Brooks looking for quick starts

October 28, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Since he's used about every motivational ploy he knows, Rich Brooks might take a different approach to Kentucky's slow starts offensively this week.

"We've won three fourth quarters in a row, but our starts have been lethargic in all but one game (Florida)," said the Kentucky coach Monday. "The more I talk about it, the more lethargic we get. Maybe I ought to just shut up."

Kentucky has been outscored 38-24 in the first period in its eight games this year. However, the Cats hold a 64-49, 73-22 and 70-63 advantage in the other three periods.

The Wildcats (4-4) fell behind 17-0 against Mississippi State here last week before winning 42-17. Derek Abney had an 80-yard punt return for a score and 53-yard scoring reception to key the second-half rally. However, he's as puzzled as his coach by UK's ineffectiveness in the first period.


"I am going to try and relax more," Abney said. "I have tried many different things before a game. There must be a million things we have tried, and they have not worked. The start is one of the things coach Brooks want to correct and we've got to get it done."

The Cats will be looking for their third straight win Saturday night when they host Arkansas, a team they beat 29-17 last year even though the Razorbacks amassed over 500 yards of total offense.

"It's unusual to give up that many yards and only 17 points," Brooks said. "My first look at Arkansas was on TV when they killed Texas (38-28). They have struggled recently, but they are like most SEC teams. They are physical and have speed."

Honored again: Abney was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week for the first time this year, and the fourth time in his career, after tying the NCAA record for kick return touchdowns with the eighth one of his career against Mississippi Stae.

"I was a little frustrated that we hadn't had more chances to break a kick return," Abney, who had a punt return for a score against Florida nullified by a penalty earlier this year, said. "I tried not to put pressure on myself because when I do, I get so worked up. I don't need that pressure. But special teams can give a whole team a momentum shift."

Abney did not do anything extra special to celebrate his performance. He spent time with his family before going out with receiver Tommy Cook.

"We were just glad to finally get 400 yards (of total offense)," Abney said. "That's our goal, but it was the first time we've reached it this year."

Abney admitted he did see the replay of his punt return on ESPN and noted that he was rated the second best play of the day behind Florida pitcher Josh Beckett's game-winning performance in the World Series.

"It was kind of neat to be No. 2 behind Beckett," Abney said. "You don't forget that."

Begley hurting: Brooks surprised everyone at his weekly press conference Monday when he noted that placekicker Taylor Begley might miss this week's game because of a sprained ankle.

"Begley has a severely sprained ankle. He hurt it in pregame warmups (against Mississippi State) before kicking seven extra points," Brooks said. "His ankle is about the size of a navel orange. I'm not sure he'll play."

Brooks said Begley didn't tell anyone he had hurt his ankle. Backup snapper Jason Blair gave Cook a high snap that forced Cook to raise up and catch. As he put the ball down on the ground, Begley kicked his heel.

"I guess his ankle was just numb because he didn't tell anyone," Brooks said.

Abney was stunned when he heard that Begley was hurting.

"I don't know what you are talking about," Abney said. "Maybe that's his excuse to take less practice. But he's a tough competitor. He'll get through it. Kickers are different folks, but I had no idea he was hurt. That's pretty amazing to be able to kick with a bad ankle."

No pain, no play: Kentucky offensive guard Sylvester Miller is one of five starting linemen hobbled by a lingering injury going into Saturday's game.

However, Miller said he learned when he got to Kentucky that he didn't want to have many pain-free seasons.

"Our trainer told us when we first got here that if you are 100 percent healthy in the SEC, it either means you must be redshirted or you must not be good enough to play at all," Miller said. "This is a sport where you won't be 100 percent every game. If you are 90 percent (healthy), that's great. I don't know that anyone in the line is even 90 percent, but we'll be fine.

"You learn not to be Superman. You have to know when you are injured and let the trainers take care of you. This is not a program that is scared to hold a player back during practice to make sure you are healthy for a game."

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