John Clay's notes: U of L's Strong taking 'us-against-the-world' approach

Poor-mouthing might prime Cards

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistSeptember 14, 2011 

Some random Governor's Cup notes:

■ Joker Phillips knows his good friend Charlie Strong. Joker Phillips knows his old boss Lou Holtz. And Joker Phillips knows how close Strong is to Holtz from when the two were on Sweet Lou's staff at South Carolina.

So Joker knows exactly what Strong was doing Monday when he poor-mouthed his Louisville team and built Saturday's opponent Kentucky into the greatest thing since the 18-0 New England Patriots.

"That's Lou Holtz," said Phillips after Tuesday's practice.

Strong knows the two best things for his young team is to (a) hear all week about last Friday's loss to Sun Belt Conference team Florida International, and (b) be playing this week's game on the road, where most everyone at Commonwealth Stadium will be rooting against it.

Coaches love that us-against-the-world thing.

And in Holtz's vein, by the end of the week Strong will be telling his Cardinals that those same 18-0 Patriots lost in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.

If the Giants could beat those Patriots, then this Louisville can beat this Kentucky.

■ The last coach to win his first game in the series and lose his second was Bill Curry, who won the rivalry renewal in 1994, then lost in 1995.

Since then, Hal Mumme (1997), Bobby Petrino (2003) and Phillips (2010) are the only coaches to celebrate at the end of 60 minutes in their series' debuts. Mumme and Petrino both followed with victories the next year.

■ Kentucky does own a four-game series win streak, but Louisville has outgained the Cats in two of those four games — both times at Commonwealth Stadium. Last year, the first for Phillips and Strong as head coaches, UK outgained Louisville 466-317. But in the previous three years, when Rich Brooks and Steve Kragthorpe were the two coaches, the Cards outgained the Cats a combined 1,040-1,016.

■ Along that same line, Louisville has outgained its first two opponents — Murray State (385-291) and Florida International (446-293).

Meanwhile, Kentucky has been outgained in its two wins — Western Kentucky (234-190) and Central Michigan (383-344).

■ Kentucky does bring a new defensive style into the game. But as Phillips pointed out Monday, Louisville now has two games of video to study Rick Minter's more aggressive style.

As well, since both of Kentucky's games have been close, Minter may have had to reveal a little more of that defense than originally intended.

■ Interesting to note: USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin ranks Kentucky No. 39 in the nation. He has Louisville at No. 80.

■ Some U of L fans are knocking quarterback Will Stein, but the junior does has a passer rating of 142.0. And UK's Morgan Newton has a passer rating of 89.8.

Mike Hartline, the winning quarterback in the last three UK-U of L games, did not have a passer rating higher than 135.5 in any of those games.

■ UK freshman Josh Clemons gained 3 fewer yards in his 87-yard touchdown run against Central Michigan than any Louisville back has gained in the first two games combined.

■ Considering the 'Ville starts an all-new offensive line, and Kentucky returned four starters, you would think the advantage would go to the Cats. Not so fast, my friend.

Matt Smith, UK's starting center, has yet to play because of an ankle sprain. Starting tackle Billy Joe Murphy missed last week's game with a sprained MCL.

Neither has practiced this week.

■ Louisville's biggest problem has been turnovers. The Cards have turned it over six times.

And after intercepting just nine passes all of last year, UK already has picked off six this season.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or Read his blog at

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