I have to say that as I was making the trip up to Papa Johns Stadium (which by the way was a first for me) I thought a little about the game and after hearing everything about these teams from both side, I really thought UK would pull off the victory. However, I predicted that the Cats would win a squeaker 10-7. After weeks and weeks of hearing that neither of these two teams were experienced, it was nice to stop all the talk and just get on the field and play.
The game itself lacked a little, especially on the offensive side of the ball, but like most college venues, it was the atmosphere that did it for me, and that is really what I want to focus on here.
As soon as we pulled in you could see rows and rows of tents with just about everyone you could find tailgating, and simply put, a sea of red.
With just about 2 hours before game time, it was time to do a little walking around, just to take in a little bit of this amazing atmosphere. As we walked past numerous people chowing down on hot dogs and sausages, and playing Corn Hole, it dawns on us, we should probably find some people from Eastern Kentucky. Well, I pulled out my trusty cell phone and found the number of former UK quarterback Freddie Maggard to see if he was already at the game. Sure enough he was, and that became the new destination. Only problem was, the U of L parking lots were so big, I had a little bit of a problem finding where he was located, but fear not, I made it (LOL). Anyways after conversating with Freddie, his wife, and few of their friends it was time to make our way to the field.
It was at this point we made the trek to the station and an experience I have never felt before. As I was walking through the "Card March" tunnel, Louisville fans booed me saying, "Boo TV". I thought that was interesting simply for the fact that I was questioning why they would boo someone carrying tv equipment. Then I realized, maybe it was because I was wearing Kentucky blue. That may have had something to do with it.
So once I finally checked in and made my way in to the stadium, there may have been 20 minutes before game time, which at this point, there was really no one in the stadium. But with 5 minutes before kick off all the seats were filled and I was surrounded by red shirts everywhere with just two sections of blue, where the UK fans where seated. The one thing I could say about that scene was that the color of red throughout the stadium was very intimidating and I can only imagine what visiting teams think the first time they witness that.
As you can see from the photo above, one of the pockets of UK fans (and yes these photos were taken by me at the game).
From the time the Cardinals and the Wildcats took the field the atmosphere of the place erupted and the only words or phrase I can use to express the feeling was just a rush of goosebumps from the opening kick off to just about the end of the game. I have experienced the college game from UK to Penn State and there is nothing more than experiencing school tradition. I love seeing the different traditions from different schools and just seeing how the fans interact, and with this being an in state rivalry, it just raised the bar to a whole new level.
As everyone knows by now, the Cats did come away with the win in this one, 27-2. But more than the "W", I, as a fan of the game was witness to a great atmosphere and a rivalry that will hopefully continue to stay strong as both teams continue to leave their hearts on the field.
- Derek "Rock" Forrest
Since Derek talked about the atmosphere, I will talk about the game itself. Simply put, it wasn't pretty. Both offenses had no flow, and the experience of both teams was apparant right from the start. Several dropped passes did not help the situation. I was however surprised that UK could not get their running game going. We have heard quite a bit about how good this offensive line is supposed to be, but the running backs had no where to go when they got the ball.
There were several bright spots for the Cats, namely the defensive unit. What more can you say about forcing 5 turnovers (returning two of those for touchdowns) and coming up with a huge stop on 4th and 1 with the Cardinals driving deep into UK territory. Coach Rich Brooks praised the Defensive Line, but did add that he would like to see them generate a bit more pressure on the Quarterback. He also said that this group of Linebackers is the best that he has had since he's been at Kentucky. He also had good words for the defensive backs.
Speaking of the Defensive Backs, how about Belfry grad David Jones' performance? He got his first career start at Cornerback and did very well registering the first two pass breakups of his career. He also did an excellent job covering Josh Chichester (who stands 6'8").
The defense held their opponent without an offensive point for the first time since shuting out Vandy in 1996.
The one aspect of the game that isn't receiving as much attention as it deserves is the Special Teams. Rich Brooks was very pleased with what the Special Teams did. And you can't blame him. Matt Roark got his hands on Louisville's first Field Goal attempt, knocking it wide. And the punting unit was outstanding, continuesly winning the field position battle, including downing a punt on the 1.
No matter the offenses struggles, it's always good to start the season at 1-0, especially with a win over an in-state rival.
As for Louisville, it doesn't look too good. And I can't even imagine the stress that Head Coach Steve Kragthorpe and the coaching staff is under at this point. They have to turn things around in a hurry if they are to avoid major changes.
~ Jeff Archer