Both teams had new coaches. Again, the perception was that Rich Brooks had assembled a veteran staff that would have an edge over the relatively young staff that Bobby Petrino had at Louisville. Reality was far different.
It was Kentucky, not Louisville, that did not know what to expect when the game started. It was Kentucky, not Louisville, that looked out of sync offensively most of the game. It was Kentucky, not Louisville, that was surprised by the opposition.
Using Lorenzen and Boyd at same time was a disaster
Kentucky's supposedly creative plan to use quarterbacks Lorenzen and Boyd in the game at the same time was a disaster. Boyd threw a first-quarter interception into a coverage he had not seen that led to an easy Louisville touchdown. He also looked confused when he lined up at tailback and receiver. When UK shifted Lorenzen to receiver, Louisville paid little or no attention to him - and neither did Boyd.
Lorenzen looked about as comfortable trying to run the option as an Olympic sprinter would running a 26.3-mile marathon.
"They made the plays they needed to win and we made the mistakes we needed to lose," Brooks said.
That's a concise, brutal explanation that no Kentucky player disputed.
"Give Louisville all the credit," said Lorenzen, who threw for 236 yards and two scores before tossing a fourth-quarter interception that ended UK's comeback hopes. "They played great."
Louisville did. First-time starter Stefan LeFors was excellent at quarterback. Shelton was the best running back in the game.
"Everything they did, we had gone over in practice," Louisville defensive back Josh Minkins, who made the fourth-quarter interception, said. "The coaches did a wonderful job on the defensive scheme."
Kentucky offensive coordinator Ron Hudson took the blame for UK's woes. The Cats gained 344 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per play, but much of the success was due to Lorenzen's phenomenal ability to elude tacklers and turn big losses into positive yardage. He would have had several more big plays if receivers had not given up on their routes when it looked like he was going to be sacked only to have him break free.
"We run that scramble drill all the time in practice and receivers know what they should have done," Hudson said. "But there was a lot I did not do right, either. I did not make some right calls. I did not have us prepared offensively. Put all that on my shoulders."
A huge blow for the Wildcats
Actually, put it on Brooks' shoulders because this loss was a huge blow to the Wildcats. Last year, the Cats beat Louisville and finished 7-5 despite not being bowl eligible. Many UK fans, and players, were upset when Kentucky let Guy Morriss and his staff leave for Baylor and then spent more money than Morriss wanted to hire Brooks and his staff.
With NCAA sanctions likely to take a much larger toll on UK's talent pool in 2004 and 2005 than they will this year, this is seen as the season Brooks has to get Kentucky into a bowl. Based on the way the team played Sunday, a bowl bid certainly seems unlikely.
"You face adversity and you better get through it and get better," UK receiver Derek Abney said. "We still have 11 games to go. We can't dwell on this one loss ad let the season go down the drain.
"If anything, we have to get more determined now. The veteran players cannot let the younger guys get down and give up on the season."
That all sounds good but based on the way Kentucky played Sunday, it's going to take a lot more than determination to fix all the problems that Louisville exposed in Brooks' first game.