KENTUCKY vs. LOUISVILLE
When: Saturday, Noon ET
Where: Louisville, KY. • Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium (55,000)
Record: 5-6, 2-6 Southeastern Conference
Ranking: Not ranked
Last game: L, at Tennessee 50-16
Coach: Mark Stoops (Iowa, 1989)
Record: 7-16 (Second season)
at UK: 7-16 (Second season)
vs. UL: 0-1
Record: 8-3, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference
Ranking: No. 24 AP; No. 23 Coaches
Last game: W, 31-28 at Notre Dame
Coach: Bobby Petrino (Carroll College, 1983)
Record: 91-33 (10th season)
at UL: 49-12 (Fifth season)
vs. UK: 5-1
Overall: Kentucky leads the series, 14-12
In Louisville: Kentucky leads the series 6-4
Last meeting: UL 27-13 in Lexington (Sept. 14, 2013)
BIG BLUE KEYS TO THE GAME:
When Kentucky has the ball… The Cats will be facing the nation’s No. 7 total defense unit on Saturday. Louisville is allowing only 290.2 yards per game, so UK must capitalize on every opportunity it gets and play its cleanest game of the year from a turnover and penalty standpoint. Remember, almost every Governor’s Cup winner has been the team that rushes for the highest figure, so it could take an “ugly” game for the Cats to pull the upset. Getting “behind the chains” is a kiss of death against the Cards, who feast on putting opposing offenses in second- and third-and-long situations. Louisville leads the nation in interceptions with 23, including 13 by junior safety Gerod Holliman (No. 8) who needs only one more pick to tie an NCAA record for a single season. Kentucky sophomore quarterback Patrick Towles (No. 14, 2,542 yards, 14 TD, 7 INT) will have to find the balance between being aggressive down the field and not trying to force the ball into tight spaces.
When Louisville has the ball… Louisville has not featured a typical Bobby Petrino offense (No. 76 nationally) this season, especially at the quarterback position, where the Cards lost starter Will Gardner to a knee injury and were forced to replace him with freshman Reggie Bonnafon (No. 7, 842 yards passing, 52% completion rate). The former Trinity standout helped lead UofL to wins over Boston College and Notre Dame, but has been inconsistent throwing the ball down the field. The biggest concern for the Cats may be his dual-threat running ability. He has rushed for more than 300 yards (prior to net losses via sacks) and five touchdowns. UK’s defensive ends must be disciplined enough to keep containment on him while remaining aggressive enough to get a solid pass rush throughout the day. All of that could be moot, however, if the Cats don’t do a better job in the front seven against UofL tailback Michael Dyer (No. 5, 475 yards, 4.6 average, 4 TD) and the rest of the Cards’ backs. Petrino has been more than willing to play smashmouth football with this year’s team.
Senior defensive end Bud Dupree has 22.5 career sacks, needing 3.5 more to tie for the most all-time in school history with Oliver Barnett (1986-89). … Senior wide receiver Demarco Robinson has 969 career receiving yards, needing just 31 more to become the 24th player in UK history to record 1,000 receiving yards. … Sophomore wide receiver Ryan Timmons has 874 career receiving yards, needing 126 more to become the 24th or 25th player in UK history to record over 1,00 career receiving yards.
ON THIS DAY IN UK HISTORY:
On Nov. 29, 1928, Kentucky and Tennessee, playing as members of the Southern Conference, played to a scoreless tie in Knoxville. UK prevented UT coach Robert Neyland from posting a 10-0 season in the “Battle for The Beer Barrel.” It is one of nine ties between the Cats and Vols, one of five that ended 0-0.
• This marks the first time that Kentucky and Louisville have played in the regular season finale.
• The Governor’s Cup was created in 1994 as the trophy for the winner of the Kentucky-Louisville game. Donated by The Kroger Company at a cost of $23,000, the Governor’s Cup stands 33 inches tall and weighs 110 pounds.
• Kentucky has 10 players on its 2014 roster from the city of Louisville: sophomore defensive end Jason Hatcher (Trinity), junior cornerback Rodney Cox (duPont Manual), freshman cornerback Keron Wakefield (duPont Manual), freshman tight end Thaddeus Kazunas (Trinity), freshman tight end James Campbell (Trinity), sophomore kicker Max Strong (Trinity), sophomore tight end Tanner Fink (North Oldham), senior offensive lineman Max Godby (Christian Academy of Louisville), freshman wide receiver Miles Thompson(duPont Manual) and freshman wide receiver Charles Walker (St. Xavier).
• Nine of UK’s 12 opponents have been ranked or receiving votes in AP poll at some point this season.