Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips won’t have to say much to motivate his team for tonight’s instate showdown against Louisville.
“Our kids know about this rivalry,” the Kentucky coach said earlier this week. “They know.”
Phillips said the game between the two schools is “magnified” when compared to high school rivalries many of the youngsters on the team are used to, especially running back Josh Clemons, who will be making his first start against the Cardinals.
“I think the instate kids here in Kentucky are familiar with it and they express it to the kids who are not from the state of Kentucky. But, they understand this rivalry.”
Clemons has been briefed by his teammates on the rivalry and knows what to expect.
“I just know it’s brutal,” he said. “Everyone is talking about this game and is really fired up.”
Although newcomers such as Clemons will get their first taste of the yearly get-together between the two teams, members of the senior class, including Stuart Hines, are looking forward to the contest.
“It is a game that you look forward to every year,” Hines said. “You have to focus on every game you have, but you know that this game is coming, so you look forward to it a lot.”
Kentucky has won the past four games in the series and is looking to add one more to the streak. Linebacker Ronnie Sneed likes the Cats’ chances, considering Kentucky is playing at home.
“It is always good having a rivalry game — or any game really — at home, because you get that little advantage and that crowd behind you,” he said.
Kentucky defeated Central Michigan 28-13 in its home opener last week at Commonwealth¿Stadium and carries a 2-0 record into the contest. Louisville knocked off Murray State 21-9 in its season opener, but dropped a disappointing 24-17 setback to Florida International last week, dropping the team to 1-1 on the season.
Although the Cards are coming off a loss, Phillips isn’t taking Charlie Strong’s troops lightly.
“It will be a huge challenge for us (and) give us another opportunity to see where our program is at,” he said. “This is an important game, period. We’ve talked about that. The team that has won the game, usually went on and had a successful season. It’s important. It’s not important to say the last time they’ve won it (was in 2006). It’s important for us to win, because of the success that the winner has had after winning this game.”
Strong has indicated that he thinks Kentucky is the better team, but Phillips is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“It's hard to judge teams when they haven't played common opponents,” he said. “Who knows how well we would have done against Murray State and FIU? Who knows how well they would have done against Western Kentucky and Central Michigan? The way to judge that is play each other. We do play each other this week so we'll be able to know after this game.”
Hines said beating the Cardinals in his last season ranks high on his list of goals for this season, but added the team’s recent success won’t be a factor.
“I think it is a very important game for all of our seniors, and definitely the program,” he said. “The thing is, that you can’t count on history to win this game. We have to come out ready to play. I know they’re going to be fired up.”