Date story was published: Sunday, September 8, 1991
Kentucky needed a 34-yard scoring pass from Brad Smith to Kurt Johnson with 3:57 left to hold off a late Miami rally and beat the visiting Redskins 23-20 in the season opener last night in Commonwealth Stadium.
After a scoreless third quarter, Miami cut the Kentucky lead to 16-12 by marching 88 yards to a 25-yard field goal by Bryan Lucas just eight seconds into the final quarter.
But two possessions later, Smith hit his junior wide receiver on the dead run for a 34-yard score to put the victory away, opening Bill Curry's second season as head coach. Miami, a 15-7 winner over Ball State last week, fell to 1-1.
But the visitors were more than a formidable foe. After Johnson's score, Miami drove 69 yards in just seven plays to cut the lead to 23-18 with 2:36 remaining. Quarterback Jim Clement hit Jeremy Patterson with an 11-yard scoring pass.
The Redskins then cut the lead to three points when, on the two-point conversion, Clement found Patterson wide open in the left side of the end zone.
UK came back with a pair of first downs to ice the win.
The Kentucky defense had repeated difficulties with the Miami running game. Redskin tailback Terry Carter rushed for 90 yards on 18 carries. Clement gained 75 yards on 12 carries.
But the UK offense responded when needed. Smith shook off two first-half interceptions to complete 14 of 25 passes for 195 yards and two scores. The junior hit Mark Chatmon for a 22-yard touchdown just four ticks before halftime.
Kentucky survived the two turnovers and Miami's ground game for a 16-9 lead at the half.
Carter picked up 78 yards on 13 first-half carries and caught an 8-yard scoring pass from Clement. The Redskins averaged more than 5 yards per rushing attempt the first half, gaining 108 yards on 21 carries.
Kentucky started well enough. On the second play from scrimmage, Smith hit senior wideout Neal Clark with a 27-yard completion to the Miami 20. The march stalled, however, forcing Doug Pelfrey to boot a 37-yard field goal for a 3-0 Kentucky lead.
Miami missed its first chance to go ahead when wide receiver Milt Stegall got a step on UK cornerback Sterling Ward but dropped a near-perfect pass from Clement.
But the Redskins did not miss on their second chance. Whipping the middle of UK's defensive front, the Miami line was able to spring Carter, who churned out 66 yards on 10 carries in the first quarter, including one 20-yard dash.
On the first play of the second quarter, on a second-and-goal from the UK 8-yard line, Clement hit Carter with a flip pass out of the backfield and the sophomore took it in to put the visitors ahead. Lucas missed the extra point, leaving the Miami lead at 6-3.
The next series produced the game's first turnover. Miami defensive back David Thomas picked off a Smith pass at the Kentucky 36-yard line. Miami failed to move the football, however, and on fourth-and-eight from the UK 34, Clement overthrew receiver Gordon Benning, handing the ball back to the home team.
And the home team moved the football. The Cats reclaimed the lead with a 10-play, 66-yard march. The key play was a third-and-five, 20-yard pass from Smith to Clark. That gave UK a first down at the Miami 26. Five plays later, Craig Walker, normally a fullback, lined up at tailback and scored from 2 yards out. Pelfrey's extra point made it 10-6 Kentucky with 7:56 left in the half.
UK's next possession ended in Miami's second interception. Defensive back Cajardo Lindsey picked off a Smith pass at the Miami 27. The Redskins capitalized off the turnover this time, moving 53 yards in 10 plays for a 37- yard Lucas field goal. That cut the lead to 10-9 with 1:16 left.
But Kentucky's two-minute offense came through. Bouncing back from the interceptions, Smith marched his team down the field, completing four of five passes in 1:12. The fourth completion was a picture-book 22-yard throw to Chatmon, a sophomore wideout, just four ticks before halftime. Pelfrey missed the extra point, however, leaving the score at 16-9.
Smith completed seven of 14 passes for 107 yards in the first half. Clement was 5-of-16 for 55 yards.
Freshman tailback Damon Hood was the Cats' first-half workhorse, carrying 11 times but gaining just 31 yards. UK averaged less than 3 yards a carry the first two periods, picking up 57 yards on 22 attempts.