Date story was published: Sunday, November 20, 1988
KNOXVILLE -- One more time the end came in familiar company with familiar results. For the fourth straight year Kentucky's football Wildcats met archrival Tennessee needing a victory to secure a winning season. For the fourth straight year UK's chain of pain continued.
Jeff Francis was 1988's prime inflicter. In his last game before the home folks, the senior quarterback threw for 282 yards and four touchdowns as the Volunteers held off the Wildcats 28-24 yesterday through constant rain in Neyland Stadium.
Thus UK ended this campaign the same way it began, in the rain, the sixth time this year the Cats played wet. It was Kentucky's 12th straight road loss -- extending a school record -- and 13th consecutive Southeastern Conference defeat away from home. The Cats end the year 2-5 in the SEC, the five defeats coming by a total of 26 points.
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Yesterday's loss also ended UK's season at 5-6, the fourth consecutive year of five victories when but one more was needed for a winning record.
"It'll be a long drive back to Lexington," said UK coach Jerry Claiborne. "But we'll learn from it."
Yesterday the Cats could not learn how to stop Francis, the heady UT leader who turned deadly. With help from ex-Wildcat defensive end Brian Williams (1982-85), now a Tennessee graduate assistant, Francis picked away at UK's wide-tackle-six defense, completing 27 of 37 passes. His four TD tosses tied a school record.
That opened the running game for fullback Greg Amsler, who gained 121 yards on 30 carries, as UT won its fourth straight, improving to 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the SEC.
"I feel happy for our seniors," said Francis, "especially our offensive seniors. We put together a good performance."
They had help. Throughout the week, Williams and Francis huddled, discussing UK's defensive strategy, examining film. "Brian helped more than anything," Francis said. "He came in with a good scouting report."
"Francis was outstanding; he just picked us apart," Claiborne said. "We tried to confuse him but he did a good job of reading our coverages."
Before yesterday, UK's defense was allowing an average of 125 passing yards per game. Francis threw for 124 in the first quarter, completing 10 of 12. He also became the first opponent to hit the Cats' for a first-period touchdown, throwing for a 12-yard score to sophomore wide receiver Alvin Harper with 1:53 left in the first quarter.
Next possession, the Vols went up 14-0. On a third-and-nine, Harper made an excellent 22-yard catch between defenders at the UK 14. Francis then lofted a floater on the next play that junior wide receiver Thomas Woods caught over UK cornerback Albert Burks in the left corner of the end zone.
Yet just when the Vols appeared headed for a rainy rout, Chuck Broughton sparked the Cats. Starting quarterback Glenn Fohr missed four of his five first-quarter passes, so Broughton, a junior, opened the second period.
He found junior wide receiver Alfred Jones for a 28-yard gain and in all, the Cats covered 69 yards, Al Baker running the final 5. Ken Willis' extra point cut the UT lead to a seven points.
But Francis cranked it up again, marching his troops 80 yards, eating up more than seven minutes. Four times Tennessee converted third-down situations. On second-and-goal from the 6, he lofted a perfect spiral between UK linebacker Chris Chenault and cornerback Ron Mack into the hands of Woods, gliding through the end zone. UT led 21-7, 2:48 before halftime.
Back-to-back blocks brought UK back. First Tennessee's Vando Davis blocked Ken Willis' 54-yard field goal attempt. Four snaps later, however, Kentucky's Jeff Brady blocked Kent Elmore's punt. Burks scooped up the football at the Tennessee 24 and got to the 13. On the first play, tight end Charlie Darrington, at the goal line, made a nice leaping grab of a Broughton pass. Suddenly, 56 seconds before halftime, the score was 21-14.
"We came in at halftime and we thought we had control," said Cat linebacker Randy Holleran. "We felt like we could stop them on defense. But then when the third quarter started, their defense kind of stopped us."
"Penalties really hurt us," Claiborne said.
UK's first three possessions of the third quarter were hindered by penalties. A holding penalty canceled a 13-yard completion on the first drive. An illegal procedure hindered the second. On the third, UK was called for clipping on a punt runback. "We just couldn't get anything going," Broughton said.
Behind a rambling Amsler, UT promptly marched to the 19, where it faced a third-and-10. But Francis got Harper matched up on the slower Holleran. "And," Harper said, "I knew what I could to a linebacker."
And he did it, getting behind Holleran to grab the scoring pass. "You couldn't play any better defense than Randy played," UK defensive end Jay Dortch said. "Francis was just throwing perfect strikes."
Only Tennessee fumbles fueled a Cat comeback. Amsler lost the first at his own 23. UK's Tony Massey recovered. Broughton hit Darrington for 18 yards to the 2. Baker scored from the 1. It was 28-21.
Next, Tennessee's John Rollins coughed it up at his 39. Dortch recovered. Willis kicked a 42-yard field goal and it was 28-24 with 7:41 left.
But on the very next snap, Francis coolly recaptured control, hitting Harper for a 29-yard gain, giving field position back to Tennessee. The Vols stalled, but UK's next possession started at its 20. After two incompletions, Tennessee defensive end Marion Hobby sacked Broughton for a 10-yard loss. UK punted, never to see the football again.
"We just never seemed to be in sync," said Cat linebacker Chris Chenault, a senior. "When we'd get a good rush, our coverage would be off. When we had good coverage, our rush wouldn't be there."
"We weren't playing that bad of a pass defense," said Holleran. "Francis was just right on."
And again, UK was not.
"We wanted a winning season very badly," said Claiborne. "We just came up short."