several key plays.

"We used some different formations tonight," he said. "And I think that did keep them off balance some."

And, of course, there was that final 6:17. But first, some background:

Starting a trend, the Cats scored on their first possession of the game, marching 59 yards for a 7-0 lead thanks to a 3-yard run by Jones. Then after rover Sterling Ward picked off a tipped pass, Doug Pelfrey booted a 24-yard field goal for a 10-0 Cat advantage, 3:34 before the end of the first quarter.

LSU fought back, as Howard peppered the Bayou with air strikes. His 33- yard bomb to Wesley Jacob cut the score to 10-7 just before the end of the first quarter. Then Pedro Suarez's 27-yard field goal tied matters at 10-10. It would remain so at intermission.

Then UK's Mark Chatmon returned the second-half kickoff 48 yards to the Tigers' 49. Eleven plays later, fullback Terry Samuels bulled in from 2 yards out for a 17-10 Kentucky lead.

Again, LSU tied it. On fourth-and-one from the UK 30, true freshman fullback Robert Toomer slid around left end and motored 30 yards for a touchdown. It was 17-17 with 5:18 left in the third.

No problem. The Cats simply marched 81 yards in 12 plays, this time with Damon Hood finding the end zone from 2 yards out. It was 24-17. Then when a 40-yard march ended with Pelfrey drilling a 52-yard field goal -- the seventh field goal of 50 or more yards for the senior -- the Cats were leading 27-17 with 7:54 left in the game.

It would not end that way. Can't expect to end a jinx that easy. The Tigers promptly tore down the field behind the calm Howard, who hit passes of 8, 23, 20 and 5 yards. Germaine Williams ran it in from the 1. Then Toomer ran in for the 2 points, and it was 27-25 with 6:17 left.

"We knew what we had to do," Curry said. "We had to run out the clock."

"Really there was nothing said in the huddle," said Jones about the Cats' start at the 20 on the next possession. "We came out and had a bad play that first play and the crowd was really getting into it. It was really loud. But we really kept our poise."

And how. Starting with a third-and-eight from the 22, Jones hit Kurt Johnson for 10 yards and a first down at the 32.

"I thought they were going to give (one kind) of coverage," Jones said, "then they rolled into another and he was wide open."

Two plays later, it was third-and-one from the UK 41. No problem. Walker bulled ahead for six tough yards.

"Every third down I was ready to run out on the field," LSU's Howard said. "But it just didn't work out."

Finally, with about 2 minutes remaining, Kentucky faced a third-and-two from LSU's 33. And again it faced the Tigers down, this time Samuels picking up four yards. First down. Ball game.

From there, Jones took a knee to run out the clock.

"Yes, if you had to quantify these things, I would say it is," said Curry when asked if this was his biggest win in his 28 games at Kentucky.

Certainly the biggest 6:17.

Said Jones, "It's a great, great feeling."

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