Date story was published: Sunday, October 13, 1985
Fears that Kentucky shouldn't go out in the dark alone without Bill Ransdell were laid to rest last night.
In a game bursting with action, the Wildcats outlasted Mississippi State 33-19.
The entertainment included two 100-yard rushers for UK. Both Mark Logan and Mark Higgs cracked the century mark.
And Joey Worley booted a pair of field goals, bringing his school-record total to 13 and counting this season.
The Kentucky defense continued to stonewall the enemy, holding the Bulldogs to 62 yards rushing.
Despite those efforts, the spotlight stayed on Kevin Dooley, the quarterback who started in place of Ransdell, who is injured.
What he lacked in Ransdell-like consistency, Dooley more than made up for in sheer thrill value.
He threw two interceptions that set up 10 of Mississippi State's 19 points.
He threw one of the more improbable touchdown passes in recent memory that went for the clinching score.
After a miserable first half, UK's only experienced quarterback was knocked to the ground early in the third quarter . . . and stayed there for several minutes.
Talk about dramatics.
Then, as a record Commonwealth Stadium crowd of 58,345 held its collective breath, Dooley had a gash on his chin temporarily repaired. (Six stitches were needed afterward.) Dooley re-entered the game and found a way to win.
"I don't know where my head was," Dooley said of his dangerously exciting debut. "I was glad I got hurt. It woke me up a little bit."
Never was Dooley's roller-coaster debut more thrilling than early in the fourth quarter when he passed the Cats to safety.
Nursing a 24-19 lead, Dooley completed two improbable passes to highlight an 86-yard scoring drive.
The first went for 18 yards to Cornell Burbage, who caught seven passes for 131 yards. On this catch, which took the Cats to the MSU 45-yard-line, fullback Chris Derry drifted into the area and leaped for the ball.
Derry missed the ball by inches, but it went right to Burbage.
Three plays later, luck was again with UK, now 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the Southeastern Conference.
On a third-and-eight from the State 43, Dooley rolled right and was in the grasp of linebacker Ermon Green when he threw blindly across the field.
Logan, who scored two touchdowns in the second half, ran under the ball, broke a tackle near the 30 and sprinted for the touchdown.
"That was probably the stupidest pass I've ever thrown," Dooley said of the cross-field floater. "I just looked back and saw him (Logan) over there; well, I saw a receiver kind of guy, and let it go."
Logan also proved that design can be overrated. The junior tailback, who rushed for 115 yards on 35 carries, said he was supposed to stay in the backfield to block.
"To me, it was a busted play," Logan said. "The safety blitzed and he was my pickup."
So Logan was in the wrong place.
"But at the right time," he added with a smile.
If that play clinched UK's victory, the way was paved with Higgs' footsteps.
The little tailback darted for 125 yards and two touchdowns, both coming in the uneasy moments of the first half.
With UK reeling under a 10-0 deficit, Higgs popped a third-and-one play and ran 39 yards for the Cats' first score.
His second TD, a 1-yard dive in the half's final two minutes, put UK ahead 14-13 at intermission.
"Man, I was scared at first," linebacker Jeff Kremer said. "I didn't think we'd lose, but I was skeptical. When 'Higgy' ran that one, I knew we were all right."
A record kick and a revived quarterback extended Kentucky's lead to 24-13 entering the final quarter.
In the first half Dooley completed only six of 19 passes, but he came out a new man after halftime. He completed seven of eight passes in the third period, including all five in an 87-yard touchdown march that put the Cats up 24-13. Logan capped the drive with a 5-yard burst. The score came with 2:02 remaining in the quarter.
Earlier in the quarter, when it appeared Dooley might not return, backup Tim Jones got in for five plays. Jones, who played wide receiver earlier in the game, handed off twice to Logan for a total of six yards. On third down, Jones dribbled the ball on his retreat from center and was dropped for a loss of two.
Worley then extended UK's lead to 17-13 with a 29-yard field goal.
The kick was his 12th field goal of the season, breaking John Pierce's record of 11 set in 1984.
Mississippi State's early lead could have been more had not the UK defense stiffened three times on short-yardage situations.
Six times the Bulldogs drove inside the UK 35-yard line. All State got were two field goals and a touchdown. MSU's other touchdown was set up by an interception.
In the first half alone, State got inside the UK 35 five times. Those possessions yielded just six points.
With Ransdell watching from the sidelines in a football jersey, shorts and a baseball cap, Dooley got off to a rocky start.
Dooley only completed six of 19 passes for a mere 89 yards in the first two quarters. Even more depressing were his two interceptions, both of which led to Mississippi State scores.
Dooley misfired on his first pass and the Wildcats paid dearly. It came on UK's first play from scrimmage. Intending to hit a wide receiver on a sideline route, Dooley apparently didn't see Leon Cannon and hit the MSU linebacker in the chest. Cannon returned the ball 20 yards to the UK 10.
Marvell McKelphin took it over from there, putting State up 7-0 with 11:43 remaining in the first quarter.
Dooley continued to flounder in the early going, not completing his first five passes. Only Higgs, who gained 70 yards on seven carries, could spark the Cats' offense early. Higgs' 17-yard run on a draw play was the most excitement of the opening quarter.
Dooley didn't complete a pass until 1:32 remained in the first quarter. He hit Jones on a 14-yard pattern.
Dooley's second interception also cost the Wildcats points. Midway through the second quarter, he looked for tight end Mark Wheeler, but instead threw the ball to State linebacker Cedric Corse at the UK 23-yard-line. Artie Cosby kicked a 37-yard field to put the Bulldogs ahead 13-7.
Kentucky went ahead for the first time late in the half as Dooley and the offense finally got in gear.
The Cats drove 73 yards on 10 plays for the go-ahead score. Higgs went over from the 1-yard-line with 1:42 remaining.
One big play on the drive was a 27-yard pass from Dooley to Burbage to the State 29-yard-line.
The play began as a handoff to Higgs, who lateraled back to Dooley, who found Burbage.
Three plays later, after a UK timeout, Dooley again hit Burbage, this time with a 19-yarder on a third-and-eight, that went to the State 8-yard line.
Three runs by Higgs got Kentucky the lead.