Cards focused on 'Cats, not press-clippings

No. 12 Louisville is set to open the 2005 season on the road against Kentucky this afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. The Cardinals have won five of the last six game in the series and a win today over the Wildcats would be their third straight.

The question facing No. 12 Louisville today isn't whether or not they should beat rival Kentucky. They should.

Instead, Bobby Petrino's troops must prove that they can put the hype – and their preseason press clippings – behind them and take care of business on the field against the Wildcats.

The last time U of L entered a season nationally-ranked and expected to dispatch UK this easily in the season-opener – the Cards are 22 point favorites today - the Wildcats promptly marched into Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and upset the heavily favored Cardinals 22-17.

Petrino and company aren't expecting a similar let down today. There's simply too much at stake for Louisville to overlook Kentucky. Besides bragging rights, the Cardinals find themselves still in the process of proving themselves worthy of an enhanced national reputation. For their part, the Cardinals have been quite convincing that the Wildcats have their undivided attention.

"All we're worried about right now is Kentucky," senior defensive end Elvis Dumervil said. "This is a big rivalry, the Governor's Cup is on the line and that's what we're playing for."

"I think this is the most important game to our fans right now and it's the most important game to us too," added quarterback Brian Brohm, who will make his first career start today. "Beating Kentucky is very important to us."

Petrino said his team appears ready for the Wildcats.

"I think our players have been preparing well for this game," said Petrino. "They certainly have a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and they're excited for the season to get going."

So how have the Cardinals maintained their focus on UK instead of getting caught up in the never-ending preseason hype and media attention? According to senior linebacker Brandon Johnson, it hasn't been a difficult task.

"We don't have too many newspaper guys on this team," explained Johnson. "We just ignore the hype. We don't have too many guys on this team who run to the newsstand everyday just to read an article about themselves. That's not how this team works. Our team knows that you don't win football games on media day."

Elvis Dumervil will be a key factor
for U of L in applying pressure
to UK quarterback Andre Woodson
this afternoon.

What the Cardinals are concerned about and have spent countless hours preparing for the past few weeks is what Joker Philips, Kentucky's new offensive coordinator, has up his sleeve.

"Offensively, we're not exactly sure what they're going to do because of the new coordinator," Petrino said last week. "We've (been) preparing for the three and four wide (receiver) sets and maybe for a little bit more of a spread-offensive look."

In just his second game as UK's offensive coordinator after replacing Ron Hudson for the season-finale against Tennessee last year, Petrino said his staff spent much time during the off-season dissecting Philips' play-calling against the Volunteers.

"What we've been doing is going back through what they did last year – what they did in the Tennessee game and how they called the plays in that game," Petrino said. "We've also looked a lot at what Ole Miss did last year because their (new) quarterback coach (Kurt Roper) came from there and I'm sure he'll have a lot of input."

Johnson said the defense will be prepared for anything Philips throws at them.

"We've practiced for the unexpected," he said. "We've even practiced hypothetical plays that they might run."

Petrino said the most important thing his defense must do to stop Kentucky's offense is to apply constant pressure to 6-5, 230-pound sophomore quarterback Andre Woodson, not allowing him to get comfortable in the pocket. He also said the team that does the best job against the run will likely come out on top.

Johnson, a Butkus Award nominee who made 88 tackles last season, believes the U of L defense – a unit that replaces six starters - is up for the task.

"I think we have a championship-caliber defense," Johnson said. "Our strongest asset right now is our defensive line. I've seen our d-line go against what I consider one of the best offensive lines in the country and sometimes they give them problems. We've got guys like Montavious Stanley and Amobi Okoye who can push the pocket, and Elvis comes of the edge and flushes them out. Our defense is very fast, and you can't coach speed."

Petrino also emphasized to his team last week that he wants them playing full speed, all-out football.

"I want our team to play with aggression and play to win," explained Petrino. "I don't ever want to get to a point where we're playing not to lose. We're going to play like we always have and be very aggressive offensively and defensively."

"We have to execute and take care of the football (to win)," Petrino said. "And I think the team that can run the ball and stop the run in the second half has a better chance to win."

Last year, Louisville out-gained Kentucky 261-66 on the ground, controlling the game – and the scoreboard – with a potent rushing assault. U of L won that game 28-0, blanking the Wildcats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

While another shutout today seems improbable, Elvis Dumervil and his defensive teammates would like nothing more.

"That's what we're going to shoot for again," he said.

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