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By LARRY VAUGHT
DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t talk to Rich Brooks about all the historic possibilities for his University of Kentucky football team this year as the Wildcats seek a fourth straight winning season and fourth straight bowl bid.
No, the UK coach is too focused on just getting the season started against Miami at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati Saturday to worry about long-term implications.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am anxious and kind of frustrated, kind of antsy, kind of nervous. I want to go play. I think a lot of our team is in the same mood. Every game is important when you are trying to establish consistent postseason play in your program. Every game is big when you are trying to make a bigger run in your league than we have made. You get 12 chances (to play) and they are all very, very important games. We need to go on the road and get off to a win. Nothing else is acceptable,Ã¢â‚¬Â Brooks said Monday.
His players totally agree.
Running back Alfonso Smith knows the offense was way too inconsistent last season and didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t gain enough yards or score enough points. He says the players have used that as a rallying cry the last eight months.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We do have something to prove. I felt like we had to prove something in our scrimmages, too but it is even bigger in games,Ã¢â‚¬Â Smith said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait to show what we can do. It is a great offense. If we all click, we can do a lot of good things.Ã¢â‚¬Â
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what Brooks is counting on.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be good to get the team on the field and see where we are and look at the new additions and the improved additions this year,Ã¢â‚¬Â Brooks, who has eight true freshmen listed on the three-deep depth chart, said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are going into this game a little blind. We are not sure exactly what to expect from Miami because of their new coaching staff. We are just kind of winging it in preparation. I am sure we will have to adjust early in the game when we are surprised by a few things.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Yet Brooks is counting on Miami being surprised by what it sees from his team, especially on offense where heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s confident returning quarterback Mike Hartline not only has improved, but also has a better cast around him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think the speed of our team I like on both sides. I am impressed with, believe it or not, the play of our receivers and that is coming off a less than impressive performance a year ago from that unit. Those things and the improved play of Mike Hartline. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what excites me,Ã¢â‚¬Â Brooks said.
That and knowing his team finally gets to play in six days.