Alabama's defense is best in the SEC

October 06, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Kentucky coach Rich Brooks knows one way he could help his team's anemic offense against Alabama.

"Can you play 12 (players)? That would be bolder," said Brooks. "We may have to try a few plays where we may strike gold. They don't have any weaknesses. We may just try to play to their strengths and try to make a big play because every team that they have played has not been able to drive the ball down the field.

"They are the best defense we have seen, and that probably is not good news for us."

Alabama (3-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) has scored just 13 points total in losses to Arkansas and South Carolina since losing starting quarterback Brodie Croyle to a knee injury. The Crimson Tide passed for 202 yards per game with Croyle, but just 62 yards per game without him.

However, Alabama's defense, ranked No. 1 overall in the SEC, is giving up just 14 points per game. Senior linebacker Cornelius Wortham had 14 tackles against South Carolina last week and has 37 tackles this season. Free safety Roman Harper also has 37 tackles, including eight for loss.


"They do a lot of blitzing and they have a lot of speed," Brooks said. "They are very physical. They've got it all.

"If they had had a healthy quarterback the last two games, things would be a lot different. They are trying to develop another quarterback, but right now, clearly their strength is the run and they are looking at a team that has not stopped the run, so I'm sure they are licking their chops."

Hudson rushing for 107.8 yards a game

Alabama tailback Ray Hudson is second in the SEC in rushing at 107.8 yards per game. He has 539 yards rushing and three scores this year. Kentucky's defense, last in the SEC, is allowing 197 yards per game rushing and Hudson, who has three games over 100 yards this season, could be the best back the Wildcats have faced.

"They are a heck of a running team," Kentucky freshman safety Wesley Woodyard said. "We have not been playing like we should, and we've got to get better right now to stop Alabama's running."

"He's good, really good," Kentucky defensive coordinator Mike Archer said of Hudson. "We've got to do a much better job defensively."

In last week's 28-16 loss to Ohio, Kentucky held Ohio to 64 yards on 50 plays. On Ohio's other eight plays, it gained 244 yards including scoring passes of 89 and 41 yards.

"Last year something we did better was eliminate the big play," Brooks said. "This year we haven't done that. Things we didn't do last year, all of a sudden we are doing. It is a disturbing trend."

Kentucky's offense has not generated many big plays. The Wildcats' offense has generated eight touchdowns, the lowest total in the SEC.

Starting quarterback Shane Boyd is 64-for-124 passing for 629 yards. He has thrown only two touchdown passes compared to five interceptions, including thefts that were game-changing plays against both Louisville and Ohio.

Woodson could play more

Kentucky is near the bottom of each major offensive category in the SEC. That's one reason Brooks says backup quarterback Andre Woodson, who was 6-for-11 passing for 72 yards and one score in his collegiate debut against Ohio, could play more this week.

"How it will unfold, I'm not sure," Brooks said. "He's got to make sure he's ready to play. At some point, he will be in the game. I like some of what he did last week, some things I did not like. He threw into triple coverage on his interception. But he threw accurately and made some plays.

"He has to realize the ball better be gone on time or they will be on him like hornets on a raw piece of meat. In passing situations, he better get rid of the ball on time against Alabama."

Boyd's teammates didn't help him against Ohio by dropping six catchable passes, including at least one Brooks said would have gone for a touchdown.

"Maybe as receivers we need to step up and take the heat off the quarterback and help make his job easier," Kentucky receiver Scott Mitchell said. "We have to do that."

Last week's loss dropped UK to 1-3 this season, and the team needs something positive to happen against Alabama.

"The season isn't over yet," UK kicker Taylor Begley said. "We still have seven games to prove that we can play better."

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