Date story was published: Sunday, October 20, 1991
In the end, it was a few steps forward, two steps back.
Defense was not Kentucky's downfall yesterday. After two weeks of being pounded like a pancake, it held an opponent under 400 total yards, allowed just two touchdowns, held its own. And it was not enough.
Turnovers were Kentucky's downfall. Turnovers and special teams. Turnovers, special teams and 20 fourth-quarter points as LSU rallied for a 29-26 victory over UK in Commonwealth Stadium.
"We had that game," said Wildcats free safety Brad Armstead, "and we gave it away."
With giveaways. Five times Kentucky made turnovers, none more costly than the fifth. Damon Hood, in the midst of his best game as a collegian, his team up 26-22 with 3:42 remaining, was hit from behind by LSU nose guard Scott Wharton at the home team's 41-yard line. The ball popped loose. Tiger free safety Anthony Marshall plopped on the ball.
Six plays later, with 1:02 left, LSU quarterback Chad Loup found wideout Marcus Carter in the left corner of the end zone, a step in front of Armstead, for the 20-yard touchdown pass, the winning touchdown. UK's last-gasp effort at a last-second victory -- shunning the tie -- ended with a desperation incompletion on the game's final play.
The Cats were also burned by a Todd Kinchen punt return, a 74-yarder for a score to go along with his 14-yard touchdown reception -- both in the final quarter -- as LSU improved to 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the Southeastern Conference. "I'm very happy to win," said Coach Curley Hallman.
Kentucky fell to 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the conference. "We took some steps forward in the consistency of our effort today," said the ever-positive Bill Curry. "I was proud of our enthusiasm under some tough circumstances."
The Cats did stride. The defense that had been rocked for more than 1,000 yards the past two weeks simplified its scheme and allowed just 362 yards, and only two drives of more than 60 yards. Hood, the heralded true freshman tailback, ripped off 87 yards in 14 carries, including a 33-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Pookie Jones threw for 199 yards and ran for 87 more.
But Jones also threw a pair of interceptions and fumbled once. There was Hood's fumble. Even senior wideout Neal Clark -- who made a career-high six receptions -- coughed up the ball inside the LSU 15-yard line on UK's first drive of the third quarter, starting a string of three straight possessions in which the Cats crossed the Tigers' 35 but did not score a touchdown.
"We had chances to put the game out of reach and got nothing," Curry said. "It is an incredibly tough lesson to learn, but football is a game of turnovers and field position. That is exactly what it is."
After Clark's fumble, LSU's Corey Raymond picked off a Jones pass at the Tigers' 20. After a Tigers fumble, UK failed to move, forcing Doug Pelfrey to boot a 50-yard low liner that made it through the goal posts for a 17-9 lead.
"We could have exploded a couple of times there," Jones said. "But we made some mistakes."
So LSU marched 90 yards for its first touchdown: the 14-yard pass to Kinchen. Armstead intercepted the Tigers' two-point try, keeping UK ahead 17-15.
Some weirdness brought the count to 19-15. Raymond made his second interception, picking off a Jones pass near the 5-yard line, then retreating into the end zone and coming back out again. In the meantime, Marshall clipped Kurt Johnson on the return. In the end zone. Result: automatic safety, giving UK two points and possession.
But forced to punt, Bill Hawk booted a 37-yarder that Kinchen fielded at his 24. And was gone. "It was a fairly easy return," said Kinchen. "I think we caught them off-guard."
"We had a person get out of his lane," said Curry.
Not that UK hung its heads. It drove 81 yards in eight plays to regain the lead. Hood went 33 yards for the score, making it 26-22 with 7:14 remaining. Four minutes later the Cats had the ball back and appeared headed for their first league win. Until the fifth turnover.
"I got hit from behind but that's no excuse," said Hood. "That shouldn't have caused the fumble. That was all my fault."
Not so, said both coaches. Curry said the miscue should not have distracted from a day where Hood "demonstrated what kind of player he's going to be." Said Hallman, "On the fumble, I thought I saw a great lick."
Followed by what turned out to be the winning touchdown. "We were in a blitz coverage with the secondary man-to-man," said Armstead of LSU's winning 20-yard touchdown pass. "They ran a corner route, which is one of the hardest routes to cover in man. But he just beat me."
"It was man coverage so I knew where to go," said Loup, "and he made the catch."
Starting at its 26, UK moved to the LSU 37-yard line, where Jones was forced to spike the football to stop the clock with six ticks remaining. Instead of summoning Pelfrey for a 54-yard attempt to tie, Curry went for the hail-Mary pass and the win. "I didn't come here to teach people how to tie," he said.
Jones' pass into an awaiting crowd fell incomplete near the goal-line.
"Really, a loss at all is painful," said Armstead. "But today was a lot more painful. We had the game and we gave it away. I don't think we're going to let it happen again."