Searchable Databases

2ND-HALF OUTBURST HANDS CLAIBORNE WORST UK LOSS

Date story was published: Sunday, November 24, 1985

Forty-two to nothing.

Let that sink in for a moment.

42-0.

"One of the most embarrassing losses I've ever been associated with," Jerry Claiborne said.

It was also his worst defeat in four years as Kentucky coach. A 37-7 loss against Georgia last year had been the previous nadir.

Tennessee 42. Kentucky 0.

"I would have bet my house on it," UK's Steve Mazza said, "it" being a Kentucky victory. "I don't have a house, but if I did, I'd have bet it. I've got to pinch myself to believe it."

Even the winners, a Tennessee team that needs to beat only Vanderbilt next weekend to claim the Southeastern Conference championship, did a double take after humiliating Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium yesterday.

"We went in thinking of a 3-0 dogfight," Volunteer wide receiver Tim McGee said.

Tennessee left with the fourth-largest victory margin in this 81-game rivalry. Only UK's 56-0 triumph in the series' 1893 opener and Tennessee's 46-0 and 45-0 victories in 1938 and 1970, respectively, have been more one- sided.

The Vols, now 7-1-2 overall and 4-1 in the league, also moved to within a victory of the school's first SEC football crown since 1969.

UK, of course, must ponder what Claiborne frequently refers to as "that old 'iffing' game."

If Kentucky had won, the Wildcats would have claimed the school's third straight winning season, something the Wildcats have not accomplished since 1954-56.

As unbelievable as it might sound, if UK's pass defense had not disintegrated in the third quarter and if the offense had overcome an immobile Bill Ransdell, the Wildcats might have pulled out yesterday's game. Kentucky dodged several bullets in the first half to trail 6-0 at halftime.

Then came a third quarter when three Tennessee touchdown passes hit UK between the eyes.

The rout was on.

Tennessee quarterback Daryl Dickey, whose first-half numbers totaled a minus two yards (eight passing, 10 lost on a sack), crammed 138 passing yards and three touchdowns into the third quarter alone.

"A lot of defenses will try to disguise coverages to keep us off balance," Vol tight end Jeff Smith said. "Once we recognize them and get our offense in sync, we're on a roll. Then we get the big 'mo.' "

Dickey found McGee for record-setting touchdowns of 37 and 12 yards. The catches raised McGee's career touchdown catches to a school-record 14. Dickey also hit Joey Clinkscales on an 18-yard scoring pass in the quarter.

"We couldn't get pressure on the quarterback," Claiborne said. "Their receivers beat our defenders. That's what it amounted to."

The most damaging - "The key play," Claiborne said - was the 37-yarder to McGee. It capped the Vols' opening drive of the second half, extended the lead to 14-0 and came oh so close to being stopped at both the throwing and receiving terminals.

Dickey got off the catch-it-if-you-can pass only after avoiding a blitzing Jeff Kremer.

"I was coming on what we call an 'M' blitz and nobody touched me," Kremer said. "I came in just like it's drawn up on the blackboard. I guess my momentum carried me too fast."

Dickey took a step forward and to the left as the reaching Kremer ran by.

"I almost got two hands on him," Kremer said, "and he throws it up for grabs and they catch it. I couldn't believe it."

Dickey admitted to just firing the ball downfield and hoping his vaunted receiving corps - in this case McGee - would do the rest. "Sometimes you just throw it out there and they make fantastic catches," Dickey said.

The ball was badly underthrown, but while UK's Russell Hairston waited on the goal line for it to descend, McGee maneuvered around the senior safety for a leaping catch at the 5-yard line.

"I expected him (Hairston) to go charging toward the ball," McGee said. "When I saw him just waiting on it, I knew I could get in front of him."

Said Hairston: "I kind of had a feeling he (McGee) was coming, but I didn't think he could get there. At that point, I just wanted to make the tackle, but I didn't do that either."

McGee fought through Hairston and fell into the end zone.

McGee, whose five catches for 108 yards left him with a school-record 1,963 receiving yards, burned Hairston again on Tennessee's next possession to extend the lead to 21-0.

Clinkscales lined up to the far right and drove UK defensive back Maurice Douglass deep into the end zone. McGee, who was aligned between Clinkscales and the offensive line, cut underneath toward the flag. Dickey hit the slanting McGee with a 12-yard touchdown pass before Hairston could reach the speedy receiver.

"The defensive end was lined up on him (McGee) for a bump and run," Hairston said. "I figured he'd hit him, but he didn't."

Mazza, the defensive end, said he was assigned to blitz on the play and didn't want to hold up his charge by bumping McGee.

Dickey added yet another touchdown pass on Tennessee's next possession. The Vols overcame two holding penalties on the 62-yard march. The scoring pass was a 12-yard floater to Clinkscales, who beat Carmichael Caldwell on a timing pattern.

While Tennessee was erasing the memories of a 70-yard first half with 332 second-half yards, Kentucky went nowhere. The Wildcats were held to only 197 total yards.

Ransdell, whose left knee will require arthroscopic surgery Monday, limped noticeably throughout the game.

His inability to move quickly affected both game plans, the two teams said.

UK scratched its quick passes off rollouts to the left and right. "I told him (Claiborne) I thought I could do it," Ransdell said, "but he didn't want to fool with it because of the knee."

Tennessee used a safety blitz for the first time all season and the move paid off on Kentucky's first possession. Chris White sacked Ransdell for an eight-yard loss to halt UK's most serious scoring threat at the Vols' 27-yard line. Joey Worley then hooked a 44-yard field goal wide left.

"The coaches recognized he couldn't move well and we had to put pressure on him," said White, who also picked off his ninth interception. "I admire Ransdell. I'm not sure he had an attempt on one long pass where he had time to set up."

Tennessee sacked Ransdell four times and limited UK to just 55 total second-half yards. A sitting duck for Tennessee's pass rush, Ransdell threw for just 74 yards, bringing his season's total to 1,744. Ransdell, who missed 3 1/2 games because of a fractured rib and collapsed lung, finished 79 yards short of Rick Norton's 20-year-old school record for single-season passing yardage.

Although he lost 35 yards on the sacks, Ransdell's 39 yards of total offense allowed him to break Norton's record of 1,706. Ransdell finished the season with 1,720 yards of total offense.

The record seemed small consolation after a 42-0 beating as Ransdell sought help to remove his flak jacket. The process was too painful.

"It was like a dog tasting blood," Tennessee linebacker Kelly Ziegler said of the hounding that Ransdell endured. "He wants to come back for more."

  Comments