Brooks won't blame his players

But game preparation 'two-way street,' coach says

ccosby@herald-leader.comSeptember 28, 2009 

Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks is still beating himself up a day after an embarrassing 41-7 loss to top-ranked Florida.

Following the game, Brooks took the blame for the Cats' poor start, which included an offense that looked like a jumbled mess thanks to penalties and a lack of execution. That helped Florida build a 31-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

"I don't feel any better about myself, especially on a lot of things that we did in that first quarter," Brooks said. "We've got to eliminate the mistakes and stupid penalties on offense. There's just so many things that need to be better."

Many players defended Brooks after the loss, saying it was on them to be ready to play. While Brooks admired his players' accountability, he still shouldered the blame.

"I do mean that sincerely: I've got to do a better job," Brooks said. "But preparation is a two-way street. (The players) have to invest in themselves to be better prepared, pay attention, and do the things necessary to be better football players. But when we have a meltdown like we had, there's only one person I can point the finger at, and that's myself."

While Florida probably lost some of its sizzle after building such a big lead, Brooks did find a silver lining in that his team kept playing hard and battled the Gators to a virtual standstill on the scoreboard in the final three quarters.

"It could have easily been 70-0," Brooks said. "At least we played them 10-7 the rest of the way."

Judging by the way the college football season has gone so far, Brooks said it's dangerous to over-analyze a team based on one week's performance. He pointed to Georgia Tech, which got blasted by Miami two weeks ago before rebounding to blow out then-No. 22 North Carolina on Saturday. Florida State walloped BYU, which beat Oklahoma, and then came back and lost to South Florida at home. California, ranked No. 6, was spanked 42-3 by an Oregon team that looked horrible in a season-opening loss to Boise State.

The Wildcats will have a chance to regain some credibility this week with No. 3 Alabama coming to town.

"It's very important that we play a competitive game against Alabama and hopefully have a chance to win the game," Brooks said. "They're the No. 3 team in the country, and there's good reason for that. They went (to) a neutral site and took care of Virginia Tech, and we saw what Virginia Tech did to Miami. All I can tell you is that we're not as bad a football team as we looked in the first 15 minutes. We're closer to the team that played a little better the last 45 minutes, and probably better than that.

"Every good team can have bad days. ... On a given day, the downtrodden can look like the downtrodden, and the kingpins can look like kingpins, but some days the kingpins can look like the downtrodden."

The Cats have been plagued the past couple of seasons by slow starts on the offensive end. They didn't pick up their initial first down until the 8:48 mark of the second quarter, and by that time the Gators led 31-0.

When asked what he could do about the slow starts, Brooks said, "I was asking myself that same question all night. We've emphasized to our guys that we've got to start faster. We've had years where we did well in the first quarter and not so well in the second, but in recent years it's been the opposite."

Brooks said he'll change the pre-game routine and have his first-team offense go against his first-team defense more during practice this week.

"We'll go good against good more, so the speed of the game isn't a shock like it is when you go against the scout team," Brooks said. "We're going to try it. Now whether it will work or not, it's definitely a concern."

Injury update

Brooks said four players are questionable for the Alabama game: cornerback Paul Warford (quadriceps strain), linebacker Sam Maxwell (turf toe), right tackle Justin Jeffries (Achilles' strain) and running back Moncell Allen (MCL strain).

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