Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Wildcats look to rebound vs. IU

By Murray Evans
The Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. - If Kentucky wants to go to a bowl game at the end of the football season, the math is pretty simple, coach Rich Brooks said. It's a lot easier to get there from a 2-2 record than it is from a 1-3 start.

Saturday's game at Indiana will match two teams trying to avoid starting the season with three losses in their first four games. Neither has beaten a I-A opponent this year.

"It's two teams that are off to a less-than-perfect start," Brooks said Monday during his weekly news conference. "Indiana is in the same boat we are. This is a game that is critically important to get either team back to .500. The team that comes out of this with a loss goes 1-3, and then you've dug yourself a huge hole to try to get back on track."

Brooks expressed mostly satisfaction with his team's effort in a 27-17 loss at Alabama last Saturday. Kentucky trailed only 13-10 entering the fourth quarter before the Wildcats' defense wore down. Alabama posted a major advantage in time of possession, 36:26 to 23:34, thanks in part to a 174-yard rushing effort by tailback Shaud Williams.

"I thought we were in position with one or two good plays, or a good break, to have an opportunity to win that game," he said. "I saw us kind of settle down offensively and start making some plays. I thought our pass protection was better than it had been. I thought defensively, we continued not to give up the big play, even though we were on the field a lot. Our third-down-conversion defense was markedly better than it had been in the first two games."

Kentucky took only 47 snaps and was unable to get into an offensive rhythm, Brooks said. The Wildcats continued to have difficulty establishing the run, managing only 26 rushing yards against the Crimson Tide. Kentucky is averaging just 79 yards rushing per game.

"Our offense has to do a better job of keeping our defense off the field," Brooks said. "We've started all three games very slowly on offense. We need to get some ball-possession drives, move the chains, get some first downs and get a little ball control time-wise on the clock on the offensive side. That will help us when we get to the fourth quarter on the defensive game when we've been on the field."

Quarterback Jared Lorenzen said he's at a loss to explain the Wildcats' ground woes.

"Your guess is as good as mine," he said. "I'd put our running backs against anybody in the Southeastern Conference. I absolutely love our running backs and I love my offensive line. I think it's just something that we're missing right now and something that we've got to keep constantly working on."

Lorenzen sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee against Alabama but finished the game. He is expected to play against Indiana.

Indiana and Kentucky have played the past 17 seasons. Indiana holds the overall series lead at 17-15-1, but Kentucky has won seven of the past eight games, including a 27-17 decision last year.

The Hoosiers lost at Connecticut 34-10 to start the season, then fell 38-13 at then-No. 22 Washington before rebounding last Saturday with a 33-3 thumping of Division I-AA Indiana State. The win over the Sycamores snapped Indiana's eight-game losing streak.

Kentucky's lone win this season came against Division I-AA Murray State, a 37-6 decision.

Brooks said he is impressed with Indiana quarterback Matt LoVecchio, a junior transfer from Notre Dame who has passed for 556 yards this season, with one touchdown and one interception. The Hoosiers are young, having already played 22 freshmen during their first three games.

"They're a well-coached, disciplined team," Brooks said. "They've got a big offensive line. They've got an active quarterback who can run it and throw it. They've got a couple of good receivers. Defensively, they've got some pretty active linebackers and safeties. They try to get eight men in the box almost all the time. They're going to pack it in and try to make it tough for you to run the football, and they run it pretty well."

Indiana's second-year coach, Gerry DiNardo, coached against the Wildcats nine times while a head coach in the SEC, going 4-0 at Vanderbilt from 1991-1994 and 2-3 at LSU from 1995-1999.

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