Date story was published: Sunday, October 21, 1984
Louisiana State 36. Kentucky 10.
So said the scoreboard at Commonwealth Stadium last night.
Kentucky 9. Louisiana State 6.
So ached the Wildcat hearts later last night.
The correlation was simple. Because Kentucky had more turnovers, the Wildcats had a lot fewer points.
LSU, which improved to 5-0-1 in this battle of unbeatens, played giveaway, too. Just not as often. And without as serious a consequence.
"We were hitting, causing turnovers; they were hitting, causing turnovers," UK's Cisco Bryant said. "They capitalized. We didn't."
The result was a most embarrassing fall from grace for UK. And what timing! After playing nearly impeccably in rolling up five straight victories, the school's best football start since 1950, the Cats' reserve of foul-ups and blunders spilled out onto regional television.
"It's a trip," Bryant said.
UK's rockiest journey this season included:
Four lost fumbles (UK had lost only seven fumbles in the previous five games); and
Five interceptions (as opposed to only two in Games One through Five).
But the fumbles and interceptions were only the tip of the iceberg that sank the U.S.S. Wildcat.
UK had installed a new play for this Southeastern Conference showdown. The formation called for two tight ends and two wide receivers. As quarterback coach Jerry Eisaman explained, on both occasions when UK tried the play, a wide receiver positioned himself on the line of scrimmage, making the tight end an ineligible receiver. On both plays, the tight end went downfield on a pattern. The two ineligible receiver penalties erased a first down in the opening quarter, when UK needed all the offense it could get, and a fourth- quarter touchdown, when UK needed all the points it could get.
Another example: Late in the first quarter, when UK still hadn't mustered a first down but threatened with a second-and-goal at the LSU 4-yard line, guard Joe Prince jumped offsides. The miscue, combined with a holding penalty on the next play, forced UK to settle for a tying field goal.
UK was penalized 13 times overall and backtracked 77 yards.
"We just self-destructed," UK Coach Jerry Claiborne said. "How many turnovers did we have? (He was handed a slip of paper that detailed the giveaways.) Nine. What else can you say? That sums it up."
UK, which had been averaging an SEC-best 1.8 more takeaways than giveaways a game, got that kind of performance from its defense for a half. Five of LSU's turnovers came before intermission.
But in the decisive third quarter, the Tigers held onto the ball and blitzkrieged Kentucky into submission. Aided by an interception and fumble recovery, LSU scored three touchdowns in a span of two minutes and nine seconds.
Running back Dalton Hilliard, who rushed for 164 of LSU's 272 yards on the ground, ran for all three touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, he dented the proud Kentucky defense, which was the SEC's second-best against the rush, for a fourth TD. That run had threefold significance: It tied the LSU school record for single-game rushing touchdowns; it set the final score, and dashed any Wildcat hopes of staging a comeback similar to what Vanderbilt did at Baton Rouge last weekend.
"The running game killed us," UK co-captain David Thompson said. "That's what hurts the worst."
The loss dropped UK's record in the SEC to 1-1. LSU moved into second place at 2-0-1. Georgia leads the SEC at 3-0.
The win also made LSU Coach Bill Arnsparger's homecoming sweet.
"I was happy for my mother because she's got to live here," the Paris, Ky., native said. (Polly Arnsparger, 87, still lives in Paris.) "I'm happy for my cousins and friends because they've got to live here. And I'm happy for our fans because they've got to go back to their hometowns."
UK's misery came early and often. Against an LSU defense which ranked eighth nationally against the rush, Kentucky went nowhere. The Cats went without a first down until about 12 minutes remained in the first half. Still, UK was able to stay even because quarterback Jeff Wickersham matched Bill Ransdell for ineffectiveness.
Wickersham threw two interceptions in the half, each stopping LSU scoring opportunities. Ransdell completed only three of 11 passes in the half and just eight of 21 in the game.
Tied at 3-3 (Joey Worley's 36-yard field goal came courtesy of a Maurice Douglass interception), UK had a chance to take a halftime lead.
A Tiger fumble was recovered at the LSU 42 midway through the second quarter. Riding Ransdell's first two completions of the game, UK drove to the LSU 9-yard line. Faced with a third-and-five, the Cats called time. Claiborne called for a halfback option pass back to Ransdell.
Inserted as a tailback, third-string quarterback Tim Jones took a pitchout to the left, stopped and threw back toward Ransdell in the right corner of the end zone. Before the pass could reach Ransdell, however, LSU cornerback James Pierson recovered to make the interception.
"From the very first play (a pitchout to George Adams), we were setting it up," Eisaman said.
Even with that preparation, UK apparently fooled no one.
"The coaches in the press box had seen he had been warming up on the sidelines," said LSU secondary coach Mike Archer. "When '23' (the number Jones wore) went on the field, we were screaming the alert."
Jeffrey Dale, LSU's strong safety, said he also recognized the significance of Jones' insertion.
"When you see someone out of the blue run onto the field, you know something's up," Dale said. "I kept trying to tell Pierson, but I didn't know if he heard me."
Ransdell took the blame for the interception, saying he should have come back to the ball instead of waiting. "I saw him," the UK quarterback-turned- receiver said of Pierson. "I kept hoping the ball would hurry up and get there instead of going back to the ball."
After the interception, LSU drove to a go-ahead field goal.
Then, just before the half, the Tigers pounced on the first of two Mark Logan fumbles and set up the third of three Juan Betanzos field goals.
Ransdell had little luck in the second half. On the first play from scrimmage following the first of Hilliard's touchdowns, Ransdell hit LSU linebacker Ricky Chatman in the chest with a pass. LSU needed just three Hilliard runs to cover 18 yards and score again. The back-to-back TDs came within a span of 63 seconds. A third, set up by Logan's second fumble, came little more than a minute later.
Asked if LSU was hitting particularly hard, Logan said: "I don't think so. I felt I was hit harder against Rutgers. I just didn't protect the ball."
Ransdell, his eyes filled with tears, also offered no excuses.
"They gave us the pass, they gave us everything," Ransdell said. "I threw it right to them."
Asked if LSU came up with any defensive surprises, Ransdell said: "Not a thing."
Eisaman wasn't nearly so hard on his quarterback. The assistant coach noted that Ransdell has had sore ribs since taking a shot against Rutgers and the injury has hindered his passing form.
Told his quarterback was crying, Eisaman smiled a bittersweet smile and said: "I feel like crying myself."
Ransdell was replaced by Kevin Dooley after the third-quarter interception.
Dooley completed 10 of 16 passes and directed the Cats on a 90-yard scoring drive as the third quarter ended.
The redshirt freshman from Cincinnati could easily have had a second TD drive. After quarterbacking the Cats 53 yards to the LSU 3-yard line, Dooley rolled left and appeared to have a good chance to run it in.
Instead, he tried to hit Cornell Burbage with a pass. Cornerback Norman Jefferson intercepted.
"It was one of those nights," Claiborne said.