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53-YARDER BEATS CINCINNATI, CAPS HOMECOMING RALLY

Date story was published: Sunday, November 3, 1991

Of course he was going to make it. No question about it. Why early on during sideline warm-ups he had mis-hit a practice kick so badly the football had nearly beheaded a female patron in the first row. Then on the field, he had uncharacteristically blown a chip-shot, no-doubter from a lousy 33 yards out.

"I had to make up for that," said Doug Pelfrey.

Plus there was Carla Wilson, a senior majoring in telecommunications from Monroe, Ohio, who just happens to be Doug Pelfrey's girlfriend. Yesterday, during halftime ceremonies, Wilson was crowned the University of Kentucky's Homecoming Queen for 1991.

So you think her main squeeze was going to miss the game-winning field goal after that?

"After I heard that," Pelfrey would say later, "I thought maybe this is going to be my day after all."

One second on the clock. Fifty-three yards from the goalposts. The game tied. It was almost too perfect.

The snap is down. The kick is up (sort of). The kick is GOOD!

Kentucky 20, Cincinnati 17.

"Another routine win," deadpanned Bill Curry.

There is no such thing as a routine win at Kentucky. Not in football. Not yesterday. In a season in which the cursed Cats can't seem to catch a break, yesterday they caught a bundle to nip Cincinnati in Commonwealth Stadium.

UK used a pair of fumble recoveries to rally from a 14-0 deficit, then survived a botched fake field-goal attempt and an 88-yard drive that saw the visitors reach the 1-yard line, suffer a killing illegal procedure penalty, then tie the game on Dave Rowe's 24-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining.

But two completions later by Ryan Hockman (subbing for starter Pookie Jones), and a single precious tick left on the clock, Pelfrey drilled a 53- yard frozen-rope through the uprights for the improbable victory.

"I saw it go through and then I just ran out there and about killed him," said nose guard Joey Couch, who had plenty of help. "About five seconds later we were all jumping on him and I thought we're going to kill him."

Nobody seemed to mind. This was but Kentucky's third win in eight games. It broke a four-game losing streak. It was Homecoming.

"I don't think our kids deserved to lose," said UC Coach Tim Murphy, whose team dropped to 3-6, "but certainly the Kentucky kids didn't deserve to lose. It came down to a few basic mistakes."

The Bearcat boo-boos coming after the visitors had taken an early 14-0 lead, and when tailback Vince Powell, a former Auburn signee, suddenly forgot how to hold on to the football.

First, Powell fumbled at his own 29 with 1:09 left before intermission, setting up Kentucky's first score. Then with UC leading 14-10 the first play of the final quarter, Powell had the ball pop loose at the UK 46-yard line, and it was scooped up by Cat corner Adrian Sherwood, who scooted 54 yards for the score.

"I was coming up on the play and it just bounced right to me," said Sherwood, whose TD gave UK its first lead, 17-14.

The Cats then appeared to have matters well in hand when, with four minutes remaining, and at the UC 4-yard line, they lined up for a field goal and a six-point lead, only to get greedy.

"We went for the fake field goal only because it was there," Curry said. "I didn't think a field goal would help us in that situation."

But holder Travis Powers' shovel-pass to Carlos Collins never got there -- "Too much penetration," said Curry -- and fell incomplete.

Three first downs later, quarterback Lance Harp hit Marlon Pearce for a 37- yard gain to the Kentucky 11. Two running plays placed the ball at the "two-foot line," said Murphy. "You've got to cash it home."

Instead, Cincinnati jumped too soon, moving the ball back to the 6. Harp threw incomplete. So UC settled for the tie, the bare-foot Rowe booting a 24- yard field goal with 22 ticks left.

But no. UC squib-kicked to the UK 36. Hockman sent a tip-drill over the middle that Neal Clark snared at the Bearcat 46. Six seconds remained. Hockman then hit Tim Calvert on the left sideline in front of a soft Cincinnati secondary -- "I thought they would not allow an out cut," said a surprised Curry -- for a 10-yard gain to the 36.

One second remained. Enter Pelfrey. Pressure? What pressure? The junior made a 32-yarder with seven seconds left last year to beat Georgia 26-24. Distance? What distance? He booted a school-record 53-yarder earlier this year at Indiana.

"He's laid-back enough where the pressure doesn't bother him," Curry said. "He's very competitive but he doesn't get hyper. In fact, he worries that he's too laid back."

"I think I concentrate better on the pressure kicks because I am too laid back sometimes," Pelfrey said. "I'd been loosening up on the sidelines, and I'd been kicking them into the net as well as I had been all year. When I went out there, I just thought about fundamentals, about hitting the ball solid."

He hit it like a rock(et).

"I knew I'd hit it straight," Pelfrey said. "I just had to see it to make sure it was long enough. They said it landed in about the third row."

Could Curry bear to watch?

"I spent 20 years on the bottom of the pile during field goals," said the former NFL center. "I like to watch them all the way."

So who had the better day, the football hero or the homecoming queen?

"She did," said Doug Pelfrey. "I give all the credit to her."

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