Brooks - Cats can be better

September 07, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Last year Kentucky lost to Louisville 40-24 in Rich Brooks' coaching debut, a loss the UK coach said haunted his team the rest of the 2003 season.

Since Kentucky was far more competitive last year than it was in Sunday's 28-0 loss at Louisville, it would seem that Brooks might be worried if his team could recover this year. However, the UK coach insisted Monday that there are valid reasons for the Cats to believe they can play much better than they did against the Cardinals.

"They can put the film on and see very clearly that they didn't play close to what they are capable of doing," said Brooks. "I just believe they know we can be a better team than we showed at Louisville.

"We did make a goal line stand. We had a chance coming out of halftime. We had receivers open and overthrew them. We dropped a couple of balls. There were all kinds of things we didn't do that were there if we just executed. They can see that and see we can do much better."


Brooks noted that both his offense and defense had letdowns. The offense didn't cross midfield until the second half and had less than 150 yards until the final five minutes of the game. The defense gave up 6.3 yards per play and allowed Louisville to rush for 261 yards.

The coach thought the defensive lapses, especially in the second half, were partially due to UK's lack of consistent offense.

"You preach hard no matter what the score is to play hard, but it creeps into the back of your head that we need some help and something to get enthused about (as a defensive player)," Brooks said. "When it doesn't happen, you let down. We just did not play with the same energy the second half."

Brooks said Louisville exploited UK's offensive line with various stunts and blitzes. However, he noted that veteran players (guards Jason Rollins and Matt Huff) made as many mistakes as UK's three new starters.

"Even what I consider our more experienced players on offense did not play as well as capable," Brooks said. "They were not aggressive, not physical. Louisville set the tempo and we didn't adjust to it.

"They hurt us early with slants and twists and we had some linemen get tentative. If you are going to make a mistake, you might as well make it full speed and we didn't do a lot of things full speed."

Boyd needs better blocking, harder running

Brooks said quarterback Shane Boyd, who was 14-for-34 passing for 172 yards with two interceptions, needs more aggressive blocking and backs that run harder to help him.

Starting tailback Arliss Beach, who had been bothered by a sore shoulder in preseason practice, gained just 24 yards on 10 carries.

"I don't know if he was tentative. He did not have a lot of room to run," Brooks said. "But we need him to be more aggressive with his running."

Freshman Tony Dixon gained seven yards on his first carry, but fumbled when he was hit the backfield on his next try and didn't run again. Brooks said he likely would get more carries Sept. 18 against Indiana in UK's next game and that another freshman, Rafael Little, could also be a factor then since he appears recovered from knee surgery he had in June.

Brooks also would not budge on when, or if, he would use backup quarterback Andre Woodson.

"We are trying to get Andre ready. He's been getting a lot of reps in practice," Brooks said. "I am sure we will get him into a game at some point."

Brooks used five true freshmen - defensive linemen Jason Leger, receiver Lonnell Dewalt, safety Marcus McClinton, offensive guard Micah Jones and Dixon - against Louisville. He said "one or two" more might play against Indiana.

But the coach remains convinced the same players that looked so overmatched against Louisville can play much better this season.

"Anything can be fixed. How well it can be fixed is the question," Brooks said. "Sometimes you have physical limitations and mismatches. I am talking about an across the board almost systems failure. We became a bunch of catchers instead of hitters. We did not use the ability we have and that is the most disappointing thing."

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