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KENTUCKY Team Report
"I talked about it again, that we're still in position to do what our goal was at the start of the year," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "Although the loss was extremely disappointing to everybody, we can't lose sight of the fact that we can still move forward and accomplish a postseason appearance."
While it will be difficult to move forward on those goals when the Wildcats (3-3, 1-2 SEC) play at LSU on Saturday, Kentucky also can't afford to play poorly and take a step backward.
"You've got two choices when you get knocked down: You either stay down or get up," Brooks said. "Staying down is not an option in my eyes, and I don't think it's an option for this football team.
"Unfortunately I've been in situations most of my life in this profession where we've been knocked down and have to keep coming back and coming back. It's a lot easier to get up and go to work when you haven't been knocked down, but that's just part of the makeup."
Getting back up won't be easy this week without some key players. Tailback Rafael Little had arthroscopic knee surgery on Monday and will be out at least four weeks, depriving the Wildcats of an all-purpose back who thrived in 2005 as a runner, receiver and returner.
The Wildcats also could be without as many as four defensive tackles due to injuries.
"You've just got to get ready for the Tigers and focus on what's ahead," offensive lineman Michael Aitcheson told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "Obviously it hurts whenever you've got people missing, but we've got to keep on pushing."
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: While the offense has made steady progress, the best the defense can is that it climbed from 118th in the nation to 116th out of 119 Division I-A teams in total defense, allowing 448.5 yards per game. The Wildcats are giving up nearly 200 rushing yards per game, and injuries at defensive tackle won't make stopping the run any easier this week, but at least they're helping themselves a bit with 15 takeaways, the second-highest total in the SEC.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've all sat around wondering when it's going to be our time and our opportunity to be that giant killer. That Arkansas game was great to see. It lets you know that it can happen. You've got to have faith, but you also have to prepare. It could be our time, but we've got to take care of business." -- Kentucky LB Joe Schuler, to the Lexington Herald-Leader, after watching Arkansas win 27-10 at then-No. 2 Auburn last Saturday.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Andre Woodson -- By completing 18 of 31 passes for 289 yards with a TD against South Carolina, Woodson continues to rank among the SEC's most productive quarterbacks this season, with 247.7 passing yards per game and a conference-high 15 TD passes.
RB Tony Dixon -- With Rafael Little sidelined indefinitely by knee surgery, someone needs to step up in the running game. Dixon will get the first shot, but so far he hasn't done much to convince the Wildcats he can get the job done.
CBs Karl Booker and Trevard Lindley -- No Kentucky players will be more tested by LSU's offensive talent than Booker and Lindley on the corner. With all the Wildcats have to do to stop the run, how will they be able to support Booker and Lindley?
ROSTER REPORT: Injuries are piling up for a team still attempting to rebuild its depth after enduring the damaging effects of NCAA scholarship penalties in recent years. The most critical problem is a knee injury that forced junior TB Rafael Little to have arthroscopic surgery on Monday to repair a lateral cartilage tear in his left knee. Little tried to play through the pain over the past month, but the swelling would not subside. Little will miss at least a month, depriving the offense and special teams of a key playmaker. The Wildcats will now turn to sophomore Tony Dixon, who started the past two games, and redshirt freshman Alfonso Smith. Neither has been effective in Little's absence so far this season. "Tony hasn't had as many opportunities to get into the open field as Rafael has, and I hope that's happenstance," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "Tony's got to do a little bit better job maybe of finding the open hole when there is one."
The Wildcats may also play LSU without four of their defensive tackles. Starters Lamar Mills (shoulder) and Myron Pryor (elbow) are questionable, while reserve Ricky Abren is attempting to work through a sprained wrist that limited his availability last week. True freshman Corey Peters (knee) will miss the game, leaving sophomore Ventrell Jenkins as the only healthy tackle if Mills and Pryor can't play.
That also means DE Travis Day likely will have to play at tackle. Redshirt freshman walk-on Austin Moss is another candidate for playing time, but Kentucky is unlikely to take the redshirt off any true freshman so late in the season. "I don't think that's appropriate," Brooks said. "I think it's foolish to pull someone out of a redshirt year who may play a little bit in this game or the next game."
The only positive in the injury situation is that senior center Matt McCutchan is expected to return after missing three games with a high ankle sprain. Even then, converted guard Trai Williams has played well at center in his absence, and former DT Jason Leger has made significant progress after replacing Williams at guard.
Previous Report: 10/08/2006