A mounting injury list couldnt come at a
worse time for Kentucky coach Rich Brooks.
Heading into what he describes as one of the most critical games
of the season against Mississippi State on Saturday, Brooks is
without many key members of his team, both on offense and defense,
and has had to patch together a combination of freshman and
unseasoned backup players to fill the voids.
"We obviously could be in a lot better shape physically,"
Brooks said in a teleconference Sunday.
The Wildcats suffered a major injury blow on defense as senior
linebacker Micah Johnson left the game in the first half of
Saturdays 36-13 win over Louisiana-Monroe with a knee injury.
Johnson is questionable heading into the weekend. The Wildcats will
already be without starting cornerback Trevard Lindley and starting
quarterback Mike Hartline, and are they nursing less serious
injuries to running backs Alfonso Smith (wrist) and Derrick Locke
(knee), and receiver Randall Cobb (knee).
Brooks said the Wildcats (4-3, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) will
make do. In replacing Hartline, Brooks has relied on a
three-pronged quarterback attack of true freshman Morgan Newton,
back-up Will Fidler, and Cobb running a spread offense. In
Kentuckys last two games, all three options were used frequently,
and Brooks doesn't think that will change.
"I really think what youre going to see is us using both
(Newton and Fidler) and the Wildcat formation," Brooks said after
the win against Louisiana-Monroe. "We just want to win games."
In patching up the holes on defense, Brooks is also rotating
In Kentucky's past two wins against the Warhawks and Auburn
Brooks has found success in this method, and he hopes it will pay
off against a versatile Mississippi State (3-5, 1-3) Saturday.
"They play incredibly hard and are a very physical team,"
Brooks said. "Its hard to zero in on any particular part of their
offense. Its all strong."
Brooks said he expects a more focused performance from his team
against the Bulldogs than was seen in the Louisiana-Monroe win.
Against the Warhawks, Brooks bemoaned his sides loss of focus. The
Wildcats shot out to an early 21 point lead, but let
Louisiana-Monroe linger in the second half.
"Were going to have to be at the very top of our game,"
Brooks said "I expressed to (the team) today that it will be a
huge, huge football game with major implications going forward."
Full Rich Brooks News Conference