Vaught's Views: Boyd, Cats have to find ways to make plays

September 17, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

If this is going to be Shane Boyd's team, then the Kentucky quarterback has to find ways to make far more plays Saturday against Indiana than he did two weeks ago in a 28-0 season-opening loss to Louisville.

The Kentucky coaching staff also has to find ways to give Boyd more realistic chances to make plays, too.

Against Louisville, Boyd was 14-for-34 passing for 172 yards and ran nine times for 17 yards. Those were not nearly the kind of numbers that he was expected to produce since he's considered a far better fit for offensive coordinator Ron Hudson's system than quarterback Jared Lorenzen was last year.

Boyd was supposed to make the offense go because of his ability to run or throw. He was supposed to give the offense more flexibility with his mobility and ability to throw on the run. He was supposed to give opposing defenses problems with his ability to run the option.


Louisville never let Boyd have a chance. One could argue that UK's offensive line didn't give Boyd a chance to succeed. One could also argue that Hudson's system didn't put Boyd and his teammates in positions to succeed.

Take your pick. The bottom line was that Kentucky not only didn't score, it never got close to scoring. Only three times did the Wildcats cross midfield, and after Louisville took a 14-0 lead, the game was over.

Indiana's defense has been generous this year despite the Hoosiers' 2-0 record. Indiana is allowing 442 yards per game, including 296 per game through the air.

The question is whether Boyd and the Wildcats can expose Indiana's weaknesses and find a way to score.

Kentucky seemed to be putting in several different offensive looks in practice this week and working on some plays it did not use against Louisville. The Cats could also get a needed infusion of playmaking ability from freshman running back Tony Dixon, who looked much faster than Arliss Beach or Draak Davis against Louisville. Another freshman back, Rafael Little, could also make his collegiate debut and give the Cats a needed boost.

Brooks obviously is not ready to give up on Boyd - and he shouldn't after one game. The coach stuck with Lorenzen last year even when it was obvious Hudson's offense did not take full advantage of his passing ability.

Boyd has not been a starting quarterback since midway of the 2001 season. Rather than pull him late in the game against Louisville to give backup quarterback Andre Woodson his first collegiate experience, Brooks stuck with Boyd because he felt he needed the snaps and he also wanted to see if Boyd could complete some deep passes as he did in the final seconds.

More alarming than UK's woeful offense

However, Brooks also noted that Woodson is not ready to play. That's perhaps more alarming than UK's woeful offense against Louisville.

Brooks and his staff recruited Woodson after they got to Kentucky. Woodson had the summer of 2003 to start studying the UK offense, had all of last season to practice with the team, the off-season to study film and spring practice to hone his skills.

Still, he's apparently not capable of even playing a series in a one-sided game like the Cats had with Louisville. One explanation was that it might ruin his career if he was put in a game before he was judged ready by the UK coaches.

The same logic apparently doesn't apply to freshmen linemen Micah Jones and Aaron Miller. Jones played against Louisville and it wouldn't be surprising to see him or Miller, who did not play against the Cards, starting at tackle Saturday. Are they that much more ready after one month on campus than Woodson is in a year?

What happens if Boyd is injured or sick? Since Woodson isn't ready to play as UK's No. 2 quarterback, does that mean the Cats just cancel the rest of the season?

"If something happens to Shane, then Woodson becomes ready," Brooks said this week. "Until then, we just want to get him all the work we can."

If the UK coaches were so worried about Woodson's ability to back up Boyd, then why not give freshman Joe Joe Brown a more realistic look in practice. Or why wasn't a more talented quarterback recruited?

Perhaps Boyd can work miracles with the UK offense Saturday and work the magic that Brooks and Hudson are expecting. Maybe his teammates will play much better and make his job easier.

But if the offense struggles again or if Boyd gets hurt, then the Kentucky coaching staff has to accept responsibility for not having any other options at that position.

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