Crawford Game Notes: UK-U of L

Everybody puts out game notes. Every team in Division I-A football hands them out before every game. Some of them are useful and work themselves into stories and game broadcasts. Some are not.

The game notes for today’s game between U of L and UK can be found at the following links (these are to PDF files). U of L notes. UK notes.

Back when I was a sports beat reporter, I developed a practice of putting together my own set of game notes. Some of the notes were the more interesting notes passed along by the schools. Others were notes I came up with during the week.

I don’t do that as often anymore, because my job is to give my opinion as much as it is to handle notes-type material. But for a game like UK-U of L, doing your own set of notes is helpful, so I’ve done it. The only difference, I’m sharing this set with everybody. For what they’re worth, my own pregame notes package, not exhaustive, but just a few things I’ve run across (some of which have appeared in this blog previously) …

MEN OF LETTERS: One way of gauging experience on the two teams is comparing varsity letters won. A look at how the teams break down in the starting lineups, and on the two-deep depth chart.

  • UK starting offense features 21 varsity letters won, second string has 13 for a total of 34.
  • U of L starting offense features 18 varsity letters won, second string has 11 for a total of 29.
  • UK starting defense features 17 varsity letters won, second string has 9 for a total of 26.
  • U of L starting defense has 15 varsity letters won, second string has 12 for a total of 27.

Danger areas: At three of the four defensive line spots, U of L will be bringing in second-stringers with no varsity experience. It has a true freshman listed at starter at middle linebacker, and three of its four safeties have no game action at the position. Neither backup cornerback has any varsity game experience at the position. UK’s second-string defense is only a little more seasoned, also featuring five players without game experience.

LOUISVILLE HAS SENIORITY: This from the U of L game notes. The Cardinals’ senior class fo 27 players in the second largest in the country, owing largely to former coach Steve Kragthorpe’s desire to fix things quickly via the junior college route. Hawaii has the nation’s largest senior class with 31, followed by Louisville, then Iowa and UTEP with 26 each and Ohio State with 25.

A COACHING FIRST: When Joker Phillips and Charlie Strong meet, it will be the first time two African-American coaches face off in a game between two Bowl Championship Series teams.

CATS AGAINST THE RUN: UK ranked 100th in Division I-A in rushing defense last season, allowing nearly 4.7 yards per carry for the season. Just as alarming, UK gave up 5.1 yards per carry on first down and another 4.6 on second down. And finally this — on third down with 4 to 6 yards to go, the Wildcats gave up a whopping 8.6 yards per carry. UK opponents ran the ball 39 times on third down last season; 32 of those runs resulted in first downs. (Opponents also converted on 7 of 9 runs on fourth down.)

STAR POWER? Rumors are that Cincinnati Bengals receives Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens could be in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for today’s game.

LAST YEAR’S GAME: Game story from The Courier-Journal.

By Brett Dawson The Courier-Journal
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The life had been drained out of Commonwealth Stadium, the energy sapped from all but the red-clad corner where Louisville fans had cause to celebrate.

Heavily-favored Kentucky was on the ropes at home in the Governor’s Cup game on Saturday, the momentum, the big plays and most of the breaks tilting in the Cardinals’ favor.

And then came the fumble.

U of L’s Trent Guy dropped a wind-whipped punt in the fourth quarter, UK’s A.J. Nance fell on the loose ball and three players later, the Wildcats turned that break into a game-breaker.

Randall Cobb’s leaping touchdown grab with 4 minutes, 28 seconds to play set the final score – UK 31, U of L 27, and gave the Cats another of their trademark come-from-behind wins.

“Everything swung towards us (after Guy’s fumble),” tailback Alfonso Smith said. “It got the crowd back in the game, it got the players back in the game.”

And it helped the Cats pull out a game that seemed to have swung decidedly in the Cards’ direction.

Outplayed most of the afternoon, UK did what it has made a habit of doing in recent years under Rich Brooks. It found a way to claw back from the brink.

“I think our team has learned in the last three years going on four now that we’re a good team,” Brooks said. “We’re capable of making up for our mistakes or other teams’ good play. Coming back, we didn’t hang our head. We rolled up our sleeves. We knew what we had to do and went out and got it done.”

They did it despite running four offensive plays – and committing three turnovers – in the third quarter. They did it despite Guy’s 66-yard touchdown catch with 7:49 in the game that looked like a momentum killer, putting the Cards on top 27-24.

They did it despite being forced to punt the ball away with a little more than 5½ minutes remaining in the game and U of L leading by that same 27-24 score.

That’s when the Guy fumble turned the game.

One break, the Cats figured, was all they needed.

“It changed everything,” defensive end DeQuin Evans said. “It got everybody jumping up, saying ‘Let’s go! Let’s get into it!'”

Cobb got into the end zone three plays later, leaping for a touchdown catch that was his second big play of the fourth quarter. He’d helped set up a TD that gave UK a 24-20 lead by taking a screen pass into a crowd of Cards, then cutting back for a 27-yard gain on third and 10.

“He’s a magician,” offensive head coach Joker Phillips said.

It took a little hocus pocus for the Cats to pull out a win in which they were favored by two touchdowns, but that’s just the sort of trickery they’ve pulled in recent years, winning games against the likes of Georgia, Louisiana State and East Carolina – to name a few – in which they’d fallen badly behind.

That experience prevented panic even as U of L controlled most of Saturday’s game.

“I know what we’re capable of, so I really wasn’t that nervous,” Smith said. “I don’t like to be in those situations. It would be a whole lot better on my heart. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s how the dice is rolled.”

SPREADING IT OUT: Kentucky is a 3-point favorite in its annual rivalry game against Louisville as of Friday at noon (all odds information used here will be
from covers.com). Some notes on the spread:

— Average spread in the modern series (including this year): 7.8 points
— Louisville has been favored 10 times by an average of 9.1 points (it won six of those games, and covered in four of them)
— Kentucky has been favored 6 times by an average of 6.5 points (it won three of those games, and covered twice)
— The favorite has won just 5 of the past 10 meetings and 9 of the 16 overall.

YEAR-BY-YEAR SPREAD AND RESULTS:

Year Favorite Result
2009 UK by 12.5 UK 31-27
2008 UL by 3.5 UK 27-2
2007 UL by 4.5 UK 40-34
2006 UL by 23 UL 59-28
2005 UL by 23.5 UL 31-24
2004 UL by 10.5 UL 28-0
2003 UK by 5.5 UL 40-24
2002 UL by 12.5 UK 22-17
2001 UL by 3.5 UL 36-10
2000 UK by 5.5 UL 40-34
1999 UL by 3 UL 56-28
1998 UK by 10 UK 68-34
1997 UL by 3 UK 38-24
1996 UK by 2 UL 38-14
1995 UL by 4 UL 13-10
1994 UK by 3.5 UK 20-14
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