UK Football

RedHawks inspire fear of the unknown

Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks drew chuckles from the media when he made reference to a fictitious school, the Squawhaukee Canyon Institute of Technology, during his news conference earlier this week.

Truth of the matter is, Brooks probably would rather face the Squawhaukee Canyon Institute of Technology in the friendly confines of Commonwealth Stadium than what could turn out to be a stressful opener against Miami (Ohio) at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium.

Sure, the RedHawks finished 2-10 last year, but they welcome in Mike Haywood, who's in his first year as a head coach. The UK staff spent the summer and pre-season scrambling through tapes of Haywood's stints as an assistant as well as film on his offensive and defensive coordinators.

The game is also officially a home game for Miami and, while there will be plenty of Wildcats fans in the stands, the RedHawks figure to be well-represented.

And the RedHawks come from a conference, the Mid-American, that has proved over the years that it can scrap with the big boys.

"It's a tough opener, and we know we have to come ready to play," Brooks said. "We're away from home against a team we really don't know what to expect."

Not only does Brooks not know what to expect from the RedHawks, but he's also anxious to see what his team does. He said he expects them to be a better team than last year's 7-6 Liberty Bowl champions and said they've performed well in practice for the most part. But there's still that nervous uncertainty.

"I can say what I think and hope we're going to look like but, until the game starts, you never know," he said. "You hope what happens on the practice field translates to games, but I've had teams who looked good in camp and didn't come out and play well in the opener, and I've had teams who didn't look good in camp and came out and played better than I expected."

Most of the eyes figure to be on the offense, which struggled to move the ball and put points on the board last season. The coaches have all said quarterback Mike Hartline has looked vastly improved in practices and scrimmages, and the receiving corps is expected to make a turnaround thanks to sophomore Randall Cobb and junior-college transfer Chris Matthews.

Haywood said his defense will have to be aware of Cobb at all times and could even see him as a quarterback in the Wildcat package.

"He's a fleet-footed guy with really good speed, plus he's got added maturity and experience," Haywood said. "He does a nice job of getting open. When he's at quarterback, you have to change your whole game plan. Keeping him in the pocket is important. You don't want him out scrambling because he can make a lot of plays when he's on the move."

The UK players don't expect to come out flat.

"We're just excited to be playing a game," tailback Alfonso Smith said. "That alone is going to get you fired up. You have a tough camp, you beat up each other the whole time, you want to go out and get after somebody. If that can't get you fired up, nothing can. We'll be ready to play."

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