Brooks hopes open date will help Wildcats

November 15, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Under normal circumstances, Rich Brooks says he would not be in favor of having an open date so late in the football season.

But little has been normal about this season for Kentucky's football team, so the UK coach is happy his team has an extra week to savor Saturday's 14-13 comeback victory over Vanderbilt before closing its season Nov. 27 at Tennessee.

"Given our health, it (an open date) is probably the best thing that could happen," said Brooks Sunday. "I think we will get a few players back that would not be able to play this week. We are a very beat up football team."

Still, Brooks thinks what happened Saturday will help his team. Kentucky overcame a 13-0 deficit going into the fourth quarter to win and end a seven-game losing streak.


"The way we came back to win was important," Brooks said. "Down 13-0 going to the fourth quarter, the conventional thinking would be we would cave in, give in. But they did not do that and came back to win when almost nobody gave us a chance to do it."

While Brooks would like to build on that momentum immediately, he's realistic enough to realize his wounded Wildcats would have little chance against Tennessee this week. However, with the off week, he hopes defensive linemen Ellery Moore and Vincent Burns will be able to recover from ankle injuries along with linebacker Raymond Fontaine.

He also says running back Tony Dixon (ankle), return specialist Dicky Lyons (shoulder) and special teams player Andrew Hopewell (hip) could be back for the Nov. 27 game.

Brooks says linebacker Wesley Woodyard (ankle) likely will not play after injuring his ankle against Vanderbilt and that the exact extent of cornerback Karl Booker's injury won't be known for another day or two.

Brooks planned a short practice and film sessions with his players today followed by normal workouts Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before giving his players two days off.

"I hope we can get mentally and physically fresh before coming back to start work on Tennessee," the Kentucky coach said.

Needed dose of confidence

Brooks thinks the win over Vanderbilt will give his team a needed dose of confidence for its final game.

"I think it is a big deal, particularly when things have been sliding, stumbling and falling," Brooks said. "We have been making mistakes. This was the first game we didn't turn the ball over. This shows how important it is not to turn the ball over. We had turned the ball over a lot in recent weeks and taken what chances we had to win and thrown them out the window."

He says while the win was a fitting sendoff for UK's seniors in their final home game, it was also important for the true freshmen to win again, too.

"It's really important to get something positive at the end of the season, particularly when we have so many (true freshmen) playing," he said. "Jason Leger did another nice job. He had a (quarterback) sack and quite a few tackles. Wesley probably had his best game at linebacker before getting hurt. Marcus McClinton played about every snap at free safety. He made mistakes, but he also made a lot of nice plays."

Brooks said all the true freshmen can "build on" Saturday's win as the Cats prepare for Tennessee.

"At least for the next two weeks, it won't be as negative as it has been," Brooks said.

Brooks wouldn't discuss what impact, if any, the win would have on his future or that of his coaching staff.

"I have said all I am going to say about that. I don't know," Brooks said. "I am happy for our players, happy for our seniors. We will find out what happens when we find out what happens.

"I am assuming I am here. I am tired of talking about it. I have talked about it and expressed my feelings on numerous occasions. We have two weeks before our next game. We have to heal up. We have recruiting to do and I'm still pleased with how that is going. I'll just keep doing my job and let all the prognosticators prognosticate."

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