FOOTBALL: 'Cats can't afford to lose against Vandy

After losing seven of eight games so far and falling to the bottom of the Division I-A statistics in offense and scoring, only two things could be worse for Kentucky.

Getting hit hard by injuries and losing to Vanderbilt.

Losing to Vanderbilt is even more possible this week because of a multitude of injuries slamming an already young, depleted team.

"There's not too many guys left," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "Obviously we're pretty thinned out."

At least seven key players could be out or limited for the Vanderbilt game, including backup quarterback Andre Woodson, who appeared to be winning the starting job with his performance against Georgia last week when he went down with an ankle injury. Kentucky was already playing without five other would-be starters who are out for the season.

Suddenly, a winnable game doesn't look so winnable for the beleaguered Wildcats (1-8, 0-6 SEC).

"It's not easy to get the attention of all the guys on any given week, but certainly this is a week that gives a better opportunity to do something good, as opposed to last week (Georgia) or the Auburn game," Brooks said.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Wildcats did manage to score two fourth-quarter touchdowns against Georgia last week, but the game was out of hand at that point and QB Andre Woodson was running the show. He's questionable to play this week, so the Wildcats could be back to the same combination of players averaging 116th among 117 Division I-A teams in total offense and 115th in scoring offense, with 14.2 points and 268.7 yards per game.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: A defense that started the season showing signs of progress has hit the skids, allowing 589 total yards and 62 points last week against Georgia. With injuries taking their toll, things could go from bad to worse if the Wildcats can't slow down a Vanderbilt running game that made some progress last week against Florida.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've been through tough years, but this one is climbing the charts as one of the toughest. It's one thing to go in with some expectation of what you're capable of doing and then have those expectations not be reached. It's another thing to see the shifting lineups based on performance and a lot on injury. But the light at the end of the tunnel is something you hang on to. I know there's a lot of people who see only darkness at the end of the tunnel. I see light. From that standpoint, we just keep on keeping on and battle through it." -- Kentucky coach Rich Brooks.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Vanderbilt at Kentucky, Nov. 13 -- Kentucky is at home but still not favored to win this game because of its own multitude of problems. Just as the Wildcats seemed to find a quarterback in Andre Woodson they also lost him to an injury that could keep him out of this game. Still, Vanderbilt doesn't know any more about winning a close game in the fourth game than Kentucky, so the Wildcats can win if they can avoid big mistakes.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QBs Andre Woodson and Shane Boyd -- Woodson has clearly been the better quarterback in recent weeks and appeared to win the job last week against Georgia, only to suffer a sprained ankle. Regardless of who plays, Kentucky needs its quarterbacks to be sound and avoid turnovers and big mistakes. Woodson did that against Georgia last week. "The one thing he did very well was have good vision of the field," Brooks said. "He came off his primary receiver and would find another guy open. He managed the game well."

SS Muhammad Abdullah -- One of the few positives on a struggling defense, Abdullah has recorded 43 total tackles (33 solos) and three interceptions through nine games. Abdullah started the first seven games at free safety before Mike Williams was suspended for the remainder of the season for violating team rules late last week. Williams was second on the team with 43 stops and is a big loss. Plus, with Abdullah at strong safety, freshman Marcus McClinton is starting at free safety now.

ROSTER REPORT: The Wildcats have been hit hard by injuries all season and things got even worse in the Georgia game. Redshirt freshman WR John Logan (dislocated shoulder) and TE Jeremiah Drobney (sprained knee) are out for the Vanderbilt game while All-SEC DE Sweet Pea Burns is expected to miss a third consecutive game with a high ankle sprain. ... The questionable players include: QB Andre Woodson (sprained ankle), DE Ellery Moore (sprained ankle), starting CB Earven Flowers (hip pointer), and reserve CB Warren Wilson (knee, bruised sternum). ... LB Dustin Williams (arm), CB Bo Smith (head, eye injuries), FS Mike Williams (suspended), and WRs Tommy Cook (knee) and Keenan Burton (wrist) are out for the season. ... The only good injury news for Kentucky is that Cook has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Cook has missed the entire season recuperating from the knee injury he suffered in the spring game.

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