Cats' head coach in hot water

ATHENS -- Two weeks ago, Kentucky coach Rich Brooks was defending his own job security. This week, he's had to shout down loud cries for changes on his staff.

Through it all, he's trying to keep a team that has won just once this year and has beaten just one SEC team since 2002 from giving up on a season gone south. The problem is: he has no blueprint for exactly how to do that.

"It's a tough call," Rich Brooks said. "We've changed up practice routines. We've done a few things so far. We continue to talk to them about trying to end the season on a positive note even though it's been such a struggle."

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"Kentucky is a team I have a lot of respect for," Coach Mark Richt. "Kentucky is a team we've always struggled with."

But the Wildcats (1-7, 0-5 SEC) are becoming harder and harder to defend. Their only win this year came in the their second game, when they beat Indiana 51-32, and even Brooks now calls that "an aberration."

Even considering that output, Kentucky ranks last in Division I-A in offense (259.2 yards per game) and 114th out of 117 teams in scoring (13.9 points per game). The Indiana game accounts for almost half of the Wildcats' scoring this season, and, without it, they are averaging 8.6 points per game.

"I'm not seeing a lot of good things right now," Brooks said.

Kentucky is in the final year of a three-year NCAA penalty imposed before the 2002 season. Thanks to sanctions, the Wildcats have fewer than 73 scholarship players and many of them are not "SEC caliber," Brooks said this week, since they were recruited under NCAA sanctions.

"They mean for the last year to be the toughest year," Brooks said, "and it certainly has been for us."

The Wildcats still believe they can win, wide receiver Gerad Parker said.

"The players have to care about it a lot more than anybody else here," he said. "We are all standing in the fire. If we believe in it and develop some kind of consistency, I think that good things will happen like they did in the Indiana game."

It's not like they're not trying, linebacker Brad Booker said.

"Winning is the main thing on everybody's mind every week," he said. "We don't go out to practice every week to know we're going to lose. We got out to practice every day to try to pull off a win and try to come out and win the game. Losing is horrible."

A home win over a Top 10 team would provide just the kind of pick-me-up the Wildcats need to turn their year around, Brooks said.

"If you go in, and you're able to pull off the miracle upset, which quite a few teams around the country seem to do just about every week," he said, "then you can have some very positive things going into the end of the season as well as going into next season."

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