Date story was published: Sunday, November 2, 1986
BLACKSBURG, Va. - Upholding a tradition of finding a way to avoid a win in the last minute, Kentucky fell to Virginia Tech 17-15 yesterday on a field goal with one second left in the game.
It was Florida in 1986 (a 15-13 loss), Kansas in 1982 (a 13-13 tie) and Tulane in 1980 (a 24-22 loss) revisited, all last-minute disappointments, as Kentucky lost its fourth straight. A season of promise dwindled to 3-4-1.
Sophomore Chris Kinzer, among the nation's top five place-kickers, booted a 49-yard field goal with one second remaining to snatch victory from the star-crossed Wildcats.
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The game-winner was Kinzer's 16th consecutive successful kick. He ignored the wet, overcast conditions and the pressure of rushing onto the field without benefit of a timeout to carefully set up the crucial kick.
"I've got 16 in a row," the pudgy place-kicker said. "Not many people can say that. By now, it seems pretty automatic."
Launched as the game clock ticked inside five seconds, the kick sailed long and true.
Kinzer, whose kicks have provided the margin in four of Tech's victories this season, had a scare at the beginning of the game-winning drive. Not at the end.
After Kentucky's go-ahead touchdown, teammate Eddie Hunter bobbled the kickoff out of bounds at his own 6-yard line. That left the Hokies one point behind (15-14) and 96 yards from pay dirt with only 4:18 remaining.
"You have to be prepared for anything," the ultraconfident Kinzer said. "But I have to admit, I had my doubts."
Hunter, half of Tech's "Stallion" backfield, which was contained by UK, offered little excuse for mishandling the kick.
"Maybe the wind took it or it was kicked that way, but it was curving out of bounds," Hunter said. "I just made a bad judgment."
Tech then narrowly escaped extinction three times en route to what seemed the inevitable.
On first down, UK defensive back Tony Mayes stepped in front of a sideline pass and seemed headed for a clinching touchdown. However, Mayes couldn't handle the pass.
"He could have walked in," UK coach Jerry Claiborne said. "I'm not faulting him, but it could have been a great play."
sub graph below Later in the 74-yard drive, Tech twice converted fourth- down situations. The Hokies previously had made good on just two of 11 third-down situations against an aroused Kentucky defense.
On the final drive, Tech quarterback Erik Chapman threw an eight-yarder on third-and-nine and then sent Hunter on a 2-yard burst on fourth down.
Facing a fourth-and-three at his own 43, Chapman hit fullback Earnie Jones on a 12-yard pass.
"We weren't in any type of prevent," UK linebacker coach Terry Strock said. "We were coming after them. The defense played well all day. But we didn't make the big plays."
Three plays after the pass to Jones, defensive end Jay Dortch sacked Chapman at the UK 43, seeming to take Tech out of field-goal range.
However, after Tech called its last timeout with 38 seconds remaining, the Hokies ran a draw 8 yards up the middle to set up Kinzer.
Asked what Kinzer's range was, Tech coach Bill Dooley said: "Whatever we need."
Tech needed help from Kentucky to stay in the game early.
At halftime, Virginia Tech could have combined its first downs and passing yards and not had a higher number than the points UK had on the scoreboard.
Kentucky's defense held Tech to a single first down in the half. Chapman completed none of his six first-half passes.
But a Kentucky offense that nearly tripled Tech's first-half yardage (183-64) could do no better than gain a 3-0 lead.
A fumble, a missed field goal, bad judgment and penalties conspired against a UK offense that was jazzed up with a shuffle pass and shotgun formation.
A holding penalty erased a first-down shuffle pass to the 19 on UK's first-quarter scoring threat.
Then Joe Worley hooked a 42-yard field-goal attempt wide to the left.
A fumble on Bill Ransdell's handoff to Mark Higgs stopped Kentucky early in the second quarter.
When the Cats marched 47 yards to the Tech 29 later in the quarter, Ransdell failed to pick up a safety blitz and was sacked for a 16-yard loss.
UK finally scored with eight seconds remaining. Worley booted a 24-yard field goal to conclude a 49-yard drive.
A bit of trickery and a revived ground game propelled Tech to a 14-6 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Hokies reached UK's 18-yard line in the third quarter. Chapman's second completion of the game was the only non-running play.
On third-and-six from the 18, Chapman faked an option left and pitched to a wide receiver, Donald Wayne Snell, in motion to the right. Snell was escorted by a wall of blockers into the end zone for Tech's first score.
"We've worked on that play three or four weeks," said Dooley. "This was the first time we used it."
After Worley kicked a 33-yard field goal, Tech marched 54 yards for another touchdown. Hunter swept right end 14 yards for the score.
"Kentucky caught us by surprise by not playing a six-man front in the first half," Chapman said. "We adjusted at halftime and called plays against a five-man front. That was the difference."
After Worley kicked his third field goal, a 22-yarder, Kentucky regained the lead on Marc Logan's 3-yard run, which capped a 55-yard drive. The score put UK ahead 15-14 with 4:20 remaining.
A shuffle pass, which had accounted for 24 yards and two first downs, was called on UK's two-point conversion.
Higgs was stacked up inches from the goal line.
Virginia Tech used the time remaining to set up Kinzer's winning kick.
"If we make just one block, the was hole was there," Claiborne said of the two-point try. "We almost made it. It was an 'almost day.' "