Defense failed in overtime

November 03, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - After limiting Arkansas to just three points in the second half and forcing two turnovers, Kentucky's defense was confident it could stop the Razorbacks in overtime.

Instead, Arkansas scored 47 points - six touchdowns, one field goal, two conversion kicks and two two-point conversions - to beat the Wildcats 71-63 in seven overtimes here Saturday night.

"I am stunned that nobody made plays in any of those overtimes," said Kentucky safety Muhammad Abdullah. "The second half we came out and stopped them on third downs and held them to three points. Then we go into overtime and nobody made a play.

"We had chances, too. I had my chance to intercept a pass and didn't. Everybody on defense had a chance to make a play and none of us did."


In the second overtime, Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones completed a third-down pass from the 7-yard line under pressure to tie the game at 38-38. In the fourth overtime, Jones scored on a 3-yard run on fourth down and then completed a conversion pass to tie the game 49-49. In the sixth overtime, he avoided the rush to complete another conversion pass to tie the game at 61-61.

"Our defensive mentality was there was no way they could get eight points on us when we had the lead in overtime," Abdullah said. "Then they did it. The game should have been over, but we didn't make any plays."

Kentucky defensive coordinator Mike Archer made the necessary halftime corrections to let the Cats overcome a 21-7 halftime deficit. The Razorbacks converted eight straight third-down plays during the first half, but Kentucky used big plays and better tackling to limit Arkansas to only a field goal in the second half.

"We just lost our focus when it got down to crunch time," Archer said. "Some of it was fatigue-related, some of it is guys when the going gets tough, they go back to their old ways. We feel at times we've made progress, but when it got down to the end at the nitty-gritty, we had opportunities to get off the field and win the game on defense and we didn't do it.

"All we needed was one play. One time we called a blitz, nobody blocked the linebacker and they still threw a touchdown pass. One two-point conversion we just didn't tackle the quarterback on the blitz. You can call the play, but they've still got to execute. We didn't get it done, and that's my fault."

Archer was just as perturbed over some plays the defense didn't make during regulation play, especially when Arkansas converted long third-down plays.

"We were not always aware of game situations," he said. "I don't know how many big third-down plays they converted, but it was too many. We didn't play game situations very well. We let them make more plays than we did."

Kentucky still had several chances to win the game, including the third overtime when Archer's defense did hold Arkansas to a field goal. The Cats had a first down at the five-yard line and picked up almost four yards on three running plays. Coach Rich Brooks never hesitated when he made the call to go for the touchdown, and win, on fourth down rather than kick a field goal to force another overtime.

However, UK was hit with a penalty for having 12 men in the huddle. A play with tailback Draak Davis was called, but when he came on the field, Shane Boyd never left the huddle. After the penalty, Brooks asked Taylor Begley to make a 24-yard field goal to prolong the game and he did.

"If all things are equal, I'm not sure I would do that (go for the touchdown)," Brooks said. "But our depth is not the greatest. We were getting worn down. I felt it was as good a chance as we might have to get the thing done and win."

Brooks also noted that in the fifth overtime UK could have won 57-55 by making a two-point conversion. The play called was a pass to Keenan Burton in the flat.

"Keenan was set to break open, but (running back) Alexis (Bwenge) did not cut the guy (rushing)," Brooks said. "(Quarterback) Jared (Lorenzen) had to stop. He was hit and Tommy Cook ended up having to dive for a ball that he could not get."

Now Brooks and his team can only think about what might have been during a bye week. Kentucky is now 4-5 going into a Nov. 15 game at Vanderbilt and will finish with games against Georgia and Tennessee, both top 20 teams.

"I don't know if it is good or bad to have a bye," Brooks said. "We'll take the week and see if we can heal some bumps and bruises. We'll do some prep work for Vanderbilt Tuesday and Wednesday and give the redshirt players a chance to scrimmage Thursday. That's about all we can do until we get a chance to play a game and put this behind us."

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