Date story was published: Sunday, November 13, 1983
GAINSEVILLE, Fla. -- There was plenty of motion here yesterday, but precious little emotion as Florida went about its business of beating Kentucky.
The Gators, 17-point favorites on the latest betting line, were true to form in handling UK 24-7 in a Southeastern Conference game that begged the question: Who cares?
Apparently, neither team did.
Florida spent the week crying over spilled opportunities in its last two games -- heartbreaking losses to Auburn and Georgia -- and couldn't get excited about Kentucky no matter how rejuvenated the 6-2-1 Wildcats appeared. "Today, we didn't have to yell and scream and jump up and down," defensive back Bruce Vaughan said. "This was a game to just play because you wanted to play for fun."
Kentucky, in its first winning season since 1977 clinched a week ago, seemed to have the same attitude. The Wildcats, however, had considerably less fun.
"It seems that's the way it's been for us, up and down," said UK's motivational lightning rod, Scott Schroeder, who dressed out but didn't play because of a knee injury. "We haven't reached the point in this program where we're mentally tough enough."
Even a last-minute touchdown pass, which avoided UK's first shutout since 1981, wasn't worth celebrating after 59 minutes of do-little offense.
"I don't think it did much for anybody," said backup quarterback Bill Ransdell, who engineered the scoring drive against Florida's second-stringers. "It didn't do much for me."
Three interceptions (two thrown by Randy Jenkins and one by Ransdell) helped blunt whatever drive the UK offense had. Those giveaways didn't so much spark Florida as spark the Gators back to attention. Florida scored touchdowns after each interception, but had to drive more than half the field or longer each time.
"It seems like this has been one of the longest weeks because a week ago tomorrow (last Sunday) our team was hurting very badly inside," Florida Coach Charley Pell said. "They worked really hard this week. Physically, you could see the effort. We had no idea, of course, what was going on inside them."
In improving its record to 7-2-1 overall and 4-2 in the SEC, Florida jumped ahead early, then was content to wait for its lead to lengthen. The Gators drove 46 yards with the game's first possession. Faced with a fourth-and-one at the UK 30-yard line, Pell opted for a field goal. Chris Perkins connected from 37 yards out, but the crowd of 73,192 still booed the conservative ways of its coach.
Thereafter, Florida averaged one sustained drive a quarter -- about the same pace Jenkins was throwing interceptions -- as the game ground to a halt.
Three different Gators scored touchdowns. Backup fullback Joe Henderson broke off a 29-yard draw play late in the fourth quarter to push the Gator lead to 24-0. In the second quarter, Neal Anderson capped off a 67-yard march with five straight carries. The fifth, a sweep around right end, netted the sophomore tailback a 9-yard touchdown. Between the two, quarterback Wayne Peace sneaked over from the 1.
On a day when neither side had much to shout about, Peace went over 7,000 yards in career passing -- only the second Gator and 20th player overall in NCAA history -- but also failed for the first time in 29 games to throw for more than 100 yards. He completed nine of 11 passes for 83 yards before leaving the game late in the fourth quarter because of a bruised shoulder.
Until its final drive, UK could muster only 148 yards of offense. The Cats had only 25 passing yards and nine first downs until its final possession.
After going with Jenkins for the first 2 1/2 quarters, UK Coach Jerry Claiborne inserted Ransdell with 6:19 remaining in the third quarter. Ransdell's third pass was intercepted at the Florida 39-yard line, starting the Gators on the way to their final touchdown.
"We said all week long that we'd have to make something happen," Claiborne said. "We just didn't. We didn't get any turnovers and we didn't make any big plays."
The closest the Cats came was two kickoff returns by Tony Mayes. After the Florida field goal put the Gators ahead 3-0 in the first quarter, Mayes, a freshman from Paintsville, returned the kickoff 35 yards to the UK 39. Mayes had another 35-yard return, this one in the fourth quarter, nullified by a clip.
"We almost broke some kickoffs," Claiborne said, "but almost."
The Cats couldn't blame field position for their lack of offense. UK's first three possessions began at its own 39, at Florida's 42 following a short punt, and at its own 31.
The closest Kentucky came to scoring before the late TD was a 45-yard field goal attempt by Chris Caudell. Caudell, still nursing a pulled groin, line-drived the kick wide to the right with 2:37 remaining in the first quarter.
The Cats drove to the Florida 25 in the second quarter. But on a fourth-and-two, Lawrence "Choo Choo" Lee was thrown for a 4-yard loss.
"I wish we'd got that field goal early," Claiborne said. "We just never got anything going."
Instead, Florida got going after the interceptions. Defensive back Tony Lilly picked off two passes. The first, thrown at least 10 yards over the intended receiver by Jenkins, gave Florida the ball at the Gator 33 early in the second quarter. Twelve plays (nine of them runs) later, Anderson went over to give Florida a 10-0 lead to take into halftime.
Lilly's second interception of the game and fourth of the season came off Ransdell. Lilly stepped in front of Eddie Simmons along the sideline at the Florida 39 on the play. Even a clipping penalty didn't stall the Gators as they went 61 yards in 14 plays to go up 17-0. The third interception came as UK shuffled Jenkins back into the game and resulted in Henderson's touchdown.
The Cats even tried a "bum-a-roo-ski" play, mothballed since last season. It netted 6 yards, but the trickery wasn't nearly enough on the third-and-18 play from the UK 3-yard line.
"Florida didn't do anything that surprised us; they just lined up and played tough football," Jenkins said. "I don't have any idea what happened to us. I can't explain it. I wish I could."
UK fell to 6-3-1 overall and 2-3 in the SEC.