Vaught's Views: Indiana now a 'big game' for Kentucky

September 16, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Before the season started, it didn't appear that there would be anything unusual about Kentucky's game at Indiana.

The opening game with Louisville was getting the most hype. A road game at Alabama or visit from Florida were considered the best chances for a monumental Kentucky upset.

Indiana? That was a game UK would win on its way to a second straight winning season and first bowl berth in four years. Or at least that was the conventional thinking in Big Blue Land.

However, Saturday's game in Bloomington between two teams with 1-2 records suddenly has a much bigger meaning.

"Being 2-2 is a lot different than being 1-3," said Kentucky coach Rich Brooks. "It doesn't take a genius to figure that out."


No, it doesn't. Still, these are college players coming off an emotional loss on national television at Alabama getting ready to play a team that UK has defeated eight of the last nine years. However, Brooks is not worried about any emotional letdown from his team.

"If we are not smart enough to understand the importance of the upcoming game for a chance to get to .500 and get a win we need to go to a bowl, then we need to go back to school and do some learning," Brooks said. "It will be as big a game as we play all year."

While many others might rank the Louisville game as about 1,000 times more important than the one with Indiana, it's easy to follow Brooks' thinking. He knows if his team can't win at Indiana, then beating Southeastern Conference opponents will be difficult.

It's no wonder he wanted no part Monday of talking about the possibility of dropping the series with Indiana. It would seem that "it doesn't take a genius to figure that out" since there are few teams from a major conference that UK would have been able to beat eight of the last nine years.

Kentucky played much better at Alabama. However, UK's inability to consistently run the football or stop the run again plagued the Cats. It looked like Brooks and offensive coordinator Ron Hudson were conceding that running the ball was going to be a problem when they went to more three and four wide receiver sets at Alabama and put quarterback Jared Lorenzen in the shotgun more. However, that was done to help the running game and not to better utilize the talent of Lorenzen and UK's receivers.

"I love our running backs and I absolutely love our offensive line," Lorenzen said. "Every week we go into the game with a great plan. Our goal is to score the opening drives, and we've not done that yet. We've got to start early to take the pressure off our defense."

Lorenzen takes the pressure

Lorenzen took the pressure off all his teammates Monday. He was the only one to show up at Brooks' weekly press conference to answer questions about UK's loss and 1-2 start.

He slightly strained his right knee against Alabama and had it wrapped Monday, but he said he'll show up to play Saturday just like he came to face the questions from the media.

It was obvious Lorenzen wanted to send a message to his teammates that they had to win Saturday.

"If we don't realize how important this game is, there is something seriously wrong," Lorenzen said. "If we got 1-3, it would be hard to go to a bowl game. It is a must win. You've got to get as many non-conference wins as you can because our conference is so tough to get any win.

"Last year we started 4-0 (and finished 7-5). This year we are 1-2. That's not what we expected. In order to do our goals and go to a bowl and still win the SEC, and don't count us out yet, we've got to win this game. It's that simple."

Winning the SEC might be just a bit optimistic for a team that ranks last in the conference in rushing offense, rushing defense, total offense, punting and opponent's first down. Even getting six wins to be bowl-eligible might be a stretch now that Arkansas, which beat Texas Saturday, is playing so well.

But there's no doubt if UK loses Saturday that the Cats will be in a hole they won't get out of this season and that's a position no one wearing blue anticipated having this team even consider so early in the season.

Central Kentucky News Articles