Why Governor’s Cup rivalry could define Kentucky’s football season

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LEXINGTON – Kentucky football’s offensive and defensive coordinators grew up in Rhode Island.

One played college football in Massachusetts. The other spent a season in Georgia before being transferred to Wake Forest.

It doesn’t go much further, geographically and metaphorically, from the Bluegrass State football scene, but neither defensive coordinator Brad White nor offensive coordinator Liam Coen took Lexington long to understand the significance of the Governor’s Cup rivalry.

“Everyone knows what this means,” White said. “… My children know that. Since they arrived here, they know what color they are not wearing in the house. We will be ready.

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White has worked for Mark Stoops in Kentucky for four years now and has faced Louisville twice. Coen is coaching his first season in Kentucky, so his knowledge of the rivalry is only second-hand.

Still, Coen expects a “rude awakening – in a good way” ahead of this week’s game.

While the rivalry is still fierce and the stakes are high for both teams regardless of their record, the 2021 Governor’s Cup battle should be a good introduction for Coen.

Kentucky must beat Louisville and win their bowl game to register the program’s second 10-game winning season since 1977. Louisville reached bowl eligibility with a win over Duke on Thursday, but beating Kentucky could go a long way in improving the game. destination of the Cardinals bowl. Perhaps more importantly, beating the Wildcats would give Louisville coach Scott Satterfield some much-needed boost after the UK’s back-to-back breakouts in the last two encounters.

A one-year hiatus to the series made necessary by the SEC’s switch to a lecture-only program last season during the COVID-19 pandemic is only likely to add to the week of hype.

“Since this is the last game before the bowl game, you let it all hang out,” Kentucky super senior wide receiver Josh Ali said. “No matter what happens, you let it all hang out. Play like it’s your last game, because this could be your last game. I feel like that’s the state of mind.

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Since Kentucky’s heartbreaking loss to Tennessee earlier this month, most of the Big Blue Nation’s attention has turned to the Governor’s Cup rivalry despite two games remaining. Kentucky played the last of those warm-ups on Saturday in a 56-16 New Mexico state blowout that included 707 total yards of attack, the second-largest in program history.

But even after a game that saw quarterback Will Levis become the first Wildcat to throw for 400 yards since 2007 and wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson move to the screaming distance of Kentucky’s records for catches and yards. reception, Kentucky players or coaches have been more than willing to immediately turn attention to the front.

“I’m excited,” said Robinson, a Frankfurt native who will play for the Governor’s Cup for the first time after being transferred from Nebraska to Kentucky. “I’m thrilled to be playing in front of most of the state.”

After a 6-0 start, Kentucky dreamed of reaching a New Years Six bowl or even college football playoffs, but three straight losses to Georgia, Mississippi State and Tennessee dashed those hopes.

There is more history to play with with a double-digit winning season at hand. Beating Louisville may not be enough to land a spot at Kentucky in the Outback Bowl, the program’s last opportunity to play in a New Years bowl game, according to other results among the teams ranked ahead of the Wildcats in. SEC, but there’s almost no way Kentucky could play in this game without beating the Cardinals.

A loss to Louisville would kill much of the momentum in what once felt like a historic Kentucky season. With eight wins, Kentucky has already notched its second best regular season since 1984, but that record won’t do much to shake things up as the Wildcats have only beaten one team that currently has a winning record. .

Just don’t tell Stoops that the outcome of the rivalry match will determine his team’s perception of the season.

“If we are affected by this pressure, we have problems,” said Stoops. “We have a little bit of pressure all year round, don’t we? I mean, every game. We live in this world. I thought I heard that every day for the first five years: every game was so important.We live there all the time.

“It’s about our preparation. I really appreciate the way our team has trained.”

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A game doesn’t define a season, but with the early signing period less than a month away, Kentucky need all the good news they can get.

Win and most Big Blue Nations will be happy to forget the disappointment of the three-game losing streak. Lose to your big rival and fall into a mid-level bowl season without any excitement, and it will be impossible to classify the season as anything other than a disappointment.

“It means a lot,” Ali said of the rivalry. ” That’s all. I have a feeling that some players who haven’t really shown themselves this year can come into this game and show themselves. I have a feeling that will bring out a little more tenacity in this team. See what this team really is.

Email Jon Hale at [email protected]; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky Football: Louisville’s Rivalry Game to Define Season

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