Kragthorpe excited to get season started

Even though the game between Louisville and Kentucky has been moved back on the schedule this year, you know football season is near when the Cardinals and Wildcats coaches get together at the annual Governor's Cup golf and media outing.

Even though the game between Louisville and Kentucky has been moved back on the schedule this year, you know football season is near when the Cardinals and Wildcats coaches get together at the annual Governor's Cup golf and media outing.

Moved at the behest of Kentucky coach Rich Brooks, the game this season will be played the third week of the season in Lexington. That's something Brooks hopes gives his team, who has lost four straight games in the series, an advantage.

As both teams prepare to take the practice field next week, Brooks and first-year Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe met the media at the Cardinal Club in Simpsonville, Kentucky to talk about the upcoming game between the state's two power programs.

"We're looking forward to the opening of practice," Brooks said. "The players report a week from tomorrow. We're anxious to get going."

Coming off an 8-5 season that included a win over Clemson in the Music City Bowl, Brooks wasn't shy in voicing his lofty expectations for his fifth UK team.

"It's clearly the most talented team since I've been at Kentucky," Brooks said. "It's a deeper team and we have more play-makers on both sides of the ball. Expectations need to be different for this football team and I embrace that."

Louisville has dominated the series recently, including a 59-28 thumping of the Wildcats last season. That's something Brooks hope to change with Bobby Petrino now coaching the Atlanta Falcons.

"It's a rivalry that we haven't done out part in in recent years," said Brooks, who was 0-4 against Petrino. "It's a huge game in this state and takes on major scope nationally this year, I believe, because of the two quarterbacks that are playing in this game."

That, and not the scheduling debate, is what Brooks hopes becomes the major storyline for the game: the quarterback matchup between Louisville's Brian Brohm and Kentucky's Andre Woodson, a pair of likely NFL first-round draft picks next spring.

"Both Andre and Brian are very good quarterbacks," Kragthorpe said. "Both of these guys are high school products of the state of Kentucky, they're both playing at university's in the state of Kentucky and I think that makes for a great story line for the game."

Woodson, 0-2 against Louisville as a starter, came into his own last season, throwing for more than 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns.

Kragthorpe says Kentucky a huge challenge.

"I think he matured and grew up and all of a sudden we discovered that we had some play-makers around him," Brooks said.

That figures to be Kragthorpe's and Louisville's biggest challenge: Trying to slow down Woodson and All-SEC standouts Keenan Burton and Raphael Little.

"I watched all of Kentucky's games from last season," Kragthorpe said. "We're very excited to compete against what we feel is a very good Kentucky team and it's a huge challenge for us."

Though he's about to coach in his first game in the series, Kragthorpe is well aware of the stakes.

"There's no question this is a very important game that we point to," Kragthorpe said. "It's a game that everyone points to in this state. Having watched this game for the past nine or ten years, I'm excited to finally get to participate in it."

Blessed with a deep and talented team many preseason publications have tabbed as one of the nation's Top 10 squads, Kragthorpe finds himself in an enviable situation.

"I think I'm in an ideal situation," Kragthorpe said. "When I went to Tulsa, (they) had lost 21 times in their last 23 games. Now I've come to Louisville and they've won 12 of their last 13 games. I approach this situation the same way I did at Tulsa. I'm trying to win every game that I take my team on the field."

Besides Brohm, one of the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy, Kragthorpe has plenty of other weapons to throw at opponents, including wide receivers Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia, tight end Gary Barnidge and a host of capable running backs.

"On the offensive side we've got good skill players," Kragthorpe said. "We have a very similar situation as (Kentucky) in our backfield in that both of us have running back by-committee. I look at that as a great situation. We've got a number of guys that I feel like can play at a high level and we don't drop off with any of them on the field. They're all versatile and compliment each other very well."

Kragthorpe expects the linebacker corps of Malik Jackson, Willie Williams, Preston Smith and Lamar Myles to fuel the defense.

"I (really) like our linebacker corps," Kragthorpe said. "I think we have a team that has great speed. We lost some guys in the secondary, but I'm excited about the guys coming back and the guys coming in with our new recruiting class. I think those guys are excited about taking a little bigger role than they have in the past."

Louisville will begin practice next Thursday. The Cardinals first game is August 30 against Murray State at home.

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