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MISTAKES ARE COSTLY AS KENTUCKY LOSES 34-9

Date story was published: Sunday, October 18, 1987

BATON ROUGE, La. -- It has taken on the characteristics of an annual event. They arrive full of great expectations. They depart defeated and deflated. Same old story. Same old act. Same old outcome.

For the fourth straight year the Kentucky football Wildcats brought an impressive record and dreams of respectability into their annual battle with LSU. And, for the fourth straight year the Tigers provided a lethal dose of reality, whipping the Cats 34-9 yesterday at Tiger Stadium.

LSU quarterback Tommy Hodson threw for one touchdown and hit his All- American receiver Wendell Davis with several clutch passes. Halfback Harvey Williams rushed for two touchdowns. And third-string tailback Eddie Fuller went 45 yards for another as the Tigers snapped a daytime jinx -- 0-4-2 in previous day games at home -- and moved to 6-0-1 on the season and 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference.

Kentucky fell to 4-2 and 1-1 in league play. And did so with a thump. Tailback Mark Higgs, averaging 136 yards per game, was held to 52 and fumbled inside his own 5. Quarterback Glenn Fohr was intercepted twice. The UK defense, rated fourth nationally, allowed 391 yards, 171 on the ground, exactly 100 more than its average.

"I thought we played hard; we just made some mistakes we hadn't been making," said UK coach Jerry Claiborne. "LSU made the big plays and we didn't. That's why they're a great football team."

And why the Cats keep coming up empty. UK has now lost four straight to the Tigers, games it has entered 5-0, 4-1, 3-1-1 and 4-1. But if there were any chances of turning history around yesterday, the Cats were too busy squandering them with the little things it did and did not do.

"You take four, five or six plays out of this game," Claiborne said, "and it was a whole lot closer than 34-9."

In fact, at intermission, Kentucky trailed by only 14-9 after making several key errors. They let a 68-yard punt be downed at their own 2. They promptly fumbled at the 4. They missed a sure pass for six points. They let another punt roll to their own 5.

Start with the first killer kick. UK had started slowly, watching LSU march 69 yards on its first drive for a 7-0 lead -- Williams covering 12 yards for the score. But the Cats came back, getting a 45-yard field goal from Joe Worley, then stuffing the Tigers on three plays, forcing a Matt DeFrank punt.

DeFrank nailed the kick, sending it high and deep for a backpedaling Dee Smith. Smith decided to let the ball bounce. It did -- to the Kentucky 2. The very next play, Higgs was hit by Tiger defensive end Tommy Clapp. The ball popped loose. LSU's Ron Sancho recovered.

One play later, on the first snap of the second quarter, the Tigers lined up in a triple I -- Hodson behind center, wide receiver Rogie Magee behind him, followed by the fullback and tailback. "It was just something different," said LSU coach Mike Archer, "to try and create a little interest."

Not to mention confusion. "We weren't expecting that," said Claiborne.

Apparently not. The Cats blew the coverage, leaving Magee wide open for Hodson's floater. Touchdown. LSU led 14-3. There was 14:56 left in the second quarter. Was the rout on?

Not yet. Kentucky got back in it, but slowly, with good drives that stopped just short of six points. "We moved the ball on the them," said center Brad Myers. "We just couldn't put in the end zone."

They had one big chance. Middle of the second quarter. It was a third-and- three at the LSU 39 and UK came up with the perfect call. The Tigers expected run. The Cats instead faked the handoff and sent Smith over the middle. All by himself. Fohr overthrew him.

"If we'd hit that pass we'd been right back in the ballgame," said Claiborne.

A 29-yard Worley field goal made it 14-6. After a 50-yard DeFrank punt pushed them back to the 5, the Cats got a 23-yard run by Ivy Joe Hunter, a pair of 19-yard passes from Fohr -- the first to Charlie Darrington, the second to Hunter -- and three plays later, eight seconds before halftime, Worley booted a 41-yarder to bring Kentucky to within five.

"We felt like we couldn't have been in a better situation," said defensive back Ron Mack.

LSU did. "That last drive woke us up and made us mad and all that stuff," said Tiger linebacker Nicky Hazard. "We realized with one touchdown they're winning the game."

The Tigers took control immediately. UK's Tony Massey blocked a 38-yard field goal from David Browndyke to stop the Tigers' first drive of the second half and keep the margin at five points. And on LSU's second possession, UK had numerous chances to force a punt, only to see the Tigers come up with the big play.

"You've got to give Hodson and Davis credit," said Claiborne. "They're tough. They made big plays twice when we had double coverage on him."

The first was the biggest. The Tigers faced a third-and-13 on their own 39 when Hodson uncovered a Cat blitz and audibled into a pass to his All-American receiver. "It was just a corner route," Davis said. "It was man-to-man and I just gave my man a head fake to the inside and then went outside."

The pass was right there and the Tigers had a 32-yard gain to the UK 29. Three plays later, the duo did it again. On a third-and-eight, Hodson hit Davis for 17 yards and a first-and-goal at the 10.

Even then, the Cats had a chance to keep the home team out of the end zone. Caught holding on first down, the Tigers faced a third-and-goal from the 6. But again the Cats missed the coverage and cornerback David Johnson ran into wide receiver Tony Moss at the goal line -- "He wasn't my man. They kind of picked on the play," said Johnson -- for a pass interference penalty and a first-and-goal at the 2. Williams dived in and the lead was 21-9.

The game was never the same after that. Fuller blew it wide open, taking off on an end run. "The outside linebacker pinched in, so I took it outside," he said. "That's one of our favorite plays."

No wonder. Forty-five yards later, with some great downfield blocks from Magee and Davis, Fuller scored. Browndyke added a couple of fourth-quarter field goals and LSU had beaten Kentucky for the ninth time in the last 10 meetings.

"They're ranked No. 6 in the country and I'm not so sure, they're not better than that," said Myers.

It showed. UK was averaging 310 yards on the ground. It got 147 yesterday. "We thought we could do some different things and get outside," said Higgs. "The second half they started slanting and taking our sweep away."

On defense, the Cats were averaging over three sacks per game. Yesterday: zero. "Hodson would only drop back about five or six yards so it was hard to get him from the outside," said UK defensive tackle Jerry Reese. "And I couldn't make an inside move because they were lined up so tight."

Mainly, "LSU just made the plays when it was really important," said Mack. "And we didn't."

Again.

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