Date story was published||| Sunday, September 9, 1990
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Said Bill Curry, "They were as good as we were bad."
They being the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, who intercepted four passes all of last season, but who six times last night picked off throws from Kentucky quarterbacks. They produced eight turnovers, threw two long passes for touchdowns and whipped the Wildcats 24-8 last night at Giants Stadium.
Three of the Scarlet Knights interceptions came in the second quarter as the home team produced 21 points for a 21-0 halftime lead. Rutgers then added three more thefts in the second half -- taking away three each overall from UK starting quarterback Freddie Maggard and backup Brad Smith.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
In fact, UK's lone score came with a minute remaining when Maggard hit Phil Logan in the back of the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown on a broken play.
Willie Wilkes and Malik Jackson had two interceptions apiece for new coach Doug Graber, an NFL secondary coach then defensive coordinator the past seven years who was making his debut as the Rutgers leader.
"The only thing to say is to congratulate Doug Graber and his staff," said Curry, whose Cats dropped to 1-1. "I haven't thought back on it, but it seems I have not experienced a team that well prepared by a new staff."
Meaning the Knights were well prepared to take advantage of a UK squad that unraveled at every seam. The Cats finished with a negative-7 yards in the rushing department on 26 carries, against a defense that gave up 246 rushing yards a game last season.
Rutgers, meanwhile, got 110 yards on 23 carries from running back Eric Dorsey, a transfer from Miami. In fact, Dorsey may have set the tone from the start, busting a 56-yard run on the first play of the game.
The Knights lined up primarily in a two-tight end, one-back set, and they either rammed the football up the middle or went for the long pass.
Back William Bailey added 69 yards on 19 carries. Quarterback Tom Tarver completed nine of 15 passes for 172 yards and two scores. Flanker Chris Brantley caught two passes for 76 yards, one a 38-yard touchdown.
After not committing a single turnover in last week's opener, the Cats committed four in the second quarter alone last night, five in the half. Three were second-quarter interceptions. Maggard was picked off twice, Smith once.
No great surprise then that the home Knights inherited great field positions. Five times in the half they began drives inside the Kentucky 40- yard line. Twice UK's Dean Wells blocked field goals and Gary Willis deflected a third.
Finally, 9:13 left in the half, the home team made UK pay. Brantley burned cornerback Gary Willis, who was starting after outplaying usual starter Chris Tolbert last week, on an out-and-out pattern. Brantley turned upfield toward the goal line in front of the trailing Willis. The pass was there, Brantley grabbed it at the 5-yard line and scored. Rutgers led 7-0.
The Knights' second interception made it 14-0. From his own 16, Maggard tried an out pattern to tight end Rodney Jackson. Only Jackson was nowhere to be found, and the ball went directly to outside linebacker Wilkes, who went untouched 20 yards for the score 4:19 before halftime. Rutgers 14-0.
The third Rutgers interception set up the third Rutgers score of the quarter. Jackson, a defensive back, picked off another Maggard pass.
"We weren't generating anything offensively," Curry said. "So we were relying on our defense to make big plays and we were blitzing to make big plays. When you blitz, you put yourself in man coverage and they were taking advantage of that."
The second half, the Knights stuck to ball control, running 22 third- quarter plays to eight for Kentucky. In all, the Knights had the football for 36 minutes 34 seconds, UK 23:26.
"We were not sharp, and that seems so academic as not to say it, but it's true," Curry said. "It seemed once we got going in that direction, nothing we called or did seem to work."
"They didn't throw anything at us we weren't expecting," Maggard said. "Their game plan wasn't complicated at all. We were prepared for all kinds of different fronts. But they probably played the most basic coverages you can play. They didn't throw any curveballs at us. They just outplayed us."
"It wasn't them," Curry said. "It was us. "Just as there is plenty of credit to go around when you win, there is plenty of blame to go around when you lose. This was a team thing. We lost as a team."