Upsets not uncommon in UK-U of L series
by Jamie H. Vaught
Some random notes and thoughts about UK football:
— It is no surprise that the rebuilding Wildcats, coming off a nice 41-7 victory over Miami (Ohio) last Saturday, are the heavy underdogs when they face highly-ranked Louisville and Heisman hopeful Teddy Bridgewater in Saturday afternoon’s ESPN showdown.
If Kentucky isn’t able to come up with a stunning upset over No. 7 U of L, how about claiming a moral victory in a respectable showing?
It wouldn’t be a bad idea in a reconstruction project during the first year of Mark Stoops era.
If Stoops and his Cats display a decent performance in keeping the matchup close and not lose by more than 10 points or so, we ought to be fairly pleased with a nice moral victory considering Kentucky’s difficult situation.
Unless there is a surprising upset, a very respectable setback to the Cardinals still would be a step in the right direction for Kentucky as it strives to improve — win or lose — this fall against a brutal SEC schedule.
But there have been several upsets in the heated series over the years, too.
As my press box colleague Rick Bozich of Louisville’s WDRB.com points out in his blog earlier this week, the underdogs have won eight of the 19 games since the series resumed in 1994. Two of the biggest upsets were delivered by the Wildcats.
So it is possible things can get pretty interesting on the field this weekend.
We just have to wait and see if the Wildcats can snatch an exciting victory. Or a “moral” victory.
In the series, U of L has won the last two games, beating UK by scores of 24-17 (2011) and 32-14 (2012). Before that, the Wildcats had won four straight over Louisville.
While Kentucky had a pretty good turnout at Commonwealth Stadium with an announced crowd of 54,846 last Saturday, Stoops is hoping the Big Blue Nation will be in full force on Saturday with a possible sellout crowd of nearly 70,000. The last time U of L visited Lexington was in 2011 when 68,170 fans showed up. And UK hasn’t had bigger crowds at home since then.
“I would expect us to have a full house,” Stoops told the news media on Monday. “I would anticipate there will be no tickets by the end of the week. Our fans have not disappointed us yet. So, sure, I’ll throw out a challenge to get them there. We need them there.
“And then it’s our job to go deliver and play well. I think you’ll see us prepared to play a great game this week, and you’re going to see a team that’s excited about this opportunity.”
Kentucky’s last victory over a Top 10 team took place in 2010 as the Wildcats, who eventually finished with a 6-7 mark, surprised Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks 31-28 in Lexington during Joker Phillips’ first season as the UK boss.
— It was great to see several UK newcomers playing significant roles against Miami after the squad’s disappointing performance against Western Kentucky in the previous week.
Junior college transfer Javess Blue and freshman Ryan Timmons sparked the Wildcats with 174 and 92 all-purpose yards, respectively. Freshman running back JoJo Kemp rushed for a game-high 78 net yards in only 12 carries. Freshman wide receiver Jeff Badet was very good as well, notching 80 yards in three catches, including a 56-yard TD reception from sophomore QB Maxwell Smith.
The newcomers that I have mentioned, by the way, are from Florida with the exception of Timmons, a dynamic playmaker from Frankfort, Ky.
— Senior running back Jonathan George describes the UK-U of L rivalry as “bitter.” He added that “the word love won’t be thrown around too loosely when you put both teams together in the same sentence.”
A native of Lincoln, Ala., George also had an interesting experience last May, spending a week in poverty-stricken Ethiopia on an educational/service trip.
Two other seniors — offensive guard Kevin Mitchell and linebacker Avery Williamson — also made the same journey to the African country.
— A fearless forecast for Saturday’s college football games:
**Louisville at Kentucky (ESPN): Cards by 12 (instead of 7 in my UK’s pre-season prediction).
**Tennessee at Oregon (ABC): Ducks by 17.
**Alabama at Texas A&M (CBS): Tide by 6.
**Vanderbilt at South Carolina (ESPN): Gamecocks by 15.
**Mississippi State at Auburn (ESPN2): Tigers by 3.
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