Wildcats respond to Brooks

September 22, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON -- Calling the game against Indiana a "must-win game" for his team might have indicated that Kentucky coach Rich Brooks wanted to see how his team would respond to his mandate.

Yet Brooks says Saturday's 34-17 victory did not show him anything about his team that he did not already know.

"I think I'm through learning about this team," said Brooks Sunday. "We're pretty close to being on the same page. By saying it was a must-win, I was just verbalizing what we all knew. I put it out on the table and the players responded by doing what they had to do to get a win."

Brooks had numerous reasons to be pleased with what his team did to even its record at 2-2 going into this week's home game with Florida.

* The Wildcats rushed for a season-high 167 yards and had a season-high 354 yards of total offense.


* Quarterback Jared Lorenzen threw only 20 passes, but he completed 11 for 147 yards and two touchdowns.

* Receiver Chris Bernard caught three passes for 100 yards, including a 51-yard scoring catching. It was his first 100-yard game at UK.

* Linebacker Deion Holts returned to the starting lineup with three quarterback sacks, and defensive end Vincent Burns had a tackle for loss in his 10th straight game.

* Punter Anthony Thornton averaged 46.6 yards per kick, easily his best single-game average this season.

"Obviously, we envisioned our offense being productive this season," Brooks said. "But that doesn't always end up that way because someone is trying to stop you.

"Jared did a good job handling checks at the line of scrimmage most of the time. He got us into good plays, and we executed the offense extremely well."

Gator fans unhappy with offense

Florida had problems of its own Saturday in a 24-10 home loss to Tennessee that prompted fans to loudly boo the Gators three times to voice their displeasure over a game plan filled with quick sideline passes, runs up the middle, and short passes to running backs.

On Sunday, Florida coach Ron Zook acknowledged that some things about his team's offense might need to change.

"That's something that we're actually doing in a self-evaluation today," Zook said.

In the first half against Tennessee, the Gators called 17 runs and 15 passes, including just six that were thrown downfield.

Sophomore quarterback Ingle Martin has struggled picking up the offense, and freshman Chris Leak, considered Florida's quarterback star of the future, has not shown he's ready to lead the team yet.

The Gators have played 13 true freshmen, the most ever to play at Florida in one season. Eighteen more redshirt freshmen have also played.

However, Brooks apparently saw no glaring weaknesses in Florida's play when he watched part of the Gators' game with Tennessee on TV Saturday or started reviewing game tape Sunday.

"They are very athletic. They are active on defense with a lot of speed," the Kentucky coach said. "They spread the field on offense. They run the ball well and throw a lot of screens.

"The certainly are comparable to Alabama in overall team speed, or they could have even more. They look like a very good team to me."

UK will be without Rollins

Kentucky will be without junior offensive tackle Jason Rollins against Florida. He strained his shoulder against Indiana when he was hit in the shoulder making a block. "We won't know much more about him for the next 48 hours," Brooks said.

Linebacker Dustin Williams aggravated a shoulder injury, but should return to practice by mid-week.

"The good news is that we have not had any major season-ending injuries yet," Brooks said.

However, freshman cornerback Andre Jones is finished for the season because he needs surgery on a stress fracture in his right shin. He's played in three games but Kentucky plans to apply for a medical redshirt year for him.

He was held out of early practices because of the leg injury, but then was allowed to play when X-rays showed the leg had healed.

"The week leading up to the Alabama game his right leg got sore again," Brooks said.

New X-rays showed the bone was not healing. Brooks said the injury likely was sustained when he ran high school track, or possibly AAU track last year when he was not in school.

"It just was not functional for him to try and continue to play because of the pain in his right shin," Brooks said.

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