Monday Football Press Conference Coverage

Nov. 2, 2009

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UK Hopes to Set Non-Conference Win Streak Record vs. EKU

Kentucky plays host in-state rival Eastern Kentucky with a chance to chart a school record 18th consecutive non-conference victory. The current win streak is 17 non-conference wins, set from 1954-60.

The Wildcats also look to get back on the winning track after dropping a 31-24 heartbreaker to Mississippi State on Homecoming. EKU is coming off a 20-6 win over Southeast Missouri in Richmond. This will mark just the third meeting between the teams and the first since UK defeated EKU 50-10 in the 2007 season opener.

Against the Bulldogs, tailback Derrick Locke posted his second career 100-yard rushing game with 103 yards on 17 carries. Randall Cobb led the team in the all-purpose category with 237 yards including 17 rushing, 32 receiving, 142 on kickoff returns and 46 on punt returns. Cobb scored his 10th touchdown of the season on a 3-yard run in the third quarter. Morgan Newton played the entire game under center, setting season highs with 11 completions on 18 attempts for 119 yards. He also rushed for 39 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.

UK's defense picked off multiple passes for the second consecutive game as linebacker Sam Maxwell and cornerback Randall Burden each swiped a pass. Linebacker Micah Johnson led the team with 11 tackles, his eighth career double-digit tackling effort while defensive end Taylor Wyndham led the team with 2.5 tackles-for-loss, part of a career-high six stops.

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Head Coach Rich Brooks

"On the injury front, Derrick Locke looks still to be questionable to doubtful. He will not practice tomorrow. Christian Johnson was sent home with the flu. We'll have to monitor him to see if he will practice or even play. Like CoShik Williams came down with it last week, Christian came down with it a day earlier (than Williams did), so he might be back at the end of the week, we don't know. John Conner will be limited with that shin bruise. He might go a little bit tomorrow; we'll have to judge that tomorrow morning. Micah Johnson also will be limited and may not go tomorrow. Morgan Newton will limit his throwing, but he will practice. Randall Cobb will not have any contact but he will practice.

"Just a couple of statements about Eastern Kentucky and then I'll open it up to questions. I think that Eastern is a very good football team. They are about three plays away from being undefeated. They went on the road in their opener against Indiana. They lost by six points; late in the fourth quarter fumbled inside the five going in to take the lead and then got the ball back for a 'Hail Mary' at the end of the game to try to win it. So they are a team that is definitely dangerous and I'm sure that they are looking forward to this opportunity to come into Commonwealth Stadium and make their year, if you will, make their decade. But certainly this is a dangerous game for us and we need to play a lot more focused and better than we did a week ago. Questions?"

“Can you talk about Randall Cobb and his health at this time of the season?"

"Well at this time of the season, he's not moving very good right now. He's got a hamstring and he's got an AC (shoulder injury) and other body parts that are aching like most football players do at this time of the year, particularly smaller ones that have taken the amount of contact that he has taken. But he's like the Energizer bunny, he keeps on ticking. His punt and kickoff return duty in this game was outstanding and gave us great field position and unfortunately we didn't get enough out of those opportunities that Randall provided with his returns."

“What do you need to do going forward to really consider this a successful season?"

"Successful - that's a very broad description and that depends on who you're talking to I guess. To me we have to be in postseason play again. In my mind, successful would have been climbing the SEC ladder with more SEC wins. We've had a very difficult loss at South Carolina. We've had a tough home loss to Mississippi State. One or two of those games could possibly make the difference depending on what we do here going forward. We'll talk about whether we think it was successful season at the end of the season because right now we're just trying to win the next game. Sometimes I think we get too much attention on what's going to happen. A week ago, a lot of people thought we could win out and now I hear a lot of people think that we may not win another game. So that's kind of the way this thing goes. And the job I have to do is to get the players to understand that each week is critically important and that they have to prepare themselves like it's the last game of the year and it's the only thing that's going to make a difference. Obviously, I didn't get that done last week. I'm concerned about it. We need to take care of business this week and at the end of the season we'll discuss whether we had a successful year or not."

“Are you concerned about turnovers, especially with freshmen at skill positions?"

"Well, I think it's a concern in any game but certainly when you're playing an underdog the worst thing you can do is give them the ball with more opportunities than they should have by kicking it off to them or punting to them. The turnover situation is always a concern. If you look at us now, I think we're a minus two on the year. You take a couple more takeaways in the South Carolina game or any takeaway that would have given us a scoring opportunity (against Mississippi State) other than the one deep in their territory with Randall (Burden's) interception, maybe our record is different. Or if we don't turn it over and many times as we've turned it over, maybe our record is different - it probably is different. The turnover/takeaway thing is always critical and certainly when you're going to play a team that's as crafty as Eastern - they do stunts, they shift their line, and they give you multiple looks and they're very quick and athletic. They're not as big as SEC teams are typically but they are very quick and active."

“Have you had conversations with players regarding social media and other distractions and to try to keep them focused on the upcoming game?"

" Yeah, I've had a lot of those conversations. Obviously my conversation doesn't mean as much as some of the stuff they hear and read a lot of the time. It's difficult to get that many guys focused on one thing. It's more difficult now probably than it was 10 years ago and it's certainly more difficult now than it was 15 or 20 years ago. Nobody lives in a cocoon anymore, and the players certainly don't, so they hear everything; they read everything. They know what's going on in the world and who's saying what about them. It's a hard thing to go every week and put what happened - good, bad or ugly - in the past and refocus and start anew for your next opponent. Sometimes those things, good and bad, linger too long and you don't focus and pay enough attention to the job at hand because you're thinking too much about what happened the previous week or maybe earlier than that. Who knows? It's difficult and it's always been a challenge. Particularly when you're dealing with young people who have a lot more going on in their lives than football. That is my life. I have no life right now other than football. They have a life - they have a social life, academic life, family life, things going on and people talking to them, close to them. You never know where their frame of mind is totally but it is my job to get them focused and I've got to do a better job of it. I know it's a lot harder than it used to be. I know the social life is better in college than when I was in school."

“Is there a way to shield the team from outside distractions?"

"I wish I had the answer to that. If I had the answer to that, maybe last Saturday night wouldn't have happened. But all I can do is do the best job that I can to keep them focused and ready to play. As I told them on Sunday, I'm trying to do everything to point things out that are extremely important, but I need some help I need help from players on the team to also be talking about focusing and getting ready."

“Do you believe not enough guys are standing up to encourage their teammates?"

"There isn't a lot of that on this team. Some of our leaders in the past were more vocal. Our leaders are quieter and they try to lead by example on this team. Sometimes they don't particularly feel comfortable probably in voicing an opinion in practice or in a meeting. In the past some of our players did do that."

“Looking back at last week's tape, what in Morgan Newton's game did you like?"

"Well, I liked the way he found a way to complete some really clutch throws. He was trying to drive us down the field and quite a few of them were third-and-long. He bought a little time with his feet for the most part. He kept his vision down the field, found a receiver and delivered the ball with good accuracy and good velocity. Early on in the game, he made some checks at the line of scrimmage and got us into really positive running plays. But it's a process. He's getting a lot better at all of those things, but he's still not doing it every play. That's what experience does for you. It gives you an opportunity to understand better and to focus better going into the next opportunity."

“Talk about La'Rod King and his potential to become a playmaker on the team going forward."

"La'Rod, off of his performance, should get more reps ahead of some guys that have been getting more reps than he has because he's a tough guy. He's got good hands. He's certainly made some really nice catches in his games. One of them I'm not sure too many of our guys would have been able to hold onto that ball over the middle. I think he's another work-in-progress, but certainly has made progress as we've gone through this season."

“EKU is going with a two-quarterback system, have you evaluated that?"

"Yeah, I have. The other one is playing receiver but he comes in and does some things at quarterback as well. The redshirt freshman has got a good arm. He's a taller, lanky guy that is athletic and runs the ball well. So we're going to see portions of the same offense we've seen for now the last three games anyway and this will be the fourth week in a row. They spread you wider and have relied up to this point a little bit more on the throwing game than some of the teams we've played here recently. "

“Can you talk about Trevard Lindley's progress on coming back from the ankle injury?"

"He worked out yesterday. He'll try to work out tomorrow and we'll just have to see whether he's ready to play this week or not. I'd say he's questionable to doubtful this week. But there is no swelling in it after running on it yesterday. He went through the pre-game warm-up last Saturday night so he's getting really close, I think, to having a chance to get back out on the field."

“How did Mike Hartline do with his running yesterday?"

"There was no swelling but there was pain in the knee, probably cartilage-related. We need to get his quad a little stronger and do more quad exercises with him to take the load off of the joint itself and maybe that'll lessen the pain. Then with extended work, will the pain in the knee cause swelling? Will that piece of cartilage cause swelling or will it not? If it doesn't and he can handle the pain then he's got a chance to come back before the end of the year."

“How much did Micah Johnson's injury affect him on the field Saturday night?"

"I don't think the injury affected him a great deal more than a lack of practice reps. Not only him, but Sam (Maxwell) and Danny (Trevathan). Danny hadn't played as much on the nickel defense and he was in there with Sam and their fits on the counter play in particular were not good at all. It was different almost every time they ran it. A hole opened almost every time they ran it. That's discipline of your reads and getting to where you're supposed to be and getting there with a bad attitude. "

“With players missing practice does game preparation become more difficult this time of the season?"

"Well, you know, nobody wants to hear but I would have loved to have played each and every game with the players we started the year with. The players we've been missing have been fairly critical. That's life and something we have to deal with and win anyway. We just have to find a way. Derrick went in on one bad knee last week and hurt the other one - the one he had surgically repaired - so he's going to be limited. Even if he does play, he's certainly not going to have the speed and explosion that he normally has. It's hard. You face something a little bit different each week with the teams you play and there are things that you have to go through your practice reps to get in tune with so you can understand the keys and what you're going to do. The same is true with an offensive lineman and his blocking. Are they going to shift their front or move this linebacker over here? Are they going to do this or are they going to do that? It's a lot easier to execute it when you've actually gone through those reps in practice over and over again than doing it without hardly any reps."

“What do you think caused the MSU rushing attack to work so effectively?"

"Just what I said a minute ago about not getting into our gaps for our fits - some of it was on the double team. Our tackles were getting knocked out and our gaps got moved from here to over there. You have to hold that gap because that gap gets a lot bigger if you don't hold that gap. If you get knocked over two gaps then all of a sudden you've got real holes in your defense and the linebackers have a tougher fit getting into it - not only the backers but the safety coming down. Sometimes we had the safety come down and jump out on the pitch, which was already taken by the nickel rather than fitting in outside the linebacker where he is supposed to fit. It was a calamity of mistakes, if you will. "

“Why did you play so much nickel on defense against MSU?"

"Because they spread the field and they really went with nickel personnel and they can throw the ball really well and they were doing it. I'd much rather have a nickelback out there on a wide receiver than a linebacker if we have to cover that receiver man-to-man."

#18, Randall Cobb, WR

On the mood at practice yesterday ...

"I think it was pretty good. We all know how big that game was and to lose it was tough. We lost a little bit of confidence but we got to see the game film and it wasn't as bad as we thought it was. We just have to get ourselves together and get ready for this upcoming week."

On Morgan Newton playing a considerable amount despite being a true freshman ...

"I know exactly how he feels, I felt the same way last year. I think one of the things is everyone respects Morgan. He goes out there and battles. When we're in the `Wildcat' he goes down the field and he's about to get into a fight with the cornerbacks. He's a tough guy. That's what a young quarterback needs is that toughness to give your teammates something to respect."

On Morgan Newton making plays and generating trust...

"He really did make some plays. He was staying in the pocket and taking hits, then making some money throws on third down. I have the utmost respect for him. I think he's coming up great but it just takes time for a young quarterback to get into it."

On La'Rod King's performance Saturday and how he's coming along ...

"La'Rod's a great player. He loves the game and goes out there and plays with a lot of heart and pride. I respect him a lot for that. Being a young guy like him, I've been out there. He's picking up fast and making plays. He's going to be a great player in the future."

#70, Stuart Hines, OG

On going against EKU's ball-hawking defense ...

"Just like any game turnovers can kill you. We have to hang on to the ball and we have to protect the quarterback so he's not pressured into throwing an interception or fumbling. We have to hang on to the ball and not give them a chance to capitalize on our mistakes."

On supporting Morgan Newton ...

"We've talked to him and told him we have his back and he's doing fine. I think he was kind of down after the game last week, you know, he's a young guy and he's learning as he goes. We just need to support him 100 percent and let him know we have his back and we're there for him."

On the team keeping their head up in the grind of the season ...

"I'm not going to lie, it's tough to do. It is a grind. People are beat up right now, physically and mentally. We need to keep trucking and stay focused in order to accomplish our goals. Guys with dings need to get into the training room and get those taken care of and keep plugging away. It's a tough time of the year right now. We've played seven straight and have four more to go so we just need to capitalize on those."

#53, Ricky Lumpkin, DT

How was the defense's performance against Mississippi State?

"The defensive line's gap control wasn't there like it was against Auburn and Louisiana-Monroe. We stopped their (Auburn and ULM) running plays and carries. This game, they ran all over us and got over 300 rushing yards. That was embarrassing, and the defensive line unit hated that."

How does the team bounce back from the loss?

"It is one of those games where we watch the film and move on, even after a big win like LSU two years ago, Louisville, or Auburn. You watch the film and you have to move on because there is always a different opponent. You can't wonder what if we did this and that, because that will get you beat in the next game. We know we have to do better this week."

#94, Taylor Wyndham, DE

What happened to the defense against Mississippi State?

"There were a couple of people out of position every now and then. People were also slipping. Anthony Dixon is also a great running back and a big guy. He just ran through everything. We could have been more focused. We had a great practice the week before and everyone was reading well. If we had slowed down a little bit and done better reads, instead of just rushing in, we could have made the plays."

What does the team need to do the rest of the season?

"We have to bounce back, keep playing hard and win the rest of our games. I think we have a great chance to do that. We are a great team with a great defense, regardless of our last loss."