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Kentucky had an explosive first quarter scoring 28 points against an overmatched Miami (Ohio) defense last week. Offensive coordinator Neal Brown says it will be just as “important” for the Cats to start well Saturday against No. 7 Louisville.
“We talk about finishing, of course, but I think just as important is getting off to a good start. We got the ball first on Saturday, were able to go down and get a lead. With our young guys, I think getting control of that game early I think was really beneficial. I think it helped our defense,” said Brown after Wednesday’s practice.
Brown isn’t sure how the rivalry will impact UK’s new players.
“The good thing about the young guys is, they don’t know any better. Last week was their first home game, the week before that was their first game ever. This is their first Louisville game. They just kind of go with the flow,” Brown, who has watched only “bits and pieces” of last year’s win by the Cardinals, said. “But it’s an important game. It’s our next game. We haven’t spent a whole lot of time building it up. It’s out there. Everybody in their classes are talking about it. Their families are talking about it.
“They realize the importance. I don’t think they’re going to approach the game any differently than they have. Well, they better approach it better than they did the first one (a loss to Western Kentucky), but I don’t think they’re going to approach it any different than the second.”
Kentucky is a double-digit underdog and Brown isn’t sure if scoring early would bother the veteran Louisville defense or not.
“I don’t know about rocking them. They’re a veteran group. They’ve got a great defensive staff over there led by (head coach) Charlie Strong, so I don’t think they’re going to be rocked,” Brown said. “It’d be beneficial to us, no question, if we could score early and have success early.”
Brown said he didn’t realize Louisville had allowed just 14 points this season in two games.
“They played really good defense, especially at the end of the year last year, which is to be expected. If you look at coach Strong’s track record, where he was at Florida and South Carolina, even that far back, they’ve always played good defense,” Brown said. “The thing that sticks out about their defense is when you turn it on, they fly to the football. They play with a lot of energy, a lot of passion. They’re physical, and they fly to the football. If I was coaching defense, that’s how I’d want my guys to play because they are really into the game. What we’ve got to do is, we’ve got to come out and match that intensity.”
The Cardinals’ defense moves around extensively before the ball is snapped, something that could impact UK’s snap count.
“They move so much it wouldn’t do us a whole lot of good to audible because they’re just going to move again,” Brown said. “They do a good job mixing it up. We’ve practiced that a lot this week. Western did some of that, too, so we’ve seen a little bit of that, and live. I think our guys up front, our O-linemen, will be ready to handle that a little better this week.”
Brown said his passing attack will be tested by Louisville’s secondary.
“Their secondary is as good as anybody in the country. They’ve played a lot of snaps back there together. I think several of them are going to play in the NFL,” Brown said. “I think most of the time what happens is, they get ahead in games and people try to throw to catch back up.”