Cards look for fifth straight over Kentucky

Steve Kragthorpe is ready for his first big test as Louisville's coach. Sure, he's 2-0 entering tonight's game against Kentucky (2-0), but those two wins didn't come against the type of competition his ninth-ranked Cardinals will face tonight in Commonwealth Stadium.

Steve Kragthorpe is ready for his first big test as Louisville's coach. Sure, he's 2-0 entering tonight's game against Kentucky, but those two wins didn't come against the type of competition his ninth-ranked Cardinals will face tonight in Commonwealth Stadium.

Kragthorpe also knows that Louisville fans have come to expect wins – big wins – over the rival Wildcats. In recent years, Louisville has dominated the series, winning seven of the past eight games, including the last four.

Now, Cardinal fans are eager to find out if Kragthorpe can maintain Louisville's spot as the top dogs in the state and keep the Governor's Cup in Louisville for a fifth straight year.

"It's a gigantic game, it's a huge game for both schools," Kragthorpe said. "It's a huge game for us and for me."

It's a huge game for Brooks and Kentucky, too. The fifth-year Kentucky coach is 0-4 against Louisville, but this figures to be Brooks' best chance to notch his first victory over the rival Cardinals since arriving at UK in 2003, a win that could vault the 2-0 Wildcats into the Top 25 for the first time in several years.

"This is a huge game," said Brooks. "It's one of the first times that we can be a player on the national scene. Louisville has been on that scene for three or four years now, and rightfully so, they're an outstanding team."

Brian Brohm is looking for his third straight
win over Kentucky as a Louisville starter.
Defense might be optional as the game figures to be an offensive shootout between two of the nation's top offenses. Louisville is No. 1 nationally in total offense and scoring; Kentucky ranks 8th and 7th in those same categories, respectively. While Kentucky enters the game averaging 53 points, Louisville is even better at 65.5 points.

The game also pits two of the nation's best quarterbacks – Louisville's Brian Brohm and Kentucky's Andre Woodson. Brohm has completed 68 percent of his throws this season for 776 yards and nine touchdowns. Not to be outdone, Woodson also has completed 68 percent of his passes for 468 yards and five touchdowns.

But here's the key stat to remember: Brohm is 2-0 against Kentucky as a starter; Woodson is 0-2, including last year's 59-28 setback in the ‘Ville. Win No. 3 for Brohm tonight would make him as viable a candidate as any for the Heisman Trophy.

"You're going to see two of the best college football quarterbacks in the nation and probably two future NFL quarterbacks that are homegrown," Brooks said. "It's a very significant event when you can have two quarterbacks who, in high school, were only about 35 miles apart. To have two players that are on the national scene as prominent as those two, it speaks volumes to high school football in Kentucky."

Louisville's defense struggled mightily last Thursday against Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders scored 35 first half points and quarterback Joe Craddock threw for 290 yards and two touchdowns. The Cardinals will need to shore up their pass defense against an Andre Woodson and the Wildcats.

"He's very efficient with the football and he's gone over 200 passes without an interception," Kragthorpe said. "He knows where to get rid of the ball when he has to and he manages the game very well.

"We know we're going to face by far the best offense we've seen so far in Kentucky," 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."

Brooks has to be concerned about Louisville's high-powered offense, too. In the past four meetings against the Wildcats, Louisville has scored 40, 28, 31 and 59 points. The Cardinals have been even more explosive this season, scoring 73 and 58 points in their first two games. From Brooks prospective, Louisville's offensive success starts up front.

"I think their offense for the last three or four years has been predicated by an outstanding offensive line. They are big, physical and athletic," said Brooks. "They allow all the things to happen in their offense. They protect the quarterback extremely well. They push on the running game. They have great skill people. They have one of the best quarterbacks in college football. They have several top-notch receivers and a pair of outstanding tight ends. So they've got all the components to have an outstanding offense - and they're also extremely well-coached."

Brooks is hoping to steal a page from Rutgers playbook and apply constant pressure to Brohm. But the Cardinals haven't allowed a sack in two games and Brohm appears to quicker than in the past getting the ball out of his hands when facing defensive pressure.

"It's very difficult for a quarterback to throw when there's a big guy in his face, but the question is how we get somebody there," said Brooks. "We would like to do that, but it's a lot easier said than done."

With most expecting offensive fireworks from both offenses, Kragthorpe said his team needs to be ready for any type of game scenario that develops.

"Every game takes on its own complexion and personality so it's hard to say how games will turnout," Kragthorpe said. "We're just going to go out and play and we've got to be able to play in whatever variety of game it is."

Date/Time: Sept. 15 at 7:30; Location: Lexington; TV: ESPN Classic; Radio: WKRD 790 AM and 101.7 FM.

Cardinal Authority Top Stories