2014 Kentucky-Louisville game moved to season finale

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 21, 2013 

  • 2014 Kentucky football schedule

    (Home games in capital letters)

    Aug. 30 TENNESSEE-MARTIN

    Sept. 6 OHIO

    Sept. 13 at Florida

    Sept. 27 VANDERBILT

    Oct. 4 SOUTH CAROLINA

    Oct. 11 LOUISIANA-MONROE

    Oct. 18 at LSU

    Oct. 25 MISSISSIPPI STATE

    Nov. 1 at Missouri

    Nov. 8 GEORGIA

    Nov. 15 at Tennessee

    Nov. 29 at Louisville

Should the Louisville game be the third game of the season?

Should the Louisville game always open the football season?

All of that talk won't mean much in 2014, when the series will be moved to the season finale for both schools.

That was the biggest surprise that came out Wednesday morning when Kentucky formally announced its schedule.

Athletic directors for both schools said the change was based on a request by the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences.

At Wednesday's late news conferences, UK coaches and players seemed intrigued by the change.

"That game's going to be a big game no matter when you play that," said John Schlarman, UK's offensive line coach and a former player. "We'll be excited first game, last game, whenever."

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown noted that when the series was so early in the season, it sometimes would "get lost in the shuffle a little bit.

"Some people may disagree with that, but later in the year, playing on that rivalry weekend, I think it will be good for us," said Brown, a former wide receiver at UK. "It doesn't matter anyway. We're going to play it at the end."

In a release from the school, Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich said he was disappointed it wouldn't be the opening game in the future, but he saw an upside.

"We'll support the move at the request of both conferences and we are very excited about our future in the ACC," he said. "I'm sure that fans across the Commonwealth will be pleased to see the series continue."

The switch to the end of the season also seems like a made-for-television deal with four SEC vs. ACC in-state rivalry matches in that final weekend of the season with Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech and South Carolina-Clemson.

UK Coach Mark Stoops, whose been a part of that Florida-Florida State rivalry most recently, was asked if he liked the rivalry game moving to the end of the season.

"I guess so. Why not?" Stoops said. "I just left a pretty good rivalry at the end of the year. The Florida-Florida State game is pretty big, a pretty big deal at the end of the year. From my understanding, that was what was best for both conferences, so that'll be great. That'll be a lot of fun."

At Louisville's practice Wednesday night, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson also talked about the fun of being a part of that rivalry weekend.

"I have been a part of some really cool rivalries that way," Watson said. "When I was at Colorado and Nebraska, that was the game. Those kinds of rivalry games are awesome on that last weekend."

Previously, Tennessee had been Kentucky's final opponent of the season since 1953. The Cats will now play in Knoxville on Nov. 15.

That schedule was disrupted in 2001 when UK's game against Indiana was moved to the end of the season because of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Kentucky's Mitch Barnhart noted that it's become a "popular tradition shared by many prestigious football programs" to play your biggest rival in the final weekend.

"It will be an exciting way to complete the regular season with rivalry games against Tennessee and Louisville," Barnhart said.

Kentucky's non-conference schedule next season includes three home games, with Tennessee-Martin on Aug. 30, followed by Ohio University of Sept. 6, then Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 11.

UK will open SEC play on Sept. 13 against Florida in Gainesville. The Cats, who previously had played Vanderbilt in November every season since 1953, will host the Commodores on Sept. 27 instead.

The Cats will meet South Carolina (Oct. 4), Mississippi State (Oct. 25) and Georgia (Nov. 8) at Commonwealth Stadium and go on the road to Missouri on Nov. 1.

Kentucky's rotating SEC West opponent will mean another game at Louisiana State, which will replace Alabama from this season's schedule. The Cats just played in Baton Rouge in 2011.

As for the switch in the Louisville rivalry game, UK center Max Godby probably noted that the one constant in this in-state rivalry game that has been back since 1994 is that it is evolving.

"A lot of things have changed with it," he said. "That's what describes the UK-Louisville rivalry is there's always something changing about it. Why not just add this part to it?

"It's going to be an exciting chapter for the rivalry."

Quarterbacks revisited

In his first scheduled interviews since Stoops announced that Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith would co-pilot the UK offense for the season opener against Western Kentucky, Neal Brown discussed the decision.

The decision was mathematical.

Brown talked about Kentucky tracking everything Whitlow, Smith and Patrick Towles had done since the coaches arrived at Kentucky.

"Basically charted any competitive situation we've been in," Brown said. "We charted how they've done with the ones, how they've done with the twos, completion percentages, any statistic you can possibly think of. And those two, their numbers were better and their productivity was better."

Brown said it wasn't about anything mythical or hard to quantify like those "intangibles" coaches like to discuss.

"All four of those guys have what we're looking for as far as being good people, guys with character, those type of things," he said, including true freshman Reese Phillips. "All four of them had those."

The UK offensive coordinator also didn't rule out either Smith or Whitlow making a strong move in the week or so of practice before the Aug. 31 opener in Nashville against Western Kentucky.

"There's always a chance for separation," he said. "We're just looking for production more than anything, guys that can lead the offense, manage it. We're looking for somebody that's not going to make a big negative play, that's going to make all the routine plays."


2014 Kentucky football schedule

(Home games in capital letters)

Aug. 30 TENNESSEE-MARTIN

Sept. 6 OHIO

Sept. 13 at Florida

Sept. 27 VANDERBILT

Oct. 4 SOUTH CAROLINA

Oct. 11 LOUISIANA-MONROE

Oct. 18 at LSU

Oct. 25 MISSISSIPPI STATE

Nov. 1 at Missouri

Nov. 8 GEORGIA

Nov. 15 at Tennessee

Nov. 29 at Louisville

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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