WKYT | Lexington, Kentucky | Sports

Joker, Cats prepare for Central Michigan

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky coach Joker Phillips has been
busy balancing a tricky set of circumstances that he didn't see
coming.

He's trying to snap the offense out of its stale performance in
the Wildcats' opener. He's also trying put a plan together for
Saturday's home opener against Central Michigan.

His offense sputtered to 190 yards total offense in the
Wildcats' 14-3 win against Western Kentucky. Morgan Newton, in his
10th college start but first as the full-time starter, threw for
just 98 yards and was intercepted three times.

But he had little help. Raymond Sanders and Josh Clemons
combined for 74 yards rushing on 24 carries, and the receivers
combined for seven drops.

"It wasn't very good," guard Larry Warford said. "We had a
lot of plays there in front of us, but it was always just one guy
messing up. That ruined the whole job. We need to be more
consistent."

Still, Phillips said errors are forgiven if young players forget
and move on. But that didn't happen. Phillips said the funk carried
over into Tuesday and Wednesday, when players were still dropping
passes and picking up "mindless penalties" like false starts and
holding.

He saw improvement on Thursday when Kentucky finished
preparations for the Chippewas. Phillips said Newton got stronger
and stronger, which is important because of how much the team looks
to him.

"Morgan understands how important his presence is because guys
feed off his body language," Phillips said. "His body language
has been good this week. He's the guy that touches the ball every
snap. He needs to be on point with his body language and he has
been."

To give the team a shot in the arm, Phillips said he would mix
in more freshmen on Saturday, especially on offense.

Wide receivers coach Tee Martin said freshman Demarco Robinson
would get more looks after playing against Western Kentucky without
a reception.

Phillips also said a freshman offensive lineman would play, as
both center Matt Smith and right tackle Billy Joe Murphy are listed
as doubtful. Phillips isn't saying who that lineman will be.

While Kentucky may lose two starters to injury Saturday, Central
Michigan is gaining three.

Starting linebackers Armond Staten, Shamari Benton and Mike
Petrucci all missed the Chippewas' season opener on Sept. 1 and are
all expected to return Saturday, according to The Morning Sun. The
trio of linebackers were three of the Chippewas' five top returning
tacklers from 2010.

Even still, the Chippewas' defense held South Carolina State to
137 yards of offense in a 21-6 win.

"Their defense played well in the opener. They really swarmed
the ball and didn't allow South Carolina State to get started,"
Phillips said. "They'll be foaming at the mouth to play our
offense. We've got to do a good job preparing our offense and
getting them ready to play."

Phillips said he feels confident he's struck a proper balance in
practice throughout the week between reacting to changes and
planning.

"We got the plan in and I feel like we've gotten some things
corrected," he said. "Defensively, we've got to continue to play
with the same intensity, though. Same with special teams. They
saved us last Thursday."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-09-09-11 1606EDT


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