UK Football

If Cats are seeing red this week, it's not during football practices

It doesn't matter if you're hurt or you're the quarterback.

No red jerseys in practice this week.

It was a mandate from Patrick Towles, who could be wearing the red no-contact jerseys for both reasons.

"No red in this facility this week," the Kentucky quarterback said. "We went out there in walk-through and we all kind of decided it wasn't going to happen this week."

It's rivalry week and it's a matter of pride for the UK sophomore who was born a Cats fan and raised a Cats fan in the northern part of the state.

"I don't know if there's a guy who dislikes Louisville more than Pat Towles," junior offensive lineman Jordan Swindle said. "I love that guy, and he definitely fires me up, and I'm behind him on that."

For Swindle that means no wearing the crimson color he so proudly wore in high school.

"I still have some of that stuff, but I've gotta get rid of that stuff," he said, smiling.

For wide receiver Javess Blue, it meant that when he wore a Bulls baseball cap in interviews after practice, it wasn't his red one.

"My Bulls are red, but we're all blue this week," Blue said.

So while coordinator Neal Brown has spent a little time this week in his offensive meeting room discussing and educating younger players about the rivalry, he need only motion in Towles' direction to illustrate it effectively.

"I did notice that," Brown said when asked about the quarterbacks in blue jerseys at practice. "We're not allowed to wear red around our house either."

Brown's daughter sometimes will put on red to go to school, and he admitted he tries to sway her toward navy or blue.

Even the colorblind would know what this rivalry means to Towles, who said his first college offer was from Charlie Strong at Louisville, but the quarterback never even took a visit there.

"I've been a Kentucky fan my whole life, so this is a game that I look forward to every year," he said. "Being able to play in it is truly special for me and my family, so I'm excited — we're all excited."

Towles and his teammates, with one more shot to get that all-important sixth victory in this final regular-season game, will have their work cut out for them against one of the top-rated defenses in the country.

The Cardinals are holding opponents to 18.7 points a game (13th in the nation). They're third best nationally at rush defense, holding opponents to 88.5 yards a game.

Their 23 interceptions this season — 13 by defensive back Gerod Holliman alone, equal to Kentucky's entire defense — is tops in the country.

Towles, who hurt his ankle Nov. 15 at Tennessee and didn't practice much until Monday, is going to have to play the game of his career to give the Cats a chance.

But if someone is going to give the UK offense a chance, it's Towles, Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino said.

"They've got a quarterback who knows how to make the throws, execute the offense and is a great competitor," he said of Towles, who has thrown for more than 2,500 yards and 14 touchdowns in 11 games this season. He's also rushed for 293 yards and six touchdowns.

"When you watch them play, you're impressed by how hard he competes."

Towles' arm strength and decision-making have impressed Petrino, but he kept going back to Towles' competitive drive.

"The biggest thing that impresses me about the young man is how hard he competes," Petrino said. "When they're behind, he's still playing hard, competing, brings them back to win the South Carolina game. So we know we're going to face a good quarterback."

Towles hasn't been perfect in execution or decision-making this season, including completing less than 50 percent of his passes and throwing for just 465 yards with two TDs and three interceptions in the past three games, but the sophomore has played with passion, his quarterbacks coach agreed.

And that rubs off on teammates.

"He's done a good job leading," Brown said. "He practiced today. He's going to be fine. I've been impressed the last two days that he's been out there. No real signs of injury at all."

Towles' blue-clad Kentucky teammates have seen that level of competitiveness rise even more this week in preparation for the Cardinals.

"He's on go out there," Blue said. "Even though it's cold, he's acting like he's not even cold. He's on top of every play. We're happy to see that out of him.

"Pat Towles, he's all about UK. It's a very big deal to him, and I take that to heart. That's my quarterback, and I'm behind him 100 percent. We've all got his back."