Auburn will be best team UK has faced

October 20, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - The last thing Kentucky's struggling offense needs is to know how highly Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville thinks of his defense.

"Our defense lost five starters from last year that are in the NFL now," said Tuberville. "But we are better because the guys who replaced them are more athletic. We have the fastest defense I've seen here."

The Auburn defense ranks second against the run and third overall in the Southeastern Conference. Kentucky's offense is 11th in the conference in total offense and scoring.

Auburn's defense is second nationally in scoring defense at 9.0 points per game. Auburn is the only team in the country not to have allowed a rushing touchdown this season. The Tigers also have 11 interceptions, the nation's fourth best mark.


"If you look at the SEC stats, they are first, second or third in every team category that counts," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "They have one of the best defenses in the country."

Kentucky will find out just how good Saturday when it tries to snap a three-game losing streak at Auburn. However, Brooks said Auburn can do more than play defense.

"This is going to be the best team we've seen," Brooks said. "It's not even close. They don't have a weakness."

Tigers have won nine straight

Auburn is unbeaten in seven games this year - its best start since 1994 - and has a nine-game winning streak going back to the end of last year when Tuberville was in danger of losing his job to Louisville coach Bobby Petrino.

"He's gone from almost being fired to maybe being national champion," Brooks said. "That's a heck of a deal."

Tuberville's team was picked to contend for a national title last year, but stumbled early. This year the Tigers have used their defense and improved play of quarterback Jason Campbell to become the SEC's best team.

"Jason has got better each week," Tuberville said. "We have a better offensive line. Our receivers are catching better. There's no reason for us not to have a better team.

Running back Ronnie Brown averages 7.8 yards per carry and is fifth in the SEC in rushing 89.3 yards per game. Campbell has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,363 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.

Brooks feels his team believes it can win despite being a heavy underdog and also going into the game with starting quarterback Shane Boyd nursing a sore left shoulder that could even force backup Andre Woodson into a starting role.

"If Shane's well, we will probably do what we have been doing (at quarterback)," Brooks said. "If you look at where we were against Florida, look at where we are with Alabama and South Carolina, then if we eliminate the mistakes and turnovers and some missed assignments, we have a chance. If we play a near perfect game, we have a chance."

UK notes:

* Receiver Glenn Holt is second in the SEC in receptions per game at 4.83. He had 10 catches for 49 yards against South Carolina.

* The 12 points Kentucky allowed against South Carolina were the fewest an SEC team had scored on the Cats since LSU managed just five points in 1999.

* Kicker Taylor Begley is third in the SEC in field goal percentage. He's 6-for-8 for 75 percent. He's also made 67 straight extra point kicks, three more than the previous school record.

* Clint Ruth is leading the SEC in putting kickoffs into the end zone at 64.7 percent (11 of 17).

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