Wednesday, November 03, 1999

UK 'O' line, Bonner need lift

The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON, Ky. — In the off-week lull between a 49-34 loss to Georgia and a crucial Thursday game at Mississippi State, it became the question of the moment for Kentucky. Who is to blame for the 11 sacks quarterback Dusty Bonner suffered at the hands of Georgia's blitzing defense?

        Did the line not give Bonner enough protection? Did he hold on to the ball too long?

        And how to prevent a repeat against Mississippi State, which boasts one of the nation's top defenses?

        The answer to the last question will be critical if the Wildcats (5-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) are to pull a road upset of the eighth-ranked Bulldogs (7-0, 4-0).

        Bonner shouldered much of the blame for the battering he took from Georgia. “I've got to get rid of the ball,” he said. “Some of that's inexperience. It's my fault.”

        Added Bonner: “It's easy when you watch the film” to see the mistakes, citing a play on which he bought himself some time by sidestepping an onrushing defender, only to get sacked anyway when he failed to get rid of the ball before the rusher turned around and got him.

        Junior tackle Omar Smith, the oldest player on Kentucky's offensive line, said the line blamed itself.

        “How can you not feel sorry for the man?” Smith said. “He got sacked 11 times and he got hit numerous other times. I remember him getting hit in the head and I just hear him: "Uhhhhh ... '”

        In looking back at the Georgia game, there weren't many instances when Bonner could have gotten rid of the ball without risking an interception, coach Hal Mumme said.

        But, he added, Bonner does need to get better at knowing when to give up on the big play.

        MSU's defense will present UK with unconventional schemes and unexpected blitz packages, Bonner said.

        MEMPHIS: Coach Rip Scherer got a two-year contract extension despite four losing seasons and a 3-5 record so far this year. Athletic director R.C. Johnson said Scherer's program has improved since he moved to Memphis in 1995 and appears ready to show greater gains.


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