Stoops, Cats Prepare for Renewal of Rivalry on Saturday

Stoops, Cats Prepare for Renewal of Rivalry on Saturday

by Tim Letcher

After not playing last season due to COVID-19 restrictions, Kentucky and Louisville will renew their intrastate rivalry on Saturday at Cardinal Stadium.

Kentucky has won the last two games between the teams and three of the last four. UK has won the last two games at Cardinal Stadium, beating the Cards 56-10 in 2018 and upsetting 11th-ranked Louisville and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson 41-38 in 2016.

UK head coach Mark Stoops realizes that some players on his current squad have never faced Louisville, something that he plans to address.

“A good dose of our team, the past two classes, have not played Louisville,” Stoops said. “This rivalry needs to be introduced to a few of our players who haven’t been exposed to it.”

Stoops knows that the Cards are playing better as the season has moved on. He knows this is not the same team that the Cats beat two seasons ago.

“They’re better in all areas than the last time we played them,” Stoops said. “It’s a totally different team than two years ago.”

Specifically, Stoops cited U of L quarterback Malik Cunningham as someone the Cats will need to be prepared to defend.

“Malik, he is a dynamic playmaker. A guy that can hurt you with his legs and his arm. You can see, he’s getting more and more comfortable with each game and each opportunity.”

Cunningham has rushed for a team-high 933 yards and 18 touchdowns this season, while also passing for 2,589 yards and another 18 scores.

Stoops knows that facing Louisville is always tough but especially on the road.

“We have a really good opponent. Looking forward to the rivalry game,” Stoops said. “Big challenge, going on the road and the way they’re playing. It will be a rowdy atmosphere, it always is. We have to adapt and deal with it.”

While the Louisville game is always very important, Stoops sees it as part of a bigger picture for the Cats.

“A rivalry game is what it is. You have to address it and understand it and be prepared for it,” Stoops said. “But for us, there are so many other things that are equally as important.”

Among those other things are the chance to win nine games for the second time in four years, something that hasn’t been done at Kentucky very often, as well as the chance to play in another New Year’s Day bowl game.

But for those things to materialize, the Cats will need to focus on this week’s opponent, one that happens to be their intrastate rival.


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