Kentucky coaches, players preview the 7-4 Louisville Cardinals


Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. (1) answers questions from a reporter after the University of Kentucky vs. UT Martin football game on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Rick Childress | Staff

Rivalry week is never taken lightly—especially in the state of Kentucky. 

The 6-5 Wildcats face the 7-4 Louisville Cardinals this weekend in their last game of the regular season, and this year the meeting will be at Kroger Field. The matchup marks 32nd all-time meeting and the 26thconsecutive meeting since 1994, the Cats leading the series 16-15.

Kentucky senior linebacker Kash Daniel says despite this being his last time playing in the rivalry game, it feels no different than in the past. 

“It feels just like the last three years,” Daniel said. “We know what’s on the line, we know we’re playing for the Governor’s Cup, we know it’s an in-state rivalry, but our message this week is just to stay ourselves, don’t get too far ahead and stay disciplined.”

Last season, the Cats traveled to Louisville and routed the Cardinals 56-10, but this year is expected to be a little different. After winning just two games in the 2018 season, the Cards are one of the most improved teams in the country, largely led by first-year head coach Scott Satterfield. 

Despite the adversity this season, the Cats are rolling on offense, specifically the run game. Against UT-Martin last week, the Wildcats broke the program’s single-game rushing record with 462 yards against the Skyhawks, but coordinator Eddie Gran says a lot will be different on the field this year compared to last as they face a solid Cardinal defense. 

“They’re in the right places at the right time, they play hard, it’s a good-looking bunch,” Gran said. “We’ve talked to some people that have played them and they think they’re physical. But they just know where to go and they do a really good job on the back end of switching coverages.”

Over the last few games, the Cats have seen little to no action from wide receiver Ahmad Wagner, who’s been a little banged up. However, Gran told reporters Tuesday that Wagner is back in full speed and should be good to go for the Louisville game. 

“Today actually there was a lot of excitement out there,” Gran said. “Couple plays were made and I actually went up to him and said, ‘you’re back.’ So that was good to see.”

The Cardinals average more points per game the Cats, scoring 34.5 compared to Kentucky’s 26.6. Louisville can thank sophomore wide receiver Tutu Atwell for many of those points as he leads the team with 57 catches for 1,072 yards and 11 touchdowns. 

“Obviously Tutu is an incredible athlete,” White said. “When he’s out there on the field he can do a lot of different things … He’s explosive, he’s hard to tackle.”

White pointed out that a big threat Louisville’s offense poses to Kentucky is their ability to make big plays and how many of those they can generate.

“If there’s anything that keeps up a defensive coordinator at night, it’s a team that can go big at any moment,” White said. 

The Cats and Cards will kick off at noon on Saturday, Nov. 30 at noon in Lexington and can be seen on SEC Network.