Sumrall anxious to face Auburn

October 19, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - As a high school football player in Alabama, Jon Sumrall thought about playing for an in-state school.

He was recruited by both Alabama, Auburn and Alabama-Birmingham. He took two unofficial visits to Auburn and played with and against many players now on the Auburn roster.

"Then Alabama went through a coaching change and that ended my recruitment, and I guess Auburn just thought I wasn't good enough," said Sumrall, a junior linebacker at Kentucky.

Now he has his chance to show the Tigers he's good enough to be playing in the Southeastern Conference as the Wildcats will play at No. 3 Auburn Saturday.


"It's a business trip, but it will be fun," Sumrall said. "There will be a lot of people I know at the game. It's not like I am just going to hang out. It's a game we need to win."

Sumrall says playing Auburn provides no more motivation for him than any other SEC game.

"In the SEC, every game is huge whether it is Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee or Florida. Every game is usually as good as it gets. This is no different," Sumrall said.

Kentucky's 12-7 loss to South Carolina last week dropped its record to 1-5. That's made for a bittersweet season for Sumrall because he's worked his way into a starting position and has been Kentucky's most consistent linebacker this season.

"I haven't played great at times, either," Sumrall said. "This is my first significant contribution to the team and things have not gone great. It's been rough. My worst game of the year was against Indiana, but we won. But the weeks you lose, you are miserable no matter how you played because you just don't care about individual performance if your team loses."

Happy about turnovers

Sumrall, like UK coach Rich Brooks, was encouraged that the Wildcats forced five turnovers against South Carolina.

"We hadn't been creating enough turnovers, but we finally did," Sumrall said. "I have felt that we have always played hard on defense. I have not had to watch the film on defense and see guys not giving effort. But you can also win games by creating turnovers, and we've got to do more of that."

Unbeaten Auburn could present a difficult matchup for Kentucky. The Cats rank last in the SEC in total defense and Auburn has been one of the SEC's best offenses. Last week quarterback Jason Campbell was 17-for-19 passing in the win over Arkansas.

"They are going to be physical, too," Sumrall said. "In my opinion, they are probably the best team in the country. Their quarterback has caught a lot of flack (over his play) in the past, but I don't see how he can this year.

"They can throw the ball, run the ball or do about what they want."

Sumrall says the Wildcats should still believe they can win.

"In football and life, you should not get too optimistic or too pessimistic," Sumrall said. "You just have to show up every day and keep working.

"I believe we can win every time we step on the field. You always see teams win that shouldn't win just because they eliminate mistakes. That's the attitude you have to have. You can't go out thinking you may not win. You have to believe you can win. Auburn has a great team, but nobody is going to make me believe we can't win. We have to play better, but there's no reason we can't do that."

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