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Defense eager to erase sting of Louisville loss

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UK allowed 466 yards of total offense in a 32-14 loss to Louisville on Sunday. (Hunter Wilson, UK Athletics) UK allowed 466 yards of total offense in a 32-14 loss to Louisville on Sunday. (Hunter Wilson, UK Athletics)
In the mind of Rick Minter, it was a Murphy's Law situation. The defensive coordinator watched as basically everything he envisioned could potentially go wrong did just that in Kentucky's season-opening loss to Louisville.

Running backs ran through open holes for big gains. And when the Wildcats were in good defensive position, the Cardinals broke tackles. Wide receivers ran wide open in the secondary. And when they were well-covered, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threaded the needle.

"Nobody should feel very good about how we played, ourselves or our players or our fans shouldn't feel good about how we played," Minter said. "There's got to be a brighter day than that."

Pinpointing just one area for improvement is a fruitless endeavor. Head coach Joker Phillips has a long list of things the defense could have done better against U of L, but the Cats won't have much time to regroup during a six-day week of preparation before taking on Kent State at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in UK's home opener.

"I really like the fact that it's a short week," Phillips said. "We need to get back on the field."

Minter agrees, and he has an analogy to back it up.

"If you're a prize fighter and you get knocked down, the worst thing that can happen to you is they hold you out a long time," Minter said. "So we can't wait to get out on the field again. We've got work to do prior to that occurring."

The first step in that improvement is acknowledging the failings of this past Sunday. The statistics - 219 yards rushing and 9.5 total yards per play - tell part of the story, but the tape reveals much more. There were times when UK was unable to initially get lined up properly, others when the Cats couldn't adjust to U of L's shifts and others still when they were simply beaten physically.

The first finger Minter and his fellow defensive coaches pointed was at themselves.

"Coaches eliminate mistakes before they occur," Minter said. "Obviously, we didn't do a good job eliminating them before the Louisville game. So it's our job now to eliminate them before they occur again, otherwise it will cost us again."

The hope is that some of those issues stem from the fact that UK was playing its season opener and replacing its top two tacklers in Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy. But no matter what, the time comes when the Cats had to put the loss out of their minds.

"Life goes on," Minter said. "That's the way you have to do it. Something bad happens to you, don't let Louisville beat you twice. Don't let us wallow around for two, three days and then all of a sudden lose the next game because we're still looking back."

UK is now looking forward to a matchup with the Golden Flashes, who are 1-0 after a 41-21 victory over Towson. However, Kent State benefited from six turnovers forced by its defense and was actually outgained. The Golden Flashes gained 267 yards of total offense against Towson after averaging just 253.5 yards a game in 2011, so the Cats won't have to cope with nearly as many weapons as they did against U of L.

At the same time, Kentucky will be playing some new faces on defense, as Phillips and Minter confirmed on Wednesday that true freshmen will get more playing time at linebacker and in the secondary this week. Neither named names, but it stands to reason that linebacker Khalid Henderson and Pancho Thomas and safety Daron Blaylock, among others, will play extensively.

"We're going to integrate younger guys as we go that are capable of playing," Minter said. "They're not going to be given anything. Anything they get they're going to have to earn like anybody else. We have to find out, in this first third or a quarter of our season, who are going to be our playmakers."

With the youth movement and UK's trouble getting properly lined up against U of L, the coaches also say they be making calls easier to understand.

"We are going to simplify some," Phillips said. "There's going to be some babies out there, even younger than were out there (on Sunday)."

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