LEXINGTON (AP) — Louisville is excited about Saturday’s meeting with rival Kentucky for reasons beyond Bluegrass State supremacy.
After dominating Ohio and Eastern Kentucky by a combined margin of 93-14, the No. 7 Cardinals (2-0) expect a tougher test from the Wildcats (1-1). Louisville’s defense is preparing for an up-tempo offense run by quarterbacks Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow, who combined for 413 yards passing while alternating plays to help Kentucky roll up 675 yards in a 41-7 victory over Miami (Ohio).
The Cardinals’ high-powered offense led by Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Teddy Bridgewater expects a stiffer challenge than in their first two games. Louisville also ready for a charged atmosphere at Commonwealth Stadium as it seeks to win a third straight Governor’s Cup in a series Kentucky leads 14-11.
Even Cardinals coach Charlie Strong is hyped up about the game. It is the last time the teams will meet in September before the game becomes the annual season finale for both squads beginning next season.
“All games are big games but let’s face it, some games are bigger than others,” Strong said. “This is one of those games. Not only is it a rival game, but it’s also our first road test.
“We know the environment we’re going into. We’ve got to pack our defense, our kicking game, our discipline and our togetherness and play a complete game for 60 minutes.”
Louisville seeks its second straight win at Commonwealth, where Bridgewater, as a freshman, relieved an injured Will Stein and threw two touchdowns in a 24-17 victory in 2011. The victory jump-started his impressive career and he returns as a Heisman hopeful with a crop of talented receivers, looking to keep the Governor’s Cup in the Cardinals’ possession.
Kentucky aims to halt both streaks in its final nonconference contest that also begins a four-game stretch against ranked teams over the next five weeks. The rebuilding Wildcats are approaching this game as just a step in the process as a way of maintaining focus, but linebacker Avery Williamson said even the youngsters understand it’s bigger than that with just 80 miles between the campuses.
“They know, they get the feeling it’s a big game,” Williamson said. “We treat it like this is the next game. … We don’t want to put too much emphasis on it. It’s good to win it.”