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The Wildcats will use this week to try to get Mike Hartline more comfortable as a playmaker in the offense. The Spartans have a dangerous quarterback in Dennis Brown, who was a part-time starter at UConn two seasons ago. Brown is a dangerous runner, which has caused the UK defense problems in the past, but he only completed 12 of his 30 passes against Virginia State.
Advantage: Norfolk State
The UK backs were a disappointment against Louisville, and Rich Brooks will likely continue to shuffle his four-man rotation until he finds a hot guy. Norfolk State tailback DeAngelo Branche was named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's Co-Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 92 yards and three TDs against Virginia State.
Brooks was extremely disappointed in how the UK receivers performed against Louisville, so the unit figures to be under the microscope tonight. More will be expected from senior Dicky Lyons, and freshman Aaron Boyd could also make his season debut. The Spartans' receiving corps is led by All-MEAC selection Jamar Johnson, who caught a team-high six passes for 63 yards last week.
Kentucky's line will be in a state of flux with the absence of left tackle Garry Williams. The UK coaches would like to see the front five become more physical to help ignite the running game. The Spartans return four starters on the O-line and are particularly strong on the left side with senior tackle Andrew Ramer and guard Jamien Banks.
Led by tackle Myron Pryor, the Kentucky front four was as good as advertised against Louisville. Defensive end Jeremy Jarmon will try to end a four-game stretch without a sack. The Spartans had a fierce pass rush against Virginia State, picking up five sacks. UK will have to keep its eye on Dennis Marsh, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound tackle and All-MEAC selection who started his career at Maryland.
The UK linebackers will face a much bigger challenge this week from Dennis Brown, a running threat, than they did from U of L pocket passer Hunter Cantwell. That puts junior Micah Johnson on the spot in the middle.
Norfolk State's Mike Alphonse, an Akron transfer, led the Spartans with seven tackles against Virginia State.
All of UK's starters stood out against the Cards: cornerback Trevard Lindley and free safety Marcus McClinton each had a pick, strong safety Ashton Cobb had a fumble-return TD, and cornerback David Jones played the best game of his career. Norfolk State sophomore safety Dwight Fluker-Berry, a sophomore who transferred from West Virginia, was named the MEAC's Rookie of the Week after making four tackles, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble against Virginia State.
Special teams didn't have much of an impact for Norfolk State in its opener, but kicker Justin Castellat was 14th nationally among FCS schools in field goals made per game.