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THREE BLOCKED FIELD GOALS HALT CATS' 4-GAME SKID

Date story was published||| Sunday, October 14, 1990

Blocking three field goals, the final one a game-saver, Kentucky held on to edge Mississippi State 17-15 last night at Commonwealth Stadium.

Dean Wells, Gary Willis and Joey Couch each blocked field goals, Couch getting a piece of Chris Gardner's 48-yard go-ahead attempt with 3:26 remaining as the Cats broke a four-game losing streak and won their first conference game for head coach Bill Curry.

Fullback Terry Samuels caught touchdown passes of 3 and 15 yards from quarterback Brad Smith as the home team built a 17-3 lead with four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

But Bulldog quarterback Tony Shell engineered a comeback, hitting 9 of 13 passes for 230 yards in the second half, including a pair of 50-yard completions.

Down by a mere two points, Shell drove the Bulldogs to the UK 31 where Couch came through to block Gardner's kick. A 19-yard run by Al Baker on a screen pass gave Kentucky a first down. The Cats then punted to MSU with four seconds left and Gary Willis knocked down Shell's desperation pass at the buzzer.

Kentucky is now 1-1 in the SEC and 2-4 overall. Mississippi State is 2-3 in league play, 0-3 overall.

UK scored on its first possession, taking the opening kickoff and marching 54 yards. Al Baker took a shovel pass from quarterback Brad Smith and raced 23 yards to the Mississippi State 8-yard line. The Cats' progress stalled there, but not their luck. Kicker Doug Pelfrey misfired wide left on a 25-yard field goal attempt. But MSU was called for being offsides. Given the second chance, Pelfrey drilled the 20-yarder. Kentucky led 3-0.

Neither team could manage much offense the rest of half. Kentucky turned it over when MSU strong safety Lance Aldridge picked off a Smith floater at the Bulldog 36. Three plays later, the visitors punted.

Finally, MSU's punt return phenom, Tony James, got going. James returned a Bill Hawk punt 42 yards to the Kentucky 30. A 19-yard pass from Shell to tailback Tay Galloway took the ball to the 11. But the Dog drive died. Kicker Joel Logan punched his 23-yard attempt wide left.

Two series later, Kentucky put together the only touchdown drive of the half. The march covered 74 yards. Smith completed passes of 16, 12 and 23 yards, the final one a perfect strike to wide out Brian Evans at the Bulldog 4-yard line. Two plays later, second-and-goal from the 3, Smith hit Samuels with a swing pass at the goal line and the freshman fullback carried it in. Pelfrey's extra point made it 10-0 with 5:46 remaining in the half.

James promptly returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards to the Kentucky 45. But here the Block Cats appeared. Dean Wells blocked Logan's 41-yard attempt. A fumble by UK fullback Dale See -- his first carry of the season -- gave MSU the ball at the Wildcat 36 with 3:30 remaining. But this time Gary Willis blocked Logan's 39-yard attempt.

Kentucky recovered the kick at its own 49 with 30 seconds remaining, and tried to take advantage of the field position. But four plays netted but 13 yards. Pelfrey did try a 57-yard attempt, but slipped on his approach, and the ball traveled but 30 yards.

State opened the second half by burning Kentucky deep. Split end Chris Firle got a step behind UK corner Sterling Ward down the left sideline. Shell found Firle for a 50-yard gain to the Kentucky 22.

But again the Dogs failed to find the end zone. In came Logan, who this time connected on a 28-yard field goal, cutting the lead to 10-3.

Two series later, UK nose guard Jon Collins sacked Shell on his own 7-yard line, forcing punter Mike Riley to kick from his end zone. Riley's punt traveled just 29 yards and the Cats were back in business.

Samuels came through with a couple of clutch third-down catch-and-runs. The first covered 15 yards to the State 19. Three plays later, third-and-eight from the 15, Smith hit Samuels near the left sideline. The fullback turned it upfield and scored. Pelfrey's kick made it 17-3 with 4:32 left in the third quarter.

But just when UK thought it might have some breathing room, State struck again with the deep ball. Shell first hit running back Kenny Roberts for 26 yards to the 46. Two plays later, Shell went deep down the right sideline again.

This time freshman Adrian Sherwood had good coverage on State's Willie Harris, but the receiver jumped and caught the ball at the goal line, then fell back into the end zone for the visitors' first touchdown. Logan's extra point kick, however, hooked left, leaving Kentucky's lead 17-9.

Next series, State went to the air again. Shell hit Harris for 17 yards to the UK 39, then for 13 yards to the 23. There, Shell hit Jerry Bouldin, behind corner Chris Tolbert, in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

The visitors went for two, threw an incompletion, but Kentucky was flagged for having 12 men on the field. But on the second try, MSU threw another incompletion and the score remained 17-15 with 14:22 remaining in the game.

Kentucky had a chance to put the game nearly out of reach on the next drive. Smith moved the home team from his own 26 to the Mississippi State 2- yard line. Baker had a 25-yard run in the march. But on third-and-two from the 3, Baker was stopped for a 1-yard gain.

Pelfrey came on for the chip shot field goal. A delay penalty moved it back 5 yards. Then Pelfrey pushed the ball wide right, giving Mississippi State another shot with 6:17 remaining.

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