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AFTER 31-24 LOSS, BOWL IS UNLIKELY

Date story was published: Sunday, November 10, 1985

A little Everett Crawford went a long way here yesterday and in the process may have shortened Kentucky's post-season travel plans considerably.

Crawford, a 5-foot-11 sophomore, accounted for 232 yards and two touchdowns in Vanderbilt's 31-24 victory over Kentucky. His running (113 yards) and catching (119) fueled a Vandy offense that UK was unable to stop.

In the process, the prospects for a third straight bowl trip took on a bleakness that the Wildcats could not deny.

"This probably cancels it," UK safety Russell Hairston said.

"This," linebacker Jeff Kremer added, "has to shoot it out completely."

UK, 5-4, must play this week at Florida. Then, it's Tennessee in Lexington.

"There's no rest for the weary," a visibly drained Jerry Claiborne said.

Playing for the ninth straight week, UK seemed a step slow defensively all day. Vandy's freshman quarterback, John Gromos, an Illinois schoolboy a year ago, took full advantage. Gromos threw for a season-high 246 yards, picking apart UK's veteran secondary and linebacker corps.

Two of Gromos' passes went for first-half touchdowns, but one of the biggest was an 11-yard flip to Carl Parker in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.

That pass, which came on a third-and-5 situation with 2:20 left, snuffed out Kentucky's improbable but unfolding fourth-quarter comeback, which saw the Wildcats score 11 straight points in the final period.

Then, after consulting on the sideline, Gromos stepped back and quickly flipped the ball to toward Parker in the right flat. As was frequently the case, the Vandy runner had beaten the UK linebackers' coverage. Parker made an 11-yard catch and run, concluding a clutch Vandy performance that saw the Commodores convert 12 of 17 third-down situations.

Suddenly, a seven-point lead seemed impregnable.

"That play is our offense," Vandy coach George MacIntyre said. "Everything we do starts with that play."

Gromos, who had been sidelined since bruising his sternum against Georgia three weeks ago, said no other play was considered during the timeout.

"We're really confident we can get six or seven yards a crack with that one," Gromos said. "The general consensus was to call that play. Obviously it was the right call."

With it, Vandy ran the clock down to 20 seconds and effectively salted away its third victory against five losses and a tie.

"Let's face it, they played better than we did," UK secondary coach Chip Garber said. "Even if we had come back to win, we didn't deserve to win."

UK got in position to pull out a victory behind the tireless passing of Bill Ransdell, who set school records for pass attempts (56) and completions (30), plus a career-high 322 yards. Steve Tingle held the old UK mark for attempts, 41 against Florida in 1969. Bernie Scruggs held the completions mark, 25 against Louisiana State in 1970.

In the fourth quarter alone, Ransdell completed 17 of 27 passes for 181 yards.

Earlier in the period, Ransdell threw for 44 yards on a 58-yard drive that netted a 32-yard field goal. That score cut Vandy's lead to 31-16 with 11:56 remaining.

Later in the period, after an ill-advised Gromos pass was picked off near the goal line by Brian Williams, the Cats scored again.

Ransdell completed nine of 14 passes on the drive. The final two passes were a 5-yard touchdown strike to tight end Matt Lucas (back for his first game in a month after suffering pulled hamstring) and a two-point conversion to Cornell Burbage.

Those eight points reduced the Vandy lead to 31-24 with 2:44 remaining.

UK then tried a short, high kickoff. Vandy's all-SEC tight end Jim Popp called for and made a fair catch.

"That was an onsides kick," Claiborne said when asked why Kentucky did not attempt a squib kick. "It was a different type of onsides kick. We didn't get it as deep as we wanted and they played it well."

Two plays later, Gromos hit Parker with the clinching pass.

Though a record-setting effort, Ransdell's passing was not a good sign, Claiborne said. It indicated that Kentucky's running suffered. The Cats gained 131 yards on the ground, 62 less than pass-oriented Vandy.

"We had to throw the ball more than we wanted," the UK coach said. "If we could have ever stopped them, we could have run."

Vandy's offense beat Kentucky's blitzes at critical times and moved the ball all day. The Commodores didn't punt until the third quarter, and kicked the ball away only three times.

Crawford scored two touchdowns. The second was a 9-yard burst up the middle that expanded Vandy's lead to 31-13 with 3:12 left in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Vandy caught UK in an outside blitz and Crawford raced 46 yards - his longest career run - to the UK 12.

Another UK blitz backfired in the second quarter when Crawford took a screen pass 66 yards for a touchdown that expanded Vandy's lead to 24-10.

A block by right guard Dave Logie sprang Crawford. He picked up another block downfield when wide receiver Gerald Mitchell came across the field to pick off Carmichael Caldwell at the UK 10.

A high-scoring game appeared in the making at halftime. The two teams combined for 37 points and could have had more.

As it was, Vandy got points on four of its six first-half possessions - including its longest play from scrimmage this season - and took a 24-13 lead into the locker room.

Kentucky, handicapped by poor field position much of the first two quarters, scored on three of six possessions.

As it did in last week's 23-13 victory over East Tennessee State, Kentucky rolled impressively to a touchdown on its first possession. The Wildcats mixed the run and pass on an 80-yard drive.

The march stalled inside the Vandy 5-yard line. On fourth-and-goal from the 2, UK passed up an easy field-goal attempt and went for the touchdown.

After a timeout, Kentucky sent Mark Higgs around right end. Higgs broke a tackle by linebacker Chris Gaines at the 5 and scored, putting UK ahead 7-0 with 10:58 remaining in the first quarter.

Three 5-yard penalties on UK's ensuing kickoff gave Vandy a boost that proved unneeded. Two of the penalties came because Joey Worley's kicks went out-of-bounds. UK was offsides on the other kickoff, resulting in a kickoff from the 25-yard line.

Vandy finally got the ball at the UK 41, marking the first of three straight possessions that began at midfield or on UK's side of the field.

On the first, Alan Herline kicked a 44-yard field goal.

On the second, which began at the UK 45 after Jay Tesar's 22-yard punt into a stiff wind, Herline missed from 43 yards.

The third started at the 50 and reaped a 15-yard touchdown pass to Tony Pearcey. A cut to the outside allowed Pearcey to beat Gary Sexton, who had replaced Hairston, the regular safety, two plays earlier.

"On the goal-line defense, we want to take away the inside," Sexton said. "He ran a hard corner and I didn't have the speed to get there."

UK enjoyed the wind in the second quarter. Worley kicked a 32-yard field goal to tie it at 10-10 with 11:53 left in the half.

Ivy Joe Hunter sparked the 75-yard drive, carrying twice for a combined 20 yards.

On third down from the 7-yard line, however, Hunter's run into the end zone was nullified by a holding penalty.

UK settled for a 32-yard field goal.

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