Kentucky RBs pushing each other to get better

jsmith3@herald-leader.comOctober 24, 2012 

  • Saturday

    Kentucky at Missouri

    When: Noon

    Records: Kentucky 1-7 (0-5 SEC); Missouri 3-4 (0-4)

    TV: ESPNU

Raymond Sanders is always chasing Jonathan George.

It's now a running concern in the middle of games that Sanders will find out the current rushing yardage totals for himself and his fellow junior.

But it's not because Sanders is concerned about who has more carries or yards.

"When we're out there, and I see that he's got more yards, I'm always like, 'I'm chasing you; keep running hard; keep going.'" Sanders said. "We keep challenging each other."

A Kentucky running game that had seemingly stalled in the previous two games (a combined 150 yards on 59 carries against Mississippi State and Arkansas) came back to life last week against Georgia when George ran for a career-best 87 yards and Sanders added 72 yards and a touchdown.

The camaraderie between the running backs has fueled Kentucky's run-aissance, which included a season-best 206 yards on 43 carries and two touchdowns.

"We're just wanting to help each other get better," George said. "Whoever's on the field, we're both cheering each other on. If somebody feels like we see something wrong, we try to correct each other and constantly talk about stuff going on (out) on the field. We just want to give each other an advantage on the field."

The other parts of the offense focused on jump-starting the Cats' run game, too.

Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders and line coach Mike Summers each spoke with the offensive line about doing more.

"They told us it's going to be up to you guys this week," senior center Matt Smith explained. "We just made it a huge focus as an o-line that we were going to get after them right away and try to move the ball a little bit. We're going to try to keep that momentum into these next few games."

The team being able to stay ahead or within striking distance of Georgia on Saturday was a big boost to the Cats' runners.

"If a team gets 14 ahead and 21 ahead, it makes it much easier for them to play defense and makes it much harder to play offense," Randy Sanders said. "The fact that we were able to keep the game close and be in contention the whole way I think made the running game that much better."

There probably will be more openings for the running game at Missouri this weekend. The Tigers are eighth in the Southeastern Conference at stopping the run, allowing 143.9 yards a game. They've given up 14 rushing touchdowns (UK has allowed a league-high 18 scores).

Raymond Sanders hopes that when he checks the stats this weekend he'll see George with 100-plus yards and that will motivate him to keep up.

"We want to get 100 (yards) apiece one game this year," Sanders said. It would be the first time it's happened for Kentucky since Nov. 13, 2010, when Randall Cobb (170) and Derrick Locke (145) each ran for 100-plus against Vanderbilt.

"That's one of our goals to keep pushing each other and keep pushing toward that," Sanders said. "We were almost there last game. This game we want to reach that goal."

Quarterback update

One quarterback's in. One quarterback's out.

Or at least that's the way the quarterback carousel spin went on Wednesday.

Phillips reported that freshman quarterback Patrick Towles (high ankle sprain) has been able to practice this week, making it likely he will play at Missouri on Saturday in conjunction with fellow true freshman Jalen Whitlow and perhaps with some senior Morgan Newton sprinkled in.

Phillips said Towles "took a lot of reps" on Wednesday, but seemed to have better command of the football when he practiced on Tuesday.

"I thought he looked better yesterday as far as his control of the ball and command all those things, but again, it's the first reps he's gotten — yesterday and today — in a long time," the coach said. "So we'll throw him out there and see how he looks."

But Phillips added that the freshman's ankle seems to be holding up well. Removing the air cast on his injured ankle (as the QB requested) helped.

On the Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference Wednesday, Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel said he still doesn't expect Tigers junior quarterback James Franklin, who sprained an MCL against Vanderbilt on Oct. 6, to play on Saturday.

"He's just jogging around a little bit. We don't anticipate him playing," Pinkel said, adding that he expects Franklin to return for the Tigers' game at Florida on Nov. 3.

Redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser probably will start for the Tigers. The backup situation is interesting, though, because true freshman Maty Mauk has been slated to redshirt.

Other UK injuries

Towles isn't the only injury UK has been battling: Safety Martavius Neloms (hamstring) was limited on Wednesday, but should be able to play. ... Safety Mikie Benton (high ankle sprain) practiced and should be able to play. ... Cornerback Cartier Rice (hip flexor) was able to practice and should be able to play. ... Offensive lineman Zach West (shoulder) did not practice, but will be evaluated again on Thursday.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241Twitter: @jenheraldleaderBlog: ukfootball.bloginky.com

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service