Joker Phillips said just because Louisville is coming into the Governor's Cup rivalry off a surprising home loss to Florida International, he does not expect the Cardinals to be more motivated than normal.
"You can throw the records out, the statistics out, throw everything out the window in rivalries like us and Louisville," the Kentucky coach said Sunday on his weekly teleconference.
Unlike U of L (1-1), UK (2-0) will enter the 18th renewal of the modern UK-U of L series unbeaten. But the Cats struggled throughout the game offensively in beating Western Kentucky 14-3 in the season opener. In Saturday's home debut against Central Michigan, the UK offense was largely dead in the water for the first two and a half quarters before igniting for three touchdowns late and a 27-13 victory.
A smallish crowd of 58,022 was in Commonwealth Stadium to see what was the least attended game in Commonwealth since 53,463 saw the Cats beat Louisiana-Monroe in the final home game of the 2006 season. It was the smallest crowd for a home opener in Commonwealth since 57,136 viewed a UK victory over Texas State in 2006.
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Phillips, however, rejected the premise of the question when asked Sunday if he viewed the UK-U of L game as a chance to inject some passion into what seems a tepid Kentucky football fan base.
"I thought we had a good crowd," Phillips said of the home opener. The UK coach said he expected Louisville "to travel well" for Saturday's game, and "I think our guys will be there, too. I think it will be a wild and crazy crowd."
Phillips said Sunday that wide receiver Brian Adams, who missed the Central Michigan game, has been cleared to return to practice Tuesday (UK takes Mondays off from practice on weeks with Saturday games).
The UK coach said injured offensive linemen Matt Smith (center) and Billy Joe Murphy (right tackle), neither of whom played against the Chippewas, remain day-to-day.
Hybrid linebacker/safety Winston Guy ("tweaked hamstring") and safety Martavius Neloms (stinger) were the only two UK players injured in the Central Michigan game. Phillips said UK gave Guy the day off from Sunday running. "He'll have two days off, then we'll see where he is Tuesday," the UK coach said.
Crawford still out
Phillips said senior defensive tackle Mark Crawford remains suspended.
"We hope to get him back soon," the UK coach said.
What are the chances Crawford plays against Louisville?
"I'm not sure,' Phillips said. "It doesn't look good."
Wide receivers better
After calling the performance of UK's wideouts "embarrassing" in the WKU game, Phillips said the group improved against Central Michigan.
"There were still too many drops, but it was better," the UK coach said. "Those guys did a better job blocking, too."
The most conspicuous of the drops came when Matt Roark had in hand what would have been a touchdown pass from Morgan Newton on UK's first drive of the game but lost it in the end zone. Roark also had multiple drops against WKU.
After Saturday's game, UK wide receivers coach Tee Martin compared Roark to a basketball player who loses confidence at the foul line.
"We've got to get him out of that funk," Martin said. "He can catch the ball."
One player who did make a catch Saturday was former Henry Clay star Aaron Boyd. When Boyd hauled in a five-yard toss from Newton late in the second quarter against CMU, it was his first catch in a varsity game since he caught five passes as a true freshman in 2008.
A lack of foot speed has kept Boyd, a four-star recruit that UK beat out Oregon to sign in recruiting, from playing more. The 6-foot-4, 217-pound junior does have good hands.
Said Martin: "It was good to see Aaron get out there and have some success."
After looking at Saturday's film, Phillips said ex-Bryan Station standout Darrien Miller — who started as a true freshman at right tackle for UK on Saturday in place of the injured Murphy — "did an outstanding job for us."
Since it re-started in 1994, the UK-U of L football series has been hard to predict.
Louisville leads the modern series 9-8, but Kentucky has won the past four in a row. Home teams are 7-10 in the modern Governor's Cup.
Favorites are only 10-7 straight up.