5 things Kentucky must do to beat Louisville and go bowling
Judgment day is fast approaching in Big Blue Nation. The biggest game of the year for Wildcats fans, high stakes or not, is the matchup with in-state, arch-rival Louisville. With the ‘Cats sitting at five wins and needing a victory on Saturday to advance to Mark Stoops’ first bowl in Lexington, there will be even more excitement and energy when Bobby Petrino’s team rolls into Lexington.
Louisville was riding a four-game win streak before being bested by Pittsburgh on Saturday, and the Cards have already achieved bowl eligibility. Here are five things the Wildcats must do if they hope to beat Louisville:
1.) Stop the pass: Lamar Jackson replaced starter Kyle Bolin during Louisville’s loss on Saturday, so it’s hard to know who will be under center to start the game against Kentucky. Either way, both quarterbacks have shown an ability to get the job done as a passer for an aerial attack that ranks 38th nationally. Kentucky’s defensive backs must continue to play with the aggressiveness they displayed Saturday in their dominating performance against Charlotte.
2.) Continue to run the ball: Kentucky had its best rushing game of the season against Charlotte, with Jojo Kemp and Stanley “Boom” Williams each running for over 100 yards while combining for 5 touchdowns. Louisville’s defense has given up an average of 145 yards per game on the ground, but the ‘Cats should try early and often to keep the running game’s momentum going.
3.) Play with energy from the get-go: Kentucky is fortunate that this game is in Commonwealth Stadium. The young Wildcats have shown a tendency to get rattled in hostile environments. However, the home crowd won’t do them much good unless the team comes out of the gate with an energy and intensity with which the crowd can get behind. If they come out and play flat as they did against fellow in-state foe Eastern Kentucky, the crowd will lose interest very early, rendering the “home field advantage” useless.
4.) Get Barker in an early rhythm: Barker is fresh off his first career start against Charlotte. He played decent but not otherworldly and will be facing a much stiffer defense in the Cardinals. A few early completions, even if they are just screen passes or short out-route throws, will give Barker a little bit of confidence to move forward within the game. Barker did not throw a touchdown pass against Charlotte, and that will not cut it against Louisville. Seeing a few early passes caught by his receivers should give Barker the belief that he can make the harder throws when they count the most.
5.) Take calculated risks: The ‘Cats have to play like there is no tomorrow because without a win, there won’t be another game. The Kentucky staff has shown signs of miscommunication while trying to make calls on a whim, but a few calculated trick plays and calls to keep the offense in on fourth downs could, should they work, be enough to make the difference in what may be a very close game. Fans have been calling for Stoops to take more risks, so this has to be as good an opportunity as any.