Wildcats looking for Kryptonite to stop Arkansas' "Superman" Print
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Thursday, 20 September 2007 00:10
NCAAF Headline News

 LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -And the Heisman Trophy candidates just keep on coming for Kentucky.
A week after finally beating Louisville and quarterback Brian Brohm, the No. 21 Wildcats face another stiff challenge in Arkansas running back Darren McFadden.
``It's a never-ending battle,'' Kentucky defensive coordinator Steve Brown said. ``You've got that guy, then you've got this guy. Your celebration is small. Everything happens real quick, then all of a sudden you prepare for the next guy.''
The ``next guy'' in this case being arguably the best all-around player in the country.
Squint real hard, and it's easy to mistake the No. 5 on McFadden's jersey for the 'S' splashed across Superman's chest. Kentucky coach Rich Brooks likens McFadden to a combination of the speed and grace of O.J. Simpson and the raw power of Earl Campbell.
McFadden's versatility, however, poses the kind of defensive problems Simpson and Campbell never did. The Razorbacks (1-1) line him up at nearly every offensive skill position, from running back to quarterback to wide receiver. McFadden ran for 195 yards and two touchdowns during last week's 41-38 loss to Alabama. He also caught three passes for 16 yards and even threw an incomplete pass.
``They use him in so many different ways that it does create problems,'' Brooks said. ``It's not like you can line up and stop him in the I-formation, because he's going to be in different places.''
The problems with defending McFadden only get worse once the ball is snapped. He can - and has - thrown the ball when he lines up under center, and his speed and power in the open field are almost unmatched. His stiff-arms are highlights waiting to happen. Brooks marveled at how easily McFadden planted an Alabama defender in the ground with one well-placed stiff-arm.
``You can't let him get his hand around your face or shoulder pad,'' Brooks said. ``It's not a lost art, but you don't see a lot of backs use it to their advantage like he does.''
Though hardly dominant in squeaking by the Cardinals last week, Kentucky's defense did manage to hold one of the nation's most explosive units to four offensive touchdowns. The Cardinals rushed for just 101 yards against the Wildcats, a week after piling up 328 rushing yards against Middle Tennessee.
``Other than a few of the draw plays, we did a really good job on what I would call the 'base' running game,'' Brooks said.
There is nothing ``base,'' however, about how the Razorbacks run the ball. Between McFadden's versatility and the speed of backup Felix Jones, the Razorbacks exploit opponents by using skillful misdirection, making it difficult to focus solely on McFadden even though he handles the ball on nearly every down.
``You know he's going to get the ball on just about every play,'' Kentucky linebacker Braxton Kelley said. ``If you're not aware of it, if he throws the ball, and you're biting up on the run, he can kill you there with his arm. If you're playing pass when he's at quarterback and he takes off running, now you've got to try and play catch-up with a guy who runs a 4.2, 4.3 (40-yard-dash). It's not going to happen.''
The Wildcats, fresh off cracking The Associated Press poll for the first time in more than two decades, know how long they stick in the polls will depend on how well they defend McFadden. Then again, maybe it's better to let McFadden do his thing and try to stop everyone else.
``We feel if they want to throw the ball against us, that would be easier than defending him,'' defensive end Dominic Lewis said. ``He's a strong runner. He likes to bring contact to players.''
And very rarely does the first defender on the play bring him down. Yet the Wildcats are playing with a confidence that was hard to come by last year, when they ranked as one of the top units in the country. They don't think they have to be perfect against the Razorbacks. They weren't against the Cardinals, and managed to survive.
``We know what we can do if we can get more consistent as a unit,'' linebacker Johnny Williams said. ``It will make us be a great defense if we can keep progressing each week. The sky's the limit.''
 

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