Date story was published: Sunday, November 22, 1992
KNOXVILLE -- As Kentucky put the finishing touches on a forgettable season, Tennessee made a memory yesterday at Neyland Stadium.
Fueled by the will to send out their soon-to-be former leader with a major triumph, host Tennessee rolled up 534 yards total offense and mashed Kentucky 34-13 in Johnny Majors' final home game as the UT head coach.
"I thought this was a superb victory," Majors said.
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The Vols ripped open the soft middle of Kentucky's defense for 353 yards rushing. Tailback Charlie Garner barreled for 138 yards on 21 carries. Backup fullback Mose Phillips, starting for the injured Mario Brunson, added 84 yards.
"They just blocked the daylights out of us," UK Coach Bill Curry said.
The Vols scored four of the first five times they owned the football. They led 24-7 at the half and had a dozen runs of double-digit yardage.
"They just beat us physically," UK strike Dean Wells said.
And if ever one play typified a game it came in the second quarter. Down 17-0, Kentucky had just scored, cutting the lead to 10 points. The Volunteers had moved to the UK 35-yard line, but were hit with both a holding penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct foul on the same play. That made it first-and-35 from the Tennessee 40.
But quarterback Heath Shuler hit tailback James "Littleman" Stewart with a screen pass, and the sophomore simply rumbled 60 yards for the touchdown.
"It was an extremely well-played football game by our fine group of young Volunteers," Majors said. "We had excellent leadership by our seniors that have meant so much to this program. There were so many exciting moments and so many exciting victories with their leadership and they went out at home in winning style. That's very fitting."
Despite the circumstances -- the $600,000 buyout he accepted last week to give up his job at season's end -- Majors went out in fitting fashion, beating Kentucky for the eighth straight time. The Vols, apparently headed to the Hall of Fame Bowl, improved to 7-3 going into next week's season finale at Vanderbilt.
Kentucky ended its campaign 4-7, losing its final five games. Curry is 11-22 in three years as the UK coach. In his three years at Alabama, Curry was 26-10. "It was a very frustrating season," said quarterback Pookie Jones, who saw his season end after a knee sprain in the second quarter.
And yet the Cat offense did move the football, compiling 416 yards. Wingback Matt Riazzi rushed for 109 yards on just nine carries, including a 51-yard run. Backup quarterback Antonio O'Ferral rushed for 75 yards, including a 34-yard dash.
"We feel confident we can move the ball on anybody," Riazzi said.
But amid speculation of a possible staff shakeup on the defensive side of the ball, Kentucky could do nothing with the Big Orange offense.
"They were soft up the middle," Tennessee tackle Mike Stowell said. "We were able to do the same thing a lot of teams have done against them, but we were probably able to do it little better."
"Yeah, we got blocked," linebacker Marty Moore said. "But the huge plays that they got weren't because they blocked us. We were coming after them. That was Coach (Larry) New's philosophy this week. It just so happened that every time we'd be in a blitz, they'd run that draw and it'd go 50 yards. We weren't playing it, and it was wide open."
On the fourth play from scrimmage, Phillips exploded up the middle for 34 yards to the Kentucky 12. Five plays later, quarterback Shuler scored from 4 yards out. Tennessee 7-0.
Second UT series, Shuler hit sophomore wideout Ronald Davis with a 39-yard completion to the Kentucky 2. Garner scored from there. Tennessee 14-0.
"When I came out for the kickoff I looked up at the scoreboard and thought, damn it's already 14-0," Riazzi said. "You got to keep that out of your mind. But it's hard."
Third UT series, Phillips blazed a trail up the middle again, this time for 39 yards to the Kentucky 21. The Vols sputtered, but John Becksvoort kicked a 32-yard field goal. Tennessee 17-0.
After a Vol punt came the killer fifth series and Stewart's screen catch and touchdown run. The Vols gained 374 yards in the first half alone, 222 in the first quarter.
Kentucky's lone score of the first half was engineered by O'Ferral, who took an option keeper 34 yards to the Tennessee 8. And even after a personal foul penalty on the next play moved the ball back to the 18, O'Ferral hit Alfonzo Browning with a 14-yard, third-down pass to the 3. On fourth-and-goal, O'Ferral dived in for the touchdown.
UK started the second half with Riazzi's 51-yard run to the Volunteer 27. But the next play, Tennessee's DeRon Jenkins intercepted a poor O'Ferral throw.
Even when UK cut the lead to 27-13, Tennessee marched right back 58 yards with Shuler scoring on a 13-yard run.
"We had our opportunities," Curry said.
For Tennessee, it was the opportunity to send Majors off with a bittersweet farewell. The leaving is bitter, but no doubt the victory was sweet.
"My emotions are hard to describe," he said afterward. "I ran through the 'T' like I always do."
For the final time.