Fighting for the fanbase: 'Cats looking to respond

<b>INSIDE SLANT</b><br> After 23 months, 16 games and 11 losses, Kentucky coach Rich Brooks admitted this week that he's having a difficult time getting a read on his team.<p>

Brooks must have done something right in his 18 seasons at Oregon, turning a moribund program into a Pac-10 contender and bowl team, but so far he's struggled to push the right buttons at Kentucky.

"I'm trying to make them understand (that) a head coach, position coach, a coordinator shouldn't have to get up and tell them to get excited about playing a football game," Brooks said, "and that it's more about a team than an individual."

Kentucky's problems -- whether they be coaching, leadership, commitment, talent, etc. -- were fully evident in last week's 28-16 loss to Ohio.

Brooks spent considerable time and effort warning his team about overlooking Ohio, but it didn't work. The Wildcats turned the ball over five times in the second half and gave up 14 fourth-quarter points on their way to their third loss in four games this season.

"Somehow, I've got to get that addressed," Brooks said.

"When you look at that game, even some of our better players didn't play well. I just go back to: We've got to throw it better, we've got to catch it better, we've got to block better and we've got to tackle better.

"Regardless of where our talent level is, regardless of what the numbers problems are, we've got to play better. I've got to find a way to get this team to play up to its capability. No, we're not going to play to the level of Miami or Oklahoma right now because our program isn't at that point, but we can play up to our capability."

If the Wildcats are to experience any success this season, starting with Saturday's home game against a struggling Alabama team, Brooks insists they must find some leadership from within and develop more competition for positions.

"I've had teams where upperclassmen were the clear pacesetters and leaders, and I've had teams where some of the young players have taken on that role when the upperclassmen didn't do it," Brooks said.

"What we need to do now is find out who's going to step into that role on our football team."

NOTES, QUOTES

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Kentucky offense has struggled in all but one game, a 51-32 victory over Indiana. Throw out that game and the Wildcats are scoring just 6.3 points per game. Still, Kentucky ranks last in the SEC with only eight offensive touchdowns, and 10th in total offense, with 321 yards per game.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The lack of support from the offense has put additional weight on an uncertain defense that ranks 11th in the SEC in scoring, allowing 27 points per game. It would help if the Wildcats could stop the run, but they also rank last in rushing defense, allowing 197 yards per game. That's not a good sign with Alabama coming to town.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We will make some changes, but sometimes you don't have as many options as you need to have to make those changes." -- Kentucky coach Rich Brooks.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Alabama at Kentucky, Oct. 9 -- Kentucky coach Rich Brooks warned his team not to overlook Ohio last week and the Wildcats still lost 28-16, turning the ball over five times in the second half and allowing 14 fourth-quarter points. Alabama isn't an offensive juggernaut, but don't be surprised if the Crimson Tide simply lines up and tries to run over the Wildcats. Don't be shocked if it works.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Shane Boyd -- With only two touchdown passes, five interceptions, a completion percentage of 51.6 and only 157 yards per game, Boyd doesn't even rank among the SEC's top 12 in passing efficiency. Some of the problem can be attributed to a lack of protection and help from the running game, but Boyd has to do a better job of making good decisions and plays.

LB Chad Anderson -- Anderson, who stands fifth among SEC linebackers with 8.0 tackles per game, is likely to stay busy against Alabama's running game.

DE Sweet Pea Burns -- He hasn't been the same since a preseason knee injury limited his effectiveness. He recorded 72 tackles last season and led the SEC with 18 tackles for losses, but so far this he has only nine tackles, one tackles for loss.

ROSTER REPORT: Backup DE B. Jay Parsons is questionable for the Alabama game with a shoulder injury, but starting OLB Durrell White (jaw) and QB Shane Boyd (shoulder) are expected to play with their injuries.


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