By LARRY VAUGHT
Mark Stoops is worried about Kentucky, not Louisville.
Kentucky ends regular season play Saturday night at Louisville where a win would give UK a rare nine-win season and should lock Kentucky into the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
“Louisville is going to do what they do on both sides of the ball. They’re not going to reinvent the wheel in the last week. They are gonna play the system that they play and they’re going to play hard. You see it in every game that they’ve played. They play hard and they play aggressive and some big plays or some trick plays and things like that have gotten out of their comfort zone as well,” Stoops said Monday.
Louisville is 2-9 and head coach Bobby Petrino was fired two weeks ago. The Cardinals have given up 239 points in the last four weeks and have been shredded on defense while giving up 50 or more points in five of the last six games.
“We’re just worried about us and our execution and playing a disciplined football game. They beat us last time here. I wasn’t very proud of that effort a year ago and we’re looking to just improve and we have a lot to play for,” Stoops said.
“We got our eighth victory this past week and trying to play for nine. That’s our concentration on obviously preparing for them. Control the things we can control and that’s us and how we play.”
Could Petrino’s firing ignite the Cards, who lost 52-10 last week to North Carolina State in their first game under interim coach Lorenzo Ward?
“Sure, I would think so. I don’t know, I mean I’m not there, but I’ve seen examples of that in the past, yes,” Stoops said.
Ward is counting on pride in this in-state rivalry to help inspire his team to win a game few believe it has a chance to win.
“I think you can take records and throw them away. Traditionally, when two teams in the same state go against each other, it becomes a pride deal, and it’s something that you get to brag for 364 days a year if you win,” Ward said.
Louisville has won six of the last seven games against UK as Petrino made a habit of beating the Wildcats. Ironically, UK’s only win came in 2016 when it won 41-38 at then Cardinal Stadium when the Cards had Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson at quarterback.
“Anytime you’re in a major city like Louisville, and then you have Lexington right up the road, so, you’ve got to figure that it’s got to be a heated rivalry,” Ward said. “And then, being in the game last year, it’s definitely a heated rivalry. There’s no love lost between the teams, I think.”
Take out “I think.” No love lost at all. That’s why Stoops hopes to have a lot of UK fans at Saturday’s game.
“We’d love to see them. Absolutely. It seems like we have a great nucleus that’s with us at home or away, and we’d love to see those folks on the road as well,” Stoops said.