Kentucky Offense Looking For Answers

FAYETTEVILLE — For the first five years of coach Rich Brooks' tenure at Kentucky, the Wildcats were best known for offense and players like Jared Lorenzen, Andre' Woodson, Rafael Little and Keenan Burton.

But a funny thing has happened in 2008: Kentucky's defense has become the backbone of the team.

When Arkansas (3-3, 1-2 in the Southeastern Conference) plays at Kentucky (4-2, 0-2 in Southeastern Conference) on Saturday, it will face a defense that has held opponents to 10.5 points a game. The mark leads the SEC and is third in the nation.

The problem is, it hasn't been enough to help the Wildcats win their past two games against Alabama (17-14) and South Carolina (24-17) because of their struggling offense. So it's no surprise Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said finding some consistency on offense to match the Wildcats' stingy defense is critical this week.

"We need to make some rapid improvements that we haven't been making from game one to game six," Brooks said Monday.

Kentucky was expecting a challenging transition after losing an enormous chunk of firepower from an offense that averaged 36.5 points a game in 2007. The most notable change came at quarterback, where Mike Hartline has replaced Woodson, and the offense has been inconsistent under his guidance so far.

It showed against Alabama and South Carolina when Kentucky was held to 276 and 218 yards, respectively.

The run game — which had been solid — totaled 97 yards in the two games. Even more glaring, the Wildcats were just 6-for-33 on third-down plays.

"I feel that we are letting people down because the defense is going out there and working really hard and our offense isn't doing what we should do," Kentucky tailback Alfonso Smith said.

Said linebacker Micah Johnson: "The defense right now is the strong point of the team. We have to help pick up the offense. But there will be times when the offense has to pick the defense up because the defense is playing bad. We just have to try to balance it out."

That won't come an easier this week after Kentucky lost its best playmaker — wide receiver Dicky Lyons, Jr.

The senior's Kentucky career ended when he tore the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee during the first half against the Gamecocks. He was leading the team with 33 catches for 264 yards.

But Brooks said the Wildcats' offense must press on.

"We just have to go back to fundamentals and try to get things moving in the right direction," Brooks said. "Obviously, a great step in that direction would be converting some third down situations. But more than that we need to start making some plays on offense."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories