Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks is still trying to mix and match to fit the right pieces in the right places on offense.
He'll be able to zero in on that more during UK's open-date week of Sept. 20, but for now he must find a way to field a cohesive enough unit to deal with pesky Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders figure to be riding high off a 24-14 win over Maryland.
Never miss a local story.
"If we can find a way to get by and get a 'W', then we'll have a bye and can iron things out on the execution side," Brooks said.
Brooks said he hadn't broken down the Maryland tape as of Sunday afternoon but remembers plenty from MTSU's 58-42 shootout loss to Louisville last season. The Blue Raiders have several key performers back from the spread offense that shredded the Cardinal defense for 554 yards.
"This will be our most severe test of the year so far," Brooks said. "Based on what I've seen, Middle Tennessee has outstanding speed and athletic ability. They spread the field and throw the ball well to a variety of different receivers. The (Maryland) game is clearly an alarm. Not that we weren't going to be concerned about MTSU anyway because I watched them almost beat Louisville."
As worried as Brooks is about the Blue Raiders, he's got to spend a good deal of his time with his offense, which is rotating players at quarterback, running back and wide receiver and has three new starters on the line.
The position that will draw the most interest is quarterback, where it looks like Brooks will be going with a two-QB system with sophomore Mike Hartline and true freshman Randall Cobb.
"I've had to do (a two-quarterback system) in the past, and at this point in time it looks like we'll be doing it for at least the short term," Brooks said.
Cobb made the more dazzling plays and finished with 136 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, two running and one passing.
But Brooks also noted that Cobb made plenty of mistakes. He lost a fumble, threw an interception and had another potential interception dropped. Brooks said Cobb is like a lot of young and talented players in that he tends to freelance.
"Randall made plays athletically and threw a few nice passes, and he made a bunch of mistakes," Brooks said. "He could have turned the ball over a couple other times. He's just got to learn the offense better. Athletically and talent-wise, it's clear he can help us, and he did help us in this game. All of it wasn't in the framework of our offense. Some of that isn't bad, but some of it can be very bad."
Brooks said that Hartline did an effective job managing the game and noted, as he did last week following the Louisville game, that the supporting cast must step up.
Brooks said Derrick Locke had a chance to break a huge run in the first half but missed the hole. Also, junior E. J. Adams dropped a pass over the middle that was right on the money from Hartline and ran a wrong route on a third-and-7 on UK's second series.
"Mike can do a good job of managing the game, but we still have to help," Brooks said. "There were things that weren't helpful to Mike that wasn't his fault."
Brooks said the offense performed better in the 38-3 win over Norfolk State than it did in the Louisville game but added they are "light years from where we need to be." Brooks labeled his offense's third-down performance "miserable."
Brooks said that Cobb will now focus primarily at quarterback and spend less time at receiver in practice. Cobb was the Wildcats' leading receiver against Louisville, so now someone will have to step in and fill the void now that he'll be taking most of his snaps at QB. True freshman Gene McCaskill had two catches. Another rookie, Eric Adeyemi, made his first career grab, and Aaron Boyd also made his Wildcat debut.
While Adams struggled, sophomore Kyrus Lanxter had his best game as a Wildcat, catching two passes for 41 yards. Both came from Cobb, his former high school teammate at Alcoa (Tenn.) High School.
Sophomore defensive lineman Josh Minton is out indefinitely after an MRI revealed torn cartilage in his surgically repaired left knee. Minton did not play against Norfolk State and will have surgery on Tuesday.