ED PEAK: U of L Looking to Break One Streak & Get 8th Win Against Cats
After a slug it out, grinder of a game, the chant started late in Louisville’s 25-10 win over North Carolina State Saturday. On a cold windy day, some fans decided it was time to warm up and remind everyone what was next.
“Beat UK, beat UK…..” began the chant with about five minutes remaining as the Cardinals (7-4, 4-4) began looking toward Interstate 64 where the Wildcats hung tough with top-ranked Georgia, losing 16-6.
In a rivalry that Kentucky (6-5, 3-5) has sternly turned into its own whipping of “Little Brother,“ winning the last three Governor’s Cup games by an average of 36 points. UK has scored 56, 45, and 52 points. Last season Will Levis scored four touchdowns. I imagine some of those chanting fans remember the L’s down as Levis glided into the end zone.
“I usually don’t do that kind of stuff, but it’s your rival. I had to do it,” said Levis following last year's game.
In the postgame press conference Saturday, the Louisville players were asked about the Kentucky game.
“It’s bragging rights for the entire year,” said backup quarterback Brock Domann filling in for the injured Malik Cunningham. “Everyone knows that this game decides who had a successful season in the eyes of Kentucky people. So we know we’re not going to take it lightly at all, and we’re going to make sure that we do our job Monday through Friday, so we give ourselves an opportunity on Saturday.
Rivalries are fun. Entertaining. But this game is about an eighth win for Louisville. At one time the Cardinals were 2-3 having just lost to Boston College. But the Louisville defense played like its life depended on it and was a big reason for winning five of the next six.
The Wildcats are a 3 1/2-point favorite. Kentucky has embarrassed Louisville in the last three losses. Kentucky left no doubts who the top team in the Bluegrass is. But it hasn’t always been that way in the series. At one time the Cardinals had streaks of four straight and five straight victories in the early to mid- 2000s.
“When I was younger, the rivalry was just insane. The older guys, they really took it seriously, so it’s embedded into me now,” said senior linebacker Yasir Abdullah, who is second in the nation in quarterback sacks and sixth in tackles for loss.
Kentucky (6-5, 3-5) has lost two straight and five of six. But when the two rivals get together strange things happen. The Wildcats were a big underdog and forced four Lamar Jackson fumbles in 2016, upsetting host Louisville 41-38. The following year, Jackson and Louisville repaid the favor, winning 44-17. A Wildcats player threw a garbage can at Jackson when he went out of bounds during the game.
“We’re ready,” said linebacker Monty Montgomery. He was about to add some other comments but Louisville football sports information director Rocco Gasparro interrupted him. Montgomery left smiling without adding anything.
“There’s a lot of people running around this state that bleed that color blue,” said U of L coach Scott Sattefield. “There are people in this city that bleed color blue. We know what they got. They do have an unbelievable defense. They haven’t had a great year on offense, but they don’t have to be great.”
Louisville has had a outstanding defensive year. The Cardinals pressure the quarterback and make it uncomfortable to run the ball. Against North Carolina State, the Cards held the visitors to 291 total yards, 77 rushing.
“Sometimes people write you off (Cardinals were 2-3),” said Domann, who started his second game. “You’ve just not got to write back and keep grinding.”
Saturday’s game at Kroger Field will be broadcast by the SEC Network (3 p.m. ET).
Ed Peak has covered sports in Louisville, Kentucky since 1967. He started as a high school reporter for the old “Night Beat” program on WAVE Radio 970. He later worked as a high school sports reporter on WHAS TV’s “Here’s Now” (1969-1971). He produced the WHAS radio high school game of the week on the “Wayne Perkey” radio show and the WHAS Saturday Scoreboard following University of Kentucky football. Ed worked as a sports correspondent for the Courier-Journal & Louisville Times (1972-1982) and has assisted in covering The University of Louisville, University of Kentucky, many high school state football, basketball and other events for the Associated Press. He has covered the Kentucky Derby since 1973, and the Breeders Cup in Louisville and Lexington. Ed still writes for the AP, News and Tribune (Jeffersonville, Ind.) and UofLCardGame.com and CBS Radio News.