By LARRY VAUGHT
Rich Brooks knows there is no need to even think of downplaying the significance of SaturdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game against Louisville.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“You have to live in a vacuum not to hear about it all year long in this state. Any football fan … you hear it on talk radio, see it on the message boards, see it in the public. You get constantly reminded which side of that equation you are on. Even the last two years when we were fortunate enough to win, that does not really count. This year is what counts,Ã¢â‚¬Â Brooks said Monday.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Obviously this is an extremely important game. It is an in-state rivalry. It also is our home opening game. We need to keep our non-conference streak alive if at all possible and put us in better position as we go into league play next week. But this is a game both teams are going to want a great deal.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Brooks admits heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not out among UK fans often once the season starts. However, he knows fans get more excited for Louisville than most games.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think there is any question you get more buzz over a rival game than for any others. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also hard to beat the buzz in some SEC games you have, but this is a huge game for a lot of reasons, and certainly the in-state supremacy, which we were on the bottom tier for my first four years and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a fun place to be,Ã¢â‚¬Â Brooks said.
Brooks even started his weekly press conference with a little zinger at media members who have preferred that Kentucky and Louisville play the first week of the season as the rivals do in years when the Cardinals host the game.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Now it really does seem like football season has started. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got the game you all want to see,Ã¢â‚¬Â Brooks said.
Brooks said thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plenty of reasons for his team to be concerned about Louisville, which opened the season with a sluggish 30-10 win over Indiana State.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think they have more speed to me than they did a year ago, particularly on defense. Their defensive speed appears to be increased quite a bit,Ã¢â‚¬Â Brooks said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“They are playing aggressively on defense.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Offensively we all know what kind of skilled weapons they have. Our matchup of our defensive front against their offensive front is one of the key matchups in the game. Whether we can contain the run and put pressure on the quarterback will be one of the keys to the game.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The quarterback is former Lexington Catholic standout Justin Burke, a player Brooks and his staff tried to recruit before he signed with North Carolina State and then transferred to Louisville last year.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We obviously saw him first-hand in high school and he was outstanding and threw for nine million yards and lots of touchdowns,Ã¢â‚¬Â the Kentucky coach said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think after almost a two-year period without playing, he played very well in the first game. Understandably he was a little anxious at the start of the game and missed a few throws because he was hurrying. I think you saw some of that from (UK quarterback) Mike Hartline last year.Ã¢â‚¬Â