Kragthorpe looks for first Governor's Cup win

Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe and Kentucky coach Rich Brooks hosted their annual Governor's Cup press conference Thursday at the Cardinal Club in Simpsonville, Kentucky to talk about the September 19 meeting between the two teams.

A press conference in July for a football game two months away?

That was technically the case Thursday for Steve Kragthorpe and Rich Brooks Thursday at the annual Governor's Cup outing at the Cardinal Club in Simpsonville, Ky. In reality, it's a social engagement for supporters on both sides to get together, have lunch and play some golf.

The two teams won't meet on the gridiron until September 19 at Commonwealth Stadium – a game that will be televised on ESPNU at noon. Because it's played in Lexington, the game won't be the first on the schedule for either program this season – diminishing some of the hype and preseason buildup for the annual contest.

Louisville, which opens the season against Indiana State on September 5, will be looking for their first winning season under third-year coach Steve Kragthorpe. Kentucky, which hosts Miami (OH) the same day, is looking for their fourth straight bowl appearance. Neither team will play a game between the opener and this year's Governor's Cup showdown.

"I'm excited about this football team," Kragthorpe said. "I like the chemistry of this team and I like our staff. I like the leadership our players have displayed this summer. They've done an excellent job during summer workouts."

The big Governor's Cup storyline on Louisville's sideline – Steve Kragthorpe will be looking for his first win against Rich Brooks' Wildcats. Since taking over for Bobby Petrino in 2007, Kragthorpe is 0-2 against Kentucky – a mark that hasn't set well with UofL fans. Kentucky beat Louisville 40-34 two years ago at Commonwealth Stadium in the final minute, then shut down the Cardinals 27-2 last season at PJCS.

"We want to win the game – there's no question about it," Kragthorpe said. "The fact that we haven't won the last two years I don't know if that adds anything from our side other than we know it's an important game and we want to win it."

Rich Brooks is looking for his third
consecutive win over Louisville.

Kragthorpe enters the 2009 on the hot seat and the Kentucky game figures to be his first pivotal test of the season. The Cardinals, picked to finish seventh in the Big East this season in most preseason publications, will break in a new quarterback while trying to find answers on both lines and in the secondary.

Victor Anderson, the 2008 Big East Freshman of the Year, returns to lead the Louisville offense after rushing for more than 1,000 in his first season – a campaign that included five 100-yard plus games. The Cardinals also figure to be strong at wide receiver with Scott Long, Doug Beaumont, Trent Guy and Josh Chichester all returning this season.

"He's such a dynamic player," Kragthorpe said of Long, who missed much of last season with ankle and knee injuries. "We missed his productivity and his ability to make other people around him better."

The biggest question facing Kragthorpe, who assumes offensive play-calling duties this season after Jeff Brohm's dismissal following a 5-7 campaign last year, and the Louisville offense is who will be the starting quarterback? Junior college transfer Adam Froman, N.C. State transfer Justin Burke will resume their competition for the starting job when practice starts August 6. Kragthorpe said he hopes to announce a starter after the first ten days of preseason camp.

"We'll evaluate those guys on a day to day basis from a statistical standpoint and an intangible standpoint – the way they run the offense, the way they operate in the meeting room, and communicate with their teammates on the field," Kragthorpe said. "It's a monumental decision for our football team."

On defense, new defensive coordinator Brent Guy must find answers on the defensive line and in the secondary – two units hit hard by graduation. The Cardinals must replace Adrian Grady, Earl Heyman and Maurice Mitchell on the line, as well as key defensive backs Woodney Turenne, Latarrius Thomas, Travis Norton and Bobby Buchanan.

How will Guy address the problem? The former Utah State coach hopes a bunch of junior college transfers will be ready to play right away. Louisville brought in three JUCO defensive lineman – tackles Joe Townsend and Tim High and end Malcolm Tatum, plus JUCO defensive backs Preston Pace, Bobby Burns, Anthony Conner and Terence Simien to shore up the two biggest problem units on a defense that got no pressure on the quarterback and allowed seven touchdown passes the last time it took the field against Rutgers – a 63-14 loss to conclude the 2008 season.

With the start of a new season just six weeks away, Kragthorpe is looking to turn the page from a disappointing 2008 campaign – a season that ended with a five-game losing streak and a last place Big East finish - to a new chapter. He's also hoping to pull out a few surprises, including an unexpected win against Kentucky September 19.

"August 6 won't come too soon for me," Kragthorpe said. "I hate this time of year. It's the time of year that I get excited and anticipate the season and getting on the practice field."

BIG EAST Media Day - Aug. 3-4
U of L Players Report - Aug. 5
First Day of Practice - Aug. 6
Cardinal Fan Fest - Aug. 7 (practice begins at 6:00 p.m.)
Media Day - Aug. 8 (begins around 9:30 a.m.)

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