Friday, October 25, 2002

Wildcats ready for anything against Bulldogs

By Chris Duncan
The Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky coach Guy Morriss doesn't want his players to help frenzied fans topple the goal posts at Commonwealth Stadium if the Wildcats upset No. 5 Georgia on Saturday.

"We're going to talk about that. We don't want anybody to get hurt out there," Morriss said.

The fact that the issue is even coming up speaks volumes about Kentucky's season.

The Wildcats (5-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) can match their best start since 1984 by ending a five-game losing streak to the Bulldogs (7-0, 4-0). One more SEC win would double Kentucky's victory total in the league over the past two seasons.

"This is why I came here, and I'm sure it's why a lot of players came here: to play in big-time games and prove we're a big-time team," said receiver Aaron Boone, who leads the Wildcats with five touchdown catches.

Kentucky has lost 17 straight games to top five opponents, a streak that dates to a 24-20 win over No. 4 Penn State in 1977.

But numbers like that don't faze these Wildcats.

They opened the season with a win at No. 17 Louisville, the highest ranked team they've beaten since 1988. Last week, they won at Arkansas, their first conference road win since 1999 against someone other than Vanderbilt.

"Georgia is one more hump we have to get over before we finally turn the corner," said junior quarterback Jared Lorenzen, second in the SEC in passing efficiency. "We've got to prove to ourselves and prove to our fans we can play with these kinds of teams."

Meanwhile, even Georgia coach Mark Richt admits the Bulldogs are a shaky 7-0. Before last week's 48-17 rout of Vanderbilt, Georgia struggled in narrow SEC victories over South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama.

"It's not like we've been dominating anybody, really," Richt said. "We're a good team that has won the close games. I don't think our players think we're a dominating team by any stretch."

Three key injuries make the Bulldogs appear even more vulnerable.

Leading rusher Musa Smith and second-leading receiver Fred Gibson injured thumbs, and senior offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb damaged his left knee against Vanderbilt. All three had surgery this week.

"It kind of all happened at once," Richt said. "A lot of times, a guy goes down and another guy jumps in there for a week or two. Now, all of a sudden, we've got some problems, no doubt."

Redshirt freshman Tony Milton, who has only 118 yards on 28 carries this season, will make his first career start on Saturday. Even with Smith, the Bulldogs were 10th in the league in rushing, averaging only 122 yards per game.

"I like what Milton has done, but I don't know if he can carry 20 times a game or whether the guys behind him can carry the ball five apiece," Richt said. "I am curious to see how these guys respond. Tony will do well, but he just has never done it before."

Georgia's defense is in much better shape. The Bulldogs rank 10th in the nation in points allowed.

But Richt is still worried about Lorenzen, who's thrown for a combined 905 yards and five touchdowns in two games against Georgia.

The Bulldogs rallied from second-half deficits to win both meetings, 34-30 in 2000 and 43-29 last season.

The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Lorenzen threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns last year, despite heavy pressure from Georgia's pass rush.

"We got to him, we just couldn't tackle him," Richt said. "It was probably one of the most frustrating games we had defensively. We had a pretty good scheme, but because that guy was so physical, there really wasn't much we could do about it."

David Greene matched Lorenzen's numbers last year, throwing for 364 yards and three touchdowns.

Greene had his most accurate performance of this season last week, completing 20-of-23 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns against the Commodores. Morriss also expects to see redshirt freshman quarterback D.J. Shockley, the more mobile of the two. Shockley returned in the Vanderbilt game after sitting out four games with a broken foot.

The Bulldogs are going for their first 8-0 start since 1982, also the last year they won the Southeastern Conference. Georgia needs only two more wins to clinch the league's Eastern Division title.

"This team knows what's at stake. If we win the next two games, we're Eastern Division champs. We're very motivated by that statement," said senior receiver Terrance Edwards, who needs four catches to become Georgia's career receptions leader.

Edwards said he wasn't aware how close the Bulldogs were to clinching until Richt told the team at a meeting.

A chill went through my body," Edwards said, "and the whole team, as well."

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