SIMPSONVILLE — University of Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks expressed optimism Thursday that happy days will soon be here again for the Wildcats offense.
Despite winning its third consecutive bowl game last season, Kentucky achieved that result with far fewer offensive fireworks than in the previous two seasons, averaging a meager 22.6 points and 299.3 yards per game with an inexperienced unit.
"I think the team that takes the field (this season) will be better than the team that took the field last year," Brooks said during the annual Governor's Cup Luncheon at the Cardinal Club on Thursday. "Offensively, we're going to be a more productive unit, hopefully head back to the 2006-2007 level of offensive production."
Louisville Coach Steve Kragthorpe, who was also on hand to promote the teams' Sept. 19 showdown at Commonwealth Stadium, is similarly eager to get the season started.
"I'm excited about this football team," said Kragthorpe, who is entering his third season at Louisville. "I like our chemistry. I like this staff."
Louisville opens its 2009 campaign at home vs. Indiana State on Sept. 5.
Kentucky's opener is also Sept. 5, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati against Miami (Ohio).
A UK offense that reaches the production levels of the 2006 and 2007 teams would be fun for fans to watch.
The 2006 squad led by Andre Woodson produced 26.7 points and 375.3 yards per game. The next season, with Woodson again at the controls as a senior, UK racked up 36.5 points and 443.4 yards a game.
Brooks' optimism is based in the fact that junior quarterback Mike Hartline and several other offensive starters gained valuable playing time last year.
"Mike Hartline is going to be better and there will be more experienced talent around him," Brooks said.
Kragthorpe, whose Louisville team has lost its last two games against Kentucky, said the schools' annual rivalry game is important, no matter the history.
"It means everything to us," he said. "That wouldn't be any different if we had won the last two. It doesn't matter whether it's the first game or the eighth game, it's a game we want to win."