Rhodes paved way for Cards victory with big plays

<b>ITV DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME</b> Safety Kerry Rhodes intercepted Kentucky quarterback Shane Boyd twice, including a momentum changing pick that he returned 56 yards to break the Wildcats spirits early in the second half.

University of Louisville starting safety Kerry Rhodes started his senior season with a bang against rival Kentucky last Sunday.

Playing before a record Papa John's Cardinal Stadium crowd and a national television audience, the 6'3, 210-pound Rhodes stole the show with two interceptions of Wildcat quarterback Shane Boyd, including one that he returned 56 yards to give the Cardinals a 14-0 lead early in the third quarter.

Ahead just 7-0 early in the second half, Rhodes interception return for a touchdown, according to Kentucky Head Coach Rich Brooks, was a crucial turning point in the game.

"I thought we had a chance at halftime," Brooks said. "I felt pretty good even though we hadn't produced much of anything on offense. We came out and got a decent kickoff return, got the easy field position and throw the interception up for a touchdown. I think that took whatever wind we had in our sails away from us."

Criticized for their poor performance late in the 2003 season, Rhodes said the teams off-season preparation and focus were the main reasons for Louisville's improved defensive performance.

"We prepared hard for the game and Coach Cassity got on us all summer," Rhodes said. "We have a common goal as a team and we went out there and swarmed to the ball like we practiced."

"We had to prove ourselves on the field and I think we did that against Kentucky," Rhodes continued. "We wanted to win and the defense was big. If we can make some plays on defense it will take some pressure off of our offense. Everyone will always remember today."

Rhodes said the shutout of their in-state rival will provide renewed confidence for a unit that took it's share of lumps last season.

"We're more experienced this year and we've all matured mentally since last season," Rhodes explained. "We came out and had a great game. This is a big confidence boost for us and we have to come out the same way every game and not get complacent."

Louisville, clearly focused on stopping Shane Boyd from running loose, succeeded in large part because of a swarming and relentless attack, holding the UK senior to just 17 net-yards rushing. According to Rhodes, stopping the fleet-footed Boyd required a team effort, and as evidenced by his two big picks, the safety was the beneficiary of Boyd's throwing miscues.

"He's a great athlete and we were able to contain him," Rhodes said. "We played hard, swarmed to the ball and made a lot of group tackles and that was the key to stopping them."

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