Kentucky seeks to rebound at home vs Kent State


Associated Press

Posted on September 8, 2012 at 9:00 PM

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky just wants to move forward after a rough opener.

Kent State also wants to continue its winning ways, just without another football folly with players running in the wrong direction.

So something has to give Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium when Kentucky tries to get on track after losing its opener 32-14 to Louisville. The short week hasn't allowed the Wildcats much reflecting time, which is just as well considering there wasn't much to look back on.

But they can look ahead to the home opener, which the Wildcats have won six consecutive times.

Kent State counters with its own self-confidence after a blowout of Towson State featuring plenty of highlights, including one the Golden Flashes won't ever forget.

Linebacker Andre Parker returned a muffed punt 58 yards but in the wrong direction, a sequence made more comical by Towson tacklers chasing him down.

"The first thing I was thinking was, 'why aren't the officials blowing the whistle?' " Phillips said. "It's dead. They probably were but everyone was so excited about trying to make blocks and make a tackle. The funny thing was watching the coaches' reactions. You couldn't really see the Kent coaches but you could see the Towson coaches like, 'Don't tackle him, don't tackle him, don't tackle him.'

"Sometimes, 18- to 22-year olds react in strange ways, but he reacted quick and stuck with it."

But now the Golden Flashes' focus is on Kentucky.

What Kent State saw of the Wildcats on film might differ from what it'll face this weekend. Kentucky is expected to unveil a bunch of new faces as they seek identities on both sides of the ball along with depth.

Necessity forced the issue on offense, with muscle spasms knocking out running back CoShik Williams. Junior Raymond Sanders will start, but Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips said he'll also use junior Jonathan George and freshman Dyshawn Mobley.

As much as the Wildcats need continuity at skill positions, Phillips said the long term is more important. Of course, the Wildcats can afford to tweak things in the ground game since the passing game's looking up thanks to Maxwell Smith, who threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals.

Williams "is a tough guy, there is no doubt about that," Phillips said of his tailback, who rushed for 62 yards on 10 carries against Louisville. "We have to have him for the long haul. We're not taking (Kent State) for granted by any means but we need him full speed. The guy busts his gut on every play, whether it's practice or pregame so we have to make sure we have to take care of him."

Most of the attention will be on the defense, which allowed 466 yards to Louisville and forced the coaching staff into a personnel shake up this week that could see freshmen Khalid Henderson and Pancho Thomas rotate at linebacker. Freshmen J.D. Harmon and Fred Tiller could be introduced in the secondary.

Kentucky's prospects still begin with pressure up front, an area where Phillips stressed improvement from tackles Dante Rumph and Mister Cobble and end Collins Ukwu.

"I want to see us get lined up and attack the guys in front of us," Phillips said. "Get lined up, play physical, get off blocks and go make plays."

Kent State is emphasizing doing the little things right, which worked out big during a 41-21 rout of Towson State on Aug. 30. That philosophy paid off in particular on special teams, which sprung Dri Archer for 155 return yards on two kickoffs, including a 98-yarder for a touchdown.

The junior also rushed eight times for 54 yards and two more scores, pretty good for someone playing for the first time since the 2010 season. Kent State also forced six turnovers, which might be why Phillips wants to involve everyone on defense.

"They're physical," he said. "They won four out of their last five (games) last year and just beat a team handily, and they have a lot of confidence."