Kentucky and Louisville square off in titanic Governor's Cup matchup
By ANNIE MOORE
College Contributor Network
It's common knowledge that the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry is heated. It is arguably one of the most intense college athletics rivalries in the country.
Yet, when most people across the country hear about the University of Louisville playing the University of Kentucky, one thing comes to mind; great basketball. But Card and 'Cat faithful know that the Governor's Cup is just as important in the bitter rivalry. This Saturday, the Cup is up for grabs, and the stakes are higher than ever.
For y'all outside of the Bluegrass State, the Governor's Cup is the annual football game that pits U of L against UK. The football rivalry began in 1912, and the teams met seven times before 1924. The game then fizzled out, but was brought back to life in 1994 and has been played every year since. Kentucky leads the all-time rivalry 14-12, but Louisville leads the modern series 12-8.
With the game usually coming at the beginning of the season, the decision to move it to the end of the year was met with some dismay from fans. Kentucky's football program has been less than stellar of late and the last thing Wildcat fans wanted to cap off a punishing SEC season was a loss at their in-state rival.
On the other side of the rivalry, Louisville fans who objected to the scheduling change noted that the outcomes of the season would already be determined, leading to less anticipation around the rivalry game. Boy, is this first year proving them wrong.
Kentucky has five wins and is coming off a bye week, coming to Louisville with nothing to lose, and bowl eligibility for the first time in four years to gain. The situation arguably couldn't be better for Big Blue Nation headed into the game, with Louisville coming off a tough road game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Louisville left South Bend with a big win last Saturday night in a game that showcased among other things, Reggie Bonnafon's best performance as a starter. The true freshman looked like a seasoned veteran running in the first two touchdowns and making long, game-changing passes. The offense was efficient with Bonnafon at the helm, and the defense had another solid performance, holding Notre Dame to less than 100 rushing yards, with three sacks and a Charles Gaines interception.
This was the first time Louisville faced Notre Dame, and the win was sweet for Cardinal fans not only because of the Irish football program history, but because it set them up in even better position come bowl selection time. If Louisville wins out, and the stars align in the rest of the ACC, the Cards could be headed to the Orange Bowl. Only one win stands between them and their best shot at that coming true, and that's the game against the boys in blue.
Kentucky's offense has been stagnant of late, putting up just 91 points in the past five games since a win over Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 11. Much of that can be attributed to powerhouse SEC defenses, but they certainly won't get a break on the defensive end.
The Cardinals' defense has punished teams all season, consistently putting up staggering numbers of sacks and tackles, while holding opponents to minimal yardage. Louisville safety Gerod Holliman was recently named a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award -- given to the best defensive player in college football each year. Holliman leads the country in interceptions, with 13 on the season. He is one interception away from tying Al Worthy's NCAA record for interceptions in a single season, set in 1968.
But if Patrick Towles and the Wildcats can find a way to score on that dominant defense, it could be a ballgame. Louisville's Bonnafon was thrust into the starting job after Will Gardner had a season-ending knee injury, and though he was efficient at Notre Dame, he did only have eight completions.
The offense under Bonnafon relies heavily on the run, last game the Cards put up 229 yards on 50 attempts. The key for Kentucky's defense will be shutting the run offense down, and defending the long ball. If they can do both of those things, they might have a shot at the upset.
Bobby Petrino's comments on the UK game in the Notre Dame post-game press conference were brief, but to the point. "Oh, we'll be ready for that game," Petrino said. "It'll be fun."
With more on the line than ever, this game will definitely be fun for fans and both teams to prepare for and participate in.
So this Saturday, full of turkey and anticipation, fans of both blue and red will flood Papa John's Cardinal Stadium for the latest installment in this storied rivalry. With both basketball teams ranked in the top 10 nationally, no doubt everyone is excited about the Battle for the Bluegrass next month. But for now, all eyes are on the gridiron as the other U of L and UK matchup sets up to be a thriller.
Annie Moore is a junior at the University of Louisville majoring in Communications with a Sport Administration minor. She believes Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. Follow her on Twitter: @AnyMoreSports