Mark Story

Bill Ransdell is ready for his time as ‘the last UK QB to beat Florida’ to end

From 1984 until 2006, Bill Ransdell was “the last Kentucky quarterback to win a bowl game.”

From 1984 until 2011, Ransdell was “the last Kentucky quarterback to beat Tennessee.”

From 1986 until right now, Ransdell is still “the last Kentucky quarterback to beat Florida.”

UK’s starting QB for Jerry Claiborne from 1984-86, Ransdell does not enjoy what he calls “the last tos.”

“That ‘last one’ kind of thing, it doesn’t do much for me,” the former Elizabethtown High School star says. “To me, there’s no record to that. It’s not like you had the all-time most rushing (yards) or the all-time most receiving yards.”

On Saturday night, Mark Stoops and Kentucky will try again to end what is now a 30-game Florida winning streak against UK at 7:30 p.m in the newly renamed Kroger Field.

On Nov. 15, 1986, it was cold and misting in Lexington. In the challenging elements, Ransdell completed 20 of 23 passes in his final college home start to help UK beat Florida 10-3.

Running back Mark Higgs scored the game’s sole touchdown on a 1-yard run. Using a short-passing game to negate Florida’s defensive speed, UK dominated the time of possession, 41:02 to 18:58.

Yet because Kentucky missed two field goals and failed on a fourth-down try deep in Florida territory, the Gators were only down seven when they got the ball back at their own 17 with a minute left in the game.

Quarterback Kerwin Bell completed passes of 17 and 15 yards, then hit star wide receiver Ricky Nattiel over the middle near the UK 21-yard line.

Wildcats cornerback Tony Mayes reached in from behind Nattiel, however, and knocked the ball loose. Mayes, a senior from Paintsville, then fell on the ball.

UK ran out the clock.

Today, Ransdell, 54, is a Realtor for Bluegrass Sotheby’s International Realty in Lexington. He and his wife, radio personality Deidre Ransdell, have five children — three grown, one in college and a sophomore at Henry Clay High School.

On Tuesday, Bill Ransdell discussed his memories of UK’s long-ago but most recent win over Florida in 1986, his impressions of current Kentucky QB Stephen Johnson — and why he thinks 2017 could finally be the year the Wildcats’ futility against the Gators ends (Some answers have been edited for brevity).

Question one: Your recollections of Kentucky 10, Florida 3, in 1986?

Ransdell: “It was cold. I was a senior. We won the game. But I remember (the Friday before the game), sitting there with a buddy of mine, Tony Mayes, just kind of looking at the stadium, kind of scratching our heads. ‘Where did the time go? We’re already seniors.’ I remember us looking at each other and saying, ‘Let’s have a good time tomorrow and let’s see if there are some things we can kind of make happen.’ And that’s what we did.”

Question two: So leaving the stadium in 1986, would you have ever dreamed you would not see another Kentucky win over Florida for 30 years?

Ransdell: “No, no, not at all, not even remotely. I never would have thought we’d still be talking about (that game) 30 years later.”

Question three: Are there similarities between the 2017 Wildcats (3-0) and the 1986 Cats (5-5-1) that beat Florida?

Ransdell: “I see a lot of similarities. Coach Stoops is a defensive coach, just as Coach Claiborne was. There’s a philosophy and mentality with that. (The current Cats) seem to be following that (philosophy) and making some things happen with the defense being very, very opportunistic. The wins may not be very pretty — they are still wins.”

Question four: As a former Kentucky quarterback, what is your impression of current UK starter Stephen Johnson?

Ransdell: “He just wins. He’s just winning games (Kentucky is 10-4 over the past two seasons in games in which Johnson has taken the preponderance of snaps). I think he does a lot of good things. He’s not a big ‘rah-rah guy,’ it doesn’t appear like. He just goes out and kind of keeps carrying the mail.

“He looks like he’s worked through the summer and put on some weight. He can drive the ball (on throws), it looks like, better than he did last year. I guess he’s just not a real flashy guy, but the young man wins. I don’t know what’s not to like.”

Question five: So how optimistic are you that Kentucky will finally beat Florida this year and remove another “last to” for you?

Ransdell: “I’m an eternal optimist. I expect Kentucky to win every year. But I was out at (UK’s) practice for a bit (Monday). They were just doing some walk-through stuff, but they were ‘on.’ They’ve got a focus.

“I think things are set up really nice. I think the team is in a good position. ... As much as anything, I like the way they are playing defensively. I think that is part of the top-down leadership. Look at the coaches, I think they are defensive-minded and I think the team is playing that way.”

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