Date story was published: Sunday, November 4, 1984
It may be many Novembers before Kentucky fans care to recall what took place at Commonwealth Stadium yesterday.
The Wildcats wore down North Texas State 31-7 in a game as dreary as the gray autumn afternoon. Strangely enough, however, the mind-numbing action had its memorable moments.
Jerry Claiborne claimed his 150th coaching victory, received the game ball and made immediate plans. He wants No. 151, preferably next week against Vanderbilt when UK again faces Southeastern Conference competition. Claiborne is one of only five active coaches with 150 wins to their credit. The others are Bo Schembechler, Joe Paterno, Vince Dooley and Bill Yeoman.
Bill Ransdell and George Adams ended personal slumps and again provided UK with the kind of production that came on a weekly basis way back in September. Adams rushed for 144 yards, crossing the 100-yard mark for the fifth time this season (and first time in a month). Statistically, Ransdell had his best day as a starting quarterback, throwing for 196 yards and three touchdowns. Before yesterday the Elizabethtown sophomore had thrown for four scores in seven games.
And, perhaps most important, UK did win and clinch a second-straight winning football season, a Kentucky phenomenon that last occurred in 1976 (9-3) and 1977 (10-1). Before those two Fran Curci-coached teams, you have to go back to 1955 (6-3-1) and 1956 (6-4) for two .500-plus years back to back.
It was just the way UK went about lifting its current record to 6-2 and the nagging suspicion that North Texas State (1-8) was a mismatch that left something to be desired. Claiborne was the first to admit that.
"We played pretty good; not great, but pretty good," he said. "We're going to have to play better than we did today. We had North Texas outmanned. We have to play better against the next three opponents. We're still not as sharp a football team as we were in the early going, but I hope this gets us back on track for the SEC."
Making that objective more difficult is yesterday's casualty list. Offensive guard Joe Prince suffered a knee injury that will require surgery and cause him to miss the rest of the season. Another offensive lineman, backup center Dermontti Dawson, injured an Achilles' tendon and left the field yesterday on crutches.
"We've got a few people hurt that will really hurt this football team," Claiborne said.
North Texas State, which has had several starters sidelined by injury this season, appeared to be anything but a pushover in the early going. The Eagles took a 7-0 lead, marching 77 yards in 10 plays.
Monty Moon, a freshman who rushed for 118 yards on 27 carries, scored from 5 yards, but the big play was a 41-yard pass on third down that set up North Texas at the UK 35.
Scott Toman, one of two quarterbacks who alternated at the position, scrambled right and threw long in the direction of tight end Matt Barber.
Gordon Jackson appeared to have Barber covered, but the UK defensive back fell just as the ball arrived.
"I tripped over him (Barber)," Jackson said. "I saw him (Toman) scrambling and thought somebody would get him."
Instead, North Texas had 41 yards. Seven plays later, it had the lead.
"It was the first time we've been in that position," Ransdell said. "We were in against a team we're supposed to beat and they stuck it down our throats. I think we deserve some credit for coming back."
UK responded quickly, despite the novelty of giving up first-quarter points. Before yesterday, the Wildcats had surrendered only six points in the opening 15 minutes. Thanks primarily to Adams, who returned the ensuing kickoff 40 yards, the Cats got even in seven plays. Adams, who would surpass his 41-yard output of a week ago in less than a quarter, ran for 40 of the march's 53 yards. His opening-drive runs included a 24-yard romp through the right side of the North Texas State defense and the 5-yarder into the end zone.
"I was trying to do basically what I was trying to do last week," Adams said of his burst of yardage. Yesterday's 144-yard effort gave Adams 855 yards, within striking distance of his goal of becoming only the third Wildcat to rush for 1,000 or more yards in a season.
UK took the lead for good early in the second quarter when Ransdell hit roommate Joe Phillips with a 6-yard TD pass.
That touchdown put Kentucky ahead 14-7 at halftime - the first time the Cats have led at intermission since the Indiana game. Still, UK had reason to be dissatisfied, as two other scoring chances were squandered.
A Paul Calhoun interception (his fifth of 1984) gave Kentucky the ball at the North Texas 45. Ransdell gave it back with an interception.
Later in the second quarter, Brian Williams made a diving interception at the North Texas 28. Adams fumbled away the scoring chance at the 9.
Meanwhile, until the latter stages of the fourth quarter, North Texas State got no closer than the UK 33 after its opening touchdown. The height of Eagle frustration came in the second quarter when North Texas reached the UK 33. Needing just a yard for a first down, the Eagles sent Moon (a 5-10, 177-pound freshman) up the middle twice. Both times he was held to no gain.
"They blocked things a little differently than we expected," UK linebacker Cam Jacobs said of North Texas' opening drive. "And I don't think we were real intense at the start. But everything turned out all right, I guess."
Joey Worley's 27-yard field goal increased lead to 17-7 early in the third quarter. The score was set up by a 47-yard sprint around right end by Adams, who was caught from behind at the North Texas 14.
Two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Ransdell put the game away. Eric Pitts caught the first, a 14-yarder. Mark Logan, who had left the game in the first half when he caught a helmet in the kidneys, raced 61 yards for the game's final score.
"The back still bothered me, but I wanted to score," Logan said of his scoring sprint with a simple swing pass out of the backfield. "They (North Texas) played pretty good, but strength-wise you could tell we weren't playing LSU or Georgia."
Still, a victory over anyone after humbling defeats to LSU (36-10) and Georgia (37-7) was something to savor no matter what the competition.
"It was not - what can I say? - the same feeling," Jackson said. "It was a great feeling, though."