Saturday, September 18, 2004

It's win or bust for weary 'Cats

By Murray Evans
The Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Indiana wants to continue recent strides in a football program that hasn't tasted success in years.

Kentucky just wants to forget a nightmare.

Indiana, seeking its first 3-0 start since 1994, has won just one of its last nine meetings with Kentucky and only three times on the road against nonconference opponents since 1995. But the Hoosiers carry momentum into their game today at Kentucky, courtesy of a 30-24 win last week at then-No. 24 Oregon by taking advantage of seven Ducks turnovers.

That followed a convincing win over Central Michigan in the Hoosiers' season opener. Still, after going 5-19 during his first two seasons at Indiana, coach Gerry DiNardo is preaching caution.

"Everything's temporary in athletics," DiNardo said. "Obviously Saturday night was a good night for us, but this is another week. So how that affects what we do in the future, there's no way of knowing."

Kentucky will enter its home opener already facing a turning point in its season. Since a 28-0 loss at Louisville on Sept. 5, the Wildcats have been criticized by fans and some in the media. University President Lee Todd and athletics director Mitch Barnhart felt it necessary this week to ask for patience for second-year coach Rich Brooks to rebuild a program hampered by NCAA sanctions.

Beat Indiana, and the Big Blue Nation can breathe easy again. Lose to the Hoosiers, and an 0-3 start looks almost certain, with a road game against No. 11 Florida up next for Kentucky.

"We need to execute our plays and do our best without worrying about two weeks ago," freshman strong safety Wesley Woodyard said.

Indiana averages 51.2 yards per kickoff return - tops in NCAA Division I - led by Lance Bennett, who had a 98-yard return for a touchdown against Oregon.

"The first two games, we have played hard," DiNardo said. "We have done some better things because we are playing with experience."

" After the Wildcats' anemic performance against Louisville, Brooks promised lineup changes, and several true freshmen are expected to see extended playing time against Indiana. Freshman running back Tony Dixon has been running plays with the first team in practice, and coaches have experimented with several combinations along the offensive line, with Micah Jones and Aaron Miller running with the first team.

Defensively, Brooks named Woodyard, another true freshman, as one of the team's captains for the game and promoted redshirt freshman nose guard Ricky Abren to a starting position.

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