Date story was published: Sunday, November 10, 1991
NASHVILLE -- It is a simple truth, but then in football as well as life simple truths are often the best. And yesterday Kentucky's plight was painfully simple. To score, you must possess the football, and rarely did the Wildcats have benefit of the ball.
"We just never could get anything going," said Coach Bill Curry.
Two simple statistics told that story.
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UK time of possession: 18:09.
Vanderbilt time of possession: 41:51.
So it was at Vanderbilt Stadium as running back Corey Harris rambled for 157 yards, and quarterback Marcus Wilson added 107 more and scored both touchdowns, leading the ball-hogging Commodores to a 17-7 win.
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Ahead just 3-0 at halftime, Vanderbilt (5-5) dominated the third quarter with an 11:10 touchdown drive, then punched in an easy score after a Kentucky fumble on the way to its fourth straight victory.
Kentucky fell to 0-5 in the Southeastern Conference and 3-6 overall. But while defense had doomed UK in its previous league losses, yesterday it was the Cats' offense that apparently missed the bus.
UK managed 55 total yards the first three quarters (216 total) to 360 for Vanderbilt. It did not cross midfield until 11:45 remained. It did not score until 37 seconds remained, barely avoiding the school's first blanking since 1984. Worst of all, it held the football just 18:09.
Vandy's I-Bone offense was one reason. The Commodores never broke the big gainer on UK's much-maligned defenders but did tear huge hunks from the clock. Witness that massive 94-yard scoring march that began with 12:21 left in the third quarter and ended with 1:11 remaining.
But whenever UK did get the ball, it was never for long. Eleven plays the first quarter; seven plays the second; six plays the third.
"Vanderbilt's defense was as good as we were poor," Curry said, "and we weren't very good in any part of the game today. But I don't want to take any part of the credit away from Coach (Gerry) DiNardo and the job he's done, and his players."
"I thought our guys showed a lot of character today," DiNardo said. "We had a three-point lead at halftime, and they really came out and took control in the second half. They did a heck of a job."
Jeff Owen's 20-yard field goal as time ran out was the first half's only score only because the Commodores squandered a pair of 72-yard drives. The first ended at the Kentucky 15, where Owen's 33-yard field-goal attempt smacked against the right upright. The second stopped at the UK 5-yard line when fullback Carlos Thomas fumbled and the Cats' Donald Robinson recovered.
"I was really fired up," said nose guard Joey Couch, "because I knew our offense was going to come out and get going, I really did. But it just didn't happen."
On the game's first possession, Kentucky quarterback Pookie Jones was sacked on three consecutive plays. On the next possession, Jones had a 4-yard pass to Neal Clark flutter straight up and come down end-over-end. The next series, dropping back to pass, Jones cocked to throw, only to have the ball slip out of his hand and fall behind him.
"I think he got kind of rattled because he's a freshman quarterback," said Vanderbilt linebacker Shelton Quarles. "But that's what we do to freshman quarterbacks. We would come up to the line of scrimmage and you could see it in his eyes."
Backup Ryan Hockman, who had come off the bench to rally UK past Cincinnati 20-17 last week, entered for one first-half possession. But when the second half opened, Jones was back at quarterback.
"We wanted to give Pookie a chance," Curry said. "Since his injury (a bruised thigh Oct. 26) he has struggled to regain his form, but we didn't want to take him off the field before he'd had a chance to get loose and get his game going."
However, the Cats again went nowhere in the third quarter. On first down from the 24, Carlos Collins gained 5 yards. On second down, Jones threw incomplete to Kurt Johnson. On third down, Jones threw incomplete to Neil Page. Bill Hawk then boomed a 66-yard punt that rolled to the 6-yard line.
There, Vanderbilt started its seemingly monthlong march for the game's first touchdown. Of the 18 plays, two were killers. On third-and-19 from the UK 31, Wilson found Clarence Sevillian for an 18-yard completion. On fourth down, Harris bulled the required 1 yard for the first down.
"It seemed like all day we thought we had them stopped, and they would get the first down by 2 or 3 inches," said linebacker Marty Moore.
The next play, Wilson scored from 5 yards out for a 10-0 lead. After tackle Alan Young blind-sided Jones into fumbling at his own 15 (Quarles recovered), Wilson scored from the 2.
UK's only points came when Hockman and Johnson hooked up for a 28-yard touchdown pass-and-run, ending Vanderbilt's hopes of blanking a Division I-A school for the first time since a 6-0 win over Kentucky in 1968.
"I felt sorry for the defense," said fullback Terry Samuels. "I really thought we could get something going, but we couldn't."
"We didn't stick on our blocks," Curry said. "It looked like we didn't run the ball very hard or well. When we had time to throw we didn't throw. There were other times we didn't protect. Just about everything that could go wrong did."
Was this the worst a Curry offense had played? someone wanted to know.
"Probably," he said.