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Just before the start of fall camp, new UK head football coach Mark Stoops said he would not downplay the significance of the annual rivalry game with Louisville.
With Governor’s Cup game week having officially arrived for the Wildcats, his players expect that trend to continue in advance of Saturday’s game.
“I think everyone already knows what’s at stake with this game, including our family members who aren’t from Kentucky,” said junior linebacker Bud Dupree. “They already know what kind of game this is for the program and everything. We’ve got to go out there and play as had as we can.”
Louisville enters the game ranked No. 7 in the country with a 2-0 record. Through two games, junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater leads the country with nine passing touchdowns. He ranks third nationally in quarterback rating (228.12), fourth in passing yards (753), fourth in passing yards per game (376) and eighth in completion percentage (76.7).
The Cardinals have won the last two games in the series, including a 32-14 victory to open the 2012 season.
Just six current Cats — senior tailback Raymond Sanders, senior linebacker Avery Williamson, senior tight end Anthony Kendrick, senior tight end Jordan Aumiller, senior kicker Joe Mansour and senior tight end Tyler Robinson — played in UK’s last victory versus Louisville, a 23-16 win in 2010. Aumiller caught two passes for 23 yards in that game, and Mansour handled five kickoffs. None of the other players recorded any statistics in the game.
“It’s a bitter rival and the word ‘love’ won’t be thrown around too loosely when you put both teams together in the same sentence,” said senior tailback Jonathan George. “Senior leaders, older guys such as myself, need to kind of put a little extra emphasis on this game because it is a big game. It’s the Governor’s Cup, it’s basically the title for the state.”
The Louisville game is only the first in a stretch of four consecutive games against the Associated Press top 20 for UK. With Louisville likely needing to finish the season undefeated to have any chance at the national championship game thanks to a weak schedule in the program’s one season in the American Athletic Conference, a win for UK would be all the sweeter for players and fans.
George and Dupree made no attempt Monday to paint the Cardinals as just another opponent.
“I won’t say hate, but there is a dislike factor there,” George said. “I’m not a fan of the red team. This week there is a big emphasis on coming out and beating those guys.”
And is Stoops OK with his players making such a big deal of the rivalry?
“Our players need to understand that every week is important, and we will be very systematic in our approach,” he said.”But I’m never going to shy away from a big game and a rivalry, let’s put it that way. We know it’s important. We’ve also learned from week one too, trying to get them hyped up and amped up maybe wasn’t the answer. We have to go about our business to prepare to win.”
UK senior guard Kevin Mitchell was named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week by the league office Monday after grading out at 90 percent in the win versus Miami (Ohio). Mitchell tallied nine knockdown blocks versus the Redhawks…Stoops said he was unsure if junior wide receiver Demarco Robinson will be able to play this week. Robinson was injured on the opening kickoff versus Miami…Sophomore cornerback Cody Quinn, who made his season debut in relief duty Saturday, is expected to be back to full speed this week, Stoops said.