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KENTUCKY TAKES 21-0 LEAD BEFORE SPUTTERING IN 2ND HALF

Date story was published: Sunday, September 29, 1991

Thanks to terrific field position, Kentucky built a three-touchdown lead then sputtered to a 24-6 victory over Kent last night.

Craig Walker scored a pair of touchdowns as Kentucky built a commanding 21-0 advantage midway through the second quarter, but the Wildcats were unable to muster any more touchdowns, on a night when the crowd of 56,150 in Commonwealth Stadium only became excited when redshirt freshman quarterback Pookie Jones saw his first action.

In fact, had the winners not enjoyed wonderful field position throughout the night, the Cats (2-1) might have struggled with the Golden Flashes (0-4).

Six different times UK started possession inside Kent territory. The Cats did manage to take advantage of all three first-half opportunities.

Kent gave Kentucky an early gift when punter Mike Benzy managed just a 16- yard kick, starting UK's first drive at the visitors' 46-yard line. It took seven plays for the Wildcats to score. Tailback Damon Hood ripped off runs of 19 and 12 yards before Walker scored from a yard out. Doug Pelfrey's extra point made the score 7-0.

Kentucky started its second drive at the Kent 49. Five plays into the possession, quarterback Brad Smith threw a 5-yard sideline pass to wideout Neal Clark. The senior receiver broke a tackle at the 28 and continued down the left sideline for the score. Pelfrey's extra point made the score 14-0.

UK's third scoring drive began at the Kent 30, thanks to a terrific punt return by Kurt Johnson. The junior fielded the Kent kick at his own 31-yard line, eluded a couple of early would-be Flash tacklers, found a seam, and was finally tripped up after a 39-yard return.

The Cats needed five plays to go the rest of the distance. They did it with Jones at quarterback, the redshirt freshman and ex-Mr. Football making his collegiate debut with 5:38 left in the second quarter.

Jones had a 5-yard run and an 11-yard completion to Troy Hobbs in the drive. The latter took the ball to the Kent 2-yard line, where Walker again handled the honors, waltzing into the end zone around left end. Pelfrey's kick made it 21-0 Wildcats.

UK gave some extra effort trying to keep Kent out of the end zone in the first half, including two pass interference penalties by free safety Brad Armstead on the visitors final drive of the first half. The first penalty, on a third-and-seven from the UK 30, gave Kent a first down at the 25. Two plays later, Flash quarterback Joe Dalpra, who had replaced starter Kevin Shuman, threw a 23-yard pass to Shawn Barnes in the end zone as Armstead again interfered.

No problem. Barnes caught the pass, anyway, for a touchdown. Joey Counch blocked the extra point, however, leaving the score at 21-6.

Kent unsuccessfully tried an on-side kick giving Kentucky possession at its 39. But Doug Pelfrey's 57-yard field goal at the end of the half landed short.

The visitors gave UK yet another golden opportunity early in the second half when Vance Benton fumbled away a punt. Kentucky's Neal Clark recovered at the Kent 12-yard line.

But Kentucky failed to score as Kent's Morrey Norris intercepted a Smith pass.

But four plays later, the Cats were right back at the Kent 12-yard line. Thanks to Johnson, again. This punt return covered 33 yards, but only set up a 25-yard field goal by Pelfrey as again the Wildcat offense stalled.

On a third-and-two from the Kent 4-yard line, tailback Damon Hood was dropped for a three-yard loss.

Next possession, the Wildcats again took possession inside Kent territory. Dalper fumbled trying to pitch the ball to tailback Aaron Kinnebrew. UK's Gary Willis recovered at the Flashes' 33-yard line.

But Kentucky failed to capitalize. On third-and-one at the 24, Hood was stopped for no gain. On fourth-and-one, fullback Dale See was stopped for no gain.

The rest of the night belonged to the Kent offense, which ran plenty of plays, but all without scoring points. The Flashes kept the football for 16 plays, leading to a 37-yard field goal attampt by Mike Jones. But the kick sailed wide right.

After a UK punt, Kent ran 17 plays down to the Kentucky 12-yard line, but a fourth-down pass into the end zone fell incomplete.

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