WKYT | Lexington, Kentucky | Sports

Cats Face Another Heisman Hopeful Saturday

By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - And the Heisman Trophy candidates just
keep on coming for Kentucky.
A week after finally beating Louisville and quarterback Brian
Brohm, the 21st-ranked Wildcats face another stiff challenge in
Arkansas' do-everything running back Darren McFadden.
"It's a never-ending battle," Kentucky defensive coordinator
Steve Brown said. "You've got that guy, then you've got this guy.
Your celebration is small. Everything happens real quick, then all
of a sudden you prepare for the next guy."
The "next guy" in this case being arguably the best all-around
player in the country.
Squint real hard, and it's easy to mistake the No. 5 on
McFadden's jersey for the 'S' splashed across Superman's chest.
Kentucky coach Rich Brooks likens McFadden to a combination of the
speed and grace of O.J. Simpson and the raw power of Earl Campbell.
McFadden's versatility, however, poses the kind of defensive
problems Simpson and Campbell never did. The Razorbacks (1-1) line
him up at nearly every offensive skill position, from running back
to quarterback to wide receiver. McFadden ran for 195 yards and two
touchdowns during last week's 41-38 loss to Alabama. He also caught
three passes for 16 yards and even threw an incomplete pass.
"They use him in so many different ways that it does create
problems," Brooks said. "It's not like you can line up and stop
him in the I-formation, because he's going to be in different
places."
The problems with defending McFadden only get worse once the
ball is snapped. He can - and has - thrown the ball when he lines
up under center, and his speed and power in the open field are
almost unmatched. His stiff-arms are highlights waiting to happen.
Brooks marveled at how easily McFadden planted an Alabama defender
in the ground with one well-placed stiff-arm.
"You can't let him get his hand around your face or shoulder
pad," Brooks said. "It's not a lost art, but you don't see a lot
of backs use it to their advantage like he does."
Though hardly dominant in squeaking by the Cardinals last week,
Kentucky's defense did manage to hold one of the nation's most
explosive units to four offensive touchdowns. The Cardinals rushed
for just 101 yards against the Wildcats, a week after piling up 328
rushing yards against Middle Tennessee.
"Other than a few of the draw plays, we did a really good job
on what I would call the 'base' running game," Brooks said.
There is nothing "base," however, about how the Razorbacks run
the ball. Between McFadden's versatility and the speed of backup
Felix Jones, the Razorbacks exploit opponents by using skillful
misdirection, making it difficult to focus solely on McFadden even
though he handles the ball on nearly every down.
"You know he's going to get the ball on just about every
play," Kentucky linebacker Braxton Kelley said. "If you're not
aware of it, if he throws the ball, and you're biting up on the
run, he can kill you there with his arm. If you're playing pass
when he's at quarterback and he takes off running, now you've got
to try and play catch-up with a guy who runs a 4.2, 4.3
(40-yard-dash). It's not going to happen."
The Wildcats, fresh off cracking The Associated Press poll for
the first time in more than two decades, know how long they stick
in the polls will depend on how well they defend McFadden. Then
again, maybe it's better to let McFadden do his thing and try to
stop everyone else.
"We feel if they want to throw the ball against us, that would
be easier than defending him," defensive end Dominic Lewis said.
"He's a strong runner. He likes to bring contact to players."
And very rarely does the first defender on the scene bring him
down. Yet the Wildcats are playing with a confidence that was hard
to come by last year, when they ranked as one of the first units in
the country. They don't think they have to be perfect against the
Razorbacks. They weren't against the Cardinals and managed to
survive.
"We know what we can do if we can get more consistent as a
unit," linebacker Johnny Williams said. "It will make us be a
great defense if we can keep progressing each week. The sky's the
limit."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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