By JEFFREY McMURRAY
Associated Press Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Robbie McAtee tackled Eldred King at the
1-yard line as time expired to preserve Kentucky's 20-14 victory
over Middle Tennessee State Saturday night.
McAtee's game-saving ankle tackle came after Middle Tennessee
quarterback Joe Craddock heaved a desperation pass 61 yards in what
appeared to be a last-second victory for the Blue Raiders. Instead,
McAtee's tackle kept Kentucky undefeated (3-0) and prevented the
Blue Raiders (1-2) from a second straight win over a major
conference foe, having beaten Maryland a week earlier.
Mike Hartline threw the first two touchdown passes of his
Kentucky career. What was expected to be a timeshare at quarterback
for the Wildcats ended up being Hartline's job alone, at least for
one week, as freshman speedster Randall Cobb hurt an ankle on a
special teams play in the first quarter and didn't return.
There was no immediate word on the extent of Cobb's injury.
Twice Hartline led Kentucky's offense into the end zone after
the Blue Raiders (1-2) had gained the lead.
The Wildcats took the lead for good, 17-14, early in the fourth
quarter on a 6-yard toss from Hartline to Derrick Locke. The play
was set up by three Hartline passes of 10 yards or longer - one
preserved by an acrobatic one-handed catch from Dicky Lyons Jr.
Hartline was 28-for-47 with 254 yards and no interceptions.
While the game was a breakout for Hartline, who was booed a week
earlier against Norfolk State during Cobb's three-TD performance,
it was a rough evening for Kentucky kicker Lones Seiber and, to a
lesser extent, the Wildcats' previously unscathed defense.
Seiber halted three Kentucky drives with missed field goal
attempts and had another one blocked, setting up Middle Tennessee's
last chance. He did make two others, including a 25-yarder in the
fourth quarter that stretched the lead to 6.
Kentucky's defense had kept opposing offenses out of the end
zone the first two games - a feat previously accomplished 50 years
earlier. But the streak came to an end in the first quarter when
Joe Craddock dumped off a short pass to tailback Desmond Gee, who
sprinted past Kentucky linebacker Braxton Kelley and got solid
blocking downfield for a 62-yard score.
Craddock completed 21 of 37 passes for 355 yards and two TDs.
The Wildcats' defense made plays when they were most needed,
Kentucky's Micah Johnson picked up a fumbled pitch to give the
defense new life. Wildcats advanced to the 1, and Hartline used
play-action on first down to find tight end Maurine Grinter to tie
the game at 7.
Safety Marcus McClinton also had a key interception late in the
fourth quarter. The Blue Raiders got the ball back once more but
turned it over on downs, allowing Kentucky to run the clock down
before Seiber's blocked 33-yard attempt.
The Blue Raiders' spread offense gave Kentucky's secondary fits
in the first half, albeit with little to show for it. Among the
missed opportunities was a dazzling catch made by Malcolm Beyah
over Shomari Moore, which Beyah took for 52 yards. Beyah later
scored from 22 yards out in the third quarter to give the Blue
Raiders a 14-10 lead.
KENTUCKY 20, MIDDLE TENNESSEE 14
Middle Tennessee 7 0 7 0-14
Kentucky 7 3 0 10-20
MTSU-Gee 62 pass from Craddock (Gendreau kick), 9:21.
Ky-Grinter 1 pass from Hartline (Seiber kick), 3:48.
Ky-FG Seiber 40, 4:11.
MTSU-Beyah 22 pass from Craddock (Gendreau kick), 7:26.
Ky-Locke 6 pass from Hartline (Seiber kick), 12:20.
Ky-FG Seiber 25, 6:37.
First downs 13 21
Rushes-yards 22-28 35-102
Passing 355 254
Comp-Att-Int 21-37-1 28-48-0
Return Yards 0 90
Punts-Avg. 8-43.1 6-44.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-51 6-31
Time of Possession 24:54 35:06
RUSHING-Middle Tennessee, Tanner 11-26, Gee 4-7, Craddock 6-6,
McDonald 1-(minus 11). Kentucky, A.Smith 9-36, Locke 10-35, Dixon 11-28,
Hartline 4-5, Allen 1-(minus 2).
PASSING-Middle Tennessee, Craddock 21-37-1-355. Kentucky,
Hartline 28-47-0-254, Team 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING-Middle Tennessee, E.King 6-85, Beyah 5-117, Gee 3-106,
Tanner 1-16, McClover 1-9, McDonald 1-7, Honeycutt 1-6, Delle Donne 1-4,
Caldwell 1-3, Kyles 1-2. Kentucky, Lyons 12-79, Drake 4-82,
Lanxter 3-31, Grinter 2-21, Locke 2-12, Dixon 2-(minus 3), Roark 1-16,
Adeyemi 1-9, Conner 1-7.