Date story was published: Sunday, October 22, 1989
You better believe it was quite a sight. It was the football all right. Big and bright. And it was wobbling straight to where Billy Swanson happened to be standing.
"It looked," said Billy Swanson, "like a big golden egg."
Yes, just when it appeared Kentucky might lay another egg, when a dream- like victory was spiraling toward the inevitable nightmare, there was the football and Swanson, Kentucky's junior linebacker, coming together as one for an interception. The steal helped propel Kentucky to a 27-21 win over visiting LSU 27-21 last night at Commonwealth Stadium.
Said Swanson, "It was pretty."
There was 3:11 left, UK up 21-14 but LSU was marching toward the possible go-ahead score, when -- thanks to a hit by defensive tackle Donnie Gardner -- Tommy Hodson's floater was picked off by Swanson at the Wildcat 20-yard line. And if that was the game-saver, Alfred Rawls rode his rocket to the game-clincher, bouncing outside, then roaring down the right sideline 73 yards for the score.
True, LSU did strike right back, Hodson firing 45 yards over a mixed-up and illegal Kentucky defense (12 players on the field) to a wide-open Alvin Lee for a touchdown with 2:22 remaining.
But Darren Bilberry recovered LSU's attempt at an onside kick. A 9-yard run by Rawls produced one first down. Two plays later, fullback Andy Murray bulled six yards for another first down and Kentucky ran out the clock for its first victory over LSU since 1983, its first win over the Tigers in Lexington since 1976.
"It was a very big win, a great win," said head coach Jerry Claiborne. "We made the plays in the fourth quarter to win. I'm really proud of these kids."
Rawls, who also had a 43-yard touchdown dash, rushed for a career-high 192 yards as Kentucky won its first SEC triumph after two opening losses. The Cats are 4-2 overall. LSU, defending SEC co-champion, dropped to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the conference. Said Tiger coach Mike Archer, "We waited 30 minutes before we decided to play."
By the time the Tigers cranked up their tank, they trailed 21-0. UK, thanks to a stingy defense, terrific punt returns and superior field position, led 12-0 at the half.
Three times in the first two periods UK took over inside the LSU 35. Two of those were set up by punt returns. Chris Tolbert took a kick 49 yards. Kurt Johnson took another 31 yards.
UK got nothing from either return. After Tolbert's run, a Freddie Maggard pass bounced off of Phil Logan's chest and into the arms of Tiger linebacker Nigel Ventress. After Johnson's run, Ken Willis missed a 47-yard field-goal try.
But that was the senior's only miss. He kicked a 44-yarder, 1:22 into the second quarter, for a 3-0 lead. His 42-yarder, 5:34 from halftime, made it 6-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, LSU fumbled not once, but twice. Calvin Windom dropped the ball first. Wayne Williams picked it up, ran 24 yards and was stripped by UK's Tony Zigman. Cat Jeff Brady recovered at the LSU 34.
Seven plays later, Kentucky faced a third-and-goal from the Tiger 2-yard line. Maggard rolled left and hit tight end Bobby Henderson for the score. Kentucky failed in its attempt at two points, but held a 12-point advantage at intermission.
Hodson, the Tigers' stellar quarterback, was three of 10 the first half. The senior completed just one of his first eight throws. And consider this: LSU's longest march of the first half was a 13-yard, five-play effort.
"When we came back into the locker room, we said, 'Hey, let's not kid ourselves,' " said offensive tackle Mike Pfeifer. "We've still got to play some football."
And two plays into the second half, Rawls broke straight up the middle, bounced inside and saw clear sailing. "When that cat gets into the secondary," said running back coach Greg Nord, "it's over."
It was. Forty-three yards for the score. Again, UK missed the extra point, but led 18-0 with 13:44 left in the third quarter.
Next possession, the Cats made it 21-0. Maggard hit tight end Rodney Jackson with a perfectly thrown 27-yard pass over the middle. When LSU rose up to stop the Cats, sacking Maggard for a seven-yard loss, Willis nailed a 31- yard boot. There was 7:27 left in the quarter.
LSU awoke. "To play like we played for 37 minutes," said Tiger assistant Jerry Sullivan, "and then awake from the dead. It's ridiculous."
Yes, Hodson caught fire. He completed 23 of 39 for 283 yards on the night, and was 20 of 29 in the second half.
Victor Jones scored from a yard out, 11 seconds before the final period, to put the Bengals on the board. Two possessions later, the Tigers struck again. Hodson fired a 21-yard scoring strike, in traffic, to Tony Moss. David Browndyke's extra point slashed the Kentucky lead to 21-14. There was 8:59 left.
For the third straight possession, Kentucky went three plays and punt. And there was no holding the Tigers. Hodson threw 11 yards to running back Eddie Fuller, who later went 11 yards on a key third-and-two. On a third-and-one at the UK 25, Windom got the first down.
"We just kept saying we got to stop 'em," Swanson said. "We didn't think about losing. We just knew we had to stop 'em."
For most of the second half, Hodson had ample time to look and look and then throw. This time, he didn't. First down, he dropped back and from the right side came Gardner. "We were in a quarter (six defensive backs) with the tackles inside," Gardner said. "The guard thought I was going to go between him and the center. I clubbed him inside and went around him and hit Hodson's arm."
"He hit me and it just wobbled out," said Hodson.
Right to Swanson, standing at the Tiger 20, hardly believing his good fortune. "Thanks to God," he said. "I was just in the right place at the right time."
Which is where Rawls went, to the right sideline. It was the same call as his earlier touchdown run. This time, however, the middle was blocked, so the senior bounced it outside. And laid tracks. "I was just looking straight ahead," he said. "If they catch me, they catch me."
They didn't. Not then. Not even after the Tigers' last scoring strike, catching the Wildcats in the middle of a late substitution.
No, Billy Swanson made the catch. And it was golden.