Date story was published: Sunday, December 30, 1984
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Joe Worley kicked a record-tying and game-winning 52- yard field goal that gave Kentucky a 20-19 victory over Wisconsin in last night's Hall of Fame Bowl here.
Because almost nine minutes of building tension remained to be played, the Wildcat freshman figured he could be cool about such a kick.
"I didn't feel any pressure," he said. "With that much time left, I didn't think it would be a game-winner."
His kick, as dramatic as it was, proved to be only the prelude to a battle of clutch plays down the stretch.
Kentucky, finishing its season with a 9-3 record, couldn't anticipate victory until Wisconsin botched what looked like a chip-shot field goal in the final two minutes.
The victory, UK's fifth in seven bowl appearances, wasn't clinched until a roughing-the-punter penalty allowed the Wildcats to retain possession of the ball.
Mercifully, Kentucky ran out the final 94 seconds without incident.
UK had earned the respite.
Wisconsin, which led most of the game, lined up for a 26-yard field goal with 1:58 remaining.
Todd Gregoire, who earlier kicked four field goals, never got a chance for a fifth. Bob Kobza, a quarterback and holder for the kick, took the snap and immediately rolled left looking for a receiver.
Kobza scrambled to the right and finally threw the ball up for grabs. UK's Steve Mazza came down with the interception.
Improbable as it seemed, it looked like a fake. It wasn't. It was a mistake.
"No, no, it wasn't a fake," Wisconsin coach Dave McClain said. "No way it's a fake. It was just a miscued ball. We've handled it 101 times before. Tonight, we just mishandled it."
Kobza, a backup quarterback who had cleanly handled the earlier attempts, said the snap was good.
"What the thing was, it wasn't a perfect spiral," a sad-eyed Kobza said. "It was like it hit a dead spot when it hit my hand and I bobbled it."
Gregoire also said the snap was good.
"We'd been perfect all year," the Badger kicker said. "Everybody's human. Humans make mistakes."
Trying to make what he called a "half-way valiant play," Kobza threw the ball into the end zone. Mazza intercepted with 1:58 remaining.
Wisconsin had one more chance. The Badgers stopped UK on three downs following Mazza's play. But Ken Stills roughed Paul Calhoun on the punt, giving UK possession and the game with 1:34 to go.
"It was a terrible call," McClain said, "because we partially blocked the kick."
Calhoun said he couldn't be sure whether the ball was tipped or not.
The post-season victory was UK's first since the Wildcats blanked North Carolina 21-0 in the 1976 Peach Bowl.
Worley's game-winning field goal was his second in three attempts in the game and gave the freshman nine of 14 this season.
The 52-yarder tied the UK school record held jointly by John Pierce (1974 vs. Florida), Joe Bryant (vs. Virginia Tech) and Rick Strein (1981 vs. Kansas).
Worley's kick, which came from the left hash mark, gave UK its first lead of the game.
"That's what makes this so disappointing," Kobza said, "especially the way we started out. We were dominating. But give them credit. They came back."
UK stayed on the ground for all but one play on the game-winning 42-yard drive. Mark Higgs gained 25 yards on four carries. George Adams gained 12 on three attempts.
But when the Cats faced a fourth-and-three at the Badger 35, UK Coach Jerry Claiborne said he didn't hesitate in calling in Worley.
"It was field goal all the way," Claiborne said.
UK set the stage for the fourth-quarter dramatics by scoring in the final 26 seconds of the third quarter.
Mark Logan, who had scored the Wildcats' first touchdown, took a screen pass 27 yards for a TD that cut Wisconsin's game-long lead to 19-17.
The pass came on a third-and-10 situation and capped an 82-yard drive. The march was helped by a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty against Wisconsin. But quarterback Bill Ransdell had hit three passes for 33 yards before connecting with Logan. Bob Shurtleff's block sprung Logan, whose two touchdowns went a long way toward his most valuable player award.
Gregoire's fourth field goal of the game restored Wisconsin's nine-point halftime lead. The kick, good from 23 yards out, gave the Badgers a 19-10 lead with 9:04 remaining in the third quarter.
Gregoire's kick answered a three-pointer by UK to start the second half and capped a seven-play, 56-yard march.
Worley's 23-yard field goal cut Wisconsin's lead to 16-10 in the opening minutes of the third quarter.
The Cats took the second-half kickoff and drove 51 yards to the Wisconsin 5-yard line. Mark Logan returned the kickoff to that point to set up Kentucky.
Back-to-back passes of 19 yards to Eric Pitts and 16 yards to George Adams set up the score.
Wisconsin scored early if not often and took a 16-7 lead over Kentucky at halftime.
The Badgers scored on their first two possessions, chewing up chunks of the clock and claiming a 10-0 edge in the game's first 10 minutes.
Thereafter, the two teams jockeyed for field position in a game that was, if not a defensive struggle, a struggle nonetheless.
Just when it appeared the early points would have to suffice, both teams came to life in the closing moments of the half.
Wisconsin had added a field goal, building its lead to 13-0 when the two teams traded momentum-shifting scores in the half's final 90 seconds.
Opportunistic UK, taking advantage of Calhoun's eighth interception of the season, scored a touchdown with 1:29 remaining to cut its deficit to 13-7.
But Wisconsin retaliated immediately. The Badgers crossed up the Wildcats' prevent defense by running the ball. The unusual tactic, aided by two timeouts, netted 66 yards and resulted in a 20-yard field goal, one of three by Todd Gregoire in the half, to set the 16-7 halftime score.
Wisconsin quarterback Mike Howard, whose style wasn't crimped by a pass rush, threw seemingly at will in the early going. Howard, who completed 11 of 19 passes for 105 yards in the half, directed the Badgers to a field goal and a touchdown on their first two possessions.
The redshirt sophomore was three of five through the air on Wisconsin's opening drive. The Badgers went 48 yards with their first possession. Howard passed 33 of those yards.
An overthrow to an open receiver in the end zone, however, forced Wisconsin to settle for a 40-yard field goal from Gregoire with 11:32 remaining in the first quarter.
After UK went nowhere on three downs and a punt, Wisconsin struck again.
One of UK's better pass rushers, Jerry Reese, sat out the half because of a pinched nerve. His absence was noticeable as Howard took the Badgers 48 yards in eight plays.
Howard was three of three passing in the drive. The third pass, a roll-out in which he had plenty of time to find a receiver, was good for a touchdown as Thad McFadden leaped high in the end zone for a catch. That play put Wisconsin up 10-0 with 5:34 still on the first quarter clock.
Until the final moments of the half, UK's offense went nowhere. George Adams, who needed 129 yards to break the Wildcats' single-season rushing record, could manage only 38 yards on eight carries in the opening two quarters.
Ransdell could complete only eight of 18 passes in the half. His passing netted just 75 yards.
Of Kentucky's first six possessions, only one reaped more than a single first down. Three of the possessions were no more than three downs and a punt.
The UK offense, which had just seven first downs in the half, came to life only once in the first quarter and a half. Three completions pushed UK to the Wisconsin 32-yard line.
But an incompletion and a dropped pass by the usually sure-handed Adams stalled the march at that point and Worley was wide right with a 43-yard field-goal attempt.
A 67-yard punt return set up Wisconsin at the UK 10-yard line in the second quarter. The Badgers got a break when offsetting penalties erased a Guy Neal interception near the goal line.
Given a second chance, the Badgers got three more points when Gregoire kicked a 27-yard field goal.
Kentucky finally got points in the half's final 90 seconds.
Calhoun's interception put the Cats at the Wisconsin 43. He leaped in front of Wisconsin All-America end Al Toon for the ball.
A 20-yard pass to Oliver White put the Cats into scoring territory. Mark Logan swept 9 yards around the left side for the score with 1:29 remaining.
Wisconsin got three of the points back, however. With Joe Armentrout, who gained 86 yards in the half, ripping off runs of 23, 9 and 13 yards through the surprised Wildcats, Gregoire had time to kick a 20-yard field goal with two seconds remaining in the half.