Date story was published||| Sunday, November 25, 1990
KNOXVILLE -- In the end, Kentucky's 100th season of football and Bill Curry's first as its coach was 30 minutes too long.
That being plenty long enough for dynamite Dale Carter to turn Tennessee around. The fleet defensive back/kick return specialist opened the second half with a trio of terrific plays, vaulting the 14th-ranked Volunteers past upset- minded UK yesterday at Neyland Stadium.
Halftime: Kentucky 21-14.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Final: Tennessee 42-28.
Carter returned the second-half kickoff 69 yards, setting up Tennessee's tying touchdown. Next, the junior college transfer from Oxford, Ga., returned a punt 29 yards, setting up UT's go-ahead score. Finally, Carter returned an interception 41 yards for six points of his own. Three plays. Three Tennessee scores. All in a matter of 5:37.
"Dale Carter had a phenomenal day," Curry said. "He's a great player and he certainly made a huge difference."
Especially to the Volunteers, now 7-2-2 overall and 4-1-1 in the SEC. All Johnny Majors' team needs now to spend New Year's Day at the Sugar Bowl is a victory next week at 1-9 Vanderbilt.
"No team that has ever worn the orange jersey played with more pride than they did today," said Majors yesterday. "When you come from behind to win, it's a highly significant performance of the right stuff."
Vols quarterback Andy Kelly threw for 300 yards and a school-record five touchdowns. Wideout Carl Pickens caught 12 balls for a staggering 201 yards, and three scores.
Kentucky finished its year, the first under Curry, 4-7 overall and 3-4 in the SEC. But for the first 30 minutes, the four-touchdown underdogs appeared to have the right stuff for a major upset.
"At halftime, I just said, 'Is anybody surprised we're ahead of these people?" Curry said. "No? Well, everybody in America probably was."
"Stunned" was the word. Maybe even more so after the right shoulder of starting quarterback Freddie Maggard popped out of its socket on a pass -- his sixth -- seven minutes into the first quarter.
But, with UK ahead 7-0, in stepped backup Ryan Hockman, and the sophomore completed 15 of 29 passes for 143 yards and two scores. "He was outstanding today," Curry said.
After defensive end Derrick Thomas intercepted a UT pass at the Vols' 20, Hockman found Phil Logan with a 9-yard bullet in the left corner of the end zone. Kentucky led 14-0.
Two minutes into the second quarter, Tennessee halved that lead with one 71-yard play. Pickens sped past the UK secondary, grabbed Kelly's bomb at the 20 and took it in for the score.
"I just threw it up and Carl ran under it," Kelly said.
But Kentucky answered with a big play of its own. On a called fake field goal from the Tennessee 22, holder Steve Phillips fielded a bad snap, rolled left and hit Rodney Jackson, who made a tumbling grab in the end zone.
"It was a called play all the way," Phillips said. "I was supposed to look for the run first, but Rodney was so wide open I threw it. I was afraid I had floated it too far."
Score: Kentucky 21-7. Time: 6:29 before halftime.
But that was to be UK's last score for a while. Next series, Hockman was called for a controversial intentional grounding, moving the Cats back to their own 9-yard line. Scrambling from a Vol rush, the quarterback hurried a throw to his team's sideline, missing two receivers in the area.
"No, I will not talk about that," said Curry when asked to comment on the call.
Next play, UK tailback Mike Thomas fumbled. Tennessee's Mark Moore recovered. Kelly hit Alvin Harper for a 12-yard score. It was 21-14 with 3:13 left before half.
"But we still felt confident," said linebacker Randy Holleran. "We were playing sound football. We were playing with a lot of enthusiasm, and that's when we play our best football."
Indeed, the UK defense held Tennessee to 2 yards rushing the first half. The Cats led in time of possession by 20:14 to 9:46.
But to open the second half, the ball became Carter's possession. And he knew what to do with it. "Kentucky put some fear in my heart in the first half," he said, "but when we needed a big play, we came up with it."
He came up with it. His kickoff return gave Tennessee the ball at the UK 30. Three plays later, Kelly hit Pickens for a 12-yard score. Carter's punt return gave Tennessee the ball at the UK 47. Seven plays later, Kelly found Anthony Morgan from 22 yards out.
Four plays later, Carter made his steal and score. "I just caught the ball and ran north and south," Carter said.
To its credit, UK did not head completely south. Midway through the final period, the visitors moved 55 yards to cut the lead to 35-28. On a fourth-and- goal from the 4-yard line, Hockman hit Logan for the score.
"If we can hold them, we're right back in it," Holleran said.
Kentucky couldn't. Kelly kept picking away, hitting Pickens with out patterns. Finally, from the Cats' 25, Kelly went to Pickens one more time. Kentucky missed one tackle. And Pickens was gone for the score.
Gone, too, was Kentucky's upset bid. Curry had said it would take a 60- minute game to pull the upset. His Cats gave 30.
"This was sort of like a warm-up," said Curry at the end of his first season. "What we've done is warm up."