UK football: Brown demands Cats play even faster

jsmith3@herald-leader.comSeptember 11, 2013 

  • Saturday

    Louisville at Kentucky

    When: Noon

    Records: Louisville 2-0, Kentucky 1-1

    TV: ESPN

Even though Kentucky was beating its last opponent by 24 points at halftime, offensive coordinator Neal Brown spent much of the break blasting his offense.

"I want to play with a sense of urgency all the time, regardless of the score," Brown said. "I felt like we had a letdown. And even though that game was in hand, we're preparing for the rest of the season."

The rest of the season starts on Saturday when Kentucky meets unbeaten, seventh-ranked Louisville at Commonwealth Stadium.

And if the Cats have a chance of knocking off a team like Louisville this season, they're going to have to do it at warp speed offensively.

"We've gotta play with more tempo," Brown explained. "That's something we stressed this week in practice. I think it gives us a chance. I think it gives us a chance, especially in the second and fourth quarter against really good teams."

Even when UK players think they're playing fast, it's not fast enough for Brown.

How fleet does the Kentucky offensive coordinator want them to be?

"Like a NASCAR racing a cheetah," explained wide receiver Javess Blue, who came from an uptempo offense at his junior college.

But even Blue was shocked by the pace when he got on the field.

Same with Cats tight ends coach Vince Marrow.

"I was at a high tempo offense in Nebraska and I thought that was pretty fast," he said. "This is another level of fast, and to be quite honest, Neal wants it even faster."

Brown doesn't necessarily track the snaps per minute, but he is carefully watching how much dead time there is between when the ball carrier gets tackled and when the next snap occurs.

Brown was getting the speed he needed in UK's first series against Miami, Ohio, when the Cats went 61 yards in seven plays and 1:52.

"That's how we want to play," he said afterward. "You notice the official having to step on the ball and stuff. ... I think they can allow us to play a little bit faster, but that's not for me to decide. But that first drive in the game, that's kind of where we want to be."

The drives on seven of Kentucky's eight touchdowns so far this season have taken two minutes or less. That quick strike is the big fear when you're playing UK, Louisville Coach Charlie Strong said this week.

"Handling their speed is going to be critical for us on defense," he said. "They try to put pressure on the defense. What they want to do is get up on the ball and try to wear you out and wear you down."

The Cards have tried to replicate UK's speed in practice, but it's been difficult.

But the Louisville coach doesn't think his team will be like the kid brother running behind begging the bigger kids to wait up.

"I know we're not going to be familiar with it, because it's just so hard until you get into the flow of the game," he said. "Still, they're going to leave their linemen in, so we're going to leave our defensive linemen in. ... Our guys just got to get used to the pace. Once they get into the flow of the game, they'll be able to get accustomed to it."

The Louisville defense, which is allowing a mere seven points a game, hasn't had an opponent run more than 59 plays against it this season.

Against Miami, UK was able to get off 74 plays and pick up 27 first downs. (For the record, Brown's goal every game is to get 75 plays and 20 first downs.)

Defensive end Brandon Dunn said the Cardinals prepared for a similar offense last season against North Carolina.

"It is a lot of plays in a row, but there are no excuses," Dunn said. "You have to get down and be ready to play.

"Last year against North Carolina, that whole week was crucial. Everything we did was fast. We even got water fast. I was just prepared and ready."

In that game, Louisville grabbed a speedy 36-7 lead at the break and was up by 25 points early in the fourth quarter before the Tar Heels came back with a 20-point fourth quarter. In the loss, UNC had 58 plays and 20 first downs.

That, of course, wouldn't be fast enough for Neal Brown.

Few things are.

Ask the cheetah trying to keep up with the NASCAR.


Saturday

Louisville at Kentucky

When: Noon

Records: Louisville 2-0, Kentucky 1-1

TV: ESPN

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

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