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Mark Stoops says records won’t matter when ‘Cats take on struggling Cardinals Saturday in Louisville


By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Louisville has struggled this season but Mark Stoops said that won’t matter when Kentucky takes on the Cardinals in the regular-season finale for both teams Saturday at Cardinal Stadium.

“In a rivalry game, you can throw the records out the window,” Stoops said Monday. “We’re worried about ourselves and play the best football that we can.”

Like Stoops, Kentucky running back Benny Snell said records can’t be considered in a rivalry game.

UK-Middle Tennessee game last week. Wildcats take on Louisville Saturday at 7 p.m. in Louisville (Photo by Bill Thiry/Kentucky Today)

“When I watch Ohio State and Michigan or Kentucky and Louisville, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter who’s got what going into the game — the rankings of how good you are. It’s a rivalry (and) the teams are going to be out there and the best team is going to win.”

In their last visit to Louisville two years ago, the Wildcats (8-3) edged the Cardinals 41-38 in a thriller, which ended a five-game losing streak to Louisville, which was ranked No. 11 at the time. The Cardinals returned the favor with a 44-17 rout last season, but a year later, but since then, the bottom has fallen out for Louisville.

Two weeks ago, the Cardinals (2-9) fired coach Bobby Petrino following eight consecutive double-digit losses. The losing streak increased to nine after a 52-10 setback to North Carolina State, which dropped the Cardinals to 2-9 overall and 0-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“We know what they’re capable of and how Louisville can play,” Stoops said. “They have shown signs of that this year.”

Stoops said the last regular-season contest will be an emotional one with a senior class that has produced 27 victories during the past four seasons. Stoops said some members of the class are “like my kids now” and said the group “definitely is special.”

“I really didn’t want to get swept up with it last week,” Stoops said. “It is a lot going on with Thanksgiving and we do appreciate these seniors and Josh (Allen) coming back and playing. We just have to focused on being disciplined and doing the things that put us in a position to be successful this year.”

The 16 seniors were honored prior to last week’s 34-23 win over Middle Tennessee in the team’s final home game of the season at Kroger Field. Stoops liked the way the Wildcats returned to past form and held off a late surge by the Blue Raiders with a pair of big defensive plays late in the fourth quarter.

“I felt like our football team played with a sense of urgency this past week that we’re striving for,” he said. “I like we the way we got out of the gates and started fast. We really played with a great sense of urgency and we’re looking to do the same thing this week.”

Stoops said Middle and its offensive coordinator, former Kentucky assistant coach Tony Franklin “unloaded the playbook on us.”

“There was a lot of deception and plays that you can’t necessarily prepare for,” Stoops said. “After reviewing the tape, we really were on point and the guys were competitive and doing some really good things. Overall, our guys handled it pretty well. It was a good victory.”

Kentucky hopes to end the regular season with nine victories for the first time since 1977. The Wildcats will be making their third straight appearance in the postseason in a yet to be determined destination.

PASCHAL HONORED

Kentucky sophomore Josh Paschal, who made a return from malignant melanoma Saturday, was named Southeastern Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Week. Paschal was diagnosed with skin cancer before the season began and currently is undergoing treatment.

“He did a good job, he really did,” Stoops said. “Just getting back playing football for Josh and the injury that he had, because the surgery was on the bottom of his foot is hard. Josh did some good things, as he gets back on his feet, he will get better and better with every opportunity.”

Gametracker: Kentucky at Louisville, Saturday, 7 p.m. TV/Radio: ESPN2, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.


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