(Insert theme music)
Alex Trebeck: Contestants your answers please.
Coach Brooks: How close is my career to six-feet under?
UK Fan: What should be a first down for the UK football team?
Mitch Barnhart: How many extra lawns UK fans will have to mow in order to pay for next season's football tickets.
Alex Trebeck: Noooo… Sorry, you are all wrong!
The answer is: How many total net-yards did the UK offense pile up in the first quarter against Alabama?
Here we go….
Kentucky by: 17
Trenches: What was supposed to be the strong point of the Kentucky offense has thus far been missing in action this season. Last week the Wildcat O-Line gave up two sacks and four quarterback hurries. If Kentucky is going to win even one game in the SEC this year it has got to get better than 26 net yards rushing, as was the case against Alabama. From what most of us have heard there are few vocal leaders on this team, someone needs to step up and spark a fire under this lethargic bunch. Through three games, Indiana has given up an average of over 166 yards on the ground. Even against a suspect Hoosier run defense, I am still not sold on the fact that the Kentucky O-Line can open enough holes to break the century mark.
Indiana's front five is lead by mammoth 6-foot-5 / 302 pound right guard Chris Jahnke, this Louisville Kentucky native is Mr. Versatile, having played every position on the IU offensive line. Indiana running backs will be looking for big #72 as a he pulls on sweeps and crosses inside on traps. Indiana's O-Line has experienced the same frustrations on the ground as Kentucky. IU is averaging 3 yards per rush compared to Kentucky's 2.7, the discrepancy comes in the form of average per game with IU holding a fifty-one yard advantage at 130.3 yards. The good news for Kentucky is the Hoosier's do not have a comparable tailback to that of Eric Shelton or Shaud Williams. This week the IU running game moves forward, but not much.
Quarterbacks: If History does repeat itself then J-Lo should be salivating as he travels to Bloomington this Saturday (thought I was going to come with a food joke didn't you). Kentucky has passed for over 300 yards in four of the last five meetings between the two teams. Not to mention the fact that through three games this season IU has given up an average of 263 yards a game through the air. When the pocket breaks down Lorenzen becomes a master magician, watching the big boy dodge Alabama's defense was mind-boggling. Whether it is the fact that he has been scrambling for his life the first three games, or his receivers are not running the sharpest routes, J-Lo has kept it conservative opting for short outs and squirt patterns. It is time for the mold to gel! The running game keeps the defense honest, the O-Line gives Lorenzen the time he needs to survey the scene, and the ‘hefty lefty' lets it fly for over 300 yards against an outgunned IU secondary. Shane Boyd, would like to see him play more quarterback this week so he and Draak Davis can get on the same page as they try and exploit the corner of Florida's defense next week.
IU quarterback Matt LoVecchio transferred from Notre Dame where as a freshman he led the Fighting Irish to a 2001 Fiesta Bowl appearance. Obviously, you are not going to be recruited by Notre Dame, much less lead them to a New Year's Day bowl as a freshman unless you have some talent. LoVecchio has the talent, but he no longer has the supporting cast. This season LoVecchio has tossed the ball 78 times, connecting for 41 completions, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. His attempts through the air will be limited in the first half as Indiana challenges to establish its ground game. Though not a rushing quarterback LoVecchio is deceptively quick; having no problem turning broken down pass protection into a 10-yard gain. With a front line protecting him that has already given up eight sacks this season, the Hoosier Q.B. could be spending much of the game looking up at the starry Bloomington sky. LoVecchio is smart with the football and I do not expect him to give up an interception this week.
Running Backs: Is Arliss Beach is in the doghouse, I mean he couldn't do any worse than any other Kentucky tailback! Beach has rushed the ball a total 7 times in three games; do any of the Coaches have daughters? Anyway, I would love to see what Beach can do this week against Indiana; Kentucky is going to need every fresh pair of legs they can find as they venture into heart of SEC play. One thing Draak Davis has proven in his first three games as a Wildcat is that he can take a hit (reference Galishaw v. Davis and Pope v. Davis). Maybe I scrap my original nickname for Davis "the-knee-hi-fly-by," and go with "Timex" because the little guy has taken a lickin', and kept on tickin'. I did not see enough of fullback Ronald "Rock" Johnson against Alabama, I say this for the fourth consecutive week; if Kentucky is to establish a ground game they will do it with Rock Johnson leading the way. In addition, answer me this: On a crucial third-and-one last week, why not the 6-foot-1 220 pound Alex "bling-bling" Bwenge hitched up behind the 6-foot / 245 pound Johnson? As Arsenio used to say, "things that make you go, hmmmm."
Again, if history does repeat itself then Indiana should have no problem running the football this Saturday. In their last five meetings with the Cats they have rushed for 160, 215, 232, 179 and 168 yards. The Hoosier running game is lead by two youngsters; True freshman BenJarvus Green-Ellis recorded his first 100-yard game against Indiana State. Green-Ellis rushed for 107 yards on 20 carries (5.3 yards per carry) and scored two touchdowns. Sophomore teammate Chris Taylor added 92 yards. Taylor has better hands out the backfield and will see a few tosses come his way as LoVecchio spends the night on the run. IU likes to throw to their fullback John Pannozzo, his 258 yards receiving last year were the most by an IU fullback since 1997. In an epic battle of bad vs. worse, I give the offensive backfield nod to the Hoosiers this week.
Receivers: With all of the hype surrounding Derek Abney the return man, it is easy to forget what a true talent he is at receiver. Abney's final two catches against Alabama, the last for a touchdown, should be a reminder to everyone how valuable he is to the Kentucky offense. Glen Holt has yet to have his breakout game, every week he seems right on the edge to finally make it happen. This is the week; Holt uses his speed, height and athleticism to pull in two touchdowns against the Hoosiers. Chris Bernard has the ability to turn any catch into a big play, but along with the return of Tommy Cook and the emergence of freshmen Keenan Burton and Maurice Marchman, Bernard needs to make every catch count. Tommy Cook did not even see a ball come his way against Alabama, he still has some rust to shake off and will be ready by the time the Gators come into Commonwealth next Saturday. Abney, Burton and Holt put on a clinic this week combining for at least four touchdowns against a soft IU secondary.
If only the Scarecrow had a brain, the Tin man a heart, the Lion courage, and UK a tight end that didn't have to stay in and pass protect. The one throw that came Win Gaffron's way against Alabama went for 33 yards and showed what happens when the tight end is utilized in Ron Hudson's offense. At 6-foot-5 Gaffron is a big target and if he can become a consistent blocker, Kentucky will have the two-man tight end rotation they desperately need.
IU's go-to-guy is Courtney Robey, although not much of a threat to break one long he is a solid possession receiver. Glenn Johnson knows how to find the end zone; he might want to share his directions because he is the only IU receiver to have found it this season. Travis Haney rounds out this less than stellar unit, and is the only wide receiver with big play potential.
Tight end Aaron Halterman has been used sparingly this season but could see his numbers jump as IU looks to keep Kentucky honest by throwing underneath the linebackers.
D-Line and Linebackers "How Sweet it is" must be the motto of Kentucky D-Line coach Michael Gray as he sits back and watches Vincent ‘Sweet P' Burns become a first round prospect. ‘Sweet P' has climbed to second in the nation in tackles for loss and will add to his 9.5 TFL's this Saturday against Indiana. Ellery Moore has been aggressive from his nose tackle position, although constantly fighting off a double team; Moore is fifth on the team in total tackles. Since the Murray State game defensive end Jeremy Caudill has been playing with a spark that was missing against Louisville. The defensive line and linebackers seem to be getting comfortable in Mike Archer's 3-4 scheme, it is still early, but I believe this could be a strong unit by season's end.
Kentucky's Durrelll White and Chad Anderson are quickly becoming defensive gems in a system that requires its linebacking Corp to shine. Anderson was impressive against Alabama; he flowed along the line of scrimmage, shed blocks and showed good speed making plays downfield. Anderson has the potential to become the first true middle linebacker Kentucky has fielded since the run stopping days of Marty Moore (that is with all respect due Mr. Snedegar). White is an athlete that has the ability to become an All-SEC freshman performer this season. At this level, the learning curve is steep as both White and Anderson are still stumbling through the mental aspects of the game. Middle linebacker Justin Haydock leads the team in tackles and is as steady as the come, while Dustin Williams is still trying to shake off the rust of an injury plagued summer. Alabama trapped the center of the Kentucky defense all night, the Wildcat backers better get used to the feeling of what looks like a straight shot to the backfield eclipsed by a 300 pound offensive lineman.
Stat of the week: Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen weighs in at 260 pounds. The Hoosiers starting front four on defense averages 264.5 pounds per player.
Depending on if the MIA group, also known as the Kentucky offensive line shows up, this could be a long game for the Hoosier D-Line. End Victor Adeyanju and tackle Jodie Clemons are the leaders of this undersized but scrappy unit. Starting nose tackle Martin Lapostolle has yet to record a tackle this season, which leads me to believe his backup Russ Richardson will see plenty of action against the Cats. End Kenny Kendall may be the only down lineman to harass Lorenzen this week. His size and speed could present a problem for the Kentucky tackles. This is the last game until Homecoming that the Kentucky O-Line should be able to dominate the line of scrimmage.
Junior college transfer Josh Moore is leading IU in tackles this season from his weak side linebacker position. Though a slight 6-foot-1 / 215 lbs. Moore is an athletic linebacker that is fast and will get to the ball before the Kentucky offense has a chance to put a body on him. Middle linebacker Kyle Killion is the leader of the IU defense and is tied for second on the team with 28 tackles. Strong side backer Kevin Smith has made tremendous improvement during the first three games this season and will continue to contribute solid minutes as the season progresses. Lurking in the shadows is a 23-year old freshman middle linebacker by the name of Cleo Harbison. Harbison has been clocked at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash and will see plenty of action against the Cats.
Secondary: I know I saw it but I still cannot believe it… Kentucky defensive back's actually turning and finding the ball. Seriously, it almost brought a tear to my eye. Bo Smith is Kentucky's best cover corner; he injured his hamstring against Alabama but is expected to play this Saturday. Kentucky needs Smith on the field, but more important is his being at 100% when the Gators roll into Lexington next Saturday. If unable to go this week, Senior Leonard Burress will step in for Smith against the Hoosiers. Strong Safety Mike Williams becomes a fifth linebacker in Archer's 3-4 defense and is second on the team in tackles with 25. Before this season is over Williams will make more than a couple of plays that turn the tide of the game in Kentucky's favor. The other starting cornerback is Earven Flowers who has a nose for the football and is leading Kentucky this season with three pass breakups. Muhammad Abdullah continues to be impressive totaling 11 tackles, two interceptions and one pass breakup from his free safety spot. Last years pass defense gave up an average of 226.9 yards per game and 15.6 yards per catch. This year the Wildcat pass defense is giving up an average of 160.7 yards per game and 11.5 yards per catch. As I stated before the Louisville game, the Wildcat defensive backfield is, and will continue to be the strength of the Kentucky defense.
The first word that comes to mind when talking about the IU secondary is: Young! The Hoosiers started three true freshmen last week against Indiana State and could have even more on the field against Kentucky. The best of these youngsters is strong safety Will Meyers who had a team best 13 tackles against Washington. He followed that up with eight tackles, including two for loss, two forced fumbles, and a sack against Indiana State. Every team IU has faced this year has picked on senior cornerback Duane Stone, expect Lorenzen to continue the trend this week. True freshman Cedric Henry will man the right corner against the Cats and is steadily becoming a solid player for the Hoosiers. These youngsters are nowhere near ready for the Lorenzen cannon and will definitely need a change of diapers after the game.
Special Teams: OK, Derek Abney, ______________ by now all of you should be able to fill in the blanks. Clint Ruth has been instrumental in the success of the Kentucky return team. Much of the reason Kentucky's opponents have been held to 15.2 yard return average is due to Ruth's kickoffs going both high and deep. Taylor Begley missed a big field goal against Bama but he is still a deep threat that can change the outcome of any game with one swing of the leg.
IU Punter Tyson Beattie has a big leg, his first collegiate attempt this season against Uconn went for 50 yards. Beattie also has some touch in his toes, he pinned Indiana State inside its ten on all three punts last week. Kicker Bryan Robertson has connected on 12 of his last 14 field goal attempts, dating back to last year, with the only two misses being a 45-yarder last season and a 49- yarder against Washington. He is 6-of-6 on extra points this season.
In A Nut Shell: Believe it or not Kentucky out athletes the Hoosiers for the win. Indiana just does not match up at the skill positions and are undersized in the trenches.
It is time for Rich brooks to start acting like he believes in this Kentucky team. C'mon coach, Kentucky has been slow and out athleted for the past 25 years, instead of negativity and excuses, why don't you do like the great 80's hair band Poison and "Give us something to believe in."
Comments, Questions, & Praise: UKPG2003@yahoo.com