Date story was published: Sunday, November 15, 1992
CINCINNATI -- It's a thick book, hard-bound with a cracked spine. Its pages are yellow and worn; smudges and terse notes line the margins. It's been around awhile, maybe as long as Kentucky has played football. And it's no easy read.
"For us," Bill Curry said yesterday, "this was yet another chapter in a very frustrating time."
Put another passage in print in UK's ever-expanding Book of Football Frustration. On a raw, snowy Cincinnati day, the cursed Cats moved the ball up and down the slippery surface that was Nippert Stadium, yet found a way to turn over a 17-13 victory to the host Bearcats.
Make that five ways, in the form of five Kentucky turnovers. Four times the visitors lost the ball on fumbles, another time on an interception, negating an offensive show that produced 450 yards and moved the ball inside the Cincinnati 25-yard line nine times.
But only three of those nine trips produced points -- a 77-yard Pookie Jones-to-Tim Calvert touchdown pass and two Doug Pelfrey field goals. Three fumbles, an interception and two missed field goals turned the other golden opportunities into six pieces of lead.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, navigated the tricky conditions without a slip. Subbing for injured star David Small, freshman tailback Craedel Kimbrough rushed for 187 yards and a touchdown. Backup Darrell Harding added 80 yards and another score. All with no fumbles, no interceptions.
"That was the obvious difference in the game," Curry said. "If you play in conditions like that, and squeeze the ball, and run as hard as they ran, and run through us when we know they're going to run the ball, then you deserve to win."
Cincinnati did, improving to 3-7. Kentucky lost its fourth straight, falling to 4-6 and thus assuring its third straight losing season.
Yet in a season of puzzles, this loss was as hard as any to figure. Inept last week, UK yesterday moved inside Cincinnati territory on all 11 drives after its first, including all six in the second half. Yet it scored 13 points. Cat runners, meanwhile, had toted 237 consecutive carries without losing a fumble. Then came yesterday's outbreak.
"I don't really have an explanation for it," said fullback Terry Samuels, who lost the ball twice. "There's no excuse for turning the ball over that many times."
Was it Cincinnati's hitting or stripping? Was it merely bad UK ball handling? "It was everything," Curry said. "And as you know we are fanatical about those things, and it's particularly embarrassing to be beaten that way."
Enough ways to fill a book:
First play of the second quarter, Kentucky ahead 3-0, Craig Walker rips off a 14-yard gain, only to have the ball pop loose at the UC 44. The Bearcats' Reginald Hudson recovers.
Next drive, UK trailing 7-3, Jones hits Calvert with a 34-yard pass to the Bearcat 33. Three snaps later, UK has first-and-goal at the 6. But Samuels coughs the ball up at the 4. Cincy's Scott Brown recovers.
Third quarter, UK losing 7-6, UC linebacker Jason Coppess picks off a poor Jones' throw at the Bearcat 15.
After a 77-yard TD bomb from Jones to Calvert gives the Cats a 13-7 lead, UK's Kurt Johnson makes a diving 25-yard catch at the 2-yard line. But the usually reliable Pelfrey pushes a chip-shot 19-yard field goal wide right.
Next possession, Jones scampers 42 yards on a keeper to the Bearcat 22. But two plays later, Samuels turns it over, again, this time at the Cincinnati 19.
The Bearcats ride the momentum 81 yards to the opposite end zone. Kimbrough breaks a 35-yard run to the 5, then scores untouched from there for a 14-13 UC lead.
Again Kentucky drives, marching to the Cincinnati 25. On comes Pelfrey. This time he slices a 42-yarder wide right. UC promptly moves to the UK 6, where Brian Whitlow kicks a 23-yard field goal for a 17-13 lead.
Last chance. Only 4:45 left. Jones finds Johnson for a 29-yard gain to the Cincinnati 32. Walker takes a screen pass to the 27. Damon Hood cranks up the middle to the 24. He then goes up the middle again, to the 23.
Only, once again, the ball pops loose. UC's Robert Garnett recovers.
"It was an even game," said Tim Murphy, the winning coach, "except for the turnovers."
UK might differ. Coming off a rough and controversial performance last week, Pookie Jones threw for 280 yards and rushed for 56 more. ("Pookie was very sharp," Curry said. "He is essentially always pretty sharp when he is protected.") Calvert caught three balls for a staggering 130 yards.
And yet Pelfrey, who had beaten Cincinnati with a 53-yard field goal at game's end last season, suffered through perhaps his worst day as a collegian.
"I hit all of them solid," said the senior, who has been bothered by a groin pull. "Each had a good snap and a good hold. There was nothing wrong with the footing. I just pushed them both right. . . . It tells me I'm human."
But how many more chapters can these humans take?
"It just seems like as the season goes on," Jones said, "there's so many games we shouldn't lose, but we do."