Cats hoping offense will keep working

September 22, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Even Florida coach Ron Zook couldn't believe the difference in Kentucky's offense from one game to the next.

"I've heard that saying about improvements from the first to second games, but that's ridiculous," said Zook.

As he prepares his 16th-ranked Gators to host UK Saturday, Zook wondered how the Cats went from looking so bad in a 28-0 loss to Louisville to so overpowering in a 51-32 victory over Indiana that produced 560 total yards.

"That was our team," Kentucky senior guard Matt Huff said. "The team that played against Louisville, that was not us. I hope we can keep it up."

After crossing midfield just three times in the loss to Louisville, the Wildcats produced two 100-yard rushers against Louisville and scored 24 points in the second quarter alone.


"It was a difference in our approach to the game and getting done what we needed to get done," said Kentucky quarterback Shane Boyd, who ran for 130 yards and threw for 205 yards. "It was us running, blocking, passing and catching."

Now Kentucky will see a faster, more athletic defense at Florida. The Gators are coming off a last-second 30-28 loss at Tennessee, but the defense forced three turnovers and got stronger as the game went on.

"Truthfully, I don't know where we are at offensively," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "We played our best offensive game since I've been here against what I would consider a good team. But it's not like Florida will be. We are still a work in progress. I want to continue that trend. Improvement does not mean we'll score 52 points. We could score 17 and improve against Florida possibly."

The Wildcats seemed to spread the field more against Indiana than they did against Louisville. Using three, four or even five receivers at times enabled Boyd to find more openings to run and also created shorter, safer pass routes.

"When you spread out the field, you do different things," Huff said. "When you run play-action passes, when you hit the option, when you give defenses different things to look at, they can't key on one thing and it opens other things.

"It all helps. You don't see as many guys at the line. I'm sure that was especially nice for Shane to not have someone in his face every play like he did at Louisville. We just played better in all facets of the game."

Receiver Scott Mitchell, a junior college transfer who caught his first touchdown pass at Kentucky Saturday, thinks the revamped offensive formations helped confuse Indiana.

"We had a lot of receivers on the field, we caught the ball and we had fun, but we also did block well and helped spring some runners," Mitchell said. "We can spread the field and run. It was a different look that Indiana was not ready for. I can count numerous times that we lined up and they were scrambling to see how to play our three-, four- and five-wide receiver looks. We had them confused."

Not as many audibles

Boyd said he also did not have to call as many audibles because offensive coordinator Ron Hudson "put us in plays" that would work.

"Spreading the field more also opened some holes in case I missed a read or a route broke down," Boyd said. "I was able to turn some bad plays into good plays because there were places to run. We have the threat to spread out the defense and throw or spread out and run. That's a branch of the offense we are going to keep adding."

Both Boyd and Brooks also said getting the ball snapped at times before the 25-second play clock was close to expiring also helped against Indiana.

"That's a big plus that plays into the success of the offense," Boyd said. "The defense doesn't know when you'll snap the ball. That keeps them from coming off the ball 100 miles per hour.

"We can't change our approach at Florida. We just have to call the play and execute. We know they have more speed, but you can't worry about that. There's nothing magical you can do. It's just lining up and busting them in the mouth."

Boyd wouldn't speculate on how many times he might run against Florida. He had 17 carries against Indiana, most on called quarterback draws or option plays.

"Whether I run zero times or 20 times, it's what is best in the game plan. It's not a set number each week. It's taking what the defense gives you," Boyd said. "I don't worry about injury. I would be glad to run 15 or 20 times every game. I have been blessed with that ability to run and you need to utilize all your weapons."

Florida has won 17 straight games against Kentucky, but had to rally for a 24-21 win last year after UK took a 21-3 lead into the fourth quarter.

"I'm sure there will be a little urgency in them because they know we have the ability to do some things now," Boyd said. "I am sure they are not chalking this up as an easy win like they have done in the past."

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