If you saw the final score from Saturday's Kentucky-Alabama game, it probably gave you the impression that the Wildcats did OK. Even if you saw the game, you might have given UK kudos for hanging in there with the nation's No. 2 defense.
But Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks didn't sound as though he was ready to turn flips after watching the game film. Despite the fact that the Wildcats were an onside kick away from having a chance to win it in the final minute, Brooks said his team "didn't play very good."
"We didn't play good on defense," he said. "We had assignment errors, technique errors, busted assignments. Our safeties didn't play very well. Offensively, we struggled obviously to get any kind of running game going. No question, I didn't think we played anywhere close to our ability. Not to take anything from Alabama. I'm sure they feel the same way. But we didn't play a great game."
The Wildcats (4-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) carried 20 times for 35 yards, with its longest running play an 8-yarder by Derrick Locke.
"We had too many no-gainers or runs of one or two yards," Brooks said. "Our line isn't knocking people off the ball. We've got to do a better job at the line of scrimmage and, overall, we've got to do a much better job of moving the football."
Brooks said injuries have affected cohesiveness on the offensive line. Starting left tackle Garry Williams missed two games with a knee injury, and UK lost starting right tackle Justin Jeffries to a knee injury last week against Western Kentucky.
Brooks said Jess Beets and Stuart Hines, who have split time at right guard, will have MRIs on Monday to address possible cartilage problems in their knees.
"It's obviously getting more difficult," Brooks said. "We have injuries in the offensive line and continue to have them. We don't have any continuity at this point."
Brooks said sophomore Brad Durham will replace Billy Joe Murphy in Jeffries' spot at right tackle this Saturday against South Carolina after Murphy struggled against Alabama. Murphy could swing to right guard if Beets and/or Hines can't go. Jake Lanefski and Mike Williams could also see action there.
The Gamecocks aren't the ideal opponent to try to revive a struggling offense against. Carolina is second in the league in total defense (244.7). Brooks said the running game would get a boost if UK gets its passing game going, but South Carolina allows just 128 yards a game through the air, which is tops in the SEC. The Gamecocks have given up two touchdown passes this year.
South Carolina (4-2, 1-2 SEC) also seems to have solved its quarterback issues for the moment, as sophomore Chris Smelley threw for a career-high 327 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-24 win at Mississippi. Wide receiver Kenny McKinley also returned after missing three games with a hamstring injury.
"South Carolina looks to have gotten its offense untracked," Brooks said. "They did a lot of very good things in (the Ole Miss) game. And their defense is one of the best in the league, therefore in the country. That doesn't speak well for us trying to get our offense untracked."
High ankle sprain update
UK took all three of its players with high ankle sprains to Alabama, and Brooks expects sophomore defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin to see more action this week after playing eight snaps against Alabama. Quarterback/receiver Randall Cobb got in for one play and should also be ready for extended duty this week. Middle linebacker Micah Johnson didn't play at Alabama and is questionable for the South Carolina game.
Brooks also said receiver DeMoreo Ford is questionable after injuring his shoulder on a 48-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter Saturday.