November 8, 2011

Secondary trying to set offense up for success

As the UK football team's offense starts to fire up, the defense is looking for ways to get them the ball.

The Cats' biggest defensive concern lately has been the secondary, particularly on third down. In UK's last two games (against Mississippi State and Ole Miss) the opponents combined to convert 11 of 25 third down conversations.

Co-defensive coordinator Steve Brown says that's not cashing in on "money down situations."

"It's a learning experience, for some you just have to reiterate the importance of getting off the field and understanding what we call the 'money down situations'," Brown said. "We have to get off the field and get our offense the ball."

When the offense has gotten the ball in the last two weeks, it's been able to sustain long drives. That helps the defense.

"It really helps when the offense stays on the field a little longer," senior cornerback Anthony Mosley said. "It gives you more time to rest and talk about what happened on the previous drive. It helps out a whole lot to be able to go through that communication and get everything corrected."

But despite getting additional rest, the defensive backs have still struggled at times. Of the five touchdowns given up over the past two weekends, three have been through the air, for an average of over 16 yards per touchdown reception.

UK struggled to score early in the season while the defense carried the team, especially the secondary. Before its last two games, UK had only allowed more than 170 passing yards twice: during a win against Central Michigan and a blowout loss at South Carolina.

But in its last two games it has surrendered an averaged of 230.5 passing yards, leaving the Cats unsatisfied.

"We have to step it up a lot," junior safety Martavius Neloms said. "We just have to make plays on the ball when we have the chance. "After that we should come away with a lot more interceptions than we have."

UK did force two interceptions in the last two games but both came from linebacker Danny Trevathan and not the secondary.

Defenders have been beaten at times in one-on-one coverage when the receiver out-jumped his man or muscled his way to the ball. Brown believes if the secondary plays more aggressive, the entire defense will reap the rewards.

"Good things happen when you play aggressively, when you play with a desire to get to the football," Brown said. "We've been pretty good this year getting interceptions we just need to get more and more.

"You strive to be the best, you strive to be aggressive, but am I content? No. Do I expect more? Yes."

Brown and UK will need more if it wants to stop Vanderbilt's wide receivers. The Commodores rank 106 in the country, averaging 168.7 yards per game, but its three top receivers are known for their physicality and size.

All three receivers are over 6-foot-2 and weigh more than 200 pounds.

"They have very physical receivers and great hands," Neloms said.

But Brown believes the key in stopping Vandy's big wide receivers is containing its dual-threat quarterback, Jordan Rodgers.

"Number one thing we have to do is contain Rodgers, he's very, very good at getting on the edge and scrambling and throwing the ball on the run," Brown said.

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