Monday Football Press Conference Coverage
Oct. 26, 2009
Cats Play Host to Bulldogs in Homecoming Game
Kentucky returns to Southeastern Conference action this week against Mississippi State for its Homecoming matchup. Last week, UK defeated the ULM 36-13 to record its 17th consecutive nonconference victory, matching the school-record streak previously set from 1954-60.
Against the Warhawks, UK scored 28 first-half points - the most in an opening half in over two seasons. Fullback John Conner led the offense by scoring two touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air. Conner tallied a career-high 46 yards rushing including a career-long 37-yard gallop. Randall Cobb led the Cats in all-purpose yards with 152 markers, including a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter and an 11-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
UK's defense held ULM to its lowest point total of the season at 13. The Wildcat defenders posted a total of seven tackles-for-loss in the game, a season high. UK's three interceptions were the most in a game since the 2008 season opener at Louisville. Linebacker Danny Trevathan led the team in tackles for the second straight game, charting eight stops.
MSU is coming off a loss to No. 1 Florida 29-19 at home. Last year UK edged the Bulldogs in Starkville 14-13 thanks in part to Matt Roark's block of an MSU PAT attempt in the fourth quarter.
Head Coach Rich Brooks
"I'll start off with an injury update. Trevard Lindley ran yesterday, and is sore today. We will see how he responds by tomorrow. We expect him to be somewhat sore, but we still think he is probably more on the doubtful side than the questionable side for this game. Micah Johnson had an MRI today and confirmed that it is an isolated MCL tear/strain, somewhere between a grade one and grade two, and in all probability, we'll determine later this week his function and his pain level, and whether he will be able to participate. I would say he is questionable to doubtful. Coshik Williams is sick and running a pretty high fever. I would say he is doubtful for this week. Shane McCord won't practice with a bruised shin. J.J. Helton is also sick, he is our snapper, and I think he will be able to participate hopefully by Wednesday or Thursday. Since there are not a lot of assignments in snapping, I think he might be alright to go in the game. Matt Lentz probably won't be able to practice tomorrow with a hurt ankle. Hopefully he will be ready to go Wednesday.
"In looking at Mississippi State, I am very impressed with how they are playing defensively. The fact that they put as much pressure on (Tim) Tebow is something that we weren't able to do very well. They sacked him on numerous occasions, and intercepted him twice for touchdowns. I thought their defense was outstanding against what I consider a very difficult offense to defend. Offensively, they weren't as productive, as most people aren't, against Florida's defense; however they were able to move the ball, and do some good things. Certainly they have had some outstanding offensive games, this year against LSU they moved the ball very well and probably should have won that game. This is a very good football team coming in, and we are going to have our hands full. Questions?"
"What's your impression of (MSU defensive back Johnthan) Banks?"
"I think he is a really good player. He had obviously done some good things,and I think it gives us a little bit of a problem."
"The players say they have been trying to sell you on black uniforms for this weekend, but you aren't all that crazy about it, could you elaborate on that?"
"I haven't seen black in our school colors. I think we are blue and white, andI guess I am an old traditionalist. They tried to sell me on black shoes tooand that didn't work out too well."
"How similar is Mississippi State's offense to Florida?"
"They run much of the same stuff. The emphasis on Mississippi State is more onthe running backs than the quarterback ending up carrying the ball, but theirstyles are very similar. Just depends on who ends up with the ball."
"Since '06, I think you are 7-4 against the SEC West. Why do you have so much more success against that division than the East?"
"Are you trying to get me in trouble here? I don't know; it's a good question.Both sides are equally difficult, but I think the problems we face in the Eastare more defined as far as the negative streaks in UK football history, and gettingover those humps sometimes is more difficult than someone you don't play on aregular basis. I think there has probably been a little bit more up and downon the West as far as being consistently good as far as having good years ordown years on some of those teams than there has been on the Eastern side ofthe SEC."
"It seems that when you play Mississippi State, seasons have swung with for both teams based on the outcome of this game. Do you see this one having a similar kind of effect?"
"I think that when you are in the lower half of the league historically, to getto the upper half, you not only have to knock off some of those big guys, butyou have to beat the guys that are like you. And Mississippi State and Kentuckyhave been like each other for quite a while, and the team that wins has an edgeup of being able to climb that ladder a little bit. It's difficult to do. Youlook at your schedule and whether you are favored, or not going to be favored,or going to be favored, and you look and say you can beat this team and thatteam, but you have to beat this team and this team. Guess what, they are lookingat you the same way -- we have to beat that team. It's hard."
"When you look at your rush defense, what do you see as far as how you have played this season?"
"I think we had one really bad game, against Florida. Other than that, I think(Alabama's Mark) Ingram did some damage, but I thought we did, overall, otherthan a couple of plays in that game, we did a good job. I think our rush defenseis a lot better than what it looks like statistically."
"What kind of challenge do you think you will have against a pretty good rushing offense?"
"I think it will be a big challenge. The question is whether we have Micah Johnsonin the middle or not, and that will impact our ability to do as good of a jobas I would like to do. Ronnie Sneed has done some good things. He's inexperienced,but I think he has a pretty good future. This may be the time we are going tofind out."
"If Micah (Johnson) is not better, how much will that hurt?"
"I can't quantify how much exactly, because we are facing a big physical runningback (Anthony Dixon), and Micah (Johnson) just happens to be a big, physicallinebacker."
"When you talk about Micah being questionable to doubtful, in your mindset, are you saying if we get him it is a positive thing? How do you go through this week with your mindset that he is out?"
"My mindset is that I don't know. I am hopeful, but I am not counting on it.We just have to wait and see tomorrow. He was over getting an MRI this morning,so we have not really had time to evaluate him from yesterday. He had almostno swelling yesterday, but it felt a little unstable to him. He was walking withoutcrutches, we just have to see if he can function or not."
"Tell us more about (Ronnie) Sneed, and what kind of player you thought he was when you recruited him."
"Well, I thought he was a pretty good athlete. We obviously don't have as manylinebackers that are as big as Micah (Johnson). He has been in the system longenough to do a pretty good job on the reads, and understand what we are tryingto do. He just does not bring the same physical presence at that spot as numberfour does."
"How does Micah's injury compare to what Derrick (Locke) has?"
"That is the point, we do not know. We will find out more moving forward in thenext couple days, how he is able to move or not move. It could be the same, itcould be a little worse, and it might not be quite as bad. We don't know at thispoint."
"Do you think (Derrick) Locke will be a hundred percent this week?"
"I don't think very many of our players are 100% at this time of year. But hewill be a lot better than he was last week."
"What's Trevard's (Lindley) mindset?"
"His mindset is that he wants to play."
"I assume his frustration is pretty high?"
"Yes. This will be his fourth in a row if he misses this game, and I am surethat is not how he envisioned his senior season when he decided to come back."
"Can you talk a little bit about the corners who have filled in for Trevard since he has been out, and how they have progressed, and where they are now?"
"Well, I think it has been a little bit of a committee effort. (Martavius) Nelomsmissed the week before, but he played a few snaps in this (ULM) game. CartierRice has played some in the last two or three weeks and has done some good things.Randall Burden has started to blossom, and made a really good tackle early inthe game down at Auburn, and made a really nice interception return for a touchdown(against ULM). He is continuing to develop and do some good things. He stillneeds to get bigger and stronger and be more physical. Paul Warford has donesome good things. He had a few passes on third down completed on him last week.Coming off his thigh injury, I think he has played very very well."
"Can you talk about your downfield passing attack, and if you think you can handle it a little more this week?"
"Our downfield passing attack is not very good; neither is our midfield and short-fieldpassing attack right now. We continue to work on it. We have to have good decisions,and we have to have good execution. We just need to be able to deliver the ballon time, and have some receivers go up and make some plays. It is not as easyto do a lot of those things, and part of it is what we are doing with our quarterbacks,and rotating two of our guys in our normal offense, and they are playing someof the wildcat. In mixing that up, you are not going to be quite as good at thepassing game as if you were working one quarterback the majority of the reps,and spending a lot more time on it. We have to spend more time on our runninggame, because we feel at this point that that is our strength."
"Randall (Cobb) has been throwing a lot out of the wildcat. Has he made a case for himself?"
"Two for four, maybe our longest pass completion of the year? I think if we wantto continue to have success with the wildcat package, yes we need to have Randallthrow the ball every once in a while."
"What about (Jorge) Gonzalez blocks?"
"Jorge has played very good football almost all year long. The job he did inthe Auburn game, and the Alabama game, and the South Carolina game. He has beena very, very good player for us this year. He graded out extremely well thispast week. He has just been a solid, solid guy in there. One of the few guysthat has taken almost every snap, he and (Zipp) Duncan have taken the most snaps,as well as Stuart Hines because we swapped Stuart (Hines) to left guard, andrested Christian (Johnson) a little bit. Since Jorge's return in the second game,he has taken virtually all the snaps except for a few in the cleanup this lastweek."
"Can you talk about your young receivers, where would you say they are at right now?"
"I think that they have improved a bunch. If Hartline had not been hurt, I thinkthat would be a little more evident at this point. That part of the game is backto square zero, and we are trying to get better again. We have to have all ofthe parts on the same page. You have to have the protection, and you have tohave the quarterback making good quick reads and the ball being delivered whereit is supposed to be delivered, and then you have to have somebody make the catches.And the part about making the quick decisions and delivering where it shouldbe delivered all the time is struggling right now."
"Can you give an update on Hartline and the progress that he has made?"
"Hartline has accumulated a little swelling again in his knee. He was standingon it on the sideline Saturday night for a long time, and then having a littleswim-ex workout yesterday. I would say that he is not quite as far along as wewould have hoped at this point. We will know more probably by the end of thisweek what is happening with the MCL, and if the cartilage is going to be a problemeven after the MCL heals. If you remember the original prognosis was that ifhe can play with the cartilage after the MCL heals, then he can have the cartilagerepaired at the end of the season. But if the swelling and function of the kneeis not good, then he would have to have the cartilage repaired which would probablyeliminate him from returning in the regular season."
"You mentioned Winston Guy had back problems, is he okay?"
"He will practice Tuesday. Like the question earlier, is (Derrick) Locke 100%?Nobody is 100%. Everyone has a little something wrong with them: turf toes, pulledgroins, tweaked ankles, bruised shoulders, bruised backs, you know. It's a physicalgame. There are very few guys that are feeling 100%. Guys who feel sick and aren'tpracticing, when they return, their body feels a lot better because they havenot done anything."
"Coach would you just talk about what John Conner means to you and to this team?"
"Well, John is a really, really good football player. In what we ask him to do,he is just about as good as anybody I have had since I have been here at hisposition. He is the consummate team player; he hardly ever says a word and justgoes out and does his job in terrific fashion every day. He has been having apretty good senior year when he misses the majority of Wednesday's practice becausehe has a class that goes from 8:00-9:50. So he misses a lot of Wednesday's practice.His preparation time has been limited, but his production is as good as it hasever been."
"Is it difficult for young cornerbacks to make that transition because maybe they were guys in high school that were not thrown at, or because they were the best player on the field at that position, and now they come in and are being picked on all the time?"
"I think it is difficult to make the transition because the athletes they aregoing against are elite, tremendous players. Many of them go on and play in theNFL on Sundays. You are playing against terrific athletes with speed, and usuallysize, on the outside in this league."
"How does the MCL injury show up on the field, a lateral movement or take-off?"
"Planting and cutting, and usually changing direction. It usually does not botheryou much going straight ahead; it is usually the side-to-side stuff."
#78, Christian Johnson, OG
On this week's game ...
"This is one of the biggest games of the season, if not the biggest. If we winthis it could put us ahead where we need to be and help us accomplish our goalof going to the best bowl game that we can."
On being 7-4 against the SEC West since 2006 ...
"I can't say why. Any game you can win and any game you can lose. It just happensthat we have won more against the west than we have lost. The whole SEC is fullof great teams; I can't really say the east is better than the west."
On Mississippi State playing Florida tight last week ...
"I watched a little bit of film; to be honest they look like a great team. Ican see why they played Florida close. They have a great defense, a fast defenseand a huge defensive line. We have our work cut out."
On Mississippi State winning at Commonwealth Stadium two years ago ...
"They came in two years ago kicked our butts and beat us up physically. We knowwhat type of threat they pose and we know what we have to do."
#91, Corey Peters, DT
On quarterback pressure...
"It (getting pressure) definitely gives us confidence. That mindset always makesyou believe you can beat anybody they put in front of you. In the (ULM) gamewe did a good job of stopping the run early and making them throw the ball alot more."
On the potential of not having linebacker Micah Johnson against Mississippi State...
"I'm not sure how (our coaches) are going to handle it. I don't know if we'regoing to move around but having a week to prepare really helps us out and justknowing going into the situation that he's not going to be available helps us.We'll be able to get somebody ready and if they focus this week we'll be fine."
On if he ever envisioned not having Jeremy Jarmon, Micah Johnson and Trevard Lindley in a game ...
"It's a big deal but we just need to continue to rally as a team and I thinkif everybody steps up a little and plays a little harder, we can make up forit."
On Mississippi State ...
"The head coach is from Florida so they do some of the read game and stuff likethat. They're a pretty balanced team as far as how much they run and throw theball. They have had success against some good teams so we know that they're atrue test for us and they're trying to get into that bowl picture as well."
On if somebody has ever physically handled them as well as Mississippi State did two years ago ...
"I can't say that anybody has. When they came in they wanted it more than usand just took the fight to us. They ran the ball right down our throat and wenever recovered from it, they just continued to beat us that game.
#10, Matt Lentz, FS
What does the defense need to do to improve?
"It's time to step up. We can see what we have to do to win, we are startingto take notice of that and we are playing hard. We need to find the ball, wrapguys up and make plays."
How do you feel going into the game against Mississippi St.?
"They are a really good team and they have a really good balanced offense. Theyalso have a tough defense, so it will be a good task for us. Anthony Dixon isone of the better running backs in the SEC, so we need to make sure we hit himhard and wrap up. Every SEC game is a must-win game, especially this one. Weneed to get some momentum going so we can play them hard."
#24, Randall Burden, CB
How are you adjusting to your new role?
"I know there are things I can work on, but I'm getting better at what I do.I can now go back to the South Carolina game and watch plays I know I could havemade. That helps me prepare for upcoming games. The other cornerbacks have steppedup to another level because we know the ball will come our way."
Is it easy to get down on yourself if your man makes a play?
"It's pretty hard, because you think they can make the play, but they end upcatching the ball. You can't get down on yourself and you have to forget theprevious play and come back for the next play. You need to think you can geta knockdown or interception."
How do you feel going into the game against Mississippi State?
"We always have a good matchup with Mississippi State. They have been playingreally good, especially against LSU and Florida. It's another SEC game, so weneed to go out there and fight to get an SEC win."
What was the difference between the first and second half against ULM?
"I think all of us took our foot off the pedal. In the third quarter we cameback slow, but in the fourth quarter we came back playing Kentucky defense."