Seniors ready to rise against rivals

For some UK players, this is it.

The lights of Commonwealth Stadium tomorrow night will be their final stage, their final chance to do it. It’s either get a win or get shutout for the UK seniors.

Not a single player on UK’s roster has ever beaten Louisville, and for the seniors, like linebacker Wesley Woodyard, tomorrow’s rivalry game with the Cardinals is time for the Cats to either put up or muzzle it.

“It’s extremely important (to get a win),” Woodyard said. “That’s our rival. You want to beat your rival every year. Unfortunately for us we haven’t had a chance to beat them in the four years I’ve been here.”

For Woodyard and the other seniors, the rivalry battle has been anything but close. With the exception of a 31-24 U of L win in 2005, the Cardinals have thoroughly dominated the Cats during their four-game winning streak, something the players constantly remember.

“I’m sure they’ll be reminded like they have been ever since the game was over last year,” head coach Rich Brooks said. “They’re reminded, don’t worry about that. They know pretty well how they played.”

But if there was ever a year for UK to take down No. 9 U of L, tomorrow is that day, said senior quarterback Andre Woodson.

“We feel like this is the year we can pull that off,” Woodson said. “The fans are behind us 100 percent, the community’s embraced us. We feel like this is the year we can finally get it all done. We have to go out there and execute and take care of the ball offensively. We feel like the defense is going to do a good job of helping us get back on the field.”

The Cats enter Saturday’s contest with one of the best offenses in the country, averaging 53 points per game. The only problem is U of L comes in with the No. 1 scoring offense in the country, tallying 131 points in two games.

If both teams continue to score at those rates tomorrow, getting off to a fast start will be a huge factor in who has the upper hand on offense.

“They always came out and played fast and took advantage,” Woodyard said. “This year we got to go out there and play even faster than we did and take advantage of any opportunities that we have.”

In last year’s 59-28 U of L win at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, the Cards jumped all over the Cats, scoring 31 unanswered points before UK got two late touchdowns to end the first half. At that point, the game was already decided, largely because UK came out unready for the magnitude of the rivalry game.

“What we worry about is being tight, tense and making mistakes because you’re too hyper,” Brooks said. “You don’t want to make mistakes, you don’t want to drop balls and you don’t want to do things because you’re tense.”

Although stopping U of L quarterback Brian Brohm and the Cardinals’ potent passing attack is one of the top priorities, Brooks is more concerned with stopping the running game and containing running back Anthony Allen, who ran for a school-best 275 yards last week.

“You start by hopefully trying to not let them run down your throat with the football in the running game,” Brooks said. “That’s the thing they’ve killed us with for the last two or three years. We know they do all those other things. If we can’t stop that, we’ll have a heck of a time stopping the other part (of their game).”

If the Cats can do those things, they could get their first win against the Cardinals since 2002 and give the seniors their first career victory against U of L.

“It’s a big thing for (the seniors),” Woodson said. “We feel like we’ve helped turn this program around. We feel like we have the tools and the playmakers now to compete with these big teams. I think this game is going to be a big statement to where we’re really headed.”