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UK OVERCOMES HALFTIME DEFICIT, BEATS RUTGERS

Date story was published: Sunday, October 7, 1984

On Keeneland's opening day, Kentucky parlayed a doozie of a daily double to a thrilling 27-14 Homecoming victory over Rutgers.

They are known as George Adams and Mark Higgs.

After last night's performances, they may also go by:

Thunder and lightning.

Rock and roll.

Whatever, they were two big reasons why Kentucky's unbeaten football team is now:

Four and Oh.

Against a Rutgers team good enough to put UK behind for the first time this season, Adams and Higgs combined for 230 yards and four touchdowns.

Against a Rutgers team that beat the team (Syracuse) that beat Nebraska, UK circled its wagons around Adams and Higgs after quarterback Bill Ransdell was injured.

Finally, against a Rutgers team that stubbornly refused to die until the waning moments of the fourth quarter, Adams and Higgs manned the front line. All this in front of a sellout crowd of 58,010, the largest ever to witness a football game in Kentucky.

"I tell Mark he's Mr. Outside," Adams said. "I'm Mr. Inside. If he sticks to the outside, he'll be great."

No slouch himself, Adams rushed for 114 yards on 28 touch carries. He also caught seven passes for another 68 yards.

That kind of production, which included a touchdown by land and by air, earned Adams his third straight Homecoming Most Valuable Player award.

For the first time, however, he had to share the honor (happily) with Higgs. "I'll look back on it some day and I'll know I shared it with one of the great ones."

Higgs, who went without a carry in the nailbiter against Tulane because the coaches wondered if the freshman could handle the pressure, won last night's battle with two long runs. The rookie went 29 and 76 yards for second-half touchdowns, the latter UK's longest run from scrimmage since Pete Venable went 82 yards against Bowling Green at Homecoming 1979.

Combined with an aroused Kentucky defense that blanked Rutgers for three of the four quarters, the Cats could claim victory in a game Coach Jerry Claiborne termed "a hard-fought football game."

What the record home Kentucky crowd of 58,010 saw was 98 percent trench warfare.

Higgs' two ICBMs accounted for the other 2 percent.

He couldn't have picked a better time.

The Cats were trailing 14-13, thanks to a missed extra-point. (Place- kicker Jim "Easy" Rider aggravated a pulled groin on his first extra- point kick.)

UK was also forced to make do without Ransdell, who had statistically been the nation's best sophomore quarterback. Ransdell had caught a helmet in the face early in the third quarter. The blow, which knocked the Elizabethtown native out of three series, broke his facemask and put a slash under his lower lip that required about 10 stitches to close.

While Ransdell was being mended, Higgs soothed the huge crowd's anxieties by turning a simple pitch play into a 29-yard touchdown.

Although only 5-foot-7 and 184 pounds, Higgs was playing fullback when he cut off a Mark Logan block and sprinted to the go-ahead TD with 8:36 remaining in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, again playing fullback, Higgs applied the crusher. He took a pitch around the right side, cut off an Adams' block, and took off on the kind of coast-to-coast run some UK fans have only seen on other teams' highlight films.

He made at least three on-a-dime cuts, the third including a stop-and-go move at the Rutgers' 20 to lose a final defender, on the near-perfect 76-yard glide.

Near perfect?

Yes. Higgs was caught from behind, as he was on his earlier TD run, and had to score horizontally with a defender clinging to his ankles.

"It was a terrible run," Higgs said of his clincher with 12:10 remaining.

Why?

"Cause the dude caught me from behind," he said, adding after a pause, "twice."

"I was surprised I was caught from behind," Higgs said. "In high school (Owensboro High), that never happened. In college, though, those defensive backs are fast."

Higgs' two TD runs upped his rushing total to a team-high 116 yards on just four carries.

With Adams' more pedestrian 114 yards, UK had a second game this season when two runners went over 100 yards in the same game.

Logan, who along with Adams had more than 100 yards at Indiana, would have made it three at the century mark last night, but an 80-yard run was called back because of a clip in the fourth quarter.

Adams, of course, was featured prominently in the Rutgers' gameplan. The senior from Lexington complained that each time he lined up in the "I" formation, the Scarlet Knights placed eight men on the line of scrimmage.

Higgs, however, was a surprise, Coach Dick Anderson said.

"We weren't really aware of his existence," Anderson said of Higgs.

Until Higgs broke it open, the two teams were locked in a close struggle.

Twice in the first half, UK took touchdown leads. Each time, Rutgers responded with scores.

Adams gave Kentucky a 7-0 lead with 9:48 remaining in the first quarter, when he caught a screen pass from Ransdell and ran 17 yards.

Rutgers tied it early in the second quarter. Tailback Albert Smith's equalizer, a 2-yard dive, was set up indirectly by a fumbled punt. Brian Williams was the guilty party. Although his fumble, which Rutgers recovered at the UK 43-yard line, didn't produce a scoring drive, it did give the Scarlet Knights the opportunity to punt deep into UK territory. The punt was downed at the UK 1.

When UK had to punt, Rutgers got the ball at the Cat 45 and needed 12 plays to score.

Officially, UK's next touchdown, which gave the Cats a 13-7 lead, came on a nine-play, 41-yard march. Actually, it concluded a 24-play possession that consumed more than 11 minutes of the second quarter.

The first part of the mammoth possession was a 15-play, 67-yard march to the Rutgers 6. UK stalled there, however, and Rider missed a 23-yard field goal.

UK's official drive began one play after Rider's miss. Maurice Douglass, who is showing a flair for the dramatic intro, picked off a Rutgers pass at the UK 41 on the play.

"I read the quarterback," said Douglass, who made the interception on his first play from scrimmage. "All week long we were told that their quarterback (Eric "Rusty" Hochberg) would look at the receiver he would throw to."

Douglass, a defensive back who transferred to Kentucky from Coffeyville (Kan.) Junior College, also was a hit in his first non-scrimmage play as a Wildcat. He made the tackle on the opening kickoff of the Tulane game.

Although UK held the ball for much of the second quarter, Rutgers had time to get a go-ahead score before halftime. The Knights went 66 yards in 33 seconds as the half ended. Hochberg hit wide-out Andrew Baker for the score on a 20-yard crossing pattern. Tony Angstadt's extra point put Rutgers up 14-13.

Rutgers didn't score again, although the Knights should have been buoyed by Ransdell's injury.

Instead, it was the UK defense that seemed to become inspired.

"We knew we had to control the ballgame and not put the freshman quarterback (Kevin Dooley) in a bind," Williams said.

With the help of Rutgers' turnovers, the Cat defenders did just that. Linebacker Larry Smith caused the first of two Vernon Williams' fumbles that stalled Rutgers on its opening possession of the second half. Russell Hairston recovered at the UK 22.

Williams coughed it up again on Rutgers' next possession. Cam Jacobs, UK's other linebacker, had the hit. Don Yarano got the recovery.

"We did some things our opponents have done," said Anderson. (Rutgers entered the game ranked fifth nationally in turnover margin.) "If we don't turn the ball over it can be a different ballgame."

UK defense also was aided by a revived pass rush. Although Rutgers passed for241 yards, Hochberg was harried throughout the game by the blitzing Cats. UK's defensive ends stunted about twice as much as usual, Williams estimated.

"We felt we could get them on backside stunts," Williams said. "We felt their center wasn't getting back to protect against that."

Although UK was not credited with a sack, the Cats had many near-misses. The final one belonged to Jerry Reese, the second-year freshman who replaced the injured Jeff Smith.

Reese, a Hopkinsville native, roared up the middle to force a hurried Hochberg throw. It fell harmlessly, ending Rutgers' final scoring threat at the Kentucky 5-yard-line with 2:26 to play.

"I used something I shouldn't use," a sheepish Reese said of his rush up the middle. "He (assistant Rod Sharpless) will get on me Sunday for that. I'll get a minus and a point taken away for that."

Reese's sin was to stray from the wide-tackle-six techniques and cut inside his blocker.

But the UK coaches shouldn't complain much about Reese's instincts.

He had the early line on Higgs.

"After he broke the line," Reese said of Higgs, "I thought: 'He's gone.' "

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