Wildcats Kickoff Season with In-State Foe Louisville
Aug. 31, 2012
After months of hard work on the practice fields, including several very competitive position battles, Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips and the UK football team are ready to begin their 2012 slate at in-state foe No. 25 Louisville on Sunday, Sept. 2 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
The Governor's Cup battle will be the season opener for both schools. Louisville is in current possession of the Governor's Cup after defeating the Wildcats 24-17 last season in Lexington. The victory was the Cardinals' first over the Wildcats since 2006. Kentucky leads the all-time series 14-10, including a 6-3 record in Louisville.
Kentucky finished the 2011 season with a strong performance against Georgia and a season-ending victory over Tennessee. The Wildcats return 45 lettermen from last season, including 23 on offense, 20 on defense and two on special teams. Leading the offense for the Wildcats will be sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith, who started three games last season. He will be helped by a group of seniors in wide receiver La'Rod King, tailback Coshik Williams, and offensive linemen Matt Smith and Larry Warford.
Defensively, Kentucky returns five starters from last year's defense that had an increase in takeaways and a decrease in points allowed per game from the 2010 season. Linemen Collins Ukwu, Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble stabilize the UK defensive front, while defensive backs Martavius Neloms and Mikie Benton patrol the secondary. Kickoff specialist Joe Mansour also returns for UK as well as place kicker Craig McIntosh.
This is the fifth consecutive season that UK has started the year away from Commonwealth Stadium, holding a 4-0 mark in those contests. All totaled, the Wildcats have won five consecutive season openers, which is the longest streak since eight in a row from 1987-94.
Cat Scratches: Wildcats not hiding from magnitude of season opener
As soon as the last football of the 2011-12 season was snapped - and maybe sooner - Kentucky and Louisville fans circled Sept. 2 on their calendars.
The annual showdown for the Governor's Cup is always big, but the buildup to this one has been different. Wildcat supporters see it as a chance to rebound from a disappointing year with a huge win over their biggest rival. Cardinal fans view beating UK as the first step to fulfilling BCS-or-bust expectations.
For the most part, U of L and especially UK players and coaches have stayed above the fray, electing to skip out on the friendly and sometimes not so friendly back-and-forth preceding the game. That does not mean they don't understand its significance... read the full preview
Louisville is entering its third season under head coach Charlie Strong, who has a 14-12 record as head coach of the Cardinals.
Last season, Louisville finished the year with an overall record of 7-6 advancing to the Belk Bowl where the Cardinals would fall to NC State 31-24. U of L came on strong at the end of the year last season, winning five of their last seven games to finish 5-2 in the Big East, clinching a share of the conference championship.
Louisville returns 46 lettermen from last season, including 17 starters. One of the top starters returning is quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who started 10 games last season and was the unanimous choice for Big East Rookie of the Year. The Cardinals also return their top two reception leaders from last year in Eli Rogers and Michaelee Harris. However, Harris sustained an injury during fall camp causing him to miss the 2012 season.
Defensively, U of L returns nine starters from last year's defense that ranked high in the nation in rushing defense and scoring. The defense is led by All-Big East first-team selections safety Hakeem Smith and cornerback Adrien Bushell. Louisville did lose its leading tackler last year in linebacker Dexter Heyman.