Prize games imminent, No. 10 Louisville first greets rival Kentucky

Field Level Media

November 22, 2023 at 4:37 pm.

An 11-win season is within Louisville’s grasp for the first time since 2012 with a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game already clinched.

While bigger accomplishments are in sight, the No. 10 Cardinals are keeping their focus tightly on their Saturday opponent as they look to halt a four-game losing skid against fierce rival Kentucky when the teams meet in Louisville, Ky.

The visiting Wildcats (6-5) have dropped five of six games since a strong start but the Cardinals (10-1) only need to look at the recent results of the Governor’s Cup series to become greatly concerned.

The Wildcats have won by an average of 30.5 points during their four-game series winning streak and that includes steamrolling the Cardinals in the last two games held at Louisville. Kentucky rolled to a 56-10 win in 2018 and a 52-21 victory in 2021.

First-year Cardinals coach Jeff Brohm — a former quarterback at the school — is aware the fan base has been highly distressed over the recent one-sided setbacks.

“The full focus needs to be on this game, because in my opinion, this is the most important game of the rest of the season,” Brohm said. “So we can talk about it all we want, this is the most important game, and our guys need to understand that preparing and trying to win this game needs to be the complete focus.

“If we want to make our fans happy, and give them a good Thanksgiving, we’ve got to go win the game. We’ve got to really crank this thing up this week.”

Louisville has won its last four games, including a 38-31 road win over Miami last weekend. The Cardinals will face No. 5 Florida State in the ACC title game on Dec. 2.

Kentucky’s fortunes went downhill rapidly after the fast start. Three of the Wildcats’ five losses have been by 17 or more points.

Last week, the Wildcats lost 17-14 at South Carolina. Kentucky turned the ball over three times without a takeaway.

“This is not the time to point fingers and throw any one person or any area (under the bus),” Wildcats coach Mark Stoops said. “We had an opportunity to win that game.”

Stoops now has his focus on the Cardinals as beating a powerful Louisville squad to keep the streak going would rate as the highlight of the season.

“Well, it’ll be a big win for us. It’s the last game of the year,” Stoops said. “It’s been a tough stretch, without a doubt, but this is another game. It certainly doesn’t salvage some of the things that we’ve done or anything like that, we don’t look at it that way, we look at it like it’s another opportunity.

“We play a lot of big games here. This one, I’ve said it from the moment I walked in here that it was important. I know the importance of it to our fan base and to the community and I’ve acknowledged that for 11 years.”

Kentucky running back Ray Davis is just 10 yards away from producing the 15th 1,000-yard rushing campaign in school history.

Louisville has its own solid runner in Jahwar Jordan, who has 1,009 yards on the ground.

Safety Devin Neal (four interceptions) and defensive end Ashton Gillotte (10 sacks) lead a Cardinals’ defense that has pitched two shutouts and held another club to three points.

Meanwhile, Brohm doesn’t want to hear chatter about the ACC championship game until the clash with Kentucky is over.

“It’s a one-game season,” Brohm said. “It’s a rivalry game against a really good, talented opponent that’s well coached and that’s won a lot of games against our program over the last four years.”

Kentucky leads the series 19-15.

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