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September 5, 2011

Phillips disappointed in offense after opener

On Thursday night, Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips credited Western Kentucky for slowing his offense down in a 14-3 win.

By Monday, he'd changed his tune.

"We've got some work to do," Phillips said, before reconsidering. "A lot of work to do."

The Wildcats finished with just 190 yards of offense in the game, the fewest ever against WKU by an FBS opponent. Junior quarterback Morgan Newton may have struggled most visibly, throwing three interceptions and tripping over his own feet for a sack, but he wasn't the only player to underperform.

Phillips used words like "embarrassing" and "pathetic" at times Monday to describe his team's offensive output. Much of that started with Newton, who was praised by the coaches during camp for making strides from his performance in the 2011 BBVA Compass Bowl.

"I hear we didn't play inspired," Phillips said. "You don't think our defense and special teams played inspired? We played inspired football. We didn't play good on offense. We played pathetic on offense."

Phillips wasn't pleased with any part of the offense. The wide receivers, who dropped several passes, especially seemed to draw his ire. With so many troubles there, Phillips said he expects to rotate some new players in during this week in an effort to improve their play.

"Those guys did not play well at all outside," Phillips said. "It was embarrassing watching them play. And we weren't very physical either as far as blocking. It's OK, but if you're acting like a pass-catcher, you better catch the damn ball. You'd better give the running back a chance to make one guy miss. Too many times, they didn't block the guy they're supposed to block. Very seldom did we get the back into the secondary but when we did, there were two guys he had to make miss. Really, it was three, because you have a wide receiver there."

The offensive line wasn't much better. The line had been hit by a rash of injuries in fall camp. Right tackle Billy Joe Murphy was the only starter to not miss time in camp, and junior center Matt Smith sat the game out.

But junior guard Larry Warford said that wasn't a valid excuse for the way the line played. The offensive line, which features three seniors and returns four starters, was expected to be one of the strengths of the team.

"We did mess up a lot," Warford said. "We know what to do. We know what to do on the practice field, we just have to translate it into the game. If we're going to be the strength of the team, we can't have another game like that, and we won't from here on out."

Injury Report

Junior defensive end Collins Ukwu, previously listed as day-to-day with a chest bruise, did not practice Monday but is expected to play on Saturday.

Junior center Matt Smith was unable to finish practice on Monday. His status is still uncertain. Senior right tackle Billy Joe Murphy is also questionable.

Sophomore tight end Tyler Robinson[db] returned to practice and is expected to play. Sophomore wide receiver [db]Brian Adams is day-to-day with a sprained ankle.

Senior safety Mychal Bailey and junior wide receiver E.J. Fields will play on Saturday after being suspended for the season opener. Neither was listed on the depth chart, but Bailey started 12 games last season. Junior Mike Benton started in his place against Western Kentucky with senior safety Taiedo Smith injured.

Senior defensive tackle Mark Crawford also sat out the WKU game and is still suspended.


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