Gridiron bye week gives Little time to heal

Hail to the man who decided to take a break, and eternal praises are in order for the striking work force that battled companies for better working conditions.

It’s those people who developed this notion of taking a step back and getting a breather following a hard day’s work. After the UK football team has spent time on the mountaintop after beating the team from Death Valley and licked the wounds from being bitten by the underdogs last week, their break in the form of a bye week is much needed, especially for senior running back Rafael Little.

The big story for the offense heading into this season that didn’t circle around the quarterback position was the return of the top three rushers, Little being the most celebrated of the trio. But a touch of that nasty injury bug that has been waning on the Cats caught up to Little, leaving him pacing the sidelines, which is the last place he’d desire to be on game day.

He has sat out the last three games for the Cats against Mississippi State, Florida and Louisiana State, and the Cats are feeling it. UK could use the speed and the security blanket that comes with him dashing out of the backfield, but the injuries have resulted in him watching instead of participating.

Little bolted into the season with determination after battling injuries last season.

In the six games he played in, the former All-Southeastern Conference performer rushed for a total of 693 yards and only got knocked back for 11 yards, which brought his grand total of rushing yards to 682, which is a figure even Tom Landry would take his hat off to. Although he’s been on the sidelines the past three weeks, his total still leads the Cats. His average of 6.4 yards is second on the team behind the 7.1 average of Alfonso Smith, who has also only played in six games due to injuries.

Toss in his three touchdown runs, which he is tied for first on the team, and you have Little who was on track for another All-SEC selection.

“It’s heartbreaking,” UK head coach Rich Brooks said about Little’s injury.

“He was on the way to having a unbelievable blowout senior year.”

Brooks said the phenomenal numbers the running back put up in punt returns last year were not considered for national recognition because Little missed too many games with injuries. This year Brooks hopes to have Little back so he can qualify for the rankings.

Brooks said if Little misses four games he won’t be ranked. That fourth game would be next weekend as the Cats travel to Nashville to play Vanderbilt. For Little, the bye week could not come at a better time because it gives him an extra week to get his legs back up to speed.

And if he can do that, it will be a plus for UK. Injuries have plagued the skilled positions for the team again this year. Each running back except freshman Derrick Locke has been banged up and spent time on the sidelines looking on. Although those are the best seats in the house, Brooks would prefer his key players on the field. But you can’t control injuries, and Brooks knows those pesky nicks and bruises far too well. He’s watched senior wide receiver Keenan Burton and Little battle injuries their entire careers. When they’re both healthy they can bring another dimension to the Cats’ offensive attack; when they’re not, UK hits a slump, hence the two-game slide.

The Cats can only hope that this bye week offers a better working condition for the Cats’ skilled players to get the offense running like a well-oiled machine again.