Story published: Monday, September 04, 2006
LOUISVILLE -- Forget all the dancing and jabbing. The Louisville football team came out throwing roundhouse haymakers on Kentucky last night. And instead of fighting back, or even bobbing and weaving, the Wildcats stood there and just took it on the chin.
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The 13th-ranked Cardinals jumped all over UK from the game's opening possession, needing just three plays to go 80 yards for a score. That trend continued for most of the first half, as the Cards built a 31-0 lead in the second quarter and cruised to an easy 59-28 win over the Cats.
"It's one of your worst nightmares," Brooks said. "Louisville obviously got after us and took the fight to us, and we didn't respond. You talk to your team about how fast the game is going to be, but they were up-tempo and we were slow. They hit us instead of us hitting them."
It was U of L's fourth straight win in the series and seventh out of the last eight games, but the party was marred by running back Michael Bush's season-ending injury.
On the game's first play, Harry Douglas picked up 26 yards on a reverse. Two plays later, Bush burst up the middle for a 48-yard touchdown run to cap a ridiculously easy three-play drive.
"They set the tempo on the first play of the game with the reverse," defensive coordinator Mike Archer said. "They got us reeling from the very beginning, and we never recovered. It was a good old-fashioned butt-whipping."
The bludgeoning would continue well into the second quarter. While UK managed only one first down in its first five possessions, U of L scored five of the first six times it had the ball. Bush would tack on two more touchdown runs, Brian Brohm would throw a 1-yard play-action pass to Brock Bolen for a score, and kicker Art Carmody tacked on a 38-yard field goal to give the Cards an overwhelming 31-point cushion with 4:13 left in the first half.
"For the first 20 minutes, we didn't show up," senior center Matt McCutchan said. "We weren't ready. We looked like idiots out there."
The Wildcat offense finally got going just before halftime, as Keenan Burton took a bubble screen and broke free for a 73-yard catch-and-run TD.
The UK defense then managed a rare stop, and a 46-yard downfield strike from Woodson to Burton set up a 4-yard TD pass to Dicky Lyons Jr. to send UK into the locker room down 31-14.
Kentucky was inside Cardinal territory twice in the third quarter with a chance to dig even closer but came up empty. The Wildcats took their opening drive of the second half to the Louisville 44, but Woodson's third-and-two pass was deflected.
The Cats drove to the U of L 46 on its next possession, but on fourth-and-three Woodson had yet another pass batted down.
Louisville nearly blew a 21-point halftime lead in last year's 31-24 win, but there would be no Cat comebacks this time.
"It was the same thing we did last year," Lyons said about the slow start. "We knew that if we did it again it would bite us in the butt, and it did."
Bush would leave with a season-ending leg injury in the third quarter, but third-string tailback George Stripling was more than enough to deal with UK's sieve-like defense. Stripling ran for 90 yards and two scores on nine carries. His 38-yard run gave U of L a 45-21 lead with 3:35 left in the third quarter.
The Cardinals outgained UK 631-260, including a whopping 363-22 advantage on the ground. The total yardage was the most the UK defense has given up since Tennessee had 695 yards in 1997.
"They just crushed us in the running game," Brooks said. "We played way too soft on defense."
U of L's early knockout blow forced the Wildcats to all but abandon the running game.
Tailback Rafael Little, who rushed for 1,045 yards and finished fifth in the nation in all-purpose yards last year, carried just seven times for 21 yards and did not catch a pass or return a punt.
"We've got to be able to run the ball," UK offensive coordinator Joker Phillips said. "You can't win when you dig an early hole and have to drop back and fling it every time."
Brooks knows this wasn't the ideal way to start a season that many feel is vital to his future as UK's head coach.
"It's not a step forward," Brooks said. "We obviously did not play to our capability. I'm disappointed we didn't show up and play better than we did. You've got to give Louisville some credit and -- as I'm sure you will -- give me some blame."
Burton, who has been slowed by injuries the past two years, showed what he's capable of when healthy, catching four passes for 127 yards and adding a 100-yard kickoff return with 8:11 remaining.
He finished with 312 all-purpose yards, the fourth-highest total in school history.
"Keenan is a great athlete," Brooks said. "If we can keep him healthy, it's pretty obvious what he can do for us."
Bush's injury was the third in the past five games on U of L's FieldTurf at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Bush injured his toe and Brohm suffered a knee injury last season.
Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino said he had no concerns about the safety of the surface.
"I don't at all," Petrino said. "I think this is the best possible surface you can play on. You see it all throughout the country. Everybody's going to it. It's just part of football."