UK offense ranks near the bottom

Only two teams average less yardage

jclay@herald-leader.comOctober 3, 2011 

UK quarterback Morgan Newton left, found running room late in the fourth quarter against LSU's Ego Ferguson (9) during the University of Kentucky vs. Louisiana State University football game on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 in Baton Rouge, La. Photo by David Perry | Staff

DAVID PERRY | STAFF

Nothing on the video of the 35-7 loss to top-ranked LSU in Baton Rouge made Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips change the sentiment he shared in the post-game on Saturday.

His offense has to start helping his defense.

"We've got to score points," Phillips said. "It's hard to win if you don't score points offensively."

After gaining just 155 yards overall, including just 59 through three quarters, Kentucky dropped to 118th out of 120 FBS teams nationally in total offense. UK is averaging 255.6 yards per game. Only Howard Schnellenberger's Florida Atlantic offense (204.0) and Kent State (191.2) are averaging less.

Kentucky is 117th out of 120 teams in pass efficiency. The Cats have a rating of 94.11, which ranks ahead of only Army (93.24), UAB (89.76) and Kent State (69.19).

The Cats are slightly better in rushing offense. Kentucky is currently ranked 94th, averaging 116.2 yards per game.

"We've got to put together some drives," Phillips said.

After the game on Saturday, Phillips said that Morgan Newton remained the team's starting quarterback despite the fact the junior was benched at halftime in favor of true freshman Maxwell Smith. Newton returned in the fourth quarter and led UK on its only scoring drive.

When asked Sunday if Newton was the starter or if there was a competition, the coach said there is always a competition.

"But somebody has got to get the first reps in practice," he said. "Morgan will get the first reps in practice. If we feel like Max, who got a couple of reps last week, gives us the best chance to win we'll go with him. But for now, when we go into practice on Tuesday, Morgan will be the guy who goes in first."

Phillips said UK should know on Tuesday whether No. 1 tailback Raymond Sanders, who has missed the last three games with a knee injury, might be able to prepare this week for Saturday's game at South Carolina.

The coach again lamented his team's field position, saying the drive charts show that the Cats have had to go "a long way to score points" which he said is difficult even for a good offense to accomplish.

Might getting more out of the punt return game help with field position?

"The bottom line in the return game is to secure the ball," Phillips said. "We lost a very dynamic punt returner (Randall Cobb). We're using Randall Burden back there and he's not as dynamic as the guy we had before, very few people are, but we haven't done a good job of getting him started either."

Meanwhile, the Kentucky defense competed reasonably well on Saturday, said Phillips, especially in the first half when it forced the nation's top-ranked team to five three-and-outs.

"It's hard for the defense with the offense going eight times three-and-out," said the coach. "It becomes hard for the defense to hold up for as many plays as they had to hold up. We gave up a couple of big plays because of it."

Notes

■ Asked if true freshman quarterback Bookie Cousins will definitely redshirt, Phillips said it was too early to say for sure that any of the freshmen will redshirt. "There's a lot of football left to be played," he said, adding that the staff would not take the red shirt off a player unless they were committed to giving him a considerable amount of playing time the rest of the season.

■ Phillips said that offensive lineman Larry Warford "has probably been the most consistent guy we've had on offense."

■ The coach said that Josh Clemons was "picking up real big-time blitzers and hopefully he has a better understanding of how to do that. I thought he did an adequate job, not a great job, but I think for a young freshman playing against blitzers like that I thought he did a decent job."

Reach John Clay at 859-231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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