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Sports Notes: It's early, but Wildcats, Cards both surprising the college football experts

Patrick Towles and his UK teammates celebrated after snapping a 22-game road losing streak with a win at South Carolina (UK Athletics Photo)

Patrick Towles and his UK teammates celebrated after snapping a 22-game road losing streak with a win at South Carolina (UK Athletics Photo)


Quick show of hands. How many of you predicted that when you rolled out of bed on Sept. 14, Mark Stoops’ Kentucky team would be undefeated after two games and Bobby Petrino’s Louisville Cardinals would be a perfect 0-2?

Yeah, me neither.

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Yet, here we are following the Wildcats’ road-loss-streak-breaking 26-22 win at South Carolina and the Cardinals (how many quarterbacks does it take to get a win?) home-field 34-31 defeat at the hands of Houston. Now the question becomes who is more likely to get a win this week?

Kentucky plays host to Florida Saturday night hoping to end another streak: 28 straight losses to the Gators, the longest such negative run in the nation, while Petrino will lead the Cards onto the Papa John’s Stadium field Thursday against No. 12 Clemson. Wouldn’t it be something to see UK atop the SEC East Division standings with a 3-0 record in a week’s time with Louisville a reeling 0-3?

Stranger things have happened, but this football season has all the makings of sailing into uncharted territory, at least in the early going.

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Speaking of the laws of probability, how many of you thought Kentucky would hang on for the win after opening the second half with three straight three-and-out drives, allowing the Gamecocks and Steve Spurrier to climb back into the game after being dominated over the first 30 minutes?

But it was the Cats who were clutch in the late going, getting a key interception and a crucial first-down run by quarterback Patrick Towles while running out the clock on the final drive of the game. Perhaps the most unlikely play of the game, though, was Kentucky stopping South Carolina’s game-tying two-point conversion attempt, forcing a fumble, then running the ball back for two points of its own.

Those are the kind of plays that usually happen to, not for, Kentucky.

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Some other notable leftovers from the weekend.

Oklahoma handed Tennessee a home field loss in double overtime while Toledo defeated Arkansas in Little Rock. No. 6 Auburn needed overtime to escape an upset bid by Jacksonville State, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference.

A quick look at the SEC standings shows South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt (0-2), Mississippi State and Arkansas all have suffered losses in the early going. There won’t be 10 conference teams ranked in the top 25 in this week’s polls.

A victory over Florida, a 31-24 winner over East Carolina last week, could propel the Wildcats into the rankings.

Florida coach Jim McElwain, upset with his team following the sloppy win, said he thought Kentucky would be encouraged after watching the game tape in preparation for Saturday’s matchup.

“I’m sure they’re going to look at this and say, ‘Hey, we can beat these guys,'” he said.

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After starting Reggie Bonnafon at quarterback in the season-opener and true freshman Lamar Jackson last week, Petrino had sophomore Kyle Bolin at the controls when Louisville tried to mount a comeback against Houston. Who will be behind center this week against Clemson?

“That’s a great question,” Petrino told KyForward correspondent Russ Brown. “We’ll have to get to work and see what we can figure out. It’s something I can’t answer right now, but we’ll work at it and get it figured out.”

Bolin, the Cards’ hero last year against Kentucky, finished 10-of-18 for 157 yards and a touchdown.

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Western Kentucky also finds itself with a 2-0 record after the Hilltoppers held off Louisiana Tech 41-38 late Thursday night. But lost in the shuffle was a key injury that could well change the trajectory of WKU’s season.

Star running back Leon Allen, who rushed for 1,542 yards last year, went out with an injury to his left leg following a run in the third quarter. It was subsequently learned that it was a knee injury that will require surgery, ending his season.

“(We) received confirmation that Leon Allen suffered a knee injury that will force him to miss the remainder of the 2015 season,” WKU head coach Jeff Brohm said in a statement released by the school. “He will have the full complement of resources and the total support of our medical team and coaching staff as he goes through the rehabilitation process to return from this injury.”

Allen had 87 yards on 12 carries against Louisiana Tech and one touchdown. It two games, he rushed for 147 yards and two scores. The Toppers travel to Bloomington Saturday to take on Indiana.

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It was a record-setting day for Kentucky’s Division III football schools Centre and Thomas More.

Thomas More overwhelmed Hanover 84-7 and established new school records for points in a game, points in a half (63) and touchdowns in a game (12). In addition, Saints’ receiver Goose Cohorn snagged three scoring passes, improving his school mark to 112 for his career.

In Danville, a week after Centre amassed a record 769 yards in a 63-7 win over Hanover, the Colonels knocked off Defiance 25-8 to remain undefeated.

Centre has now won 13 consecutive regular season contests and have captured 11 straight home games. The Colonels’ last home loss came in the final home contest of the 2012 season.

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