Date story was published||| Sunday, September 16, 1990
From the darkest part of the deepest end, Kentucky had started its courageous move, clawing back, crawling back to where finally just ahead, Bill Curry's Cats appeared to have sighted the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
Only the light was that of a freight train.
The Big Red Express.
Smack. Indiana touchdown. Smack. Indiana punt return for a touchdown. Smack. A third Indiana TD. Smack. Make that four IU scores.
As in a fearsome foursome. The visiting Hoosiers exploded for four fourth- quarter touchdowns to crush a gutty Kentucky comeback and cream UK's young (and crimson?) Cats 45-24 yesterday at Commonwealth Stadium.
After UK fought back from a 17-0 first-half deficit to a 17-17 third- quarter tie, Indiana scored 28 straight points. Nor did the hurrying Hoosiers waste much time, scoring 21 points in a grand total of 5:45.
First they marched 80 yards in 14 plays -- the key one being a 10-yard Trent Green pass to Scott McGowan on fourth-and-three at the Wildcat 21 -- with tailback Vaughn Dunbar scoring from 11 yards out.
Four plays later, Rob Turner, the speedy IU receiver who missed last year with grade problems, returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown and a 31-17 Indiana lead.
Nor were the Hoosiers through. Three more failed UK plays later, Indiana took the ball back. Green hit Turner for a 38-yard gain to the Wildcat 6. Four plays later, fourth-and-one, Dunbar dived in for the score -- that being 38-17 Indiana with 6:10 left.
The rest -- a 23-yard TD run by IU's Steve Goodrich and a 41-yard Freddie Maggard to John Bolden scoring pass -- was mere window dressing. Indiana coach Bill Mallory had his first win at Commonwealth, and Curry's first Kentucky squad had dropped to 1-2.
"We've played three games now and three times in a row we've dug ourselves into a deep hole," Curry said. "Each time we respond with grit. We have gritty people. But each time we were not up to having that total concentration."
Rendering the final period a total disaster. The 28 points was the most ever scored in a quarter against Kentucky. The old mark was 24 scored by -- guess who? -- Bill Curry's 1988 Alabama team that beat UK 31-27 at Commonwealth.
"We have to understand the urgency of playing each play the same way all day is what will make us a decent football team," Curry said. "And it will happen the instant the players are able to concentrate over 60 minutes. We are not talented enough nor good enough to have these lapses and then be able to recover."
Actually, UK lapses came at game's end and start. In its season opener, Indiana put 17 points on the board in the first 22 minutes -- the first TD being a 53-yard pass from Green to Ft. Knox native Eddie Thomas.
"They were getting a lot of good gains on first down," said UK strike Dean Wells. "That really puts our defense in a bind. We're not able to do the things we like to do."
Then finally Kentucky's previously frigid attack warmed up. "The offense improved so much it didn't look like the same team out there," Curry said.
A terrific touchdown grab by Bolden of an 11-yard Freddie Maggard pass made it 17-7. Then mixing run and throw, Maggard engineered a 64-yard field goal drive to start the second half. Next possession UK went all the way, going 86 yards in 13 plays for a 1-yard Al Baker score and a 17-17 tie with 2:55 left in the third quarter.
"We thought the whole time we were going to win," UK offensive guard Joel Mazzella said. "When it was 17-17 we just had that much more confidence."
But the Cats could not, thanks to the little matter of the red freight train barreling into the tunnel.
"The momentum had swung," Mallory said. "But we told them to maintain their poise and stick to the game plan. We had confidence in our game plan."
The confidence showed especially on the crucial fourth-and-three, 20 yards from the UK goal line. "A heck of a call," Curry said.
"I just decided it was time to go get 'em," Mallory said. "I talked to George (Bleu, offensive coordinator) and he said to go for it, the way Trent was playing and the way our receivers were going."
Actually, Green was originally going to fullback Cal Miller on the pass play. But with Miller covered, the IU quarterback looked off to McGowan, open on the left sideline. The 9-yard pass play gave IU a first down at the 11. Next play, Dunbar scored.
"Even after they made the fourth down they still hadn't scored," Curry said. "We needed to keep them out of the end zone at that point, but we couldn't."
If that didn't crack the Cats' back, Turner's punt return did. "That was a shock," Wells said.
"The play was a 'safe' return where our guys go 10 yards and block," Turner said. "The coaches tell me on 'safe' return to get what I can because I'm on my own."
Instead, the junior from Indianapolis got it all, avoiding one defender, splitting two others then was virtually untouched on his sideline romp in front of a jumping IU bench. As UK sank.
So after a one-year Lexington stopover, the "Bourbon Barrel" is back in Bloomington.
"We're real proud of this victory," Mallory said. "We were concerned with a team with two games under their belts. We made mistakes but worked through them."
UK heads back to work.