GAME WEEK NOTEBOOK

Starting center Will Rabatin is expected to return to practice today. Also, notes on the defense, special teams and Shane Boyd included.

Projected starting center Will Rabatin is expected to return to practice this afternoon.

Rabatin, who has missed the past two weeks because of a slight knee injury, actually returned to the practice field late last week, though he didn't participate in contact drills.

"We're fairly healthy," Petrino said Monday afternoon. "Will Rabatin would be the one guy that's missed some practice."

"Will worked three days toward the end of last week as far as the movement and agility things and he should be back full go on Tuesday," Petrino explained. "We'll just have to see how ready he is to play."

If Rabatin isn't able to play in the opener against Kentucky, 6'4, 300-pound Jason Spitz is expected to slide over from his guard position to center. That move could also force starting tackle Travis Leffew to move to guard and elevate junior college transfer Jeremy Darveau from the second team to take Leffew's slot at tackle.

"How Will's health is will probably determine whether or not Jason Spitz plays guard or center [against Kentucky]."

U of L DEFENSE VS. UK OFFENSE KEY TO GAME

Bobby Petrino believes his troops are prepared to handle being the favorite this Sunday.

"It's different this year because last season we were the underdog going into the game," Petrino said. "This year it's changed but we have a lot of players coming back and I think they've done a nice job of concentrating during practice."

"We've still got to see how we handle the pressure," Petrino continued. "I know the players are excited about the game. I think it's going to be a really good game."

With several starters returning from a defense that improved as last season progressed, Petrino predicted Kentucky's defense would present a challenge for his touted offensive unit.

"As I watched Kentucky's defense and how much they improved week in and week out last year and all those guys are back, I think it's a great challenge for our offense," Petrino said. "It will be a real good battle. They've got guys who can make plays and so do we."

"The unknowns might be exactly how their offense and our defense matchup," Petrino continued. "And that might determine the outcome of the game."

Petrino said eliminating defensive mistakes and being able to make tackles and get off blocks will be vital to stopping Kentucky's offensive attack, led by quarterback Shane Boyd.

"What I've been looking at from our defense is how we've been tackling, how we're getting off blocks, and whether or not everybody is running full speed to the ball," explained Petrino. "We're trying to get all eleven guys commited to each other and running to the ball and then we'll be a better defense."

"We've got to eliminate the missed tackles and get a pass rush," Petrino continued. "I think the players understand what Coach Cassity wants and we're continuing to work on being better [fundamental] players."

CARDS MUST STOP BOYD TO WIN

Shane Boyd has been around the block. Now he'll have his opportunity after sitting behind Jared Lorenzon to prove he can lead Kentucky to victory.

Boyd, who was picked off in last season's game by cornerback Gavin Smart, has been prone to make mistakes, especially with his arm. Given that fact, Petrino expects Kentucky to run some option and give Boyd, a gifted runner, an opportunity to make plays.

"Shane is a tremendous athlete," Petrino said. "We're very worried about being able to tackle him and taking the running ability away from him."

How well the U of L defense fairs against Boyd's ability to run will likely go a long way in determining the outcome of the game.

"I thought last year they did an excellent job of having different schemes each week for him as the main runner," Petrino explained. "We know they're going to run some option and when they do it will come down to our guys taking care of their responsibilities and being discplined on every play."

PETRINO CONCERNED WITH SPECIAL TEAMS

Though Louisville figures to be strong with Broderick Clark returning kicks and Montrell Jones returning punts, Petrino expressed concern with his coverage teams yesterday.

"The kicking game is a concern of mine," Petrino admitted. "How we're going to cover is a concern. We're going to play young guys on some of the coverage teams and you always worry about them in their first game when there's a large crowd."

Petrino feels punter Brent Moody and kicker Art Carmody will handle the responsibilities well.

"I like our punter and our kicker," said Petrino. "I think we'll be OK there."

And though Richard Owens, who was the long snapper last season, has departed, Petrino feels he's got good help coming in from the junior college ranks.

"I'm really happy with our long snappers," Petrino said. "Matt Webb, a young man that we used a scholarship on out of a junior college in Arizona has done a nice job. He's had live bullets shot at him and I think he'll be able to handle the pressure."


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