That one sentence must have sounded to Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen like the voice of GOD when He opened the Heavens and spoke to Moses.
Ron Hudson, if you give him the chance… J-Lo will lead your lost offense out of a barren desert of mirage filled squirt patterns and incompetent running and into the land of upsets and bowl eligibility.
Here we go…
Kentucky by: 6
Trenches: I have been one of the biggest critics of this crew, and that had not changed after 30 minutes of less than stellar play last Saturday. What I saw the next 30 minutes was a unit that physically dominated the line of scrimmage. Not sure if it was pride, Lorenzen's tongue lashing on the sideline, Hudson's decision to finally play call to this team's strength, or not wanting your quarterback to have the best block of the day. Nonetheless, the big boys in blue played an incredible second half, especially Sylvester "Big Kat" Miller who is steadily becoming the Wildcat's most consistent lineman. One of the most inspiring sights for the Wildcat faithful should have been the play of reserves Nate Van Sickel, Michael Aitcheson and Hayden Lane. With a banged up offensive front, the Cats will need big contributions from these reserves the rest of the season.
You know that you have made it as an offensive lineman when you get more publicity than your quarterback does. So is the case for Arkansas's 6-foot-5, 353 pound, size seventeen shoe wearin' Offensive tackle Shawn "Hurricane" Andrews. This big boy, er…excuse me, man… is probably the best lineman that the Kentucky defense will face this season. Andrews has compiled 58 knockdowns this year, 21 coming against Alabama. Not only will the hogs run all night behind the "Hurricane," in goal line situations he lines up in the backfield as a lead blocking back. Though Andrews is the show, Much of the Razorback's success on the ground this year can be attributed to his supporting cast of "Hogmollies" including senior center Dan Doughty who is on the Rimington (nation's top center) watch list. If any team understands how a great back can make an average offensive line look very good, it is Kentucky (reference 2002 season). So is the case with this unit; however, the Razorback offensive line is the best the Cats will face the rest of the season and maybe this year.
Quarterbacks: Setting the scene: Pre-game report author down on one knee, diet Vanilla Coke in one hand and a bouquet of Klondike Slim-A-Bear ice cream sandwiches in the other. Uncomfortably shifting - nervous beads of perspiration on author's forehead. From one knee, he speaks, "Um… Jared, I know what I said can never be forgotten, but, um… I hope it can be forgiven. I mean we have history together! Doesn't that count for something? I know there is not much room… But… Jared… would you be willing to take me back on your bandwagon?" The coaching staff has seen what happens when you let the battleship Lorenzen load up his cannon and fire. Regardless if it is against Arkansas's second ranked SEC pass defense, Old Captain Brooks needs to order the battleship to man his gun, and let it fly this Saturday.
Please do not run Shane Boyd from the tailback position. Boyd is Kentucky's Mr. Everything but he is not a tailback. He bobs-and-weaves through traffic like a gifted athlete does, but he does not hit the line of scrimmage like a running back. By no means am I saying stop getting him the ball, it simply means get the ball in his hands from every position but tailback, unless of course he is going to throw and not run.
At 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones is almost as imposing under center as Kentucky's Jared Lorenzen. Jones has a decent arm but is at his best when handing the ball off to tailback Cedric Cobb. Second on the team with 330 yards rushing on the season, 102 of those coming against Texas, Jones is more of a threat running than passing. With a rash of injuries decimating the backfield, Jones leads Arkansas with 28 rushing attempts the past three games. A pre-season shoulder injury almost forced Jones out as Q.B. and had the Arkansas media publicizing him as a possible ALL-SEC caliber receiver. That never developed due to the inconsistent play of backup Ryan Sorahan and a high school injury that still hampers RS-freshman phenom Rhett Lashlee. It will be another long night for Razorback fans if their beleaguered running game forces Jones to try to win the game with his arm.
Running Backs: Alexis "bling-bling" Bwenge came out and ran last Saturday like a man that had lost his starting job, because he had. Although Bwenge was a big part of the Wildcat's second half comeback, Ronald "Rock" Johnson should be the starting fullback against the Hogs. Rock scored his first rushing touchdown of the season against State and provided some much-needed lead blocking for the Wildcat tailbacks. Why not Bwenge hitched up behind Johnson? Might not be a bad ideal against the hard hitting and extremely physical Razorback defense. Looks like Arliss Beach will be sitting this one out so Kentucky fans will finally get to see if RS-freshman Monquantae Gibson is as good as, I think he can be. Gibson lead the state of Kentucky in rushing as a senior including a performance against Shawnee HS when he rushed 25 times for 574 yards and nine touchdowns. I still believe that Draak Davis has a breakout game in him this season, just not this week. If offensive coordinator Ron Hudson will spread the offense and loosen up the box, Kentucky should have some success running against an Arkansas run defense that is giving up 140 yards per game.
The Razorbacks are averaging 6.1 yards per play on first down this season, and has averaged no less than 5 yards per first down in any game this season. This has been in large part due to the exceptional play of tailback Cedric Cobb. Even after missing most of the Florida game and the entire Ole Miss. Contest, Cobb is still leading the SEC in rushing with 121.3-ypg average. Cobb has been nursing a sore hamstring and his status for this Saturday's game is still up in the air. It is this simple; a healthy Cobb will have to play in order for Arkansas to get back in the "W" column this week. If you are Houston Nutt where do you go from here? Well, there is De'Arrius Howard who has all of the power of Cobb but none of the speed or elusiveness, surprise, due to an injury he is also questionable this week. What about linebacker and sometime tailback Brandon Holmes? Nope, lost last week against Ole Miss with a season ending knee injury. Unless Cobb or Howard get well in a hurry, it will be wide receiver DeCori Birmingham or Fullback Mark Pierce getting the bulk of the carries this Saturday. Pierce is one of the best fullback's in the country, his blocking is a huge reason for Cobb's early season success as well as why the Razorbacks lead the conference in rushing last year. Note to all of the folks reading this in Arkansas: If you have some eligibility left and think you can run the ball, the Razorbacks might give you a shot this week.
Receivers: I do not know how to explain Derek Abney, he just makes it happen. Lesson for you youngsters that want to be a college receiver: Abney runs the best routes of any Kentucky receiver, which may have something to do with his big play ability. Ok, I let it go this week. Glenn Holt is a good athlete but there is only one way to become a great receiver, catch the football. Chris Bernard and Tommy Cook will be instrumental this Saturday against the Hogs. Cook was one of J-Lo's favorite targets last season and they seem to be getting back on track heading into this Saturday's contest. Bernard will need to use his 6-foot-1 frame as a neutralizer against the Razorback's secondary speed. The same goes for 6-foot-2 freshman Keenan Burton who seems to show up every time the Cats need a big play. The Razorback defensive backfield is exceptionally fast but they only average 5-foot-10 across the board. Kentucky needs to take advantage of the mismatch.
The Kentucky tight end position has been a revolving trio consisting of Jeremiah Drobney, Winn Gaffron, and Bruce Fowler. All three have soft hands and can make a big play at any time. Fowler is the best true blocking tight end of the crew which may lead to his seeing more playing time this week.
The Hog's George Wilson and Richard Smith have combined for 46 catches and 865 yards on the season. Wilson has caught a pass in 20 consecutive games. The last game Wilson did not have a reception was the 2002 season opener against Boise State. Outside of Cobb, Wilson is the Hogs biggest offensive weapon and seems to have a knack for finding an opening in the secondary. Smith has a 4 to 3 edge in touchdowns over Wilson, and can be every bit as dangerous with the long ball. The interesting thing about these two is that they do all of their damage off relatively few receptions. I call em' sleepers, just when you think you have shut these two down, they wake you up with a big play. If DeCori Birmingham does not get the start at tailback, look for him to make a couple of grabs this Saturday. Steven Harris has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons but has been healthy enough this season to make a catch in five of the last six games. If Arkansas had a better arm at quarterback, this unit could be one of the best in the conference.
When you think of a big target to throw too, think Arkansas tight end Jason Peters. A solid 6-foot-5, 325 pounds, Peters looks more like a tackle than a fleet footed tight end. And that is exactly how the Hogs want it; they line him up next to the "Hurricane" and tell Cedric Cobb to get in behind them. Although Jenkins is primarily used as an extra tackle, he has decent hands and will probably see at least two or three tosses come his way this Saturday.
D-Line and Linebackers: Jeremy Caudill is playing the most inspired football of his Wildcat career and has been a huge reason why the Kentucky defense is slowly climbing its way out of the conference cellar. RS-freshman Lamar Mills is playing the like a seasoned veteran, his quickness and speed from the nose tackle position has been impressive. Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns had his least productive game of the season last week but still made his presence felt with a couple of big plays late in the second half. Reserves Jason Dickerson and Jacob Steuber had a couple of nice assists late in the game. I realize you do not know these two reserves, but they practice just as hard as the starters and deserve some recognition. The Kentucky D-Line will have to use their speed and athletic ability again this week in order to get around the Arkansas front because there is no going through those big boys.
I cannot say enough about middle linebacker Chad Anderson. He has become a defensive leader, and will no doubt delight in the chance to go head up against the SEC's top rusher. Dustin Williams is Anderson's cohort inside, at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Williams is not only an imposing presence but also a very good linebacker. The duo of Anderson and Williams has combined for 141 tackles this season and if Arkansas's Cedric Cobb suits up, they will need to have the best performance of their Wildcat career. Outside linebackers Raymond Fontaine, Durrell White and Deion Holts were MIA against Mississippi State, combining for one assisted tackle. This athletic crew needs to find themselves in a hurry. Their all-around quickness, as well as the physical presence of Holts will be paramount if Kentucky is to keep lady victory in Lexington this Saturday.
Up front the Hogs are a tough unit but have been struggling as of late. Defensive end Jeb Huckeba is the Hog's best down lineman and has knack for disrupting plays in the backfield. Arion Dixon provides solid run support at defensive tackle, he may not be the quickest off the ball, but Dixon is a strong kid that will be a handful for the Cats this Saturday. It has been reserve end Elliot Harris that has provided most of the spark for the Razorback defensive front. Harris has flip-flopped between tackle and end this season, but at 6-foot-4 and 262 pounds, Harris is better suited to the outside position where he can use his speed to get after the opposing quarterback. Starting in front of Harris is senior Justin Scott. If the world were a perfect place, Scott would probably be a reserve but as is the case in Arkansas, it is all about the injuries, the Arkansas coaching staff is doing their best improvisation with a banged up team. This unit may be beat up but they are still tough, the Razorback "D" has only allowed only 17 plays of 20 yards or more this season.
The strength of the Razorback defense is their linebackers anchored by strong-side backer Caleb Miller who leads the team with 68 stops on the year. Miller is a great athlete that has an almost gift-like sense for sniffing out a run behind the line of scrimmage. At 5-foot-10 and 222 pounds, Sam Olajubutu is a fireplug-sized linebacker. Do not be deceived by his stature, Olajubutu is a prototypical linebacker that would rather mix it up inside than cover the flats. Jimarr Gallon is a true defensive back playing outside linebacker. Gallon will be in his OLB position this week but will be used more as a defensive back as Kentucky looks to open up their passing game.
Secondary: Cornerback Bo Smith has continued to impress with a mixture of great cover skills, speed, and textbook open field tackling. With impressive play the past two weeks and a crucial interception last Saturday, Claude Saigalle has broken free from the middle of the secondary pack. Sagaille is solid football player that has a nose for the ball and will continue to see ample playing time the remainder of the season. Corner Earven Flowers, free safety Muhammad Abdullah and strong safety Mike Williams round out a Kentucky pass defense that ranks twenty-fifth in the nation. Not bad for a unit that ended the '02 campaign ranked 72. This week the "little guys" will need to step up big, helping to shut down the Razorback ground game. The Wildcat secondary pulled down three interceptions against Mississippi State and should have no problem pulling in another this week.
The Razorback defense has allowed the third-fewest passing touchdowns (9) in the SEC this season. A lot of that probably has to do with receivers pulling up a little bit early as they hear the approaching footsteps of free safety Tony Bua. A big time hitter, Bua is second on the team with 63 total tackles an tied for lead with 2 interceptions. A second-team All-SEC selection by league coaches in 2002, Ahmad Carroll is the Hogs best cover man. Very few receivers will run by Carroll who earned a pair of All-America honors in the 100 and 200 meters at the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Strong safety Jimmy Beasley is a solid football player hampered this year by a torn calf injury suffered late in '02 season. Rounding out this talented unit is corner Lawrence Richardson who was a preseason first-team All-SEC selection by Athlon, Lindy's and The Sporting News. Due to, what else, an injury, Richardson has not lived up to his deserved billing this season, but will be counted on to step up his play against the Cats.
Special Teams: Derek Abney, what can I say about the kid that has not already been said a hundred times over? I will leave it at this, it has been a pleasure watching Abney become one of Kentucky's all time greats, but I do not think the Commonwealth is ready for the good times to end! I believe the Kentucky faithful can handle five more games of the intoxicating Mr. Abney! Yes, I said five. Andrew Hopewell is still my special team's MVP for the season. Due to an injury to the incumbent Taylor Begley, my man Clint Ruth will get his chance to split the uprights this week. Ruth's touchbacks have been an invaluable asset to the Kentucky defense this season, but it will be his first foray into the world of field goal attempts that could be the difference between a win and a loss this Saturday.
The Arkansas punt return unit has been terrible this season, the Razorback coaching is trying anything they can to find a spark. Therefore, this Saturday we will see senior cornerback Marvin Jackson step in to return punts, while DeCori Birmingham concentrates on tailback duties. Jacob Skinner has done a decent job punting this season averaging 40.7 yards per kick.
In A Nut Shell: Tid-bit for all you naysayers that have complained about the Kentucky offense this year. Ok, Ok, include me in that group! The Kentucky offense has scored more than the opponent defense's points per game average in seven of eight games this season. The Arkansas defense has held their opponents to 20.1 points per game this season.
Well, you know what happens when you corner a wild hog… Yeah, me neither. Nevertheless, my point is, I would rather corner a wounded Hog than a healthy one, and that just so happens to be the case this Saturday.
Comments, Questions, & Praise may be emailed: UKPG2003@yahoo.com