Arkansas, Kentucky won't underestimate each other

October 29, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Arkansas won't make one mistake that it made last year when it lost to Kentucky.

"They were better than we thought they would be last year," said linebacker Caleb Miller, Arkansas' leading tackler. "We underestimated them. That's to their credit. We always try every year to make things right that went wrong the year before. If this falls into that category, then so be it."

Arkansas and Kentucky seem headed in different directions going into Saturday night's Southeastern Conference game at Commonwealth Stadium.

Arkansas won its first four games, including a 38-28 decision at Texas, but has lost to Auburn, Florida and Mississippi in its last three games. Kentucky started 2-4, but has now won two in a row after overcoming a 17-0 deficit last week to beat Mississippi State 42-17.

"Just because they have lost three in a row, you can't say they are not a good football team," UK defensive lineman Ellery Moore said. "They are physical. They have a good quarterback (Matt Jones) who can run and throw.


"I hope they don't underestimate us this year. But it sure didn't seem like they underestimated us last year. They hit us pretty hard. They had over 500 yards of total offense. Maybe they didn't respect us. I guess we won't know until Saturday."

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks already knows what to expect in Saturday's game.

"This is a team that leads our league in rushing and will be a challenge for us," Brooks said. "They are a physical team. It will be a severe challenge for us to match up physically.

"Jones at quarterback is a more active Jared Lorenzen. He's hard to bring down. He runs the ball a lot."

Cobbs leads SEC in rushing

Arkansas' Cedric Cobbs leads the SEC in rushing at 121.3 yards per game. He missed the Razorbacks' loss to Mississippi last week because of a hamstring injury, and coach Houston Nutt said he isn't sure if he'll play this week or not.

Arkansas (4-3) leads the conference in rushing at 204.6 yards per game. Kentucky (4-4) is 10th in rushing defense, yielding 168.4 yards per game.

Arkansas is third in the SEC in total offense at 406.3 yards per game, while UK is last at 326 yards. Jones is ninth in the conference in total offense at 194 yards per game, 14 more than UK quarterback Jared Lorenzen produces. However, the SEC's all-purpose yardage leader is UK receiver Derek Abney at 165.9 yards per game.

"We need to keep defending our home turf," UK offensive lineman Sylvester Miller said. "We've got to win this one to keep our preseason goals alive."

Nutt, a former head coach at Murray State, likes what he's seen from Kentucky this year.

"Their offense with Lorenzen is unbelievable," Nutt said. "They can move the ball on anybody. Abney, as usual, does a great job. They also play awfully hard."

Nutt said injuries to his top three running backs along with several costly penalties have contributed to his team's three-game losing streak.

"We are just a few plays away from being 7-0," Nutt said.

The more the Razorbacks run, the more they usually win. Since midway through the 2001 season, Arkansas is 15-1 when Jones throws the ball 16 times or less and 2-8 when he throws more than that.

"They are going to be one of the best teams we have seen all year," Brooks said. "I would rather be coming off two wins than three losses, but they have played good teams and also beaten quality teams that we haven't."

Beach could miss game

Kentucky might have to face the Razorbacks without running back Arliss Beach, the team's third leading rusher with 187 yards and six touchdowns, because of a knee injury suffered against Mississippi State.

Brooks said that will mean more playing time for Draak Davis, who is averaging 2.5 yards per carry, or possibly redshirt freshman Monquantae Gibson, who had five carries for 11 yards last week. Backup quarterback Shane Boyd, the team's leading rusher with 230 yards, could also play more at tailback.

Still, the Cats remain confident they can win.

"Arkansas will be ready for us, but we've had make or break games since midseason," Abney said. "We have to win two of our last four games to make a bowl. We've talked about that before, and now everyone understands what it takes to win.

"Our defense has a quiet confidence about themselves. They know they can get the job done. On offense, we've shown we can be effective. We just have to be consistent and make sure we find a way to win this game."

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