Kragthorpe's first attempt against Kentucky two years ago is hard to forget. That's when Louisville let victory slip from grasp in the final minute when Andre Woodson found a wide open Stevie Johnson streaking down the sideline uncovered.
Last year, the Cardinals kept it close for three quarters before turnovers took their toll in a 27-2 drubbing. The Louisville offense couldn't muster any production and never really threatened the Wildcats.
Now, Kragthorpe hopes to avoid becoming the first Louisville coach to lose three games to Kentucky since the renewal of the series in 1994. Howard Schnellenger was 0-1 before leaving for Oklahoma. Ron Cooper, who was fired after a dismal third season, went 2-1 against Kentucky. John L. Smith was 3-2 against UK before heading to Michigan State. And Bobby Petrino was a perfect 4-0 against UK.
"This is one of the reasons why I came to Louisville to get to play in a game like this on national television, in front of a great crowd on the road," said Kragthorpe. "This is what fuels your passion for football. This will be an emotional game. We're going to have to play with emotion during the game but divorce ourself from being emotional. We can't get caught up in the emotion and drama of the game."
What Louisville has to do is find a way to stop Kentucky's all-purpose weapon Randall Cobb. If Kragthorpe hopes to notch his first win in the rivalry, the Cardinals can't allow Cobb to do what he did in the opener against Miami (OH).
all-purpose threat Randall Cobb.
"He's tough to prepare for because not only do they give you the Wildcat formation with him running the ball but you also have to prepare for the passes that come out of that," Kragthorpe said. "It's a double-edged sword for us to try to defend."
Cobb did most of his damage against Miami (OH) as a receiving weapon, catching a team-high 9 passes for 96 yards and one touchdown. But he also carried one time out of the Wildcat formation for 11 yards and a touchdown.
Though Cobb is Kentucky's best wide out, Kragthorpe is more concerned about his ability to operate behind center. A former high school quarterback, Cobb presents unusual problems in that he can run or throw out of the Wildcat formation.
"It's tough to simulate it with the scout team," Kragthorpe said. "We prepare for it every day in practice. We've got different guys that will run that for us in practice. It's tough because you've got both elements of the game where he can run it or throw it. With Randall back there they can run their whole passing offense."
Cobb is also a capable return man. He returned three punts for 28 yards in the season opener.
"He's a dangerous guy back there too," Kragthorpe said.
Though Cobb is certain to take a few snaps from center, Mike Hartline, Kentucky's 6'6 junior quarterback, will be the guy leading the Wildcats' offense. Hartline led UK to victory last season against Louisville and completed 18-for-27 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns in UK's season opening win. More importantly, he didn't throw an interception against Miami (OH).
"He's playing very confidently and he looks like he's in control and has good command of what they're trying to do offensively," Kragthorpe said. "He is an accurate passer and a better athlete than people give him credit for in terms of being able to move outside the pocket and throw on the run. He's a 6'6 guy so he has good vision down the field and made some really nice throws against Miami. He's getting the ball out a lot more quickly than he did last year."
Besides Cobb, Hartline has plenty of other weapons in running back Derrick Locke and wide receiver Chris Matthews, a 6'5 transfer from Harbor (CA) C.C., who Louisville also recruited. Locke led Kentucky with 61 rush yards and one touchdown against Miami (OH). Matthews caught four passes for 57 and one score.
"Offensively, I think Mike is playing very well for them right now," Kragthorpe said. "It looks like Derrick (Locke) is back and he's healthy. Chris made some plays for them down the field and they're involving their tight ends in the passing game more this year than they did last year."
Louisville's offense will face a big challenge from Kentucky's defense. The Wildcats defense shut out Louisville last year on offense while forcing five turnovers. In their first game this season, Kentucky shut out Miami (OH) 42-0 and limited the Redhawks to only 188 yards.
"Trevard is playing very well," Kragthorpe said. "He's not only a great cover guy but he's more physical against the run and playing in his press man to man coverage. Across the board in the secondary they've got veteran guys playing well."
Cardinals Game Day Notebook
DateSeptember 19, 2009
Kickoff 12:00 p.m.
Location Lexington, KY
Radio 84-WHAS AM
Series Kentucky leads 12-9; UK won 27-2 last season