Here we are again, another season of college football! There is going to be a TON of material published this week regarding the 2012 Governor’s Cup between Louisville and Kentucky, and while games get started on Thursday throughout the nation and Cards and Cats won’t meet until 3:30 on Sunday. The Governor’s Cup time slot is the ONLY college football game in the country and will be the first of the day. This assures that the entire nation will be watching to see what College Football is all about in the Bluegrass. In this preview, I hope to go through each team and discuss how I think the game will play out. Last year I picked Louisville to win 17-13, but there was a little more scoring than I expected.
History of Governor’s Cup & Last Year Recap
Sunday’s game will mark the 25th Meeting between the Cards and Cats and the 19th consecutive match-up since the renewal of the series in 1994. Previous to 1994 the series was on hiatus after 1924 when Kentucky defeated Louisville 6 times without the Cards scoring. Upon renewal of the series Kentucky agreed to play Louisville on the condition that the game be held at Commonwealth Stadium until the Cards had a venue that could accommodate at least 40,000 fans. As a result, and the evident deterioration of (Old) Cardinal Stadium, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium was erected for the 1998 season. Currently the Cats hold the overall edge 14-10, with the Cards enjoying the most success in the modern series 10-8.
The Modern Day Scoring is Louisville 533 Kentucky 458. The All-Time Scoring is UK 668 to UofL 533 as a result of Louisville not scoring in the first 6 meetings. However, in order to put the proper perspective on the series I’m going to stick with some modern day facts. The average score has been Louisville 29.61 to UK 25.44, with an overall total of just over 55 and margin of 4.17 points per game. In fact, the last 3 games have been decided by an average of 6 points. The Cards have failed to hold home serve against the Cats in their previous two meetings at home falling 27-2 in 2008, and 23-16 in 2010. Louisville hasn’t beaten Kentucky in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium since 2006, and Kentucky has won 4 of the past 5 meetings.
However, the Cards were able to stop a 4-game losing streak last season in Lexington 24-17 despite losing starting Quarterback Will Stein very early in the game. In the end, it was Louisville’s ability to run the ball 181 yards on the ground to UK’s 35 that won the game for the Cards. Dominique Brown made the switch from QB to RB after the Cards fell to Florida International, and he broke out with 91 yards on 14 carries. Kentucky had a chance to tie the game in the 4th quarter when they had the ball in the redzone and actually looked like they would have converted a 3rd & 2 before UK’s DeMarco Robinson was stripped by Stephan Robinson. As a result the Cats had to go for a desperation 4th & 6 after the loss of yardage and Morgan Newton’s pass to La’Rod King fell incomplete. You can read my review of last year’s game with this link.
Here is a highlight video from our very own UofL fan contributor: CrumsRevenge
The Battle for the Governor’s Cup has so many other great moments. I’ve attended all but two games in the series since it began in 1994, but I’ll never forget the opening game for PJCS in 1998 when Tim Couch sent pass after pass over the heads of Louisville DBs to Craig Yeast and Company. It was hot. Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium was brand new, the concession stands ran out of water and the Cards went down 68-34. UofL would trade that beatdown for another a year later in 1999 for a 56-28 score in Lexington.
But then in 2000, after an hour and fourteen minute storm delay Louisville and Kentucky were able to resume in overtime. Tony Stallings broke off a 25-yard game sealing Touchdown run that capped off his 15 carry 144-yard and 2 Touchdown performance. Stallings run and Louisville’s win really overshadowed a HUGE freshman debut by Kentucky QB Jared Lorenzen who threw for 22-34 for 322 and 3 TDs, he also added 3 INTs as well.
In 2002, Louisville was #17 in the Associated Press Pre-season poll and was shocked at Home in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Louisville’s Offensive Line was no match for Kentucky’s Defensive line led by DeWayne Robertson and Jeremy Caudill, and Artose Pinner was a persistent runner for 28 carries, 87 yards and a TD. There wasn’t much pretty in this game for either team, but Jared Lorenzen was able to get his lone win (1-3 against the Cards) in a really hard fought game. Lorenzen would finish 13-27 for 195 yards and a TD as well. In contrast Dave Ragone was sacked and hit throughout the game and completed just 35.9% of his passes as he finished 14-39 for 193 yards with a TD and an INT. (if anyone has any good video of this game I’d love to see it. Please e-mail me CardsandCats2011@gmail.com).
From 2003 to 2006 the Cardinals dominated the series under the direction of Bobby Petrino. Kentucky coach Rich Brooks wasn’t able to defeat the Cards until after Petrino left the school for the Atlanta Falcons in 2007. Louisville went in to the 2003 game with a lot of questions: new coach in Bobby Petrino, new Quarterback, and questionable depth but the Cards were able to run the ball behind their new two-headed rushing attack in Lionel Gates (13 carries, 75 yards, TD) and Eric Shelton (25 carries, 151 yards, and 2 TDs). Lefors managed the game 14-23 for 180 yards 1 TD/1 INT. A thunderstorm also delayed this game but the moment that really should resonate in the minds of fans is that the Cards capped off the game’s final seconds up 33-24 with a last second Touchdown that drew the ire of Kentucky coach Rich Brooks.
There was much discussion on whether or not Bobby Petrino should have taken a knee during the 2003 game. In 2004 Bobby Petrino did take a knee on the UK 1-yard line for 4th down giving the Cats the ball back with 9 seconds remaining in a 28-0 loss. Louisville really dominated this game outgaining Kentucky 439-238 yards. Again the damage was done on the ground with the Cards having a 261-66 advantage. You can see some highlights including Bobby Petrino’s comments about taking a knee in the video below.
The 2005 game was unexpectedly interesting in the 4th quarter. Louisville was without Stefan Lefors and was starting sophomore QB Brian Brohm for his first full-time starting role with the Cards. The Cards raced off for a 28-7 halftime lead but the Cards would manage to score just 3 points in the 2nd half. In the 3rd quarter Rafael Little broke off a huge 52-yard rush that would set up a TD, and Andre Woodson would find Jacob Tamme for an 85-yard TD early in the 4th quarter. The game nearly was tied after UK blocked a Cardinal punt, but Andre Woodson fumbled the ball on the Louisville 2-yard line. Louisville responded with a ball-controlling possession that lasted the final 6:21 of the game basically running the ball with Michael Bush. Bush finished with 128 yards on 27 carries and two TDs. But the player of the game was Elvis Dumervil who had 11 tackles, 6 sacks, and two Forced Fumbles.
The 2006 win for Louisville was bittersweet. Louisville dominated as the pre-season #13 team in the nation and beat the Cats 59-28. The Cards scored on the 3rd play from scrimmage. The play is still etched into the minds of Cardinal fans and the moment is forever remembered in the photo below.
The rest of the game went much the same way for the Cards. Louisville outgained Kentucky 631-260, and had 31 first downs to Kentucky’s 8. But if Bush’s first carry for a 48-yard TD is a signature moment, then what happened early in the 3rd quarter is equally infamous. Bush took a carry for a 1-yard loss for his last as a Louisville Cardinal when Wesley Woodyard brought him down and Bush’s right leg was caught beneath Woodyard’s body. The win for Louisville was the last in the Governor’s Cup until the Cards were able to reclaim the trophy last year in 2011.
In 2007 Kentucky surprised college football with an upset of the AP’s #10 Louisville Cardinals. This game was one of the more exciting in the series and is affectionately known by Cat fans as “Stevie Got Loose”. The game was extremely well-matched as UofL held the yardage margin with 467-460 yards, and UK had the first down advantage 27-26. The Cards had two turnovers that was probably the difference along with Kentucky’s Rafael Little having an outstanding game on the ground with 151 yards on 27 carries. The loss for the Cards negated a HUGE game by Louisville’s Harry Douglas who caught 13 balls for 223 yards. The game’s final play saw Douglas catch a hail mary 10 yards short of the goal line. A play that was necessary considering Andre Woodson to Steve Johnson over a nowhere to be found Woodny Turenne. The game & play is considered a turning point in the series as Kentucky would find itself #7 in the BCS standings during the October 14th poll, and Louisville would fall a week later to Syracuse and would fall out of the polls until the 2012 AP pre-season poll.
When you have some classics you are also going to have a few duds….The 2008 Governor’s Cup was probably the most boring game ever witnessed by man. It was hot, and there was no offense. Compared to the 2007 game that saw a combined 927 yards, the 2008 contest was completely different with the two teams producing just 415 yards total (210 for UK, and 205 for UofL) and 16 combined punts. The Cards gave the Cats the advantage by giving up the ball 5 times, Hunter Cantwell threw 3 INTs and added a fumble, Bilal Powell also fumbled. Neither team was likely to score without the other making a mistake. Kentucky scored their first points on a FG after a punt from the UofL 3-yard line was returned 22 yards and put the Cats in immediate FG range. Bilal Powell’s fumble was returned for a Kentucky TD & Hunter Cantwell’s fumble was also returned for a UK TD. Kentucky did put together a legitimate 12-play scoring drive for a field goal, before Hunter Cantwell set up another TD for Kentucky when Trevard Lindley intercepted his pass and returned it to the Louisville 7-yard line. Tony Dixon would score on the next play.
The Cards managed to score their only points with a sack/safety by then walk-on Will Savoy. And UofL had few scoring opportunities getting into Kentucky scoring territory 4 times the entire game. The Cards had a FG blocked in the 1st quarter, then in the 2nd quarter Steve Kragthorpe elected to go for a 4th & 1 instead of attempting a 38-yard field goal while UK was winning 10-0. Kentucky got the win, their second in consecutive years. But this game was UGLY. Kentucky’s defense dominated as they made opportunities against Louisville’s offense.
2009 was a return to entertaining football. The game was balanced and was full of twists and turns. It started in the first quarter where after a Louisville TD to put the Cards up 7-3, Derrick Locke quickly answered with a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD. The Cats would take a 17-7 halftime lead. The Cards would hit two field goals in the 3rd quarter to pull within 17-13, but then the fireworks began to happen in an eventful 4th quarter. Two plays into the 4th the Cards capped a 10-play 69-yard drive to take the lead 20-17, and Kentucky answered right back with a 12-play 73 yard Touchdown drive of their own. Louisville then came right back and needed just two plays to find Trent Guy for a 66-yard TD to reclaim the lead 27-24.
The Cards would stop Kentucky with a little more than 5 minutes remaining in the game, but Trent Guy fumbled the punt return and Kentucky’s AJ Nance would recover at the Cardinal 25-yard line. Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb took just 3 plays to find the endzone and take the lead 31-27. The Cards had 4:28 to drive the field, but the Cats helped out with an unsportsmanlike penalty that moved the kickoff back to the 15 giving the Cards the ball at their own 40 to start the drive. Then the Cats helped UofL’s game winning drive again when Micah Johnson grabbed Victor Anderson’s facemask on the first play of the drive, stopping the clock and moving the ball into Louisville territory. The game was effective over when UK’s Sam Maxwell hauling in a Justin Burke tipped pass off of the hands of Corey Peters. The Cards would get the ball back after UK forced the Cards to use all of their timeouts while rushing for the next 3 plays before punting with just 50 seconds remaining. The last minute drive was unsuccessful for the Cards and the Governor’s Cup stayed in Lexington.
The 2009 Game stands out to me for a lot of reasons. Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb were awesome in this game. They basically did what they wanted and I felt like UK didn’t use them as often as they should have which kept the game closer. Locke was particularly impressive with 15 carries for 72 yards and a TD and also had 4 receptions for 47 yards. Also Terrence Simien lacerated his kidney during this game and was playing extremely well. This was also the post-game press conference where Steve Kragthorpe famously said of Trent Guy: “That guy is a freaking stud”. Following Guy’s 1 catch for 66 yard, and 5 kickoff returns for 170 yard performance and his fumbled punt that set up the Cat’s go-ahead score. In all the game was very closely matched Louisville had 19 first downs, Kentucky had 18. UofL had 378 yards and the Cats had 348.
The 2010 Governor’s Cup marked the beginning of the Joker Phillips and Charlie Strong era. Going into the game the Cats were believed to have the advantage having won the previous 3 match-ups, the staff essentially remaining in place with the elevation of Joker Phillips to Head Coach from Offensive Coordinator, Mike Hartline returning at quarterback, and Kentucky having been to 4 straight bowl games. Contrast that with Louisville who hadn’t been to a bowl in 3 years, had a complete overhaul of their staff, and did not have a sure-fire starting QB. The game ended up being pretty close, but it was the Locke and Cobb show once again as the Cats tallied 466 yards to the Cards 317 while pulling away to a 23-16 victory in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
The game got started out early for the Wildcats who caught the young Cardinal defense out of position on their first possession. Before the 1st quarter was over the Cats had a 13-0 lead on the Cards who could managed just one first down in the initial period. Derrick Locke was HUGE for the Cats in the first quarter and basically dominated for the first 15 minutes. The Cards were able to get on the board thanks to great field position by Victor Anderson’s 67-yard kickoff return that placed UofL in immediate scoring position. The Cards would not gain a first down, but did settle for a field goal.
After the 1st quarter domination from Derrick Locke it was Randall Cobb’s turn who proceeded to haul in a 51-yard TD run again catching the young Cardinal Defense out of position. On the day Cobb and Locke would account for 325 combined all-purpose yards. But that Cats would score just once more in the game, a Ryan Tydlacka 41-yard field goal which allowed Louisville a chance (if they could find some offense) to make a comeback. Unfortunately for the Cards in this contest, Touchdowns were hard to come by. In the 2nd quarter UofL settled for a FG following a 16-play, 8:08, 65 yard drive. The only Cardinal touchdown on the day was a 1-play, 80-yard TD run by Bilal Powell. Down 23-13 with 10:24 remaining in the game Louisville put together another long drive only to settle for a field goal in the end. Louisville’s final possession of 17-plays and 71 yards was efficient, but not for a team trailing by two scores. It simply took up too much time to score and the Cats were able to churn up the final 3:16 to end the game. (any good video of this game would also be appreciated).
Last Year Stat Comparison
Let’s take a look at the accumulated stats from 2011. I realize this is completely irrelevant to 2012, but in order to figure where you are going it’s important to know where you have been. Neither UofL or UK was particularly effective on the offensive side of the football in 2011, but it is amazing what 2 extra first downs will do for a football team. In the end the Cards could throw the ball much better than the Cats and UofL was 73 yards per game better than UK on offense and 49 yards per game better on defense. That’s a net 122 yard advantage from a year earlier.
|Scoring Offense (ppg)||21.9 (98th)||15.8 (117th)|
|Total Offense (ypg)||333.0 (103rd)||259.8 (118th)|
|Passing Offense (ypg)||211.5 (74th)||135.6 (114th)|
|Rushing Offense (ypg)||121.54 (93rd)||124.17 (90th)|
|Scoring Defense (ppg)||20.1 (17th)||24.7 (53rd)|
|Total Defense (ypg)||327.9 (23rd)||377.0 (58th)|
|Passing Defense (ypg)||227.4 (68th)||193.8 (21st)|
|Rushing Defense (ypg)||100.54 (10th)||183.17 (87th)|
|Punt Returns (ypr)||4.95 (102nd)||1.84 (119th)|
|Kickoff Returns (ypr)||23.59 (28th)||20.26 (86th)|
|Opponent Punt Returns (ypr)||0.54 (1st)||8.05 (64th)|
|Opponent Kickoff Returns (ypr)||24.78 (116th)||20.11 (32nd)|
|Punting (ypp)||37.31 (109th)||43.24 (25th)|
|Field Goals %||66.7 (70th)||85.7 (8th)|
|Opponent Field Goals (%)||58.8 (19th)||78.9 (96th)|
|First Downs (per game)||16.5 (107th)||14.2 (119th)|
|Opponent First Downs (per game)||17.7 (24th)||19.5 (50th)|
|Penalties (ypg)||56.5 (83rd)||40.2 (20th)|
|Turnover Margin (season)||-1 (66th)||+1 (49th)|
|Time of Possession||31:58.15 (20th)||23:38.17 (93rd)|
|Sacks (per game)||2.54 (19th)||1.67 (83)|
|Sacks Allowed (per game)||3.15 (112th)||2.92 (106th)|
|Tackles for Loss (per game)||7.08 (23rd)||5.33 (77th)|
|Tackles for Loss Allowed (per game)||7.46 (114th)||7.42 (113th)|
|Interceptions (season)||10 (73rd)||15 (23rd)|
|Passes Defended (per game)||3.38 (94th)||4.33 (56th)|
|Fumbles Recovered (season)||11 (50th)||10 (57th)|
|Fumbles Forced (season)||14 (38th)||9 (93rd)|
|Fumbles Lost (season)||9 (35th)||12 (72nd)|
|Kicks/Punts Blocked (season)||4 (16th)||2 (48th)|
|3rd Downs Conversions (%)||39.36% (75th)||28.98% (115th)|
|Opponent 3rd Down Conversions (%)||38.14% (49th)||39.66% (61st)|
|4th Down Conversions (%)||41.18% (98th)||39.13% (103rd)|
|Opponent 4th Down Conversions (%)||47.37% (41st)||40.0% (20th)|
|Red Zone Conversions (%)||83.78 (50th)||80.0 (74th)|
|Opponent Red Zone Conversions (%)||80.56 (54th)||77.78 (36th)|
|Kickoffs (ypk)||67.05 (8th)||65.18 (23rd)|
Louisville & Kentucky Position Previews
If you missed them last week here is a breakdown position by position for UofL & UK, just click the link for each position (obviously some information may have changed depending on the date it was published):
Louisville Running Backs
Louisville Offensive Line
Louisville Wide Receivers
Louisville Tight Ends
Louisville Defensive Ends
Louisville Defensive Tackles
Louisville Safeties + Nickel
Kentucky Running Backs
Kentucky Offensive Line
Kentucky Wide Receivers
Kentucky Tight Ends
Kentucky Defensive Ends
Kentucky Defensive Tackles
Louisville Offense vs. Kentucky Defense
When Louisville Passes
Louisville Offense will be led by Sophomore QB Teddy Bridgewater. Teddy finished his True Freshman season with 2129 yards and completed 64.5% of his passes. His 2129 yards passed the all-time freshman mark for UofL which Chris Redman set in 1996 with 1773 yards. Bridgewater accomplished this behind an offensive line that struggled to come together until late in the season and with a QB turned RB midseason Dominique Brown at running back. Also Bridgewater’s top two targets were also freshman in 2011 with Eli Rogers and Michaelee Harris catching 78 balls for 999 yards and 3 TDs. Teddy spread the ball around as well and with Michaelee Harris’ newest knee injury, Bridgewater will be without 4 of his 5 top receiving targets from 2011 in 2012 (Harris-injured; Chichester, Anderson, and Bellamy-graduated).
Normally missing 4 of your 5 receivers from a year before would be a major cause for concern, but everyone within the program was eager to get the ball more often to DeVante Parker and Andrell Smith really limped through 2011. Also Damian Copeland has been injured since he has been here and has been walking around with a certain swagger that he knows he is about to finally get to make an impact. Charles Gaines is one of the fastest players on the team and recently moved to WR and has the ability to play outside or inside and can be used long or deep. Scott Radcliff & Eli Rogers are likely going to split time in the slot, Radcliff was slowed by a minor MCL sprain during fall camp, but he seems fine now and is actually ahead of Rogers on the depth chart. At tight end the Cards are likely going to use a lot of Nate Nord, Ryan Hubbell and Chris White. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hunter Bowles play some, but not this early in the year.
Kentucky’s passing defense was very good last season finishing 21st in the nation. But the Cats are losing both starting cornerbacks from last year and Marcus Caffey, who was expected to be one of the two main replacements, was ruled ineligible at the start of Fall Camp. The good news for UK is that Caffey was ruled ineligible several weeks ago, which game them time to adjust. The answer was to move Martavius Neloms from safety to corner to play opposite Cartier Rice. As long as Rice and Neloms are out there for UK, the Cats should be fine on the outside. Both are capable players and Neloms is UK’s leading returning tackler from 2011. The problem is that there is almost no experience behind them and Joker Phillips has said that the Cats will rely on freshman to provide depth because, “that’s what we have”.
The Safety position is a little more encouraging if you are UK. The Cats do lose Winston Guy (Seattle Seahawks) but guys like Miles Simpson, Dakotah Tyler, Mikie Benton, and Ashley Lowery gave coach Phillips the confidence to move Neloms from Safety to Corner. The position is a little thin with Glenn Faulkner out an additional 5-7 weeks following ankle surgery.
I think when Louisville goes to pass the ball the Cards are at an advantage. But Kentucky can take some of that away by forcing Bridgewater to throw the ball early. Teddy’s biggest weapon is the deep ball, so I expect the Cats to test Louisville’s Offensive Line that gave up so much pressure a year before and force Teddy to make quick/short throws and allow their safeties and linebackers to make plays behind them. Kentucky Defensive Coordinator Rick Minter is known for his blitzing style anyway, and I don’t think that changes in this game at all.
Louisville will probably try and combat Kentucky’s pressure with a lot of misdirection, screens, and short throws to the slot and tight ends to keep the Cats off balance and out of the backfield. But I don’t expect Louisville will immediately give up on the deep ball either. Because Kentucky’s main two Corners are really the only experienced players at that position I think DeVante Parker, Andrell Smith, and Charles Gaines run a lot of deep patterns to test their fitness while rotating new receivers in. These deep patterns, even if Teddy doesn’t deliver the football to them will open up the outside of the running game (I’ll get to this later) and will pay dividends for the Cards in the 4th quarter if necessary. Especially if Louisville can maintain long drives. The key for UofL will be making the Cats pay with the deep ball, that will ensure that the 8-12 yard middle routes are open and if that happens it’s going to be a long day for the Cats.
UK’s best chance to win the passing game battle against Louisville’s offense is to get in the backfield, bat down balls, and wait for a mistake. Kentucky’s defensive tackles will move the pocket for Teddy Bridgewater, but Bridgewater is very deft at moving while keeping his eyes downfield. The worst thing Kentucky can do in this scenario is to get beat deep. I also think UofL will work their running backs intot the passing game quite a bit with angle routes, screens, and checkdowns. Louisville certainly has an advantage in the passing game.
When Louisville Runs
Kentucky’s strength on defense is their interior defensive line and their linebackers. Inside for the Cats Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble are sitting on big seasons and there is no reason to think many teams will attempt to just plow through the middle with those two in the game. As a result, Louisville will probably try and go around them or catch them with counters. Louisville also really likes to pull their guards in the running game. This is important because when you get outside your cornerbacks have to make a play. First they have to beat their block, and then they either must take on another blocker or make the tackle. I don’t think Louisville is going to allow UK’s corners to play very far up on the line of scrimmage so there should be room on the outside. Especially when UK blitzes with one of their OLBs.
Rumph and Cobble can’t play every snap, when one or both of these guys go out I think Louisville tries to test them inside with their offensive line of Jamon Brown, Jake Smith, Mario Benavides, John Miller, and Alex Kupper. I’m not really sold on any of UK’s defensive ends, but Collins Ukwu and Taylor Wyndham do play really nice assignment football. I just wouldn’t consider them game-changers. There is also little proven depth behind the first unit, but the ends just need to play gap control defense and let their linebackers bring down the ball carriers. Avery Williamson, Bud Dupree will be the two main culprits here. Malcolm McDuffen looks like he will be beaten out by former QB Tyler Brause, but I’d still expect McDuffen to see the field.
Charlie Strong likes to run the ball. And Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson has a nice stable of backs to carry the ball for him all with a little different skill set. My bet is Dominique Brown and Jeremy Wright will probably see 30-35 carries between the two of them. Dominique Brown is BIG and fast. Brown is an absolute chore for anyone to bring down and he has been able to work on playing RB for an entire off-season. Jeremy Wright is the most all-around back the Cards have, but he has had a tendency to fumble in the past. Wright runs very similar to the style of Bilal Powell and has great top end speed. Where Brown can run through a defender Wright is trying to find a way around them. Both are decent pass blockers and very good at catching balls out of the backfield. I think Senorise Perry will get 5 very specialized carries in the game. I don’t think Perry runs inside at all, but he could also be a threat in the passing game as well. Perry is FAST and will also play a major factor in special teams. Corvin Lamb and Brandon Radcliff have been dinged up recently. I don’t expect to see Radcliff at all, but Lamb could be used in a Percy Harvin-type role.
Louisville’s running game should be able to move the ball, but there isn’t a decided advantage here. The main thing for Kentucky is to not let UofL run the ball outside. The Cats have to keep the Louisville running backs between the tackles so as to not get them in the secondary.
On Offense Louisville is going to be balanced. Charlie Strong believes in a strong running game, and he also has one of the best quarterbacks in college football. I look for the Cards to take what the Cats give them and move the chains methodically. But 2nd and short is where Kentucky needs to be careful as that is when UofL will take their shots. The best thing Kentucky can do is create problems on first down and pressure Louisville on 2nd down. I know Shawn Watson wants to be more aggressive this season, but Rick Minter is going to be sending guys into his backfield to try and get some negative yardage plays or to create mistakes that cause turnovers. Teddy Bridgewater is excellent at escaping the pocket and I really think it’s that ability that makes the difference in the game. I think Teddy is able to move away from the pressure and make plays enough that it causes Minter to ease up on the blitz and then when that happens I think Louisville strikes.
Kentucky Offense vs. Louisville Defense
When Kentucky Passes
Kentucky used 3 QBs last season, and one was a Wide Receiver. Max Smith took over for Morgan Newton late in the year due to inadequate play and injuries. Some might blame Newton’s injuries on his poor play in 2011, but nevertheless the offense looked markedly better with Max Smith at the signals than it did with Newton. As a result, Max Smith will be the starter against Louisville and he will look to improve his 54.9% completion percentage in 2012. To compare starting quarterbacks for UofL and UK really quickly, Max Smith was a redshirt freshman and Teddy Bridgewater was a true freshman in 2011. Bridgewater completed 64.5% of his passes compared to 54.9% for Smith, Bridgewater’s 11.14 yards per completion & 7.19 yards per attempt were better than Smith’s 9.75 yards per completion & Smith 5.35 yards per attempt. So not only was Bridgewater’s completion percentage higher, he also got more bang for his buck when he connected in the passing game and each time he dropped back to pass as well.
However, Kentucky was 114th in Passing Offense for more reasons than its Quarterback in 2011. The UK offensive line allowed 2.92 sacks per game (106th), and the Kentucky receivers also dropped several balls in each game that doomed the passing game for the Cats throughout the season. Players like La’Rod King, Daryl Collins, and DeMarco Robinson are finally healthy. I believe these three will be the main core group of receivers for the Cats in 2012, but other guys like EJ Fields and Gene McCaskill have experience and need to help fill the void. Personally I think DeMarcus Sweat may factor into the wide receiver rotation as well. I found it interesting that UK’s depth chart lists King and Robinson at the same position, and it was also interesting seeing EJ Fields, who had his best game against Louisville last season back atop the depth chart. I think this is a little gamesmanship though.
But the group that can’t be ignored is the tight ends. Anthony Kendrick was just ruled ineligible, and that’s a shame for him, but the tight end position is the one place where the Cats could afford some attrition and not have to worry about a drop in production. Tyler Robinson will likely be the main tight end. Robinson is a good blocker, and a very good pass catcher as well, in the Blue/White game he did his best “Gronk” impersonation and was tough to bring to the ground. Behind Robinson is Ronnie Shields & Jordan Aumiller. Aumiller is definitely going to be a factor blocking, whereas Shields will be more of a pass catcher. There isn’t much drop off between these three all are effective.
When Max Smith drops in the pocket to pass the Cardinal defense will be doing everything possible to get into the backfield. One of the reasons why Louisville’s defense has finished the past two seasons in the Top 25 is because of their pressure. The Cards are multiple on defense, they run a base 4-3, nickel, 3-3-5, sometimes dime, and they will sometimes play strange combinations of players in these formations as well. In 3rd and Long situations Vance Bedford elects to use a DE on the inside of a 3-3-5, for example. It’s UofL’s willingness to take chances and confuse their opponent with these different alignments, blitzes, stunts, and coverages that makes it so hard for an offense to get settled.
But last year the Cards were just 68th in passing defense. Partly this is because teams found it difficult to run the ball on the Cards and would abandon much of their ground game. But it also had a great deal to do with Louisville replacing both starting corners at the beginning of the season and a safety mid-year. The Cards, however, return completely intact in the secondary and are led by All-Big East Safety Hakeem Smith. Smith teams up with sophomore Calvin Pryor at the safety position. Both of these safeties are sure tacklers and are a huge part of the run defense, but in terms of passing defense much of what they do depends on what coverage type UofL is in. On the outside Adrian Bushell, Terrell Floyd, and Andrew Johnson will be the 3 primary Cornerbacks the Cats will have to deal with, and Stephan Robinson will likely play as well. Bushell transferred to the Cards right in the middle of Fall Camp, while Floyd & Johnson were true freshman in 2011. Also Stephan Robinson switches back and forth between CB and WR so often it is hard to keep it straight.
La’Rod King can go wherever. He can work the sideline and can go over the middle and he is sure handed when the ball arrives. King gives Kentucky an opportunity to make a play when he is on the field. Last year King was the primary focus of every defense and this year defense’s will pay if they pay too much attention to King. DeMarco Robinson gives UK another player who can really do it all. Robinson is not a big receiver by any stretch of the imagination, but he is fast and has the ability to make the deep catch, or take the short one the length of the field while weaving through traffic. Daryl Collins isn’t on the same level in terms of play making as King or Robinson but he is dependable. Mix in the tight ends and the Cardinal defense will be busy. Louisville will bring pressure and there will be room in the passing game, the key here is whether or not UK’s offensive line gives Max Smith time enough to make the play. Louisville has not shown a real ability the past two years to make interceptions, but they are excellent at knocking the ball out of a receivers hands and making them pay for catches.
When Kentucky Runs
Kentucky’s rushing offense was 90th in the nation in 2011. Much of the reason why Kentucky’s running game was so ineffective is because of the lack of a threat from the passing game. Also, Kentucky’s running back situation in 2011 was a MASH unit as I don’t think anyone was fully healthy after the first 3 games. Unfortunately for UK Josh Clemons will miss the Louisville game after having his knee scoped but should be back in a few weeks. But CoShik Williams was the likely starter at Running Back anyway as he has taken the most reps with the #1 unit since fall camp opened and is Kentucky’s returning leading rusher. Williams isn’t the biggest back in the world, but he is effective.
Behind Williams is junior running back Raymond Sanders. Sanders enters his 3rd year after never really living up to expectations thus far in his career. But Sanders has ability, the key for him is staying in the good graces of the coaching staff as he played in just 6 games in 2011 finishing with just 40 carries for 171 yards. Challenging for carries is Dy’Shawn Mobley who is a true freshman for the Cats. Mobley is a big back at 223 pounds, and he’s STRONG as he can reportedly deadlift 700+ pounds. Mobley has the body to produce and is an instinctive runner after rushing for 3068 yards and 48 TDs as a SENIOR in high school.
Meanwhile Louisville’s Rushing Defense finished #10 in the nation after 2011. The Cards allowed just 100.54 yards per game including just 35 yards against the Cats in 2011. For the most part the main pieces from UK’s rushing game and UofL’s run defense are the same from a year before as the Cards lose just 3 players off last year’s defense, and Gregg Scruggs only played about 10-12 snaps against the Cats. Also last year, in the final 3 games of the season the Cards gave up just an average of 68.3 yards per game. So combine UK’s uncertain running game with Louisville’s run defense and it’s tough to imagine Kentucky being able to get much running room around Louisville’s front seven. The main guys looking to stop the Cats will be DTs Brandon Dunn & Roy Philon, DEs BJ Dubose & Marcus Smith, and the Linebackers Preston Brown, Daniel Brown, and either Keith Brown or George Durant.
In my opinion Kentucky’s offense has the best chance to move the ball through the air. Max Smith in limited opportunities made the offense better in 2010. Without a deep stable of proven running backs against a formidable run defense, I’d take my chances through the air. If I were Joker Phillips I would spread out the Cardinal Defense as much as possible to expose the pressure pre-snap and try to create space in the passing game. Receivers can not afford to drop balls, and I think UK would be best to try and hit on some underneath 6-7 yard routes or throw over the pressure in the space vacated to try and make a big play. I don’t believe UK is going to be able to sustain drives longer than 7-8 plays, so it will be key for the Cats to try and score quickly.
Kentucky was one of the worst offenses in 2011 and Louisville finished as a Top 25 defense. The Cards lose just 3 players from a year before, 2 of which were healthy enough to play a solid amount of snaps. I think Kentucky’s offense is much improved from a year earlier, but I just can’t make the leap right now to say that they have turned the corner enough to make me believe that they will give the Cardinal Defense much problems on Sunday.
Special Teams & Rule Changes
Rule changes on Kickoff will likely play a big role in all of college football in 2012.
-Kickoffs will now happen at the 35, touchbacks from kickoffs will be brought out the the 25. The kickoff team may have just a 5-yard head start.
-Touchbacks from Punts or fumbles will be brought out to the 20.
-Onside kicks with just one bounce will still be allowed for fair catches.
-Players inside the tackles at the snap can block below the waist without restriction, but players outside of the tackles at snap are prohibited from making blocks below the waist unless they are straight ahead.
-Any player who loses their helmet must come off the field for the next play, unless from a facemask penalty.
-Lastly, on punts the Receiving-team may not attempt to leap over blockers in an attempt to block the punt.
The rule changes are probably going to cause some confusion in the stands for the average person. But from a competitive standpoint, I think the 35-yard kickoff rule will result in more touchbacks with teams who do not have great coverage ability on kickoff. But bringing the ball out to the 25-yard line is quite a penalty for kicking the ball into the endzone. I think a lot of teams will instruct their kickers to hang the ball really high and attempt to get the ball inside the 5 and try and limit the return as much as possible. The only thing I can see that will affect the season is the new on-side kick rule which takes a really low percentage play, even lower. Having to bounce the ball twice on the ground to avoid a fair-catch takes away the ole “drive the ball into the ground” kick that we’ve seen for the past 20 years. We will instead probably see a lot of experiments and different takes on how to properly deal with this in late game situations, but regardless the advantage is going to be on the receiving team.
For the Governor’s Cup Louisville is replacing both their punter and kicker, while UK is replacing just their punter. This is crucial information if you believe the game will be close as the Cats will likely have the edge in terms of poise. Kentucky’s Craig McIntosh is a very accurate kicker and finished last season 12-14, including 6 of 7 past 30 yards. Louisville is still undecided between redshirt freshman John Wallace or sophomore Matt Nakatani. Wallace is on scholarship from Central Hardin HS and I heard he suffered a small injury, but I have been unable to verfiy it. Nakatani, is the son of Horse Jockey Corey Nakatani has been working extremely hard to win the job and wants the responsibility. I’ve seen both players kick and I think Wallace might have the edge in terms of range, but both are accurate enough to win the job. The thing no one can measure is how well they do when the lights go on?
The punter situation is the same for both teams. Landon Foster is a true freshman from Thompson’s Station, TN and was rated as a Top 10 kicker coming out of high school. The Cats put Foster on scholarship and he has a growing reputation as someone who can really put his leg into the football. For the Cards, Joshua Appleby was also a highly regarded leg coming out of high school and I witnessed him put several huge shots into the air. The key here isn’t who has the ability, but whether or not both of these true freshman thrive under the bright new lights of college football. These guys will be fine, but the best thing if you are UK or UofL is to not punt so you don’t have to worry about it. But I think we’ll see these two go under fire plenty on Sunday.
I’m really interested to see how much kick returning really gets a chance on Sunday. To me, there really isn’t much of a reason to risk a big return if you can get the ball on the 25 guaranteed. Then again, if you can punch the ball high in the air and cover it might make sense. I think Louisville has some serious weapons at the kick return spot in Adrian Bushell, Jeremy Wright, Stephan Robinson, and Charles Gaines but I also think it would be wise to avoid them. For the Cats CoShik Williams & Raymond Sanders are listed at the top of the kickoff returners depth chart, I was surprised to not see DeMarco Robinson there as I thought he might pull double duty returning kickoffs and punts in an effort to get the ball in his hands as much as possible. But Robinson is the main guy at Punt Return. In the punt return department neither team really factored much in returning balls in 2011 both finishing past 100 in the rankings (102nd for UofL, 119th for UK), but the Cards did lead the nation in punt return defense last year while Kentucky finished 64th.
Breaking this game down it’s hard to not like the Cards. I feel like UofL has an advantage in most areas but they are vulnerable to the pass and they probably will have some trouble with Kentucky’s interior defensive lineman. On offense Louisville’s playmakers of Teddy Bridgewater, Dominique Brown, DeVante Parker, and Charles Gaines simply outshine that of Max Smith, CoShik Williams, La’Rod King, and DeMarco Robinson. But if the Cats do beat Louisville on Sunday it’s because of the 4 guys mentioned above, particularly King and Robinson.
As Offense/Defense match-ups are concerned, you have to like Louisville’s match-ups with Kentucky on paper. But I don’t think things are as far away from what some people think either. Simply put, I think this Kentucky team has a roster that could be something special down the road. I just think they are 1-2 years away from really showcasing that potential throughout an entire season. A great example of this is last year’s Louisville team going on the road to beat a tough West Virginia team. And you can never discount anyone in a rivalry game.
That said, Louisville is the better team in 2012. The Cards are light at one position compared to Kentucky: Tight End. And while that position surely will impact the game, it won’t turn the tables. The game is at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and Charlie Strong has made winning at home a point of emphasis this off-season. This group of Wildcats seems to have a good attitude and is forming its foundation, but I can’t pick Kentucky here:
Louisville 30-Kentucky 13
-The Governor’s Cup was donated by Kroger at a cost of $23,000 and weighs 110 pounds and is 33 inches tall.
-The Cup is made of hand milled black marble, optic-grade crystal, and 23-karat gold-plated brass.
-Kroger donates $10,000 to each school, each year the game is played. ($380,000 since 1994).
-Louisville hasn’t played a school from the SEC outside of Kentucky since 1993 (loss to Tennessee).
-Charlie Strong & Joker Phillips coached together at South Carolina in 2002, along with UofL assistants Pat Moorer and Brian Jean-Mary
-Phillips also coached with UofL O-Line coach Dave Borbely at Notre Dame in 2001.
-UofL Tight End Nate Nord is the nephew of UK (and former UofL) assistant Greg Nord.
-Louisville returns 18 starters from a year ago. Kentucky returns 11.
-Kentucky has won their opening game of the season for the past 5 seasons and has also won their first 2 games of every season since 2007.
-Louisville hasn’t won their first two games on the season since 2007.
-Louisville has LOST its first FBS game of the season for 4 consecutive seasons: 2008: Kentucky, 2009: Kentucky, 2010 Kentucky, 2011: FIU
-Louisville’s Home Record under Charlie Strong is 6-7 overall and just 3-5 vs. BCS teams.
-When the Cards win the Governor’s Cup their season record average is 8.7-3.5 (87-35). When the Cards lose the Governor’s Cup their average record is 5.38-6.63 (43-53).
-When the Cats win the Governor’s Cup their season record average 6.0-6.25 (48-50) and when the Cats lose the Governor’s Cup their season record average is 4.0-7.5 (40-75).
-Kentucky is 8-1 under Joker Phillips when the Cats win the turnover battle.
-The last time either team played a game on September 2nd was in 2000 when Louisville prevailed in overtime 40-34 after a lengthy storm delay. The two teams also met in 1995 on September 2nd where Louisville also won 13-10. Total margin of victory in games on September 2nd is 9, average of 4.5. The two Govenor’s Cup match-ups are the only September 2nd games in Kentucky Football history making them 0-2 on the date. Louisville, however, has also played Wyoming in 1989 (28-21 W) and is 3-0 on 9/2.
-Louisville hosts FCS next week. Kentucky opens their home slate against Kent State next week. The game will also be “Heroes Day” in Lexington that will honor law enforcement and servicemen.
-The Cards are 36-18 vs. non-conference opponents since 2002.
-Louisville is 11-30-1 all-time against members of the SEC, but hasn’t played anyone outside of UK since 1993.
-This is Kentucky 122nd season of football, the Wildcats’ record in season openers is 83-33-5. Away from home in season openers the Cats are just 13-17-1
Attending Watching Listening:
-The game will be Broadcast at 3:30 on ESPN. Carter Blackburn & Rod Gilmore will be in the booth.
-On Radio the Governor’s Cup will be broadcast on 840 WHAS, Sirius Channel 91 & 94, XM Channel 91 & 199. Game will also be on the IMG Sports Network, you can find your local affiliate in the link.
-The Game is sold-out through the box office.
-CARDMARCH will be around 12:45 in the Green Lot of PJCS.
-The CATWALK will likely happen around 12:45 in the Northeast corner of PJCS.
-UK Alumni Tailgate for Louisville Game: Join UK alumni and friends for some pregame fun as the Wildcats kickoff the 2012 football season against the University of Louisville Cardinals at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville on Sept. 2. The pregame tailgate event begins at 12:30 p.m. at Churchill Downs lots 6 and 7, outside gate 17. Parking is free and the event location is just a short walk to the stadium.
Admission is $5 for students, $10 for UK Alumni Association members and $15 for nonmembers. Cost includes a catered lunch from Mark’s Feed Store featuring barbeque, side items, tea and water. The UK band and cheerleaders will also be making a special appearance.
To make reservations for this and other UK Alumni Association tailgate events, visit www.ukalumni.net/tailgate2012. For questions regarding this event, contact Jill Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org, 859-257-8906 or 1-800-269-ALUM.
In rivalries, sometimes tempers can run a little hot. Nothing exemplifies that more than when two Senior Citizens got into fisticuffs at a dialysis clinic before April’s Final Four match-up between the two schools in basketball. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of taunting and verbal back and forth from both sides. The occasional physical conflict is rare, but in an effort to head this off before hand let’s just say this:
The Governor’s Cup is a celebration of football within the state. You may hate UK or UofL, but it is reasonable to assume that if you hate one side you probably love the other. So if you love your school, then represent your school.
Unfortunately, there have been some incidents. Last year some misguided fan decided to bring a whistle to the game and blew it during play. The real problem with that type of narcissistic behavior is that 70,000 people didn’t show up to watch some guy make a clown out of himself. They went there to watch a well-matched football game. The problem with this is multi-pronged. First, when you blow a whistle you could get someone seriously hurt. Secondly, on the play in question TE Stephon Ball was wide open and had his football career ended shortly after the game last year. Thirdly, it’s just a dumb thing to do. The game isn’t about you.
Two years ago, a fan named David Baker vandalized nearly 40 cars with tire slashing and carving racial slurs & “UK Wins” on cars parked on UofL’s campus during the 2010 Governor’s Cup. Baker also vandalized vehicles in the same manner near Ballard High School and Holiday Manor shopping center. Clearly this is not the type of behavior anyone needs. Respect yourself, respect others, respect property.
There are some really great examples of people who know how to treat a visitor. Take for example my story on Ray Roberts who for about the 6th Governor’s Cup in a row has welcomed this Louisville fan to his Kentucky tailgate. It’s always a great time tailgating with a good group of rival fans who are there to enjoy each other, talk objectively about the game and are willing to shake hands and share a beer afterwards.
Weekly Press Conference Videos
(Joker Phillips and UK player videos will be added shortly….technical difficulties.)
This entry will be updated with new information as it becomes available.