Cats get win but show wear and tear

Mississippi St. likely to give UK a harder time next week

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistOctober 25, 2009 

They were focused.

But they didn't really finish.

The start was excellent.

The ending was just OK.

So for all intents and purposes, Kentucky took care of business on Saturday night, beating UL-Monroe from the Sun Belt Conference 36-13 in what could have been a danger game.

"We accomplished what we needed to do," said Coach Rich Brooks.

And it was dangerous. The visiting Warhawks had some speedy athletes and a gutty quarterback in Cody Wells, who stood in against the Cats' pass rush to throw for 267 yards.

But the host Cats did what they had to do early, avoiding the possible letdown after the win at Auburn and ripping off to an early 21-0 lead.

Randall Cobb did it all. He returned a punt 73 yards for a score. He ran for an 11-yard touchdown after a 28-yard run. He caught passes and threw passes, including a 37-yarder. He helped stalled motorists after the game. Just kidding.

Now, if only Cobb could heal the wounded.

After seven games, Kentucky is starting to look like a football team that has played six consecutive weeks without an off week.

Micah Johnson was the latest important Cat to need crutches. One week after being named SEC Defensive Player of the Week, the senior linebacker suffered a strained knee ligament in the first series Saturday night and did not return. He showed up on the sidelines in the second half in street clothes and on crutches.

"It's not major-major," said Brooks. "But it's not a band-aid injury either."

Running back Derrick Locke played but didn't show much burst after straining his MCL in the comeback win at Auburn.

"We didn't want him to carry it as much," said Brooks.

Cornerback Paul Warford is still battling a sore quad. Safety Winston Guy has a bruised back. Linebacker Sam Maxwell has a "dinged" shoulder.

The hope is Trevard Lindley, one of the nation's best cornerbacks, will be recovered enough from his high ankle sprain to play next Saturday, Halloween, against Mississippi State, in what Brooks called "a critical football game."

The Cats will need him. Monroe's Wells, making his first career start, completed 21 of 44 passes for 267 yards, though he was intercepted three times. Moreover, the Warhawks converted a troubling 12 of 19 third downs.

"Our third-down defense was atrocious," said Brooks.

Meanwhile, Mississippi State gave Florida all it wanted Saturday night, losing 29-19. The Bulldogs have a bright young head coach in Dan Mullen. They have a tricky offense. They have speed. They need a victory.

Kentucky needs to settle a few issues.

The quarterback play against ULM was inconsistent, at best. True freshman Morgan Newton looked like a true freshman. He shows flashes of talent and indecision. Veteran Will Fidler threw the ball well but turned it over twice. He threw an interception and later fumbled the ball away deep in Warhawks territory.

"I'm not pleased with it," said Brooks of the quarterback play. "Again, we need more production from that position."

Cobb was, well, Cobb, but he can't throw it to himself. And you can't put the ball in his hands every play. He's the last Cat the Cats need to be injured.

"We wanted to give Cobb fewer touches," said Brooks. "But every time he touches it, he does something good."

Right now, it'd be good to get healthy.

"It wasn't too long ago," reminded the coach, "where if we had one or two of those injuries we'd get killed out there."

Not anymore.

Reach John Clay at 859-231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3226, or Read his blog at

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