Kentucky Targerts Offensive Improvement

By: Kim Allen Email
By: Kim Allen Email

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky's offense sputtered for 190 total
yards of offense in its season-opening 14-3 win over Western Kentucky on Thursday, and head coach Joker Phillips said things
haven't improved in the practices since.

The Wildcats' mistakes on offense Thursday spread across each
position. Phillips credited the wide receivers and tight ends with
a total of seven drops. Junior quarterback Morgan Newton threw
three interceptions, two on rushed decisions and one on a tipped

Running backs Raymond Sanders and Josh Clemons combined for
74 yards rushing on 24 attempts. Perhaps most worrisome, Phillips said, was the offensive line's performance.

It allowed three sacks and forced Newton to scramble three more times. The line was also called for two holding penalties and one false start.

The second-year head coach touted his line as the entire team's
strongest unit throughout preseason camp, but it went into the
opener without starting center Matt Smith and with starting left
guard Stuart Hines relegated to reserve duties, both because of

Smith likely will miss Saturday's game against Central Michigan,
and starting right tackle Billy Joe Murphy may miss the game with a
sprained knee, Phillips said Tuesday.

"Coach does a great job of teaching everybody. (Injuries) should never play a factor," starting right guard Larry Warford said. "We should all know what to do. This week we do have some guys coming back so hopefully we can jell together and play together as a whole. We can never let that happen if we're going to be the strength of this team. We can't ever have a game like that, and we won't from here on out."

Finding consistency starts with the line and the receivers, Phillips said, and the drops that plagued Thursday's game carried over into Tuesday's practice. In response, wide receivers coach Tee Martin said the staff is looking at switching up the receivers' rotation.

Among those being looked to for additional production is true
freshman Demarco Robinson. He played in a limited role on Thursday, but was not targeted in any passing plays.

He did have two carries on reverse plays but he lost five yards on each attempt. Martin said even if the rotation shakes up, he won't lose
confidence in his group.

"I'm not going to jump ship after one game. I played on a national championship team that looked like that after one game," said Martin, the quarterback for Tennessee's 1998 national championship team. "Ugly, dropped balls and all that. It's the first game. I got confidence in those guys. I can't trade them. We're going to coach them up."

He saw problems throughout preseason camp with the team's
offense but none as elementary as dropped passes or anxious false
starts, Phillips said.

"It showed up Thursday and some of it showed up today, and they
hadn't been showing up before," Phillips said. "You get into a funk every now and then, and I feel like that's what our offense is in right now."

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