Rivalry reversal for upperclassmen


Junior tailback Derrick Locke scored on a 100 yard kickoff return in the first half. UK leads Louisville 17-10 early in the third quarter. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

When players like Stuart Hines and Jacob Dufrene arrived on campus four years ago, there were plenty of losing streaks facing the UK football program that they wanted to break. Among the biggest was a four-game losing streak to archrival Louisville.

When Hines, a redshirt junior guard, and Dufrene, a senior linebacker, began their UK careers, many of the team’s seniors didn’t know what it was like to beat Louisville. Three years later, most of the veterans don’t know what it’s like to lose to the Cardinals.

After losing to Louisville in each meeting from 2003-06, the Cats turned the streakt around by upsetting the then No. 9 ranked Cardinals 40-34 in 2007. Since then, the programs have gone in opposite directions. Louisville floundered under Steve Kragthrope for two more years, while the Cats found their way to bowl games each year.

“I remember it was one of my first college games and showing up at the Cat Walk at Commonwealth my freshman year was an unbelievable feeling,” Dufrene said. “I talked to a bunch of linebackers from the past and they told me ‘You all never lost to them. You need to keep the streak going because you know what it’s like to be the second team in Kentucky.’ ”

The game is even bigger this year because it’s the season opener for both teams. In 2007 and 2009, former UK head coach Rich Brooks pushed the game back to let the Cats get off to an easier start. Losing the game doesn’t just mean dropping a key rivalry matchup, but also starting the season in an 0-1 hole.

“It being the first game of the year does add a little more to it,” Hines said. “You want to get started off on the right foot. You want to set the pace for the rest of the season.”

The added pressure is fine by the UK players, who have been looking forward to the date all summer. A clock in the team’s weight room has been counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to kickoff all summer.

But there’s still plenty of uncertainty heading into the game. For the second consecutive year, the Cats open their season against a team with a new head coach. That means coaches and players have only bits of film they can use for scouting, and much of the film was based off their decisions at their old schools.

New coaches give both teams extra reason to try and start the season off right – not that any extra motivation was needed for this game.

“You want to be the top team in Kentucky,” Dufrene said. “You don’t want to be sitting behind anyone else.”

That’s one of the biggest differences compared to when Hines and Dufrene arrived at UK in 2007. But even with their success against Louisville, they won’t be happy unless they can sweep the Cardinals. Dufrene said he doesn’t want to be remembered as part of a team that let a winning streak – and not a losing streak – end against their rivals.

“Looking at it back then, people probably would say we’d (be happy to win) three out of four games against Louisville,” Dufrene said. “But we want to get over that hump and get somewhere warm for a bowl game and the only way we can do that is with a good start against Louisville.”