'Big, fast' Tide worries Brooks

September 10, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Because he was once recruited by the University of Kentucky, Alabama linebacker Cornelius Wortham has often watched the Wildcats play. He's watched enough to become a Jared Lorenzen fan.

"I still can't believe how they lost that LSU game (last year)," said Wortham. "I've always been intrigued by their quarterback. I think he's a great player because of that arm. I know a lot of people criticize him because of his size, but he can sling that ball and he can really scramble. I'm anxious to finally play him in person and see just how good he is."

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks isn't as anxious to see how good Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle, who was also once recruited by Kentucky, will play when the two teams meet Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

Croyle is 38-for-69 passing for 398 yards and two touchdowns this year.

"He has a great arm and is a real talent," Brooks said. "It looks like he handles the offense well. He's a very active quarterback. I'm impressed with his poise. He can scramble."


Alabama will be coming off a 20-13 loss to top-ranked Oklahoma. The Crimson Tide opened the season by overcoming an early deficit to beat South Florida 40-17.

"They are big, fast, angry and strong," Brooks said. "They've got great talent.

"Oklahoma hit them with a few big pass plays, but we just want to move the ball any way we can. We have to protect our passer, establish the run and move the ball."

Alabama counts on versatile running back Shaud Williams to help Croyle move the ball. Williams leads the Crimson Tide in rushing with 189 yards and two touchdowns. He has 281 all-purpose yards in the two games.

Brooks said the best thing the UK defense has done this year is not give up big plays.

"We can still do better, but we've not given up big plays yet," Brooks said. "Our linebackers are the key in that equation. They've got to keep better leverage on the outside and our inside linebackers cannot overrun plays and let runners cut back."

Three coaches in last 10 months

Williams says Alabama has not been distracted by circumstances that resulted in the players having three coaches in the last 10 months and the team being ineligible for a bowl because of NCAA sanctions. Coach Mike Shula took over after Mike Price, who was hired in December, was fired in the summer because of his off-field behavior.

"The guys this year have done a good job not listening to outsiders and just staying together," Williams said. "We don't let things bother us.

"There's no way we won't be ready for this game. Kentucky has some good players and I'm sure they will be trying to make a statement against us. But it is a big game for us, too."

The two teams have not played since 1997 when the Wildcats beat Alabama 40-34 in overtime. That set off a postgame celebration in Commonwealth Stadium that resulted in the goalposts coming down.

"The atmosphere at our stadium will be hostile, too," Wortham said. "This is a new opponent for most of us, but our fans still remember that last game. Personally, I'm just more worried about trying to stop Lorenzen."

Lorenzen is fifth in the SEC in passing average per game at 216.5 yards. He's 32-for-52 for 433 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions.

"He's got a big-time arm and can carry a team by himself," Shula said. "He's a load to bring down and for a big guy, he really moves around well. He presents a lot of challenges for us."

This will be Kentucky's first road game under Brooks.

"I'm not anxious for it, but it is reality," Brooks said. "Anywhere in the SEC is hostile and noisy.

"Alabama has a lot of speed. They are extremely physical on defense. Our line has its work cut out for it on both offense and defense."

Still, the Cats insist they can win at Alabama.

"It might take some convincing for the younger players, but I think we can win as long as we play as a team," defensive end Vincent Burns, who had four tackles for loss last week, said. "We have to believe. We've got to get more emotional, but there's no reason we cannot win."


* Burns now has a tackle for a loss in eight straight games. He also had the second safety of his career last week.

* Kentucky is 0-7 in Tuscaloosa.

* Kentucky held Murray State to the lowest point total (six points) that it has any team since its 31-5 win over LSU in 1999.

* Three former SEC head coaches will be on the sidelines as assistant coaches Saturday night. Kentucky defensive coordinator Mike Archer was the head coach at LSU from 1987-90, Alabama running backs coach Sparky Woods was the head coach at South Carolina for two years and Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines was the head coach at Arkansas. Other former head coaches on the sideline will be UK linebacker coach Ron McBride (Utah) and Alabama offensive coordinator Dave Rader (Tulsa).

Central Kentucky News Articles