Louisville prepares for shootout against UK

No. 9 Louisville (2-0) boasts the nation's No. 1 offense. Kentucky (2-0) also checks in with a Top 10 offense. The Cardinals and Wildcats both have future NFL quarterbacks and both offenses are averaging nearly 300 yards on the ground. Those are just a few reasons why offensive fireworks could fly when the two teams meet Saturday night.

Football fans around the state are expecting an offensive shootout when No. 9 Louisville travels to Lexington Saturday night to play rival Kentucky. And there certainly are plenty of valid reasons to fuel those expectations.

In their first two games this season, Louisville has put up ridiculous offensive numbers in wins over Murray State and Middle Tennessee, scoring a combined 131 points against the Racers and Blue Raiders. The Cardinals enter Saturday's contest averaging 65.5 points and 692 total yards per game, good for a No. 1 ranking nationally in both categories.

"I think their offense is really good," said Kentucky defensive tackle Corey Peters. "I think it looks as good, if not better, than last year. We have to get some pressure on (Brian) Brohm from my perspective. The defensive line has to do the job and get to the quarterback. I think if we do that we will do a lot better."

Getting to Brohm, though, won't be easy. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior hasn't been sacked yet this season, a key reason why he's completed 68 percent of his passes for 776 yards and nine touchdowns. How good has Louisville been protecting Brohm this season? Only two other teams in the nation haven't allowed a sack this season – Rutgers and Nebraska.

Kentucky's offense has been nearly as impressive as Louisville's. The Wildcats are averaging 53 points and 526 total yards per game, both figures rank among the Top 10 nationally. Like Brohm, Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson has completed 68 percent of his passes for 468 yards and five touchdowns this season, while running back Raphael Little paces the Wildcats on the ground with 118 yards per game.


Anthony Allen, the Big East Player of the
Week, could have a field day against a
Kentucky defense that ranks No. 108 vs.
the run.
"We know we're going to face by far the best offense we've seen so far in Kentucky," U of L coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "They're playing well on offense, they're very efficient in terms of distributing the ball to a variety of different players and they're also very capable of making big plays. We know we'll have to play well to win."

Neither team has shown they're capable of stopping the run. Louisville has allowed nearly 200 yards on the ground this season, while Kentucky has surrendered a whopping 227 yards per game. That doesn't bode well for either team's defense, as the Cardinals average 294 yards per game rushing, while the Wildcats are just behind at 277 yards. Whoever wins the battle on the ground will likely walk out of Commonwealth Stadium with a big win.

"I think our team understands that we didn't play anywhere near as good as we're capable of the other night and we've got to play a lot better this week if we want to go compete against a very good Kentucky team," Kragthorpe said of his team's 58-42 win over Middle Tennessee last Thursday, a game that saw Louisville shredded on the ground for 265 yards and 290 through the air.

Kentucky wasn't much better defensively in their last outing Saturday against Kent State, a contest the Wildcats won 56-20. In that game, Kent State rushed for 324 yards while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Despite that woeful performance, Kragthorpe still heaped plenty of praise on the Kentucky defense during his weekly press conference.

"I think they're playing extremely well on defense right now," Kragthorpe said. "They're a team that does a great job of minimizing big plays, they rally to the football and tackle well and they're strong up the middle. They make plays and create turnovers and right now I think they're very solid on defense."

Coach-speak? Well, I'll let you decide that one for yourself.

So which team can out-score the other Saturday night? That's definitely the million dollar question this week. Here's one thing to keep in mind: While Louisville's rush defense has been horrible this season – the Cards rank 94th nationally against the run – Kentucky has been worse – the Wildcats check in at No. 105.

Why is that stat important? In each of the past four seasons, Louisville has out-gained the Wildcats on the ground, averaging an eye-popping 268 yards. It's no coincidence that the Cardinals won each of those games.

Here's another potentially troubling sign for Kentucky: Injuries. Kentucky defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin is doubtful Saturday with a hip injury, while starting defensive tackle Myron Pryor is questionable after undergoing an MRI Monday on an injured pectoral muscle. If neither of those players are available, the middle of the Kentucky defense could be in for a long day against a Louisville team that ranks 8th nationally in rushing offense.

"Ventrell Jenkins would probably start. He's been working at defensive end, so we'd have to get him some snaps this week on the inside," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "So we still are okay, but we don't have a lot of depth if neither of those two players can play."

SERIES NOTES: LOUISVILLE VS. KENTUCKY

  • Louisville has won seven of the eight meeting between the two teams, including the last four.
  • The Cardinals scored 31 unanswered points against Kentucky last season in a 59-28 victory at PJCS. Brian Brohm passed for 254 yards in that game, while Louisville hung 631 yards of total offense on Kentucky's defense.
  • Brian Brohm is 2-0 as a starter against the Wildcats and has thrown for 216 yards per game in those two wins.

    UL – SYRACUSE SET

    The game time for the Louisville-Syracuse football game is set for Noon on Saturday, September 22 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The game will be shown live as the ESPN Regional BIG EAST Game of the Week.


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