Louisville's late TD left impression on UK coaching staff

August 01, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky and Louisville start the football season five weeks from today.

Apparently that is a game Kentucky coach Rich Brooks and his staff can't wait to play even though they lost 40-24 at home to the Cardinals last year. That was Brooks' first game as UK's head coach and Bobby Petrino's first game as Louisville's head coach.

During a talk to the Birmingham UK Alumni Club last week, Brooks went through everything that went wrong for the Cats in that opening loss.

He recalled the interception backup quarterback Shane Boyd, who will be UK's starter this year, threw that led to a Louisville score. He remembered the blocked punt and dropped snap on another punt that led to more points for the Cardinals.


However, the Kentucky head coach also obviously remembers one other thing that happened during the game.

"I think Louisville will be a difficult game. They are one of the best offenses in the nation. Coach (Bobby) Petrino likes to score a lot of points," Brooks told the alumni club. "He helped his scoring average by calling a timeout and scoring late against us last year. And some people remember that."

Louisville had the game won when Petrino called a late timeout that allowed Lionel Gates to score a touchdown with only six seconds to play. Brooks did not accuse Petrino of running up the score after the game, and Petrino insisted he was only trying to show his players he wanted them to play a full 60 minutes when he got the final touchdown.

Yet it's becoming more and more obvious that the late touchdown left a lasting impression on the Kentucky coaching staff.

Two weeks ago UK recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips told the UK Ohio Convention in Middletown, Ohio, that he was "embarrassed" by the way the Cats played in the 2003 opening loss.

"I want to be the team running to the line with six seconds left," Phillips said. "I want to run to the line, take a knee and go off with the win."

Phillips insisted the Wildcats remembered that late touchdown every bit as much as their own mistakes that contributed to Louisville's win.

"I think we all remember things that happened in that game," Kentucky defensive end Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns said. "You can't play just for revenge. But when you are working in the summer and looking for a little extra motivation, things like that make it a little easier to push yourself harder to make sure you are ready to play your best from the start.

"Last year we weren't ready to play our best. That was our fault. We know this year we've got to be ready to do better, and I think we will be."

Brooks said he's looking forward to defending Louisville's two-tight end offense that gave the Cats trouble at times last year when a pair of experienced inside linebackers in Chad Anderson and Dustin Williams.

"We're going to be a better defensive team this year. No doubt about that," Brooks said. "Some things that worked against us last year, we'll be better able to defend. I am looking forward to facing Louisville's offense with the linebackers we'll have this year. I'm confident we are going to do a much better job defensively."

Boyd is just as optimistic about the offense. He knows he has to eliminate interceptions that have plagued him in the past, but he likes what he has seen from the offense.

"We're going to be inexperienced at a lot of spots, but I just have a feeling we'll be better than people think," Boyd said. "We know how hard it will be to open the season at Louisville, but we also certainly will not go into the game thinking we can't win. After all, we do have a little something to prove to them this year."

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