Date story was published: Sunday, September 22, 1991
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Blame it on the little things: the missed interception, the key third-down pass, the late hit in the end zone, the bungled two-minute drill. "Little gifts," the head coach called them.
Or blame it on this: "We've got to learn how to handle prosperity," said Joey Couch, "not just adversity."
The team that could not win on the road came to Memorial Stadium and held a potent offense scoreless for 50 minutes, made a wonderful goal-line stand, marched 99 3/4 yards for a touchdown, kicked a go-ahead field goal from nearby Seymour, and still lost.
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Indiana 13, Kentucky 10.
"We gave a tremendous effort," said Kentucky Coach Bill Curry, "but the next lesson is how to finish the job."
Doug Pelfrey's booming, school-record 53-yard field goal put Kentucky ahead 10-7 with 6:25 remaining. But Indiana responded with a 77-yard, 11-play drive to victory, tailback Vaughn Dunbar hurdling into the end zone from a yard out with 1:52 left.
"I'm not going to tell you we played well, because we didn't," said Hoosier Coach Bill Mallory. "But we played well when we had to."
Dunbar, IU's hotshot tailback, did gain 147 yards on a whopping 39 carries. But he did not destroy the Cats' defense. "He got his yards," Couch said, "but I don't think he killed us in any area."
In fact, the first half ended scoreless and Indiana's best march of the game -- 72 yards, 16 plays -- ended without points, thanks to a terrific third-quarter goal-line stand in which Kentucky twice stopped IU from a yard out.
"That (fourth) down," said senior defensive tackle Jerry Bell, "there was the most emotion and excitement I've been a part of in my five years at UK."
It paid off. Dunbar tried an airlift over the top. Arms slowed him underneath, cornerback Don Robinson made the hit from above. "You have to give the credit to the down linemen," Curry said. "That was just great effort."
As there was on the ensuing drive. From its own 1-foot line, UK marched 17 plays and six first downs to the IU 13-yard line. There tailback Donnie Redd broke the grasp of Hoosiers linebacker Mark Hagen at the line of scrimmage, bowled over cornerback Mike Middleton at the end zone for the TD, then collapsed on the way back to the sideline.
Redd popped the quadriceps in his left leg. The redshirt freshman had the same problem in his right leg last year.
"I'm just sick that we've lost him again," Curry said.
Only now UK had the lead, 7-0 with 13:09 left, the game's first advantage. An advantage that lasted less than three minutes.
At the UK 42, Indiana quarterback Trent Green uncorked a deep floater to the middle of the 10-yard line, where Cats corner Adrian Sherwood appeared ready to intercept. "I thought I had it," Sherwood said, "until he stepped in front of me."
He being IU flanker Eddie Thomas, the Fort Knox product and Indiana senior. Thomas grabbed the pass in front of the startled Sherwood and scored, tying it at 7-7 with 10:43 left.
"We had two guys right there," said Curry of Sherwood and linebacker Reggie Smith. "All we've got to do is catch it."
But again UK responded to the adversity, Pelfrey drilling his 53-yard kick. "I had to see it to believe it," the junior said. "But I knew that I had it as well as I could have."
It was 10-7 UK with 6:25 left, plenty of time for the Hoosiers, thanks to a key third-down completion.
On a third-and-eight from the Hoosiers' 38, Green hit wideout Thomas Lewis just in front of free safety Brad Armstead with a letter-perfect 22-yard pass to the UK 40. Five snaps later -- including a 19-yard run by Dunbar to the Kentucky 1 -- Dunbar scored.
"When the play was snapped they rolled into a man," said Lewis of the catch. "It was a perfect play call because (the defender) was playing inside of me. It just happened that the play was the right play for that coverage."
In the end, UK could not come up with the right plays. Bell was called for a late hit on Dunbar on the TD run, allowing Indiana to kick off from midfield and eliminate the chance of a Cats return.
Four plays later, the Cats had a first down at their own 39. But looking over the Hoosier defense, Smith became confused, lined up over the guard, repositioned himself, then handed off to Terry Samuels for the first down. One problem. The confusion caused UK to not get the snap off before the 25-second clock expired.
"I did a dumb thing there," Smith said. "I thought we had gotten the play off in time, but they said we didn't."
So it was third-and-six at the 34, with 37 seconds remaining and the clock stopped. Despite the latter point, however, Curry decided to use his team's second timeout. "I thought maybe Brad had gotten dinged," Curry said. "He seemed a little disoriented. I thought it was worth it at the time to use a timeout to get organized."
But Smith was fine, hitting Kurt Johnson with a 6-yard pass for the first down at the 40. An incompletion later, Smith scrambled 11 yards to the IU 49, where the Cats used their final timeout. Seven seconds left, time for one more pass, which Indiana's Damon Watts intercepted.
"We were going for a touchdown there," Curry said. "We were going for the Big Ben play there, but I don't know what happened. It looked like the protection broke down."
So Kentucky broke, losing its 21st road game in its last 22 tries. But it left believing, if not for the little things, it could have won.
"I'm proud of our team's effort, but obviously we've got to get better," Curry said. "This was a very painful lesson for us. We're not interested in staying close. We're not interested in ties. We want to win, and we didn't do that."