Monday Football Press Conference Coverage
Sept. 28, 2009
Kentucky Faces No. 3 Alabama in SEC Showdown
Kentucky faces a top-three team for the second consecutive week when Southeastern Conference western division foe Alabama comes to Lexington. Last week, the third-ranked Crimson Tide remained undefeated with 35-7 home defeat of Arkansas while UK suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of top-ranked Florida 41-7.
Tailback Derrick Locke totaled 118 yards and led the team in all-purpose yards against UF for the second consecutive game. Locke's 36 rushing yards pushed his career total to 993, just seven yards shy of becoming the 31st player to gain over a 1,000 yards in a career.
On defense against the Gators, senior strong safety Calvin Harrison led the teams in tackles with a career-high 11 stops, his second career game with double-digit tackles. Senior linebacker Micah Johnson surpassed the 200-mark for career tackles, recording nine in the game to up his total to 205 stops.
Saturday's game marks the first time in school history the Wildcats face a top-five team in back-to-back games. Alabama leads the all-time series 34-2-1. The Wildcats look to snap a four-game losing streak agains the Tide. The Cats' last win in the series was a 40-34 overtime victory in 1997.
Head Coach Rich Brooks
"Going over the injury report, Justin Jeffries' Achilles (tendon) continues tobe a problem, so he's questionable. He will not practice tomorrow. Taiedo Smithmight be able to go, he has a bruised foot. Moncell Allen has a slight MCL (injury)we're hoping that he'll practice tomorrow. Christian Johnson with his (sore)ribs may not be able to go tomorrow. Paul Warford is also doubtful for tomorrow.A.J. Nance has a hamstring that will limit his action early in the week. WillJohnson was one that I didn't know about yesterday; he has an MCL sprain thatwill make him questionable. I doubt he'll be able to go tomorrow. He's been ahuge factor for us in the kicking game.
"Looking at Alabama, defensively, it's scary, but they are ranked the number one defense in our league. They give up fewer yards than Florida does. They have given up a few more points, but the quality of the opponents that they have played, with Virginia Tech being on there, is obviously part of that reason. They are second in points given up I believe. Offensively, they have a big, physical offensive line. You all know about (Julio) Jones the receiver; you also know they have speedy, hard-nosed running backs. Their quarterback is having an extremely good year in his first year as a full-time starter. So we have our work cut out for us. They do have one of the leading punt returners in the nation as well. The only thing in my mind that makes it a little better for us defensively is that they play a more conventional offense and we'll be able to work more against our people on our offense rather than try to simulate what Florida runs with scouts. Maybe that will make us start the game quicker, you never know. Questions?"
Are you worried about this week's performance against a highly-ranked opponent after coming off of the tough loss last week?
"I guess I should have worried about it more last week with the way we playedin the first 15 minutes. We weren't very focused, obviously. It is what it is.Each week is a different challenge. I think these players still realize we havea good football team. We certainly didn't play like it. Part of that was Florida,part of that was us. There are a lot of games left and there are a lot of thingswe can achieve if we are willing to pay the price to do it."
Last year you were able to hang around in the game at Alabama, given that does that help the team going into the game this year?
"Either that, or it will get Alabama really fired up about it this year to makesure we don't hang around. I think that what we did last year really has verylittle bearing on what we do this year. The fact that there are players on thisteam that have experienced big wins is positive. The fact that we've played teamsbetter than others maybe is a positive. But the bottom line is that we have togo out on the field and play 60 minutes. Not very many games in my seven yearshere can I say that we've played a full 60 minutes of what I would say is reallygood football and that's what it's going to take when you play a team like Alabamaand have an opportunity to win the game."
Have you thought about how the team could get out to a better start early in the game?
"The first three, four, five years I was here, everybody wondered why we couldn'tplay well in the fourth quarter and finish games. Some of those years, we startedgames pretty good and we fizzled. We couldn't get anything going in the secondhalf. We ran out of gas, were out-conditioned, whatever you want to say. We couldn'tfinish games. Now we're finishing games a lot better but starting games a lotpoorer. Statistics don't lie. I saw a nice article where we have been outscored139 to 44 in the first quarter since the first game of last year which is afterthe graduation of a lot of offensive talent. So our offense is struggling butour defense also is probably starting a little slower. In the last three quartersin those same 16 games we're outscoring our opponents something like 330 pointsto 208. Having said that, it doesn't take a math genius to figure out if we'replaying the first quarter even, we'd have pretty good record over those 16 games.But we haven't. Now two of those games, which wasn't pointed out, there were59 points to nothing scored on us and it was by the same team - Florida. Butit is still significant. We do have to start better. We're going to change somethings in the pre-game warm-up. I'm old-fashioned but I do try to change thingswhen I see something isn't working. Now I just hope we don't go out and havejust a great first quarter and can't play the second, third and fourth. We haveto play better in the first quarter. The other side of that is it looks likethat after we figure out what the other teams are doing our coaches have donea pretty good job of adjusting to what's going on and we play the rest of thegame reasonably well. But we need to figure it out quicker than the end of thefirst quarter."
How do you think the team has tackled this year?
"About how well we tackled last year. There have been times when our tacklingis good. Again in the secondary was a very poor tackling performance. But understandone thing - other people miss tackles, too, because the people that you are tacklingare very good. They don't give scholarships to guys who can't break tackles onoccasion. So you're going to have some of that but some of the tackles we missedwere pathetic, unacceptable. We've got to do a better job of getting that `coachedup' and making sure that it doesn't happen."
Were there any positives that you took away from last week's game? "
"Other than seeing that I thought we were playing hard, we were on defense playing with blinders on. We were not adjusting to the shifting over the tight end. We left the middle of the field uncovered for an easy touchdown pass to the tight end when the tight end came over and one safety came down and the other safety didn't come back. Just stupid things that shouldn't happen, but the effort was there. Our tackling was a little sloppy. I thought we had stupid procedure penalties. I think part of that was that we changed a lot of plays at the line of scrimmage, obviously. We're going to change fewer plays this week. We may get hit in the mouth but we're going to get up there and run some plays without changing them. When you do that, everybody has to be quick. When you're changing plays at the line of scrimmage, you have to get the play in quick, you have to get out of the huddle, you have to get lined up and you have to give your quarterback enough time to make those changes. When he makes those changes, he has to make sure everybody has got them and are set before he snaps the ball and that did not happen, particularly on the first play of the game last week which is unacceptable."
Are you a big fan of scripting 10-15 plays on offense to begin the game?
"Yes, we do that. We do it, but if the play isn't the right play because they'vegot something that is going to stone it, we change it. So if we get stoned ona few plays in the early part of the game, you'll know we didn't change it."
Getting the chance to play another top-ranked team this week, do you see it as a chance to re-establish some of the credibility that may have been lost last week?
"That isn't going to make me forget that it was 31-0 in the first quarter. Wejust need to put that on a shelf. Now we're playing Alabama. Last week's gameisn't going to help us play better in the first quarter against Alabama. What'sgoing to help us play better is practicing better, starting faster, focusingand concentrating and playing football like we're capable of playing closer to60 minutes than we have this year and for quite a while."
Where would last week's loss rank as one of your most disappointing losses?
" Right up near the top. Not so much the loss as the first 15-minute performance. I believe that we're a much better football team than that. That should not have happened. As I said a year ago after the Florida game, I thought we were past that kind of stuff but obviously we're still not past it. I have got to do a better job of getting my guys focused so those things don't happen. I've got better players than to have that happen in one quarter that just shouldn't happen."
What are some of the things you can do in the pregame that can get you jumpstarted?
"We're going to shorten it and we're going to try to pick up our tempo a littlebit."
Is there a case to be made that Alabama is a better opponent than Florida?
"They're not any worse (laughter from audience) ... Alabama is all as as good asFlorida, just in a different way. They have a totally different offense. Theyare one of the best offensive teams in the league after their first four gamesof the season. Their defense is the best defense in the league. Their specialteams are outstanding. They have no weakness. They could be the number one teamin the nation. After it is all said and done, they might be."
What do you think about Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy?
"He's playing with a lot of poise for a first-time starter. I think he understandsthe situation. He has a good arm and some receivers who can go up and make plays.He understands the situation when he can put the ball up and let the receivermake a play on it, he's doing it. He seems to be managing the game very wellfor them on the field."
Do you change your demeanor in practice this week?
"Yeah, I probably get grumpier, ornerier. At the same time, I've got to be ableto positively reinforce the things that this team can do and are capable of doingwithout tearing them down too badly."
In practice isn't there a fine line when you play offensive against defensive starters in terms of risk of injury?
"Absolutely, that's why you don't do it very often. We've done that at differenttimes. We did it several years ago. We almost had to do it to get a look severalyears ago because our scouts were not even like our scouts are now. At leastwe get a resemblance of something (now). But in the situation we are in and theway we are starting games, I guess I'm going to turn the dial up in practiceand take my chances."
Can you talk about the Crimson Tide receivers and skill people in general?
"They have very good skill people. I think until last week (wide receiver Julio)Jones had not caught a touchdown pass and hadn't caught a lot of balls. AgainstArkansas he had better numbers than he has had the previous three games. Theydo a really good job of spreading the ball around so you can't really focus ona particular guy, although if you don't focus on Jones you are kind of crazybecause he can gash you in a hurry with his outstanding size and talent. Theother guys are doing a great job. They're fast, they're athletic. Their backsare scary. They have a freshman tailback that is running very well and thoseguys can catch coming out of the backfield too. They'll hit you with a screenpass now and then to keep you honest on your all-out rushes."
What did you do last year defensively against Alabama that you will need to do again this year?
"I can tell you what we've got to do better than what we did last year. We can'tgive up a 78-yard gash right up the middle for a touchdown. We've got to do abetter job of getting off the field on third down; they converted and kept drivesalive on us last year. We were fortunate that they didn't score more ... We hadsome takeaways on them so those are the things we need to continue to do butwe've got to correct things that we didn't do well in that game."
What stands out to you about the Alabama defense?
"They're extremely physical. They have very similar team speed on defense toFlorida, which is scary. They appear to be a more physical group - bigger, thicker.They may not be quite as tall but they are stronger and more physical. Theirlinebackers, they don't come up and play a block and then shed it, they justrun through it and go to the ball carrier and leave the blocker lying at theirfeet. They just run through them. Their secondary is extremely well-disciplined.They are as well coached on defense as any team we'll play."
Can you still utilize the `Wildcat formation' in your offensive scheme as an element of surprise with so many teams running it?
"Against certain defense the Wildcat can be a lot more effective. Plus you haveto remember that Randall Cobb is not a big, physical guy and if you want to runhim a lot, you chance him getting beat up pretty good. We know he had a toughfall camp with his back and some other problems. So yes we will use it and wefeel it can give us a good change up and hopefully in some games it will be ahuge portion of what we're doing. But you're right, a lot of people are doingsome of those things and the more defenses see it, usually the better they canstop it, but not too many people are stopping the Florida Wildcat however becausehe (Tim Tebow) is 240 pounds."
#4, Micah Johnson, LB
How does Alabama's offense look?
"I saw them on film yesterday and some today. They are a physical team and afast team, and the offense will come and hit you in the mouth. The talent andlevel of play they have is no drop off (compared to Florida). What Alabama does,they do well."
Talk about the challenge of playing Alabama.
"We have to man up, come out and get physical, and know what kind of game weare going to have. We have to fight and I think that's what the players are goingto do. We have to try to get in the right mindset for Saturday."
Talk about the game against Florida.
"Minus the first quarter of Saturday's game, the defense was able to competewith Florida. Things piled on top of us early and it was hard to dig out of.You can't let a team that good jump on top of you like that."
#70, Stuart Hines, OG
How do you prepare for Alabama?
"We looked at film yesterday and there is little stuff we need to get betterat, like technique and matching speed. The speed of the game is so much fasteronce you get into SEC play. Now we have seen that and hopefully we'll be betterprepared next week. We need to come out hard from the beginning."
How does Alabama defensive lineman Terrence Cody look?
"I got to play a little against him last year. He is a big body in there, he'sstrong, he's good and he's quick for his size. A lot of teams have big guys,but they aren't as big as he is. We have to work this week to get a push in themiddle."
#32 Trevard Lindley, CB
On if the team will be able to regroup and get ready for Alabama ...
"We just have to get back together and go to practice this week and play hard.We need to have a good week of practice and come out and play good early on Saturday.We have to go out there and let the younger guys know that last week's game isbehind us and we have to play hard and try to come out strong against Alabama."
On how much they can take from playing Alabama well last year ...
"I think the main thing is to try to not make mistakes. We need to fly aroundand make some plays."
On how physical Florida was and if it will help to have that game under their belt considering Alabama will be just as physical ...
"It was physical, but it was more speed and misdirection plays that caused usproblems against Florida. We settled down in the second quarter and played betterafter that. We expect a very physical game against Alabama. They are a smash-mouthfootball team that will come right at you and run the ball. They can do someplay-action fakes to get you off your feet a little bit."
On playing the bigger receivers that Alabama has ...
"They have some big, physical receivers that are really good. It should be agood matchup. It should be a good game out there. With the small guys, you haveto really move your feet and get your hands on them. With a big receiver youhave to expect their power game because they will probably try to come over thetop and bull-rush you. You have to get off and try to keep them in front of you.You have to be more physical with them then you are with the smaller receivers."
# 56, Ricky Lumpkin, DT
On if he feels that they have to prove that they are a better team than they showed Saturday ...
"Yeah, I think so. Our fans, we love them and they love us, but there are timeswhere they might think, `Uh oh, there is the old Kentucky team coming back,'and we don't want them to think that because that is not us. It was just oneof those games where it was a tough game against a really good opponent. It doesn'tmake it any better that they beat us 23 years in a roll. We always talk abouthow we need to compete, but we are not showing it by losing to the same teamsover and over again. We have to change that starting this week."
On what he took out of Sunday's practice ...
"I think that it was one of those days that made you realize that we have a lotof work to do. It was one of things where we cannot make the same mistakes. Wecan't talk about it. We have to be about it. It was one of those days where wewent in and watched the film and now have to move on. It was not a letdown, justa reality check. If we want to be the best, then we have to play like the best."
On how the team can pump up the fans for the Alabama game ...
"We need to get the fans in the game and keep them in the game. We can't letthat many points get racked up on us that fast, because we are going to needthe fans to stay in the game really big this weekend and the rest of the season.The only way to do that is to come out and play hard."