Mid-major foe Cats’ biggest challenge of the year

Column by Jonathan Smith

This isn’t the week that every UK fan, player and coach has circled on their calendar.

This isn’t the week that the UK faithful has been dreaming of or having nightmares about.

This isn’t the stage for Andre Woodson to kick off his Heisman Trophy campaign or the stage for the goalposts to come down again.

But all of those blue bloods should beware: This is the toughest week of the year for the Cats. When you couple the zest of a season-opening win and the anticipation of the game that no one is supposed to be talking about yet, Kent State week becomes the most difficult week of the year.

No offense to Kent State — UK has struggled against teams from the Mid-American Conference and the Golden Flashes went on the road last week and beat a Bowl Championship Series team in Iowa State — but this isn’t what has people excited.

People are excited because the Cats had 30 points midway through the second quarter against Eastern Kentucky (first game), and there is a real possibility of beating Louisville (the third and biggest game). The middle game coming this Saturday is about as popular as the middle child.

But let’s make one thing clear: UK says they have no interest in Louisville right now. Chill about the ‘Ville, they say.

“I want to try to say this nicely, but everybody keeps bringing up Louisville,” head coach Rich Brooks said. “They brought it up before the opener. Some of you all (the media) and a lot of other people are upset that Louisville wasn’t our opener. Whatever that means, we’re not playing Louisville, we’re not worried about Louisville, and I’m not worried about my players thinking ahead to Louisville.”

That may be true to a certain extent. Kent State is more than capable of knocking off the Cats. But it is hard to imagine the players not having flashes toward U of L rather than the Golden Flashes with the rivalry game so close.

But the team won’t talk about it. They’re as quiet about U of L as Rupp Arena is when a UK player is at the free-throw line.

But the fans are talking. They have been all summer, and they will continue to through next Saturday and beyond.

When the guy with the “I Bleed Blue” shirt in your 10 a.m. class talks to you about football today, he’s most likely to say, “Man, the offense looked really good last week, and U of L kind of struggled with the short passing game, which is offensive coordinator Joker Phillips’ specialty. I think this is our year.”

Our year to beat Louisville. Not Kent State.

That’s what makes this the most difficult week of the year. Appalachian State opened many eyes last week in their win against No. 5 Michigan — teams get pumped up for some games more than others. It’s only natural.

So if you want to sound like our team, tell the guy talking your ear off about how much better Woodson is than Louisville QB Brian Brohm to shut up. It’s too early for that.

But when you walk past your UK football calendar tonight (with a big blue circle around Sept. 15) to go to sleep, we all know what you’ll be dreaming about.

Jonathan Smith is a journalism senior. E-mail  [email protected]