With another Kentucky Wildcats football season upon us, the staff at Wildcat Blue Nation are digging into their memory banks recounting our favorite moments in Wildcat football. Over the next month, we will be looking at these games and sharing our thoughts and memories on them. It’s not a countdown, but a look back at what has made Wildcats football important to us and what stood out. Hopefully Mark Stoops and his staff will be able to add a few more special moments this upcoming season.
Another memorable game in Kentucky football history is the 1984 Hall of Fame Classic Bowl. The Hall of Fame Classic was an annual post-season college football bowl game. It was played at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama from 1977 to 1985. Then, the game moved to Tampa, Florida and was replaced by the All-American Bowl.
The 1984 Hall of Fame Classic Bowl was the seventh edition of the Hall of Fame Bowl. The game pitted the Kentucky Wildcats of the Southeastern Conference against the Wisconsin Badgers of the Big Ten Conference.
Wisconsin entered the game with an overall record of 7-3-1, with a 5-3-1 record in the Big Ten. They were ranked No. 20 in the AP poll prior to the game. Kentucky entered the game with an overall record of 8-3, with a 3-3 record in the SEC. They had been ranked as high as No. 16 in the AP poll during the season, but were unranked entering the game.
Kentucky had appeared in the Hall of Fame Classic Bowl the year before as well. Yet, they had lost to No. 16 West Virginia by a score of 20-16. Wisconsin was favored over Kentucky by three points in the 1984 Hall of Fame Classic Bowl.
It appeared that Wisconsin was the superior team early on as they were ahead 10-0 at the end of the first quarter. They cashed in on a 40-yard field goal by Todd Gregoire and a three-yard touchdown pass from Michael Howard to Thad McFadden. Wisconsin continued to dominate and widen the gap in the second quarter. With 7:05 left in the half, Gregoire hit a 27-yard field goal to push the lead to 13-0. However, Kentucky battled back to keep themselves in the game. Howard was intercepted by Kentucky safety Paul Calhoun. Five plays later, Marc Logan carried the ball for a nine-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, with just 1:29 left in the half, Kentucky surrendered another field goal. The halftime score was 16-7.
Kentucky kicker Joey Worley connected on a 22-yard field goal early in the third quarter to cut the Wisconsin lead to 16-10. Although, yet again, Gregoire made another field goal two minutes later and pushed the Wisconsin lead to 19-10. Then, Kentucky took over. Kentucky quarterback Bill Ransdell led an 82-yard drive that culminated with him throwing a 27-yard touchdown pass to Logan. The score now 19-17. Kentucky’s next possession began at its own 22. They ended up moving the ball to the Wisconsin 34 and were faced with a fourth down with two yards to go. Worley gave Kentucky the lead for the first time in the game as he converted on a 52-yard field goal. The score now 20-19.
With two minutes to go, Wisconsin drove the ball to the Kentucky 8. On fourth down with six yards to go, Gregoire lined up to take his fifth field goal of the game. Amazingly, the snap was bobbled and Kentucky took over and was able to run out the rest of the clock for the victory. This was the closest finish in the history of the Hall of Fame Classic Bowl series.
Joker Phillips, then a Kentucky wide receiver that would later become Kentucky’s head football coach, had six receptions for 55 yards in the 1984 Hall of Fame Classic.
In the final AP poll for the season, Wisconsin dropped out from their No. 20 ranking with a record of 7-4-1. Kentucky finished the season at No. 19 with a record of 9-3.