Cats’ bevy of weapons keeps offense rolling, team undefeated

Saturday was a good day to be Tim Masthay.

The junior punter only had to perform his specialty on two occasions, and both of those came long after UK’s first-stringers had exited the 45-17 steamrolling of Florida Atlantic. When an offense is clicking like UK’s is right now, you need a punter about as much as Mr. Clean needs a haircut.

“When a team only punts (twice) in a ball game, that means they are in total control,” Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger said. “And they were.”

Yes, Coach, they were. In fact, they have been in control for a long time. In this improbable streak of 10 wins in 11 games, the UK offense has been a machine. Quarterback Andre Woodson, whose NCAA record-breaking interception-less streak ended Saturday, has thrown more than 200 yards in each of the 11 games. The offense has piled up more than 400 total yards in nine straight games. In each of this season’s five games, UK has eclipsed 40 points.

The Cats have done it with innovative play-calling by offensive coordinator Joker Phillips and stellar play from Woodson. But what makes this offense the most efficient, dangerous one in the nation is the surrounding cast.

On any given Saturday, who should defenses choose to try and stop? Defend the pass, and UK can pound any one of its four talented running backs. Drop back in deep coverage on the receivers, and Woodson will find tight end Jacob Tamme or running back Rafael Little out of the backfield. Try and take away Keenan Burton, and Woodson will go to Dicky Lyons Jr. or Steve Johnson.

“You never know with this offense,” said Lyons, who took his turn in the spotlight on Saturday, catching eight passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns. “We have so many weapons that each game it’s somebody (different). Last week it was Stevie. When you’re called upon, you’ve got to make the plays, and so far everybody on the team has stepped up.”

If UK’s winning streak is going to continue, everybody on the team must keep stepping up. Have you looked at the next three weeks? First comes a Thursday-night showdown at No. 11 South Carolina, followed by consecutive Saturday home games against No. 1 Louisiana State (the favorite to win the this year’s national championship) and No. 9 Florida (the defending national champion).

To call the upcoming three weeks a defining stretch for the program wouldn’t be accurate. This is a program that has already defined itself with what it has accomplished since the middle of last season. But you sure can call it a mega-opportunity.

“We’ve positioned ourselves to have an opportunity to do some pretty exciting things,” head coach Rich Brooks said. “But we’ve got a lot of tough games ahead of us, obviously.”

The non-conference games are finished. The rest of the season consists of seven games against Southeastern Conference foes. To that the Cats say, “Bring it on.”

“This is our tougher part of the year, because every week is an SEC game,” Lyons said. “Teams know that we’re a force to be reckoned with.”

This offense has proven it’s a force. Over the next three weeks, it’s got a chance to force the nation to take notice.

Chris DeLotell is an education and pre-journalism senior. E-mail [email protected].