John Clay: Forget rivalry; UK's Cobble just wants to win

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistAugust 29, 2012 

Kentucky defensive lineman Mister Cobble, during UK football photo day on Friday August 3, 2012 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

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By simple job description, Mister Cobble should be a 6-foot, 328-pound, mean, dragon-breathing defensive tackle of all things nasty. He is the first to tell you that he is not.

"Tackle they say is the most violent, vicious position," the junior said on Wednesday. "When I'm on the field I become a very violent person, not a vocal person but a more physical person. When I'm off the field, you can ask anybody out here, I'm a nice guy. You can talk to me about anything."

So let's talk.

Sunday, Kentucky travels to play 25th-ranked Louisville in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in the annual Governor's Cup game that begins the season for both teams.

Cobble played his high school football at Louisville Central, and was largely overlooked by the hometown Cardinals until late in the recruiting process when then-Louisville and now-UK assistant coach Greg Nord began paying attention. Too late. Joker Phillips got there first.

So this is a special game, right?

"They're another team on the schedule," Cobble said. "Nothing more than that."

Not to the fans, of course. They're certifiably nuts, with their Louisville Hate Day and Kentucky Hate Day. Surely that nonsense has bled over to a starting defensive tackle from Louisville who plays for Kentucky, right?

"I try to ignore it," Cobble said. "Like I told you guys earlier in camp, I turn my phone off. My phone is currently on, but I try not to answer it."

That's not entirely true.

"If it's my mom, I've got to answer that call."

OK, let's go X's and O's. With regard to UK-U of L history, one stat shouts out. The last 16 years, the team that has rushed for the most yards has ended up scoring the most points.

How important is it, Mister Cobble, to shut down the run come Sunday?

"We feel like going into every game, if you keep the running game under 100 yards it's a good game and most likely you're going to win the game," Cobble said. "When you stop the run, the only option they have is to pass. And D-linemen, that's what we specialize in is pass rush."

Ah, but Teddy Bridgewater, the Louisville quarterback, can use his fleet feet to elude a pass rush or two. Out on the edge, the sophomore often gains an edge.

"Last year, I feel like we weren't really prepared for Bridgewater coming into the game," said Cobble of UK's 24-17 loss in the 2011 Governor's Cup. Will Stein started at quarterback for the Cards. "(We weren't) really getting ready for a rushing quarterback," Cobble said.

The Cats feel better prepared now, at least on the field. Off the field, well, that stuff, that's great and all, but you can't get distracted. The fans may h-a-t-e, but the players are on a different plane.

For instance, Cobble said he is good friends with Jamon Brown, Louisville's new starter at right offensive tackle.

"He grew up with me, really," Cobble said. "We didn't go to the same high school but we lived in the same area so I know him personally and I'm happy to see him out there. I talked to him the other day, honestly. We were just talking about the game and how things were going."

No trash-talking?

"I don't like talking trash, personally," Cobble said. "I'm a quiet person on the field. I don't like to get very vocal out there. Maybe some other (guys) like Mike Douglas and Donte (Rumph), they like to jump up and holler. ... I just feel like I'm going to go out there and do what I have to do."

What he wants to do is beat Louisville on Sunday, but not because of animosity or bragging rights. Beating U of L, he said, is the best way for UK to get back to a bowl.

"We felt like if we had won against the Louisville team last year we would have gone to a bowl game," Cobble said. "This year, we're more focused because that's what we're trying to do is get to a bowl game.

"We feel like by winning all the non-conference games coming into the conference, and winning some of those games, we'll be able to go to a bowl game."

And that's what it's really all about.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226.Email: jclay@herald-leader.comBlog: johnclay.bloginky.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv.

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