Date story was published: Sunday, September 29, 1985
This was the week that Kentucky wanted to resemble a contender. The Wildcats won, manhandling Cincinnati 27-7, but, alas, some pretender showed through, too.
Afterward, Jerry Claiborne's assessment had a familiar ring.
"Again," the UK coach began (as he often does), "we're just happy to get a win.
"But, again, we're still making errors."
Mostly, it was the offense with which Claiborne took offense. Facing a team that rang up 403 total yards at Alabama last week, the Wildcat defense limited Cincinnati to 269. While true that regular quarterback Dan McCoin didn't play, 1,000-yard rusher Reggie Taylor did. Taylor, who hit four figures last season and was averaging 104.5 yards a game, was held to 28 on 11 carries.
"We just weren't able to move the ball," Taylor said. "It's hard to remember (being stopped so completely)."
The madcap adventures of UK's offense, however, were easy to recall. As happened in Weeks I and II, interceptions (two) and fumbles (four, losing one) continued to plague Kentucky, now 2-1.
Once more, Bill Ransdell threw up impressive numbers. The junior quarterback passed for 300 yards for the third straight week. It's a feat believed to be a school record, although no accurate statistics were readily available, sports information director Russell Rice said.
Yet, again, Ransdell's plusses (two touchdown passes) were diluted by minuses (two interceptions). When reporters quizzed Ransdell about the interceptions, both of which came deep in Cincinnati territory, he stopped in mid-answer, raised two clenched fists waist high and blurted to himself, "Damn."
Further muddling matters was the officiating. The two teams were flagged a total of 17 times. Of those penalties, nine involved walk-offs of 10 or more yards.
Seven times (three against UK, four against Cincinnati) the game became unnecessarily rough in the judgment of the officials.
"Both teams showed the same respect for each other," Cincinnati coach Dave Currey said of the roughhouse play. "I think there were some late hits, but I don't think that they were cheap shots."
In the final seconds of the first half the game dissolved into chaos. McCoin's replacement, Billy Davis, threw a ball up for grabs on the half's final play. Redshirt freshman Raynard Gover intercepted for Kentucky and weaved upfield 21 yards before being tackled in front of the Cincinnati bench at the UK 45-yard line.
The Wildcats' objected to what they thought was a late hit by UC center Nick Gotovac. En masse, the UK team thundered across the field to protect Gover. One of the first Wildcats to reach the action was freshman Carwell Gardner, who had a nose for the ball all day.
"I was trying to keep everybody out of the way," Gardner said. "Then, one of their guys cheap-shoted me. That's when I got into it."
It was about five minutes before the players were separated, off-setting personal fouls were signaled and both teams left the field.
"It really upset me that we had anyone involved," Claiborne said. "All our people should have walked off the field. It's bush league and I certainly hope we don't get involved with it again. We won't stand for it."
No punishments will be levied at those UK players who squared off with the opposition, Claiborne said, "but we'll point it out (when watching films today) and try to embarrass them enough so they won't want to do it again."
While a victor in the melee was hard to determine, UK got the best of it in football. Without the mistakes, Kentucky could have salted this one away by halftime. Instead, the Cats needed two third-quarter touchdowns before breathing a sigh of relief.
UK took a 7-0 lead on its second possession when Ransdell hit Eric Pitts in stride for a 28-yard touchdown. Pitts, who caught six passes on the day for 118 yards, beat cornerback John Sawyer on a slant pattern over the middle. As a portent of things to come, Ransdell was roughed on the play.
Cincinnati bounced back, driving 69 yards to the Wildcat 13-yard-line. Twice on the drive, the Bearcats victimized UK defensive back Maurice Douglass. Douglass, who was hampered by a pinched nerve suffered during Wednesday's practice, saw a 25-yard completion float over his head on a third- and-21 situation. Three plays later, Douglass was beaten on a slant pattern for another 25 yards.
In the substitution of the game, fifth-year senior Carmichael Caldwell was rushed into action for Douglass. On a third-and-goal play from the 13, Caldwell make a diving interception 1-yard deep in the end zone.
"A big, big play," Claiborne said. "Making the big play down in that part of the field is something the defense needed to do all year. This was the first time we came up with it."
Caldwell came up with another interception in the fourth quarter, an over- the-shoulder catch of a throw-it-up-for-grabs bomb, and was named co-winner of the Wickliffe B. Moore award (which goes to the Homecoming Game's most valuable player.) Halfback Mark Logan, whose 112 yards made him the first Cat to go over 100 this season, shared the award with Caldwell.
"It took me a couple plays to settle down because I didn't expect to be in that early," Caldwell said. "The first play the receiver beat me badly but the quarterback didn't see him. The second time I was ready."
The first of Joey Worley's two field goals, a 44-yarder, gave Kentucky a 10-0 lead, marking the third straight week UK led by 10 points at halftime. But the Wildcats could have easily had more. Twice in the second quarter interceptions muted scoring threats. Early in the quarter, after a holding penalty pushed UK back to the Cincy 30, Ransdell's pass intended for tight end Matt Lucas ricocheted into the hands of strong safety Richard Rhodes at the 15.
Ransdell was also rolling out, searching for a receiver, on the second interception. On a first down from the UC 13, Ransdell looked to flip a screen pass to fullback Chris Derry. Instead, his toss hit linebacker Alex Gordon's right hand. Gordon pulled it in at the 15 and returned to the 24.
"On other screens, the (defensive) end usually comes to me and I throw it over him," Ransdell said. "This time he didn't. (Bleep), I can't make those kind of mistakes. I'm thinking and second-guessing myself and that's when I get in trouble. When we've got to have the big plays, they usually come when you relax and play ball. A couple times today, I was thinking 'I've got to make a big play' rather than just playing."
Excepting penalties, the second half was practically mistake-free for UK. The Cats scored on their first three possessions. Ransdell hooked up with Derry on a 25-yard TD screen pass. Not even a clip by Mark Wheeler, which moved a 39-yard completion to Cornell Burbage back to the 20-yard-line, could stop Kentucky.
Logan added a 3-yard plunge to put UK up 24-0.
Worley's second field-goal, a 42-yarder, early in the fourth quarter completed the scoring.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, had only one drive of consequence. The Bearcats got on the board when Davis, who scrambled all day, sneaked in from 7 yards out on a busted pass play late in the third quarter.
"I was thinking a lot going into the game," said Davis, who was starting his first college game. "Maybe I thought too much."
The loss was Cincinnati's second straight after opening with three straight victories.