Date story was published: Sunday, September 27, 1987
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- They had pulled within a point, there were six minutes remaining, and the defense was just about to return the ball to the offense. But on a night filled with mistakes, two more crucial errors cemented the Kentucky Wildcats' first defeat of the season, a 19-18 loss to Rutgers last night at Giants Stadium.
Down a point midway through the final period, but forcing Rutgers into a third-and-10, the Cats committed a personal foul penalty, giving the Knights a first down at the UK 44. Nine plays later, the Cats roughed kicker Carmen Sclafani, who was kicking a 29-yard field goal, to give the Knights a first- and-goal at the UK 6 with 1:08 remaining.
Rutgers then ran out the clock to improve its record to 2-1. Kentucky dropped to 2-1.
"We just didn't play with the aggressiveness and the enthusiasm of our first two games. We came out flat," said Kentucky coach Jerry Claiborne. "We made too many mistakes, which is something we didn't do in our first two games."
Down 12-7 at the half, the Cats saw a 71-yard drive end at the Rutgers 7- yard line, only to come right back and march 64 yards in 12 plays to take the lead. Kevin Dooley hit tight end Charlie Darrington with a 10-yard scoring pass to give the Cats the lead. Then Dooley hit Dee Smith for a two- point conversion and Kentucky was up 15-12.
But the Knights' Brian Cobb returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards to the Kentucky 4-yard line. The next play, Dwight Giles scored on a reverse and, exactly 20 seconds after the Wildcat score, Rutgers was back in front 19-15 with 2:32 left in the third quarter.
Kentucky pulled within a point with 6:42 left in the final period when Joey Worley kicked a 37-yard field goal. That capped a 63-yard drive in which Dooley hit tight end Martin Pennington for 37 yards, and the Cats moved to the Rutgers 8-yard line when Dooley hit Pennington for a 9-yard gain on third- and-eight.
But Dooley was then sacked on a naked bootleg that didn't fool Rutgers defensive end Alec Hoke. After a draw failed to get Andy Murray a yard, Worley's field goal made it 19-18.
But the Cats never got the football back again.
Kentucky came into the game off back-to-back impressive performances, a 41-0 rout over Utah State and a 34-15 win over Indiana. Those wins made the Cats as the nation's seventh-best offense and second-best defense.
But it took the Knights just 1:34 to crack the UK defense. The 63-yard drive took just four plays. It started with quarterback Scott Erney hitting flanker Brian Cobb for 21 yards. Tailback Henry Henderson picked up 13 yards. He was stopped on the next play for no gain. But then Erney hit wide receiver Eric Young, who was wide open across the middle, and the junior took the pass at the 20 and zipped in for the score.
The pass play covered 28 yards. Carmen Sclafani missed the extra point, but Rutgers had a 6-0 lead just 94 seconds into the contest.
On its third possession, Kentucky did march to the Rutgers 27. But mistakes kept the Cats from scoring. A clipping penalty took the ball back to the 43, where an incomplete pass forced the Cats to punt.
Then, once again, the Knights started marching, driving the football with a strong ground game. Sixteen plays Rutgers had the football. Eleven were rushing plays, until the drive stalled at the Kentucky 10. Scalfani booted a 28-yard field goal and the home team led 9-0 with 13:25 left in the second quarter.
UK's next drive was foiled when Dooley missed a wide-open Darrington down the middle at the Rutgers 20. But the Cats next possession finally yielded some points.
Taking the ball at the 29, UK drove 71 yards in 13 plays for the touchdown. The key play was a 24-yard run by Ivy Joe Hunter that took the ball to the Knight 22. Three plays later, Dee Smith carried to the Rutgers 5.
There, the drive appeared to be stalled when Smith was dropped for a 3- yard loss and Hunter was held to a 2-yard gain, setting up a third-and-goal from the six. But as Darrington couldn't shake free in the end zone, Dooley rolled right, broke three arm tackles and fell in for the score. Worley's extra point cut the lead to 9-7 with 2:15 left in the half.
But Rutgers raced right back. Erney hit Tyrone McQueen for a 28-yard completion to the Kentucky 29. After three straight incompletions, Sclafani kicked a 46-yard field goal, the longest of the junior's career, to put Rutgers on top 12-7 with 1:35 left before intermission.
It could have been more as tailback Dan Lipsett took a screen pass 26 yards to the Kentucky 22 right before the half. But Lipsett fumbled and the Cats' Ron Mack recovered, ending the threat and leaving the halftime score at 12-7.
Rutgers had 245 yards total offense the first half, more than the Wildcats defense surrendered in total yardage in each of the first two games.
But the Cats came out in the second half and promptly marched down the field on 11 running plays. Hunter had a 23-yard run, Higgs an 11-yarder. But on fourth-and-two from the Rutgers 7, Higgs came up a yard short and Rutgers took over.