Kats have short week to prepare for Gladiators

Monday, April 30, 2001 at 1:00am

It's going to be a whirlwind week for the Nashville Kats.

Saturday night's 46-26 victory over the Florida Bobcats in Sunrise, Fla., will be quickly filed away as the Kats prepare for a visit Thursday night from the New Jersey Gladiators at 7:30 at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. The Kats have lost only once in five games with New Jersey, formerly known as the Red Dogs. New Jersey is winless in three games this season including a 28-25 loss to Toronto Friday night.

"It's just one game," said Sperduto whose team raised its record to 2-1 with its seventh straight victory over the Bobcats in franchise history. "The best news about this game is no one left on crutches."

The Bobcats, a Southern Division foe for the Kats, fell to 1-2.

The Kats had seven players sidelined with injuries heading into the Bobcats game. Several of those players will either not be back this season or will not be available until late in the year.

The secondary has been a revolving door, quarterback Andy Kelly has not thrown to the same group of receivers two games in a row. Even with two less days of work, Sperduto can enjoy the fact he is facing the first week where his practices can center on game preparation instead of breaking in a new player and teaching the Kats systems.

"It's a short week and it is going to be tough for us to get ready," Sperduto said. "We have a team that has taken quite a beating physically. It was important for us not to lose any more players. We can't afford any more.

"We're not going to be in pads this week. We're going to work on preparing for the game. We won't have to teach anybody how to play in the Arena League this week. That is definitely a plus for us."

Cliff Green, making his first appearance of the season since injuring his ankle during preseason, was a bright addition to the defensive secondary with a fumble recovery and an interception return for a touchdown. Also making his season debut in the secondary was Robert Davis who has been out due to the demands of being an assistant football coach at Austin Peay State University.

"Cliff had a good game," said Sperduto who indicated late last week Green was playing for his future on the team. "We challenged Cliff to go out and play well."

Sperduto also had Steve Johnson, a rookie, in the mix to play against the Bobcats. But Green and Davis prevailed and joined veteran Adrian Lunsford, the only constant in the secondary this season.

"I still want to get Steve worked into games," said Sperduto, who has slowly brought Johnson along in a manner similar to the way Jarrick Hillery was introduced to the game last year. "I think Steve is ready to be a player for us."

The Kats got a touchdown pass from Andy Kelly to Darryl Hammond, and rushing touchdowns from Hillery with two, and Rupert Grant with one. Kicker Steve McLauglin continued his steady play hitting four-of-six field goal attempts including a 55-yarder, which was both a career best and a franchise best.

"It was a team effort," said Sperduto, whose team jumped out to a 27-0 lead in the first half. "Each week we want to work to get better."

One of the concerns for the Kats, despite their three rushing TDs, is the offense's performance in the red zone, particularly on the ground. Offensive coordinator Marty Lowe pointed out that the Kats failed on the last two drives of the first half and the first two drives of the second half to score touchdowns inside the red zone which would have truly made game a rout.

"We scored when we needed to, but we let them get back into the game by not scoring on those drives," Lowe said. "The coverages get more difficult in the red zone from the eight-yard line in. The angles are cut off. You have to make adjustments.

"We had a holding penalty or two that hurt us. We have to stop making those kinds of mistakes and keep working on the running game."

Sperduto agreed that proper execution of plays was still a problem. With the same lineup from the previous game practicing this week for the first time, Sperduto plans to fine-tune many areas.

"We have to be a more disciplined team," Sperduto said. "We had the holding penalties. We had a couple of problems making blocks. We had a hard time playing zone defense.

"A lot of the problems are just a matter of playing together and getting familiar with what the other players on your team can do in certain situations. We need to find a cohesiveness."

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