Cats Strive for Fourth Straight Win in Governor's Cup Battle
Sept. 3, 2010
Cat Scratches Preview: Joker Phillips' keys to the game
Each and every week prior to a Kentucky football game, Cat Scratches will talk with head coach Joker Phillips' for his game plan of attack. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Phillips will tell us his keys to the game, a key matchup and who Kentucky has to look out for on the opposing team.
Offensive keys - Hold onto the ball: "Offensively, the key to the game is making sure we protect the ball. We've got to be able to run the ball and have got to be able to protect our quarterback and then take advantage of situations that come up throughout the game."
Cat Scratches' take: Kentucky owns a plus-three turnover margin during its three-game winning streak over the Cardinals, but surprisingly, they haven't been a huge factor outside of the 2008 game in Louisville. In that contest, UK forced five U of L turnovers, including a memorable 72-yard fumble return by defensive tackle Myron Pryor that sealed the game for the Cats. Senior quarterback Mike Hartline has been efficient with the ball against Louisville in his two starts, throwing just one pick.
Cats Strive for Fourth Straight Win in Governor's Cup Battle
After months of hard work on the practice field and in the weight room, the 2010 Kentucky football team will finally lace up the game shoes with hopes of retaining the Governor's Cup trophy for the fourth consecutive year.
The battle between the two in-state rivals will be each school's season opener and will feature plenty of firsts. Both schools will have first-year head coaches in Kentucky's Joker Phillips and Louisville's Charlie Strong. UK also will look to win its fourth consecutive game against the Cardinals for the first time since the annual series resumed in 1994. If UK wins the lidlifter, it will mark the first time it has won four season openers since the Wildcats won eight consecutive season openers from 1987-1994.
UK went 7-6 last season and is coming off its school-record fourth straight bowl game. UK returns 43 lettermen from last year, including quarterback Mike Hartline, tailback Derrick Locke and WR/QB Randall Cobb. UK also returns several key pieces on defense with end DeQuin Evans, linebacker Danny Trevathan returning along with cornerback Randall Burden and tackle Ricky Lumpkin.
Louisville returns 44 lettermen from last year's squad that went 4-8. On offense, the Cardinals return nine starters, including 2008 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Victor Anderson and starting quarterback Adam Froman. U of L returns six starters on the defensive side of the ball, including two linebackers, one cornerback and three defensive ends.
Associated Press Preview
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Coaches change. Players change. Venues change.
The key to the outcome of the Governor's Cup does not.
The winner of the annual showdown between Kentucky and Louisville isn't always the one with the better quarterback, more experienced coaching staff or home-field advantage.
For more than a decade, the team that's rushed for more yards has been the one holding the 110-pound Cup aloft at game's end. Kentucky outgained Louisville on the ground 168-133 in a 31-27 win last year, marking at least the 11th straight time the team with the highest rushing total has captured state bragging rights.
While the preseason talk centered on new coaches Joker Phillips and Charlie Strong and the clouded quarterback position at both schools, the biggest battle on Saturday will come on the lines, where two undersized defenses will try to dig in.
It won't be easy. Both Louisville and Kentucky's defensive lines will go against offensive lines that outweigh them by an average of 30 pounds.
"It's great to look bigger because of the intimidation factor, but it all comes down to technique," Kentucky right guard Larry Warford said.
A little bit of deception doesn't hurt.
Strong helped Florida win a pair of national titles by constructing defenses built on speed and smarts. Expect him to do the same at Louisville. The Cardinals will spend the seconds before each snap on Saturday in a state of perpetual motion in hopes of confusing the Wildcats.
"It's not going to be a Civil War battle where we're going to stand still and they're going to stand still and we're going to take turns," Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said.
Though Phillips has called his offensive line one of his team's biggest strengths, the Wildcats will be breaking in four new starters on Saturday.
Being bigger is nice. Being better would be preferable.
"We're not really going in thinking 'Oh, they're smaller than us, we'll blow them off the ball,"' left guard Stuart Hines said.
Maybe, but teams had little trouble doing just that against the Cardinals last season. Louisville ranked 81st in the country against the run, allowing teams to pile up 165 yards a game.
Kentucky was even worse, giving up 4.65 yards per carry while ranking 100th out of the 120 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
"We've got to be physical and attack," Louisville running back Victor Anderson said. "We want to go right at them. You want to assert yourself and hopefully that will open things up."
To do it, however, the Cardinals will have to keep Kentucky's offense off the field. The Wildcats went 7-6 last season despite an anemic passing attack that ranked last in the Southeastern Conference. They went to a fourth straight bowl game behind the play of speedster Derrick Locke and versatile wide receiver Randall Cobb, who ran for 573 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns out of the "WildCobb" formation.
"It's very important for us to contain the football," Strong said.
Even if Strong would like to do it with bigger players.
Strong's preference would be a front four featuring players between 280-295 pounds. His starters at Florida last year averaged 286 pounds, anchoring a defense that finished 12th in the country against the run and allowed just six touchdowns on the ground.
The guys Strong will send out on Saturday are more than a few double cheeseburgers shy of that kind of size.
The linemen at the top of Louisville's depth chart average a svelte 269 pounds. Outside of 298-pound senior defensive tackle Tim High, the Cardinals are downright skinny, both in weight and in depth.
Louisville is so thin along the line junior Greg Scruggs has been moved from end to tackle. The 6-foot-4 former high school marching band drummer has filled out to 273 pounds, a number he's struggled to push higher.
Scruggs stuffed his face so much during the offseason he can barely stomach the sight of a bagel, and knows there's no such thing as "eating light."
He was dining on a grilled chicken sub over the summer when strength coach Pat Moorer walked in, saw what was on Scruggs' plate and offered some advice.
"He said, 'I hope you got extra mayo, I hope you got extra bacon and why don't you grab 3-4 cookies while you're at it,"' Scruggs said with a laugh.
Kentucky is no bigger along the defensive front. The Wildcats average 269 pounds and will face a Louisville offensive line that averages more than 300 pounds.
Though neither Anderson nor backfield mate Bilal Powell have the same gamebreaking qualities as Cobb or Locke, they're the surest thing to a proven commodity in Louisville's revamped spread offense.
Anderson ran for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman in 2008 before injuries last fall. Strong calls the quiet, slimmed-down Powell the face of the program.
Maybe, but ending a three-game losing streak to the Wildcats will just as likely come down to the largely anonymous guys on the defensive line, and Scruggs knows it.
"Our coaches have instilled in us a mindset that we can do whatever we want to do and be whoever we want to be as long as we execute our technique and our fundamentals," he said. "Our size is not the issue ... it's just football."