Cats, Cards will find way to keep series

August 06, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Kentucky and Louisville officials may not agree on when their football game should be played, but they all agree the game has to be played.

Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich and coach Bobby Petrino want the game to remain the first week of the season. Last year Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said he might want to play the game later in the year when his team is more seasoned.

"It has to stay as the opener," said Petrino during the third annual Governor's Cup Golf Classic here Thursday to promote the Sept. 5 game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. "It's as good as it gets. The excitement it generates is unreal.

"It's a great time for high school players. It's a Sunday when there are no NFL games and Monday everyone is out of school. I hope it stays the same."


Brooks was not at the press conference due to a death in his family. However, UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart said there was no danger of the series ending when the current contract expires after the 2005 game.

"We will play," Barnhart said.

He said no details of games beyond 2005 has been discussed and he would not speculate on what might happen.

"We'll get to it soon enough. It won't affect the future of the series. We'll work it all out. This game will keep being played," Barnhart said.

Jurich again said playing the game first encourages fans on both sides to spend most of the spring and summer talking football, something he feared might not happen if the game was later in the season.

"People can speculate all summer and every week the hype just keeps building," Jurich said. "It helps high school football because everyone is talking football. Both teams are undefeated going into the game. There's no down side to it."

Petrino aware late timeout didn't sit well

Louisville won 40-24 last year and Petrino is aware that a timeout Louisville called with 13 seconds remaining that led to the final touchdown didn't sit well with Kentucky fans, players or coaches.

"I would expect that would be something they would try to use (for extra motivation)," Petrino said. "As a coach, I couldn't win. We scored a touchdown, and the Kentucky fans were mad, and the U of L fans were mad at me because I didn't go for two (points after the touchdown)."

Petrino did note that Louisville drove 90 yards in about eight minutes and only threw twice on the final TD drive.

Kentucky assistant coach Steve Ortmayer said only one thing about the late score upset him, even though both Brooks and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips have noted recently that they have not forgotten the final touchdown.

"I don't even give that a thought. Everybody has their own game plan," Ortmayer said. "I don't have a right to worry about what the opponents' game plan is. The only thing that upsets me is that we didn't stop them."

Petrino made it clear that he expected a more difficult time scoring even though the Cards return most of their offense that averaged 488 yards and 35 points per game during a 9-4 season in 2003.

"You could see the Kentucky defense getting better and better every game last year," Petrino said. "We know it will be a tough, hard-fought game. I expect it will be a tough contest going into the fourth quarter. Usually who runs the ball the best in the fourth quarter will win."

Shelton has fully recovered

Petrino said top running back Eric Shelton has fully recovered from last season's injury. "He was back physical and aggressive in the spring. He's ready and should be 100 percent," Petrino said.

So is Michael Bush, who was hurt in spring practice. The 2002 Kentucky Mr. Football was used at quarterback, running back and receiver last year.

"We would like to see him carry the ball a lot and catch more balls this year," Petrino said. "We will also line him up on defense and let him play."

He likely won't play any quarterback because of the arrival of last year's Mr. Football, Brian Brohm. Petrino says he's not sure if Brohm can challenge incumbent Stefan LeFors, a first-team All-Conference USA pick last year.

"It's certainly hard to play quarterback as a true freshman, but guys have done it," Petrino said. "It's just a matter of how quick he picks up the speed of the game."

He also wouldn't speculate on whether he might try to rotate two quarterbacks.

"The critical thing is how others believe in the quarterback and how he leads the team," Petrino said.

But the Louisville coach is sure about one thing.

"You don't need a lot of motivation for this one (against Kentucky)," Petrino said. "You just go get on the bus. That's all it takes."

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