Monday Football Press Conference Coverage
Oct. 19, 2009
Wildcats Look to Extend Non-Conference Win Streak
Kentucky plays host to Sun Belt Conference member Louisiana-Monroe on Hall of Fame Weekend, carrying an active 16-game win streak against non-conference opponents that dates back to 2006. It's the second-longest non-conference win streak in the nation.
Last week, UK earned its first victory over Auburn in 43 years with a 21-14 victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium. ULM is coming off a 16-10 win over Arkansas State at home on Tues. Oct. 13.
At Auburn, UK totaled a season-high 282 rushing yards - the most against an SEC opponent in 14 years. The Wildcats produced two 100-yard rushers in the game as Derrick Locke gained a careerhigh 126 yards and Randall Cobb rushed for career-best 109 yards. Each of the three quarterbacks - Morgan Newton, Will Fidler and Cobb - rushed for one UK touchdown in the victory.
UK's defense held Auburn to 14 points and 315 total offensive yards, both season lows. Danny Trevathan and Sam Maxwell achieved career highs in tackles with 14 and 10, respectively. Fellow linebacker Micah Johnson charted a season-high 14 stops (one shy of his career high) and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week. Coming off an injury, cornerback Paul Warford also was impressive, totaling six tackles and three pass breakups.
Head Coach Rich Brooks
"On the injury front, Taiedo Smith is sick. We had one other player that was sick on Friday night that didn't play in the game that was Martavius Neloms. I hope that the flu isn't going to start going through our team, but that is always a possibility. Trevard Lindley I would say is out of this game, so is Mike Hartline, obviously. Jake Lanefski is out and has still not had his surgery. They are waiting for the swelling to go down. Derrick Locke is, I would say, doubtful for this week. He is still very sore today and will not practice tomorrow. I don't know if he will be able to do anything by Wednesday or Thursday, we will just have to see. We have some other bumps and bruises, including Will Fidler's shoulder which will limit his practice reps and throwing the football this week. A bunch of other bumps and bruises but I don't think they will keep them out of practice.
"You know, all last week it was gray, cold and wet and an amazing thing happened Sunday morning. The sun was out, vibrant colors on the trees and it is amazing what a win will do for you. In looking ahead to Louisiana-Monroe, we all know what kind of team that they are. In 2006, we had to make a tackle on a two-point conversion to hold on to a win here. They are an extremely well-coached team and are leading their league currently. They are 4-2 and their two losses are to Texas and Arizona State on the road. So this is a real football game. It will not be an easy thing, particularly for us, who are trying to establish a passing game again, more similar to what we are used to having."
Can you talk about any game that you have had before where your team had no penalties or turnovers and what that says about having a total team effort on Saturday?
"I have had a lot of teams with no turnovers, but in conjunction with no penalties,that would narrow the list down. Forgive me for my old age and memory, I knowthere have been some but I don't know when or how many. Very few, probably."
Coach, even after losing games the last few weeks you still thought that you were a good football team, does this win validate that a little bit?
"What do you think? I have said all along that I thought that we were a good football team and we still were a good football team even though we weren't healthy and didn't have all of our parts - and we still don't. Having said that, the fact that we can go on the road and break one of the infamous streaks in Kentucky football history speaks to the fact that this is still a good football team. How close we are to being better than that, or how close we are from being better than that I will leave to you guys to judge."
Have you refreshed the memories of the players of how ULM played in Commonwealth a couple of years ago when you had a pretty good team?
"I did and will continue to the rest of the week."
Can you talk about all of the quarterbacks and their play in the game Saturday, one at a time?
"Well, what we didn't want to do is have the young guy take the first snap, sohe took the second (laughter from audience). That was brilliant strategy I mightadd. Having said that, I really think that (Morgan) Newton did remarkably wellwith his poise early in the game, when you think that he might be a little bitmore nervous taking a snap or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. From apoise standpoint, I thought that he did really well. He overthrew some ballsand under-threw a ball on a reverse flea-flicker pass up in the wind, but hegot killed at the same time he releases it and actually got a roughing the passerpenalty. I thought he did really well, and then as the game went on he startedto make more mistakes. It looked like the pressure of trying to move the offenseand make something happen was getting to him a little bit. Whatever it was, heturned the wrong way and missed a handoff and had to scramble. We ran a reversewith Randall (Cobb) and he didn't put him in motion and it was a terribly timedplay and we had to scramble to get back to the line of scrimmage on it. He wasstarting in the passing game to just drop back and look and pull it down, eventhough he didn't need to pull it down as quick. That is when we made the changeand Will came in and settled things down I thought. He handled himself as a guywho has been around a lot should. He directed three pretty good drives, one ofthem we missed a field goal. The other two we ended up scoring and he scoredhis first touchdown as a Wildcat on a quarterback draw. I thought that he didsome very good things.
"Randall is just Randall. The question is how much can you do with Randall. He is again, hobbled a little bit this week so we have to be a little bit more careful. He is just a spectacular competitive playmaker. A lot of you guys that write or speak for a living will be more elegant and find the right adjective. He is just a great football player."
Does he remind you of any player that you have had in the past?
"You know, I have had a lot of undersized running backs. Locke would be one ofthem. I have had some guys at Oregon, that were spectacular that way too butnot with the same athletic set of skills that Randall possess -- the exuberanceand leadership capabilities and personality and All-American smile and you wouldbe glad to see your daughter bring him into your house. This guy is just thewhole package."
Can you talk about how proud you are of Will with the way that he has handled not starting but still came in and played great late in the game?
"I couldn't be prouder of Will Fidler if he was my own son. He has been througha lot here and it hasn't gone his way so to speak. Every day he goes out thereand works and competes and does everything that he can to make it right and tohelp this team. Last week, was kind of, in a lot of ways, the ultimate slap inthe face for him. We elected to start the freshman quarterback and he handledthat very well. That is one of those decisions as a head coach that sometimesare not popular and sometimes not popular on your own team. They are hard tomake but you make them because you think it is the right thing to do for thatgame and the future and he handled all of that with absolute class. He is oneof the toughest guys on our team and had never been afraid to pull the ball down.He is not one of those quarterbacks that are going to hook slide, he is goingto try to run you over. He has a good arm and I am very hopeful that this experiencein the last two games will help him to become a more consistent playmaker, becausehe is just an outstanding young man."
How does a game like Saturday factor into what you have done the last three years?
"Some people like to dwell on our shortcomings in the games that we have lost,but if you look over the last three and a half, four years, we have won probablymore close games that we have lost. We have come back in the fourth quarter numeroustimes over the last three or four years as well. There is a belief in our teamand in our locker room that we can make it happen. The old attitude that is sohard to shake, that you can't get it done, no longer prevails on our footballteam. All you have to do is look historically at how difficult it has been forKentucky to win under any circumstances with any type of team regardless if youthink Auburn is a good team or an average team this year. There have been otheraverage teams that Kentucky hasn't beaten down there. This year this team founda way to do it missing their starting quarterback and best defensive player bymost estimations."
Can you talk about Paul Warford's play?
"We went from thinking that we were going to get 20-25 plays out of Paul, toJim Madaleno telling him in the elevator coming down for the pre-game meal, `Welllooks like you are 100 percent now instead of 70 percent because Neloms is sick.'Guess what? He was 100 percent and played the whole game. It was a remarkableperformance by Paul Warford. I am really glad that Micah Johnson got SEC DefensivePlayer of the Week. It well could have gone to Paul Warford or Danny Trevathan.There were a lot of players on our team that played one of their best footballgames. That was very close to Paul's best football game, coming off a very difficultinjury and knowing that he was not 100 percent physically. He played an outstandinggame. Those pass breakups were key, especially one late in the fourth quarter."
Coach, who are you starting at quarterback on Saturday?
"I am not sure. We will see how it goes, but it will probably be Morgan Newtonagain. Again, that is probably not fair to Will after what he did in the fourthquarter. I kind of feel that if things are not going well then it is better tobring an experienced hand off the bench than an inexperienced hand off the bench.We will probably work it to where both quarterbacks are going to play in thefirst half rather than doing it and waiting to see if we are doing OK or notdoing OK. We will plan it differently because I have confidence that both ofthem can do some things. We have to start throwing the football better. We cannotwin many games going forward passing like that. What did we end up with, 75 yards,wow?"
Can you talk about your overall linebacker play?
"This was Danny's biggest chance to show because we were in regular defense amajority of the game. I think that we played nickel only six or seven snaps.They ran more conventional personnel even though they spread the field. Theyhave a tight end, and basically two running backs and receivers most of the time.So we left our regular defense (in the game), which is all three linebackers,so that left Danny to record some stats because he has probably only played athird of the snaps in a lot of the games. In this game he was spectacular. Hemade tackles starting from over here (right fist extended outward) all the wayover to the far sideline for two-yard gains. We have never had a linebacker asfast as he. Wesley was close to being as fast, but he wasn't as big as Danny,particular at his sophomore season. He is very instinctive, other than the kickoffagainst South Carolina when it took him three tackles to get the guy down, heis a really good tackler. Part of the tackling that is a challenge for him isthat he doesn't have a free hand on that cast hand. He had a spectacular game."
Is this the best offensive line that you have had here at Kentucky?
"You know, I said a year ago that I thought that we were going to have a reallygood offensive line and some of these guys were the components of that. I backedoff a little bit on that because I didn't want to put the pressure on them thatmuch this preseason, but the performance so far is clearly better than any offensiveline that I have been here. You just look at the number of sacks given up andthe rushing yards against quality defenses. It is a very good group. Do you knowthe old theory about mushrooms? You keep them in the dark and you feed them thatfertilizer stuff, you know? Usually when you start to praise your o-line, forsome reason in my past experience, they don't play as well very quick. I praisedthem last week in a loss and obviously, they are getting a lion's share of therecognition this week, which they deserve. Now, I just have to hope they understandhow they got to where they are and don't get fat-headed."
Can you tell us more about Louisiana-Monroe and your concerns about them?
"Misdirection again, it is a problem offense and one that last game was our bestdefensive performance against in a similar type of offense. Although, (Auburnquarterback Chris) Todd didn't have a great night of throwing the ball becauseof the wind and the cold and it wasn't a great night throwing the ball. It waslike the twilight zone throwing the ball for both teams. They are a team thatruns the read-option. They will play against us a redshirt freshman quarterbackthat finished the game against Arkansas State. They lost their starter who hadthumb surgery and is out for the short term. Defensively, they are going to presenta totally different set of problems for our offense and offensive line and ourquarterbacks making checks. They are a three-man front. They do a lot of stuntingand twisting, very quick and athletic defensive linemen, and it will be majorchallenge for our offensive line because we haven't seen a defense like this.They are only giving up, I think, 93 or 94 yards a game rushing. You look atit and say, `Man we ought to be able to run here,' and all of a sudden peopleare running around everywhere or someone is free in the backfield. They are veryathletic and very quick on defense up front. It is a totally different defensivefront eight that we have seen. I am concerned about it giving us problems."
If (Derrick) Locke can't play, is Alfonso (Smith) ready to go?
"It is still not healed, the thumb. He will still have to have a splint on itbut it should still be much better this coming Saturday then it was last Saturdayand the Saturday before. He will have to be a bigger factor, as well as Moncell(Allen) and our other backs. I am very hopeful that Locke will be able to go,but it is truly doubtful at this point because he is really struggling with thatknee."
If Locke cannot go, do you tell Smith that he goes from 70 percent to 100 percent with that thumb?
"Pretty close, pretty close."
Will Locke's knee problem be something that is a week-to-week thing or if he doesn't play Saturday that will help him rest-wise the rest of the season?
"It is just a matter of time. The MCL has some different grades, you can completelytear it like Mike Hartline did off the femur, and it usually takes three to fourweeks for that to tack down and get the movement back if you have no other problemswith the knee. Then there is a grade two where it is torn a little more severely,and if it was a grade two he would be out this week. It is a grade one, whichis different than just a strain. There has been some tearing but it is not significantand usually that can settle down in three to four days. Having said that, younever know, it depends on how he heels. For a running back it is a little differentthan a lineman, particularly for a fast and quick running back. What you don'twant to do is put him out there if he is dragging that leg and an easy targetbecause then something else might get hurt."
Behind Moncell and Alfonso, who would get the reps at running back?
Locke and Cobb are your big playmakers but are smaller guys, can you talk about how important it is to keep them healthy down the stretch and what you will do to make sure they do stay healthy.
"You say that and what has Locke had, he has had 20, 24 and 19 carries in thelast three games? Cobb has had a lot too, including the occasional receivingand punt and kickoff return. You have to be cognizant of it and you have to becognizant of it at the beginning of the week in practice. You don't want themgetting banged too much in practice because they need to heal and be fresh. Atthe same time, you can't send them out there in their beach umbrella and sunglassesand let them enjoy the day. It is one of those things that you are damned ifyou do and damned if you don't sometimes. We obviously, need to have the ballin their hands quite a bit of the time."
You had three linebackers with 10 tackles or more is that a testament to how the defensive line played as well Saturday?
"Corey Peters has been outstanding all year, that is a given. Ricky Lumpkin playedprobably his best game all year in this game. Our defensive ends are gettingbetter almost every series but certainly every game. They are becoming a muchbigger factor in the run game as well as the pass game. It is developing intoa good SEC defensive line. We are not where we need to be yet, but we are headinginto the right direction."
Do you have an idea of when Trevard (Lindley) will be back?
"I think that he has a legitimate chance of playing possibly next week. Thatdepends on how he does, he is out of the boot and can get up on one foot bouncingon his toe which is a good indication. He is in an air cast, not a boot, rightnow walking around in normal shoes. He will probably get into the treadmill andhopefully by the end of the week will be jogging, it is just a matter of functioningbefore we can judge if he will be ready next week. I would hope by next Wednesdayhe would be ready to practice. We will judge that almost on a 24-hour basis.The good news is that he is over the hump and up on a foot and can bounce onit, which is a key thing, and then it is a progression from there. Again, itis a progression that is different than if you were on the offensive or defensiveline. He needs that speed and quickness back there and if you lose a step youare in trouble back there."
Is there a key to facing an offense like ULM? Is it reading the keys and what they are trying to disguise?
"Well, it is and that is one of the better things that we did against Auburnagainst a similar style. Each one of the spread offenses has a different wrinkleor strength. For a team (Auburn) that has averaged 38 points and almost 490 yardsa game and played some good SEC teams to do that, it was probably our most completegame defensively against a difficult offense. The good news is that Louisiana-Monroeplays a similar offense and Mississippi State has a similar offense. If we cancarry forward what we did good out of the Auburn game this week and then nextweek hopefully you will see some steady progress. We need to do that, becausewe are challenged offensively right now and cannot let people score a lot ofpoints on us until we get back into the swing of things offensively."
You congratulated your assistant coaches after the game Saturday. What was it they did that really made you happy and proud?
"I think that if you saw the discipline of how our defense played, all of theassistant coaches did a good job of getting their guys to understand. As I alwayssaid, it doesn't make any difference what you know as a coach but what your playersunderstand about what you know and can go out and execute it. We have struggledwith that in all phases at different times, but the fact that (against AuburnUK had) the lack of penalties and breakdowns in coverage and missing gaps. Theydid an outstanding job against a difficult offense. The other thing on offensewas that given the change in quarterback in a noisy stadium, we didn't have theprocedure penalties, the blocks in the back or personal fouls which would havebeen difficult for us, given we weren't throwing the ball well. Even though wehad the big blocked field goal, the kicking game, again, I thought was very wellexecuted. The kickoff coverage and (Ryan) Tydlacka's punting in particular inthe second half pinning them deep, there was a lot of good things that were translatedfrom what you were trying to get them to do and finally seeing it happen. Hopefullywe can carry that forward, too."
#75, Brad Durham, OT
How does Louisiana-Monroe look?
"They have had a pretty good schedule where they have played two top-ranked teams[Texas and Arizona State], and they have put up some points on them. We needto come out with our head right, focus in practice this week and take on thebest."
How do the running backs look?
"I know we have the backs to run the ball and I know we have the guys to do thejob up front, so the play of our backs doesn't surprise me one bit. There isnothing better than pounding the guy in front of you and seeing your runningback go for 20 or 30 yards in a carry."
What do you attribute to the offensive line's success?
"We are very experienced on the offensive line right now. We can go two-deepif we want to. Even when we had injuries last week, we can still get the rotationthere and have the experience to pound the ball. There have been instances onthe field where the opponent's defensive line will come up to us and say, `Man,you guys are the toughest players we have faced so far. You guys are really comingafter us and don't stop.' We wear them down during the game."
How do you feel about quarterback Will Fidler after his play at Auburn?
"For as much as he has been through, I have a lot of respect for Will. He hasbeen through it all, the ups and the downs. When we didn't get the nod to start,he took it like a man and he prepared in practice just like he always did. Whenhe was called into the game, he came in and proved what he can do."
How did Morgan Newton play against Auburn?
"For being a true freshman, coming out of high school without playing a down[in college], and coming into Auburn, he managed the game very well. You couldn'task for anything else. When he got pressured, he threw the ball away. He madegood decisions. He didn't throw any picks and he took care of the ball."
On the run game ...
"There is nothing more heart-wrenching than running the ball for 200 yards. When defenses see that, they get a reality check and realize who they're facing."
On if he sensed any frustration from Auburn ...
"During TV timeouts and stuff they said we were the toughest O-line to come after them and the one that kept hitting them in the mouth. They said we were out there doing our thing, not giving up and we're a very good bunch. "
On how it is to hear the opposition say something like that...
"It's great. It's what you want to hear. When you hear the opponent say something like that it means that they're giving up, at least in my point of view. I would never tell a guy that they're kicking my tail like that."
On Louisiana- Monroe ...
"Every game is a must-win game. Just because they're from the Sun Belt Conference and just because of this and that; we still have to come together. Just because they're not an SEC team doesn't mean they can't beat us. Three years ago they came in here and lost by two points. We have to come out focused and ready to play ."
#4, Micah Johnson, LB
On his ankle and other injuries ...
"It's (ankle) doing a lot better. I wasn't in pain when I was playing Saturday. My ankle wasn't hurting. My hip flexor wasn't hurting and neither was my turf toe. It was like I was magically relieved."
On if the defense felt more pressure having inexperienced quarterbacks at the helm...
"They (Auburn) were the number one offense in the SEC and we just wanted to go out and stop them. We had to make something happen or else the points were going to pile up. We were confident in Morgan (Newton) and Will Fidler. I have seen Will ever since I got here and know what he can do. With Morgan there will be more growing pains, but he'll be able to make some plays on his legs. All in all, I think both of them played well."
On the team putting a satisfying win behind them and moving on...
"I don't think it will be that tough. Coach has been doing a great job of making us understand that we're mid-season right now and that game came at a critical point. That was our sixth game of the season, we could have been 2-4 or 3-3, and 3-3 makes it a lot easier to do what we need to do. It's not the end of the season; we have six more and other good opponents we have to go up against. We have to stay focused and take each game one at a time."
On keeping it together ...
"We had to keep everything in-house. If you get focused on everything that's being said it can get frustrating and tear your team down. Everybody has their own opinion; so as long as we know that we have to keep on getting better we'll be fine."
On how badly UK needed the Auburn win ...
"Bad, bad, bad. Everybody on the team knew it. Everybody needed it, and it was huge."
On winning against Auburn for the first time in 43 years...
"It was huge to get a win down there and I was happy for Coach Brooks and this team because we've been so close after a lot of little things here and we haven't gotten many breaks. It was a game where we were close and we kept fighting and won. It was a great win and the team is very excited but we still have six more games left and we need to continue to win."
On the team gaining confidence with a tough road win over Auburn...
"I think the win does raise our confidence sky high and I think we deserve that. The stretch of our three losses came against three of the toughest teams in the country, although that's really no excuse because we could have won the South Carolina game. We came back and went back to work that week of practice and prepared for the Auburn game."
On still believing that UK is a good team despite the stretch of losses...
"Coach Brooks continued to tell us that he thinks this is one of the best teams he's had and guys continued to believe and it really paid off."
On Louisiana-Monroe this upcoming weekend...
"Louisiana-Monroe is a good team and we know they're number one in their conference. They have two losses against two good teams. They are a good team and a few years back they came in here and gave us a bit of a scare, taking it down to the wire."
On the program getting more recognition with wins and individual player awards...
"The 14 tackles (vs. Auburn) wasn't the biggest deal to me, it was more about the win. We had a lot of guys step up. Danny Trevathan played a great game, Paul Warford coming back from injury, they weren't even sure if he was going to be able to play and he came out and had six tackles plus a pass deflection. Sam Maxwell and the defensive line played a great game even if they didn't make a bunch of tackles. I think that showed when they freed up a bunch of linebackers during other plays."
#76, Justin Jeffries, OT
On going into the fourth quarter down, carrying a three-game losing streak...
"It shows a lot about the character of our team and how we've grown together. It shows a lot about our team."
On the performance of the offensive line ...
"We came into camp wanting to run the ball and be physical up front and I think we've grown in becoming that type of offensive line."
On Morgan Newton's presence in the huddle ...
"He was very confident. That's one thing that surprised me. He was very confident and calm. When he came in, we listened to him."
On having no penalties ...
"In a hostile environment like that it's very tough. I've had my share of penalties as everybody knows. It was good to come out of there without being that guy who messed it up."
On putting the win behind them regardless of the magnitude ...
"With big wins like this you have to be able to come back and not have a letdown. To do what we want to do, right now we need to focus on Louisiana-Monroe, have a great week of practice and come out ready to play."
On Louisiana-Monroe's only two losses coming at No. 3 Texas and at Arizona State ...
"I've watched a little film and they look legit. We need to come out ready to play against them."