Kentucky's Kyrus Lanxter (81) tries unsuccessfully to pull in a one-handed pass reception in front of Louisville's Johnny Patrick during the first half of their football game in Louisville, Ky., Sunday, Aug. 31, 2008. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
Kentucky linebacker Micah Johnson
remembers all the raised eyebrows he drew when he opted to sign
with the Wildcats rather than Louisville four years ago.
Kentucky was struggling under Rich Brooks. The Cardinals were a
perennial bowl team and burgeoning Big East power under Bobby
Johnson, however, bought into the rebuilding plan Brooks was
selling. And while he isn't one to say "I told you so," he is
relishing how swiftly the balance of power in the Bluegrass has
changed over the last three years.
When the two archrivals meet on Saturday in the Governor's Cup,
the Wildcats (1-0) have a chance to do something that hasn't been
accomplished since the series was renewed in 1994: win three
straight over the hated Cardinals (1-0).
"The last two years we were able to get them and I think that
would be pretty big for me and the guys that came here (when we
were down) to win another game," Johnson said.
For the first time in a decade, the Wildcats will be prohibitive
favorites. They were dominant in a season-opening 42-0 win over
Miami of Ohio, while the Cardinals struggled to get past woeful
Not that the Wildcats are embracing their role of bully.
They remain wary of the Cardinals, even if Louisville hasn't
been the same since Kentucky won 40-34 at Commonwealth Stadium two
years ago. The Cardinals are just 10-12 since Kentucky's Andre
Woodson hit Steve Johnson on a 57-yard touchdown pass with 28
seconds remaining to pull off the upset.
"I have a feeling (Louisville) will be back," said defensive
tackle Ricky Lumpkin. "They'll be back in swing of things. You
can't let them (bust) out. Maybe this could be the game, this could
be the year. You never know. The season is brand new. It's going to
be an exciting game for them and for us. Rivalry games tell you a
lot about what a team is going to do that year."
It certainly did in 2007.
Louisville, fresh off an Orange Bowl victory, came to
Commonwealth Stadium ranked in the Top 10 under new head coach
Steve Kragthorpe. The Wildcats, meanwhile, were looking for respect
after losing seven of eight to their rivals.
Kentucky found it when Louisville wide receiver Harry Douglas
was tackled a few yards short of the end zone on a last-second Hail
Mary, setting off a jubilant scene that ended with fans storming
the field and sent the two programs heading in opposite directions.
"It was a real big game because you saw what happened,"
Lumpkin said. "Our program is still going up and right now it
looks like theirs is going down."
While the players point to the win in 2007 as a tipping point in
the balance of power within the state, Brooks is hardly ready to
play "remember when."
"Two years ago seems like it was 20 years ago to me, rather
talk about games coming up," he said. "To me it has no bearing on
Instead, he said the Wildcats will have to play better than they
did in a season-opening 42-0 win against Miami of Ohio. Still,
after starting 0-4 against the Cardinals, he admits things are much
quieter for him when he goes out now that the Wildcats have won two
"You hear it on the talk radio, you see it on the message
boards, you see it everywhere and you see it when you're out in
public," he said. "You get constantly reminded of that side of
equation you're on."