Date story was published: Sunday, October 15, 1989
Ken Willis' four field goals and a 69-yard bolt by Alfred Rawls helped Kentucky celebrate a wild but happy homecoming last night as the Wildcats outlasted Rutgers' late heroics 33-26.
Rawls, a senior tailback, burst up the middle for a lightning quick 69- yard score with three minutes left, just 15 seconds after the Scarlet Knights had cut the Kentucky lead to eight points, 26-18.
One minute and six seconds after Rawls' score, Rutgers' quarterback Scott Erney hit Randy Jackson with a 69-yard scoring pass. Erney found Mike Botti for the two-point conversion to make it 33-26.
The Scarlet Knights, however, could not recover the ensuing on-side kick. Ryan Hockman, Kentucky's third-team quarterback, recovered the tipped kick and the Cats ran out the clock. Quarterback Freddie Maggard made a 9-yard run on third-and-five to ice it.
Before Rawls' rapid run, the story of the night had been Willis, who kept bailing out UK's close-but-no-cigar offense. Al Baker took a second-quarter screen pass 20 yards for UK's first score. Andy Murray went 1 yard for the final touchdown. In between, Willis, who missed two field goals and an extra point in UK's 24-12 loss to Auburn last week, kicked field goals of 20, 19, 38 and 20 yards.
Willis, a senior from Owensboro, tied the mark set by Joey Worley, who kicked four field goals in three different games. Willis' 15 total points set a school record for most points in a game by a kicker.
But Willis' success came from the failure of the Wildcat offense to put the ball in the end zone. In the first three quarters, UK had the football four times inside the Rutgers 20 and reached the end zone only once.
The Cats did break through in the final period. Murray plunged 1 yard with 5:23 left in the game. That capped a 37-yard drive.
But Erney fired a 37-yard touchdown strike to halfback James Cann with 3:15 remaining. Erney hit Cann on the two-point conversion bringing the Knights to within eight points.
The victory improved the Wildcats to 3-2 on the year. UK plays host to LSU next Saturday. Rutgers dropped to 2-2-2.
Considered a passing team, Rutgers took the football first and tried to run it over Kentucky. Nearly worked. Twelve plays, only two of them passes, saw the Knights reach the Kentucky 9-yard line. But UK's Tony Massey sacked Erney for a 6-yard loss. Then Erney missed receiver Randy Jackson in the end zone. Doug Giesler's 32-yard field goal put the visitors on top 3-0.
Kentucky came right back, finding success with its first possession. A 15- yard run by Al Baker started the march. Thirteen plays later, the Cats had a first-and-goal at the Rutgers 7. But Baker was stopped for no gain on first down. Next came a holding penalthy, then an ineligible receiver downfield penalty. Suddenly, it was second-and-goal from the 34. Maggard hit Phil Logan with a 14-yard pass, making it third-and-20.
That brought the screen pass to Baker. Guard Joel Mazzella, tackle Mike Pfeifer and center David Crane all got out front, forming a wall. And Baker did his part, missing tacklers, taking the ball in for the touchdown. Ken Willis' extra point made it 7-3, nine seconds into the second quarter.
UK's other score of the half came 45 seconds before halftime. Taking over at midfield, Maggard moved the home team to a first-and-goal at the Rutgers 10. Rawls gained 4 yards. A pass to Logan earned 3 more. But on third-and- goal, UK lined up in the power I and tried to sweep Rawls left. Rutgers was hardly fooled, stopping the Kentucky tailback for a 1-yard gain.
Coach Jerry Claiborne elected for the sure points. Willis' 20-yard field goal made it 10-3.
Freshman defensive back Sterling Ward intercepted Erney's desperation toss on the final play of the half.
A 29-yard punt return from UK freshman Kurt Johnson set up Willis' second field goal. Johnson returned the Rutgers punt all the way to the Knight 16. Two Rawls' runs later, Kentucky had a first and goal at the 3. But, again with UK in its three-back Power I, Baker was stopped for 2 yards, Mike Thomas for no gain. Baker was then thrown for a 1-yard loss. Willis came on to boot the 19-yard chip shot. Kentucky led 13-3.
Rutgers came right back, however, driving 66 yards on 11 plays for a touchdown. Erney completed five of five passes on the march. His 11-yarder to Mike Botti gave the Knights a first-and-goal at the 3. Unlike the home team, Rutgers pushed it across. Botti scored from 1-yard out. The extra point cut the Kentucky lead to 13-10 with 5:17 left in the third quarter.
UK moved 61 yards for Willis' third field goal. A 17-yard Maggard pass to John Bolden kicked the march into gear. But Johnson provided the spark, the tiny rookie motoring 23 yards on a reverse to the Rutgers 15.
Yet again, the progression stopped. First came an illegal procedure. Then an incompletion. Finally, Andy Murray was pitched for a yard loss after catching a screen pass. Willis drilled the 38-yard field goal. UK led 16-10.
Another 20-yard chip shot made it 19-10. Once again, Kentucky came close but could not score. This time the Cats had a first-and-goal at the 8. Three plays later, third-and-goal at the 3, Maggard just overthrew tight end Rodney Jackson in the end zone.