Posted on Sun, Sep. 09, 2007
Next up: exciting offense vs. defeatable defense
By Mark Story
HERALD-LEADER SPORTS COLUMNIST
Like the rest of us, Brian Brohm and Andre Woodson have listened all summer as a whole state bubbled with anticipation over the quarterback matchup for the 2007 Kentucky-Louisville grudge fest.
Two homegrown stars with legitimate national profiles.
In terms of hype, this one could do the WWE proud: Andre the Giant vs. Brian the Brilliant.
Except the two players in the glare of the bright lights want none of it.
"Uhh, it's not me vs. Andre Woodson," Brohm said Thursday night after Louisville had beaten Middle Tennessee. "I know that's what everyone is going to say, but we're playing against the Kentucky defense. I won't watch one second of film on Andre Woodson."
After Kentucky fended off pesky Kent State last night in Commonwealth Stadium, Woodson sang from the same hymnal.
"A lot of people talk about us," he said of the two QBs. "But there's no telling what's going to happen. We could come out with a good feel for the running game and just hand off. This isn't about (the quarterbacks). It's all about getting the win."
At last, we turn to the most-anticipated (modern) UK-U of L matchup since the first one back in 1994. After two blowout wins over over-matched foes each, both teams enter as mirror images of the other.
A U of L defense that was expected to be stout has instead been a sieve. Against Murray State and Middle Tennessee -- not exactly Florida and USC -- the Cards are surrendering 6.8 yards a play and 413 yards a game.
When the Cards' D allowed 35 points to Middle in the first half, Cardinals fans were transformed to a different type of fowl -- boo birds.
But there remain ample questions about the Kentucky defense, too.
The Cats -- who struggled mightily against mobile quarterbacks in 2006 -- were torched by Kent State's Julian Edelman last night. He scrambled and juked his way to 135 yards on the ground.
Heisman candidate Brohm has thrown for 795 yards and nine touchdowns in two games. Yet, crazy as this sounds, UK is probably fortunate that Brohm is a pocket passer.
As an offense, Louisville has been ruthless. The Cardinals are averaging 65.5 points a game, 8.9 yards a play, 692 yards a game.
For new Kentucky defensive coordinator Steve Brown, the question is how to get Brohm -- who has not been sacked yet this year -- out of rhythm. Rutgers did it a year ago with relentless blitzing.
Asked if he'd watched that Rutgers tape, Brown said "oh, about 1,000 times. Ideally, you'd like to get pressure with four. But if you can't, then you have to keep bringing another and another until you do."
Given time to throw, Louisville can flood the field with big-time receivers -- Harry Douglas, Mario Uruutia, Gary Barnidge.
"Offensively, they are a machine," UK Coach Rich Brooks said of U of L. "Defensively, they had 30 minutes (vs. Middle Tennessee) like we had tonight. They're much more capable than they showed."
On the other side, Kentucky brings more offensive weapons to a game with U of L than it's done since Couch and Yeast.
UK's three-headed running back attack of Rafael Little, Tony Dixon and Alfonso Smith could be the weapon that keeps the Louisville offense on the bench.
Woodson has not been as sharp overall as Brohm in the first two games. It had to be worrisome to the UK brain trust last night when a MAC team sacked the Cats' QB four times in the first half.
Given time in half two, Woodson made big-time throws (a 51-yard TD in stride to Keenan Burton and a bullet slant to Steve Johnson that set up a second score) as UK moved from a 14-14 halftime tie to a 59-20 blowout.
Kentucky, too, has big-time receiving weapons in Burton, Johnson, Dicky Lyons Jr. and Jacob Tamme.
One factor that seems to heavily favor Louisville is the place-kicking. Art Carmody is more automatic than the sun rise. Let's just say UK's Lones Seiber is somewhat less than certain, even on extra points.
In a close game, that could be the difference.
So now it's here.
A nationally ranked Louisville vs. a Kentucky that has won seven of its last eight.
Says Woodson: "This is a huge statement game. We have to get this game to show people we really are turning this thing around."
It's big-play offense vs. big-play offense.
It's questionable defense vs. questionable defense.
And, sorry Brian and Andre, it's Brohm vs. Woodson.
This is going to be fun.