Kentucky scouting report

The Kentucky Wildcats enter tomorrow's game with the Ole Miss Rebels at Vaught-Hemngway Stadium with a 1-4 record and a horde of young players searching for some answers. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. There is no television coverage.

The University of Kentucky was founded in 1865 and was the first school among the current 12 SEC members to field a football team in 1881. The nickname Wildcats did not come into being until the 1909 season when Kentucky defeated the University of Illinois 6-2. A reporter in describing the game said Kentucky battled like a bunch of "Wildcats," the nickname stuck.

The Kentucky color of blue was determined in 1892 by a then standout player, Richard C. Stoll. At a pep rally, Stoll pulled off his blue necktie and proclaimed this will be the "Kentucky blue." The old Stoll Field was named in his honor prior to the building of the current Commonwealth Stadium in 1973.

Kentucky has a rich tradition in college athletics but it has been mostly in basketball. The Wildcats have played football 114 seasons, managing to win 535 games, lose 532 and tie 44. The Cats lay claim to one national football championship but I could find no record of when it was earned. My best guess is their only undefeated, untied team of 1898 that finished 7-0. This team has since become known as "The Immortals" because they were not scored upon the whole season.

The Cats have two SEC championships and have had 22 football All-Americans. Noted among their football alumni are George Blanda, Babe Parilli, Lou Michaels and Tim Couch. Parilli '50, Michaels '57, Couch '98 and Sonny Collins '73 have earned the distinction of being the SEC player of the year. Kentucky has played in 10 bowl games, four coming during the eight years ('46-'53) Paul "Bear" Bryant coached the Wildcats. Bryant remains the head coach with the best overall coaching record at Kentucky, 60-23-5.

The Wildcats do have a couple of firsts in their football program. Bob Gain was the first Outland Trophy winner as the best interior lineman in 1950. In 1965 Kentucky signed the first African-American player in the SEC, Nat Northington. Northington made his playing debut against Ole Miss on September 30, 1967, a game won by Ole Miss 26-13 in Lexington.

Kentucky's highest ranking in college football polls was on November 20, 1950, when the Cats were ranked No. 3 in the AP poll. The following week the Wildcats lost at Tennessee 7-0. The only team in the SEC Kentucky has a winning football record over is Mississippi State, the Cats are 19-14 versus the Bulldogs.

Kentucky enters this week's game at Ole Miss with a 1-4 record on the season and are 0-2 in SEC games played. The Wildcats opened with a loss to arch-rival Louisville, 31-24. They defeated Idaho State 41-29, lost at Indiana 38-14, lost to Florida 49-28 and at South Carolina 44-16. Kentucky has had two weeks to prepare for Ole Miss but are 0-2 in games away from home.

This will be the 39TH meeting dating back to 1944 in a game won by Kentucky in Lexington 27-7. Ole Miss leads the series 25-12-1. In Lexington, the series is tied at 9-9-1. The Rebels have won the last two games in this series, 35-17 in 2000 at Oxford and 42-31 in 2001 at Lexington.

The head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats is Rich Brooks, a 31-year coaching veteran who is in his 3rd year as the Cats coach. He has a 7-30 overall record at Kentucky and is 98-129-4 in 21 years as a head coach. Brooks served two years as the head coach of the NFL St. Louis Rams, going 13-19. Brooks is a 1963 Graduate of Oregon State where he played defensive back.

Kentucky's offense is a multiple 2-back set. They like to spread the field, use screens, draws and dump-off passes to their backs out of the backfield. The quarterback will be under center about half the time and, of course, in the shotgun the other half. Their offense is the 11th best in the SEC, averaging 24.6 points per game. They are pretty balanced in that in five games the Cats have run three times for every two they have passed. The Cats have allowed 18 sacks but convert third downs at a 41% rate. Their offensive coordinator/wide receiver coach is Joker Phillips in his first year as the OC. Phillips is a 1985 graduate of Kentucky where he played wide receiver. He spent some time in the NFL as a receiver before entering the coaching ranks.

Kentucky has six returning starters and will start against Ole Miss four seniors, four juniors and three sophomores. The Cats offensive line averages 287 pounds. Key offensive players for Kentucky include:

- QB # 3 Andre' Woodson, So., 6-5, 230 - 64-109-792yards, 58.7%, 5 TD's, 4 INT's, rushing = net (-87) yards.

- RB # 22 Rafael Little, So., 5-11, 195 - 91 carries, 460 yards = 5.1 ave, 4th best in SEC, 4 TD's, 119 yards receiving.

- RB # 5 Arliss Beach, Sr., 6-0, 220 - 4 rushing TD's, leading scorer.

- FB # 25 Alex Bwenge, Sr., 6-1, 229 - primarily a blocker.

- C # 62 Matt McCutchan, Sr, 6-3, 295 - Only senior in the offensive line, transferred from U.S. Naval Academy.

- WR # 2 Scott Mitchell, Sr., 6-3, 222 - Caught a pass in all 16 games, tied for team lead with Little at 15 receptions.

Defensively the Wildcats are a 4-3-4 team but are the worst team in the SEC defensively allowing 446 yards per game and 38.2 points per outing. Mico McSwain could have a career day against this Cats' defense. The Cats have trouble stopping third down conversions as well, teams have converted at a 60% rate in their first five games. Their defensive coordinator is a 30-year veteran coach, Mike Archer. Archer played defensive back at the University of Miami. He was the head coach of the LSU Tigers from 1987 through 1990, winning one SEC title. Kentucky returns six starters on defense and will start three seniors, one juniors, five sophomores, one red shirt freshman and one true freshman. Being so young on defense accounts for their bad statistics. The Cats defensive line averages 265 pounds per man.

Key defensive players include:

- WLB # 16 Wesley Woodyard, So., 6-1, 200 - 34 solo + 10 assist = 44 tackles.

- FS # 42 Muhammad Abdullah, Sr., 6-0, 205 - 37 solo + 5 assist = 42 tackles.

- MLB # 56 Braxton Kelley, Fr., 6-0, 224 - Sports Illustrated says Kelly is one of the nation's best true freshman linebackers, 24 solo + 8 assist = 32 tackles.

- CB # 24 Bo Smith, Jr., 6-0, 195 - 23 solo + 6 assist = 29 + 2 interceptions.

- CB # 36 Antoine Huffman, Sr., 6-0, 175 - 4th all-time at Kentucky in pass breakups, SEC Honor roll in '02, '03, '04.

Key Kentucky special team players include: Punter - # 44 Tim Masthay, Fr. - 20 punts = 36.7 ave, long 49, 1 blocked; Punt Return - # 22 Rafael Little, So - 4 returns for a 5.2ave; PK - # 89 Taylor Begley, Sr. - 2-3 FG, PAT 15-16; and KO Returner - # 27 David Jones, Fr - 7 returns for 202 yards = 28.9ave, # 3 best in SEC.

THOUGHTS - The Rebels have to disrupt Woodsen's rhythm in the pocket, pressure him and recognize their tendencies. The Cats will nickel and dime the defense to death if you let Woodsen sit back there in the pocket uncontested. The Rebels need to score early and often, thus keeping pressure on Kentucky's young players. It would help if the Rebel crowd is loud in the O-Zone.

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