Brooks says Cats will continue trying to run

September 09, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - No matter what the results are, Kentucky will continue running the football. Or at least trying to run the football.

"We're not doing this just for this week or next, but for year after year," said Kentucky coach Rich Brooks Monday. "You win by building on a consistent basis. We will not scrap our plan. We may alter it a little bit, but you don't scrap your plan.

"We just have to do a better job executing. If that doesn't work, then we need to recruit better. But I'm confident the players we have can execute."

That remains to be seen going into Saturday's game at Alabama. The Cats have run the ball 54 percent of the time (65 runs to 56 passes) in their first two games. They are averaging just 3.2 yards per rush while quarterback Jared Lorenzen is averaging 8.3 yards per pass attempt and 13.5 yards per completion.


Murray held the Cats to just 103 yards rushing on 29 attempts last week and 27 of those yards came on a late touchdown run by backup quarterback Shane Boyd.

Davis is averaging 2.5 yards a carry

Starting tailback Draak Davis has gained 63 yards on 25 carries, a 2.5 average per carry. Fullback Alexis Bwenge is averaging 5.4 yards per run, but has just 12 carries for 65 yards. The top average belongs to Boyd, who has 55 yards on six runs for a 9.2 average per carry.

"Right now, we don't have a dominant back who is going to be taking all the snaps right now, as coach (Brooks) said," offensive tackle Sylvester Miller said. "Throughout the season, all of them will get better. The more games they're in, the more awareness they'll get."

Brooks felt his offensive line showed improvement in its execution and aggressiveness against Murray.

"We need to work better as a unit, but we did some things better," Brooks said.

However, this is a unit that returned five starters that helped Artose Pinner lead the Southeastern Conference in rushing last year.

"Anytime you have to replace a running back like Artose Pinner, it's a hard thing to do," Miller said. "But you can't be a one-dimensional team like that, that once one guy leaves, your whole running game goes down the drain."

Brooks admitted Monday that not only is the running game hampered by the team's adjustment to a new offense, but that Pinner's absence plays the biggest role in the less effective running game.

"Look at Artose and the yards he got after the first hit," Brooks said. "He got a helluva lot of yards after the first hit. He broke a lot of tackles.

"There are some other important ingredients not here. A tight end (Chase Harp) and leading receiver (Aaron Boone) are also gone. But Artose was just a big-time back."

Kentucky hoped Davis' speed could offset the loss of Pinner's power. Davis rushed for 1,846 yards and 23 touchdowns to lead California junior college runners last year.

"Each one of us is working as hard as he can. We just hope we can fill Pinner's shoes as a group," Davis said.

Many coaches believe in passing first, then running

Many coaches now believe that it's easier to set up the run by passing first to spread out the defense. That goes against conventional thinking that the run sets up the pass.

"You can do it either way, but we need to run the ball better, and we are going to run the ball better," Brooks said.

Kentucky does not have a receiver averaging more than three catches per game. Derek Abney has six catches for 83 yards and Glen Holt five for 65 yards. Tight end Jeremiah Drobney has four catches for 36 yards and Chris Bernard three catches for 82 yards.

While all the receivers would like to see Lorenzen throw more, Bernard insists they understand Brooks' philosophy about the run.

"We really have not established a good running game," Bernard said. "Passing-wise, we've been all right. I would like to see us get more downfield passes, but to beat Alabama we've got to establish a running game to help out the passing. If we can do that, we can compete on offense.

"I take pride in blocking. If I am not catching balls, I want to make a block to get a back a big play. Receiver-wise, we take pride in our blocking. (Assistant coach) Joker Phillips gets on us all the time about blocking. We understand why we have to run the ball to be able to win in the SEC."

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