The Beak Football Breakdown: Cards vs. Cats

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The Louisville football program has had a great season and provided many exciting moments along the way. They went 5-3 in their inaugural season in the ACC finishing 3rd in the Coastal Division, and are 8-3 overall coming off a huge win at Notre Dame. Now it’s time for the season finale and the annual battle with in-state rival Kentucky. It will be a chance to put an exclamation mark on a great regular season. The bitter banter has had a full season to stew between UK and Louisville fans. The wait for this game has made it hotter than ever. We have had twitter wars, Facebook wars, but now it’s time for the gridiron version of “The Battle of the Bluegrass” to take center stage. Both programs will be on display for the nation to watch 12:00pm Saturday on ESPN2 as this game will take its place at the table of rivalry weekend in college football. This game has been played 26 times over the years with UK leading the series 14-12, while Louisville has been the better team and program in the modern series leading 12-8 and winning the last three meetings. The last time Louisville won 4 straight in this series was between the 03 and 07 seasons.

UK dropped to 5-6, 2-6 in the SEC after losing to Tennessee 50-16 a few weeks ago. The Wildcats have lost five straight games after winning three straight over Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and UL Monroe. They have been blown out by LSU, Georgia, and Tennessee during their losing streak. Their offense is averaging 28.2 points per game, which ranks 72nd in the country. Their defense is allowing 30.1 points per contest, which ranks a dismal 89th in the country. They are 0-4 on the road this season.


Leading Stoop’s offense on the field Saturday will be quarterback Patrick Towles who has thrown for 2,542 yards to go along with 14 touchdowns and 7 interceptions this season. He is a very solid guy in that backfield who can make accurate throws while also being able to make plays with his legs. He has 295 yards and 6 rushing touchdowns. He will look to challenge the Cardinal defense with short passes in the flats and middle of the field.

Towels will also have some pretty solid run support on Saturday handing the ball off to running backs Stanley Williams and Braylon Heard who have combined for 714 rushing yards with 7 touchdowns this season. These guys will also catch passes out of the backfield. Williams has 149 receiving yards with a touchdown and Heard has 87 receiving yards.

Speaking of receiving yards Kentucky has an offense that likes to spread the ball around. They have five guys over 180 yards in their receiving corps. Leading the way in this group is wide receiver Ryan Timmons who has a team best 45 catches for 536 yards and 2 touchdowns for the Wildcats. He is followed by Javess Blue who has 516 yards with 5 touchdowns, Demarco Robinson 442 yards with 1 touchdown, Garrett Johnson 264 yards with 2 touchdowns, and Blake Bone with 183 yards with 2 touchdowns. Dorian Baker is done for the season with a knee injury.

Another guy that has also been very important to this Kentucky offense is All-purpose yards guy Jojo Kemp. He has caught some passes and has rushed for 325 yards with 4 touchdowns. They will line him up anywhere on the field including behind center to run the wildcat offense.
The Kentucky offense has thrown the ball over 2598 yards this season while rushing for 1689 yards.

Defensively, our Cardinals are allowing an average of 18.7 points per game, which ranks an impressive 14th in the country. They have only allowed over 27 points twice this season and that was against some very good units. The Louisville defense is much quicker and more talented than this Kentucky offensive group but their creativity will keep our guys on their toes. The Louisville defense will have to play disciplined football on Saturday and not take anything for granted. Defense has been the theme this season for the Cardinals and they will have to answer the call again. Gerod Holliman will be looking to break an NCAA record for interceptions on Saturday while solidifying his chance for a defensive player of the year award. I look for him to have a big day and he should see several passes coming his way. This defense will also have a group of seniors looking to go out on top. The leader of this unit Lorenzo Mauldin will put pressure on Towels all day, while B.J. Dubose, Andrew Johnson, Terell Floyd, and Deiontrez Mount will also look to have big games in this season finale.

The Kentucky defense has been the teams Achilles heel this season and they have been beyond dismal stopping the run. They are currently ranked 98th in the country in rushing defense. They have allowed forty rushes of 10 yards or more in the last 5 games. Their passing defense while not exactly great has been better as they are ranked 30th in the nation in passing yards allowed. The strength of the Kentucky defense comes from the defensive end position where they do have some very good talent. This group is anchored by seniors Alvin Dupree and Za’Darius Smith. Dupree had 15 tackles in their last game, and has 67 on the season. Smith has 51 tackles on the year. Louisville native Jason Hatcher is the heir apparent to Dupree and will also see playing time against the Cards on Saturday. He grew up cheering for the home team so he will be looking for a solid outing. He has 25 tackles this season. . I think Stoops will pick his poison when it comes to Louisville’s offense. He will load the box with 8 or nine guys to stop the run and hope that Reggie and the Louisville receiving group have an off day.

The Louisville offense is averaging 31.5 points per game, which ranks 49th in the country. Quarterback Reggie Bonnafon, has filled in well for the injured Will Gardner, throwing for 842 yards with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in limited action this season. And he had a very good outing at Notre Dame last weekend. I do think that done a lot for the young man’s confidence. Wide receiver Devante Parker has caught 29 balls for 555 yards and 2 touchdowns in only 4 games this season due to an injury, and I know he wants his final game in Papa John’s to be special. I think he will have a huge day. Running back Brandon Radcliff has carried the ball 104 times for 581 yards and 9 touchdowns. Michael Dyer has carried the ball 103 times for 475 yards and 4 touchdowns. These guys were monumental in the win against Notre Dame and have come up big all season. They will face a loaded box on Saturday but I think they will again play a big part in the outcome of this one.

I don’t think the “Battle for the Bluegrass” will be much of a battle but it could be pretty competitive, especially early on. Emotions will be running high like they always are in this game. These emotions can make up for deficiencies early in sports competitions but ultimately the better team prevails. I don’t think that there is any question who the better team is here. The Cards ability and their execution are on a different level especially on defense. I do think that our arch rivals are on the road to that in the future, but their program is still in the early stages of being rebuilt and the score board will reflect that on Saturday afternoon.

Louisville’s 23 seniors will be honored beginning at 11:35 a.m. on Saturday. This senior class has been one of the best in school history, posting a solid 38-12 mark and will advance to their fourth-straight bowl game next month. They also haven’t lost against Kentucky and they won’t Saturday.

The Beak Prediction
Louisville 51 Kentucky 24

The Beak’s Prediction for the
Howard Schnellenberger Award:

My prediction for the award this year is WR DeVante Parker who will finish with 160 yards receiving with 3 TD’s. I believe he will win this award for his ability to take over this game. He should be able to have his way in a very mediocre UK secondary especially with them having to put so much emphasis on stopping the run.

The 2010 game was the inaugural year for the award. The award is given to the Most Valuable Player of the game. It is named for Howard Schnellenberger, who played under Bear Bryant for Kentucky and coached at Louisville.

Previous winners:

-(9-04-2010) Derrick Locke, RB@ Kentucky had 23 Carries, 104 Yards, for 2 TD’s
-(9-17-2011) Dexter Heyman, LB@ Louisville had 12 Tackles & 1 Forced Fumbles
-(9-02-2012) Teddy Bridgewater Louisville QB 19/21, 232 Yards
-(9-14-2013) Teddy Bridgewater Louisville QB 16/28, 250 Yards, 1 TD

Cards Defend Their Way To 5-0

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It hasn’t been pretty on the offensive side of the ball this season for the Cardinals, but they have bought into Coach Pitino and his defensive philosophy. That has helped them move to 5-0 in the early part of the season and that defense tonight helped them get a hard fought win over a pesky Cleveland State team. The Cards beat the Vikings 45-38 giving Coach Pitino his 700th win as a college coach. With the win the Cardinals are now 70-9 and have won 30 straight games against non conference opponents at the Yum Center.

It was another huge milestone tonight for a man that has left a mark on the game of basketball that will live on for many generations. At 700-245 all-time as a collegiate head coach Rick Pitino has seen and done it all. He’s a Hall of Fame coach who has built programs from scratch, returned programs to their glory, and now he’s just enjoying his life and teaching and molding players for their time between the lines and after. It has been a pleasure to watch Coach Pitino during my time as a college basketball fan, and even when he was on the enemy’s sideline it was hard not to respect his knowledge and understanding for the game. Pitino is just the sixth active coach with at least 700 career victories. I hope to see him win many more before he’s through.

It hasn’t taken very long for this Louisville Basketball program to feel the effects of losing their best shooter in Luke Hancock and their best scorer in Russ Smith. I don’t think the fans realized that the offense would take as big a step back as it has. Louisville’s 45 points tonight is the lowest score since 1997 vs. Temple, and the fewest points for the Cardinals in a winning effort since 1981. We do have some good offensive players in Wayne Blackshear, Terry Rozier, Chris Jones, and Montrezl Harrell, but we are going to need some guys on the bench to be developed throughout the season in order for the offense to improve. Louisville had 0 points off the bench tonight; first time since Dec. 5 2000 in a 70-63 loss to Georgetown. Guys like Quentin Snider and Shaqquan Aaron are pure scorers and have a ton of skill. When they learn the plays and get stronger it will help. Anton Gill is a good scorer but he is slumping right now… He will also come around. We didn’t have a very good night on the offensive side of the ball but got to give credit to Cleveland State they played a very good game and that zone defense really confused our guys tonight.

The good news is that this team is playing very good and very hard on the defensive side of the ball. They are also rebounding the ball very well at both ends of the floor. They are currently 5th in the country in FG% defense, 10th in scoring defense, 4th is steals per game, 5th in 3PT Defense, and 10th in total steals. They are currently 20th in the nation in defensive rebounds per game and 4th in the nation in offensive rebounding per game. The Cards are currently ranked #2 in Kenpoms Defense Adjustment Efficiency. The 59 points the Cardinals have allowed in two consecutive games is the lowest two game total since 1937. So right now defensive is the name of the game and it looks like that could be the identity of the 2014/15 group. The defense will also get stronger as more guys are developed.

Montrezl was marathon man tonight playing all 40 minutes of the game. His double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds really helped his team get over the hump tonight. He was the MVP of this game no doubt.

Terry Rozier is the most poised and mature player on the college level that you will ever see. Guys his age shouldn’t be able to see the big picture the way he does sometimes. That poise and big picture thinking carries over on the court and this kid goes out and does what he needs to do night in and night out. He had 11 rebounds tonight along with 9 points.

Wayne Blackshear has been able to string together a very good start for himself and he has also been a big lift to this team on the offensive side of the ball. Tonight he had 8 points and 5 rebounds.

I realize that there are going to be those fans that start freaking out and think the sky is falling especially after such a dismal offensive performance tonight. Coach Pitino tried to warn us that this game was going to be ugly and none of us listened. Yes the offense was bad, but this won’t be the norm. It will get better and this is a great defensive team. It is going to be fun watching the man that has 700 wins work his magic again this season and get the most out of this group of players. I’m ready to play some of the better teams on the schedule to see what our team is really made of. Tuesday will be a good test as Ohio State comes to town for the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. Go Cards!