Cook wants to help

October 21, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Tommy Cook could have gloated. He could have said he would have been making big plays all year if only he had been given the opportunity.

Instead, the Kentucky junior receiver insisted he had no bitter feelings about what happened the first six games and was only happy that he contributed to UK's 35-14 win over Ohio University Saturday.

Cook made his first start of the season and had a 42-yard touchdown reception plus an 8-yard catch. He also played far more than he had in any game.

That was more what was expected from Cook, who had started 17 games the previous two years and made 42 catches for 574 yards and five touchdowns. However, he missed the season-opening game with Louisville after having surgery to remove a bone spur on his ankle and had become the forgotten receiver in UK's offense.


"It's always frustrating when you have an injury, but that's also part of the game," said Cook. "You just have to battle through it and get back. The big thing for me was not being able to contribute to the team like I thought I could. I finally did that (against Ohio).

"We have a talented bunch of receivers. The ball is going to be spread around and the playing time is going to be spread around. You can't take anything away from anybody else because things are not going the way you want."

Cook got to start because of his blocking ability. Kentucky's first play was a reverse to receiver Derek Abney and the coaches felt Cook might be able to help spring Abney for a big gain.

"We were close to breaking a big one on that play," Cook said. "I got quite a few more snaps in the game. You never know when you chance will come, and I'm just glad I got the chance."

Cook said while it might have been tempting to pout and complain about his lack of playing time, he took a different approach.

"You can't go in the tank because things are not going your way," Cook said. "You can't sit back and let things get you down. You have to keep a positive attitude and just keep fighting. Once you stop doing that, you are dead and may as well not even try to play. You have to keep fighting every day in practice and in every game.

"I want nothing but great things for our team, and I hope winning this game is the start of big things for all of us."

Bulldogs are last in total defense; Cats are last in total offense

Kentucky can even its record at 4-4 with a win over Mississippi State (2-6) Saturday. The Bulldogs are last in the Southeastern Conference in total defense, giving up 485 yards per game. Kentucky is last in the SEC in total offense, netting just 314 yards per game.

The Wildcats have scored just once on their opening possession and have scored just 24 points in the first quarter of their seven games.

"It's important for us to solve our slow starts," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "Our weakness has been defending the run. If they get ahead or stay close, they will pound it at us behind a big offensive line. I would prefer that we get the early lead."

He would also like to see a running back emerge and become UK's primary runner. Backup quarterback Shane Boyd leads the team with 219 yards rushing while tailbacks Draak Davis and Arliss Beach and fullback Alexis Bwenge have combined for just 504 yards.

"I'd like to see one of the backs step up and be a guy who can break some tackles and make one of those, 'Wow! Look at that!' runs. So far, we haven't had that," Brooks said. "They're giving us a good effort. Hopefully we'll have a breakout run or two that will turn the tide for us a little bit."

Cook hopes that's what his 42-yard touchdown catch on a pass from Boyd will do for him and the UK passing attack.

"It felt great to catch a big pass again," Cook said. "It felt good to be back in the flow of the game and contributing to a win.

"We have big-play potential. We can move the ball down the field. I know our offense can do it. We just have to stop making mistakes and make the plays I know we can."

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