Date story was published: Sunday, October 13, 1991
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Thanks to Sleepy, the nightmare continues.
Mississippi State quarterback William "Sleepy" Robinson may not have been a one-man team -- though he did outgain the Kentucky offense 301-264 by his ill self -- but he added to UK's defensive woes, sparking the Bulldogs to a 31-6 whipping of the bewildered Wildcats yesterday at Scott Field.
"Obviously," said Kentucky Coach Bill Curry, "we are not as far along in our program as I thought we were."
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Indeed, UK defenders rarely came close to catching Robinson or containing State's option offense. The junior, who had missed MSU's last game with a sprained ankle, was vomiting before yesterday's game because of an upset stomach and had to take IVs at halftime. However, that did not keep him from rushing for 134 yards and one touchdown while completing 10 of 16 passes for 167 yards and another score.
"Sleepy played a great game," said Bulldogs Coach Jackie Sherrill. "He threw the ball well and is getting better at passing every game."
State ripped the much-maligned Kentucky defense for 426 rushing yards (the most ever allowed by UK) and 593 total yards (MSU's second-highest total ever).
"We were badly beaten in the second half by a better football team in every phase of the game," said Curry. "And that is so obvious as to not even need saying."
Leading just 10-6 at halftime, Sherrill's shock troops rolled to 372 yards and three second-half touchdowns. The Bulldogs' defense limited UK's meager offense to less than nine minutes of possession over the final two quarters.
State ran its record to 4-2 overall and 1-2 in the Southeastern Conference.
It did so just nine days after the death of defensive end Rodney Stowers, a junior from Forest, Miss., who died from complications after suffering a broken leg.
"I know Rodney's up there just smiling and enjoying this," said State receiver Willie Harris, a junior.
"It was a very tough week to have to go through what we went through," said Sherrill. "Our players were more tired emotionally than physically."
Kentucky was the one worn out, plunging to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the SEC. In two weeks, the two Mississippis (Ole Miss last week, State yesterday) burned UK for 1,129 total yards. Yesterday's losing margin was the second- worst in the 16 games since Curry arrived in Lexington. The point total was the lowest in the brief Curry era. And the disappointment, said Curry, was the greatest.
"I think it is the most difficult loss, to have lost this way," Curry said. "My expectation this year was that at the very least we would be in there scratching and fighting to the final gun."
"I'm kind of in shock," said senior tackle Greg Lahr. "We had a real good week of practice. I thought we were going to do so good today."
Instead, the Cats were steamrolled, even with redshirt freshman sensation Pookie Jones making his debut as a starting quarterback. Jones completed 16 of 30 passes for 196 yards, with one interception. Though sacked four times for 29 yards in losses, he gained 49 yards on his eight rushes. And he engineered both UK field goal drives.
"For the first time out, he was as good as I thought he would be," Curry said. "I just wish he had gotten more support."
Most of UK's support the first half came from Mississippi State miscues. A 31-yard option run by Robinson was MSU's only touchdown, thanks in part to fumbled pitches, slips on the grass, or penalties that kept Bulldog drives from reaching the end zone.
"The first half I think we were kind of feeling sorry for ourselves," said Harris, who caught three passes for 63 yards. "We were stopping ourselves."
Not in the second half, however. The Bulldog blitz started early. State took the second-half kickoff, came out in a no-huddle offense, and marched 75 yards in 11 plays to go up 17-6. On a first-and-20, fullback William Prince rumbled 39 yards to the Kentucky 33. Six plays later, sophomore running back Karl Williams went 1 yard for the touchdown.
After three plays and a Kentucky punt, State marched to the UK 11 before successive clipping and holding penalties took the Dogs out of field-goal range. After six plays and a Kentucky punt, State moved 87 yards in just four plays.
The fourth was a quick-opener by Prince, who burst into the great wide open that was previously UK's secondary. With only green grass and the goal posts ahead, the 220-pound junior thundered 53 yards for the score. State led 24-6.
After three more snaps and yet another Kentucky punt, Robinson took the Bulldogs 72 yards in 15 plays, throwing 4 yards to tight end Ternell Edwards for the score.
"One of the biggest factors was we just didn't tackle," said UK linebacker Dean Wells. "There was the hidden yardage factor where we'd hit a guy and miss the tackle and he'd get 5 more yards."
Couple that with the Sleepy factor. "I thought he was terrific," said Curry. "I thought their whole team was terrific."
As for Kentucky, no sweet dreams, just another sleepless night.
"I thought we were a better football team than that," said Curry. "I didn't think anybody could manhandle us. But they did."