It will be no ordinary game for Louisville's Charlie Strong and Kentucky's Joker Phillips. There will be a lot at stake for both coaches, and both programs. With an important game against an in-state rival right off the bat, two longtime buddies will put friendship aside for 60 minutes to battle for the coveted Governor's Cup.
"It's a huge game because you've got two first-year head coaches who desperately want to start out on the right foot," Phillips said. "We want to build on the success we've had the last [few] years."
Kentucky definitely has had the upper hand recently, winning the last three games against Louisville. That's one of the main reasons Steve Kragthorpe no longer is coaching the Cardinals, giving way to Strong, the former defensive coordinator at Florida.
"I just know that it's a rival game," Strong said. "Any time you have two in-state programs going at it it's really critical that you get off to a great start. [Kentucky] is our biggest rival."
"This is not how we dreamed it," Phillips said. "We used to talk about when Charlie got his job I'd go with him. I never dreamed it would happen this way and we'd both be head coaches at the same time 80 miles away."
Strong said it will be odd looking across the field at his old friend when the two teams meet in the season opener.
"We've built a very special relationship over the years," Strong said. "It is going to be strange that he's standing on the other side."
Friendship aside, both coaches understand the game's importance. The winner not only will gain momentum going forward with their season, but also could receive a major in-state recruiting boost.
"If you look at it the winner of this game usually comes out with momentum and that is key in college football," Phillips said.
"You look at the history and usually the team that wins this game is the team that goes on and finishes the season strong," Strong added.
Expect both coaches to have their teams prepared for the opener. Phillips and staff have been studying film of Florida, where Strong coached last season, UNLV, where Louisville offensive coordinator Mike Sanford served as head coach in 2009, and Virginia, where Louisville offensive line coach Dave Borbely worked last year, during the off-season. Strong also has familiarity with Phillips' offense as his Florida defense annually faced the Wildcats in SEC play.
"I've had a chance to play them every year so I know what kind of team they are," Strong said. "They're an outstanding football team."
Though Strong knows how to stop a Phillips coached team, he's worried about the personnel he'll have on the field for the opener.
"One of the big question is [the] defense," Strong said. "We're not a real big team up front and we don't have a lot of depth and experience coming back. So we've got to get some guys ready to go play on defense. Defensively is where we've got to go find some answers."
Strong says First Two Practice Sessions Open
Charlie Strong said Wednesday at the Governor's Cup event that Louisville's first two practices next week will be open to fans. The Cardinals begin fall camp Aug. 5.
"We're going to up up in a few days, actually a week from Thursday we're going to have our first practice. The first two practices are going to be open for the fans so they can come out and watch the guys and get a chance to see the freshmen we were fortunate to sign. We just want to give our fans a chance to see a good football team."
Patrick Pleads Guilty
Louisville starting cornerback Johnny Patrick plead guilty to a reduced charge of harassment in District Court Wednesday stemming from an incident with a female friend June 27.
Patrick must enter a diversion program and attend counseling because of pleading guilty. While he's expected to remain on Louisville's team, Charlie Strong didn't offer any significant explanation Wednesday about his status with the football program.
"We just haven't had a chance to talk about Johnny Patrick as a coaching staff, but we'll get a chance [soon] to address it," said Strong.
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