Louisville, Kentucky looking for consistency

Associated Press Modified: August 31, 2012 at 6:03 pm •  Published: August 31, 2012

That could take some pressure off the Cardinals' special teams, where Strong is prepared to start true freshman Josh Appleby at punter and redshirt freshman John Wallace or sophomore Matthew Nakatani at kicker. There are no concerns about Louisville's defense, which ranked 10th against the run (100.5 yards per game) and returns all-conference junior safety Hakeem Smith.

Kentucky, meanwhile, looks to rebound from consecutive losing seasons with changes on both sides of the ball. The Wildcats want to be more physical with an emphasis on defense, where tackles Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph and end Collins Ukwu are expected to disrupt things.

That's one reason why senior cornerback Martavius Neloms views this as more than a rivalry game. The Wildcats see Louisville as the first of many preparations for a grueling Southeastern Conference schedule, which features mobile quarterbacks similar to Bridgewater.

"I actually think it's a statement game, especially for us, our fans and our season," Neloms said. "A win there will bring the fans in and can really jump-start our season."

Kentucky's offense begins with sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith, hoping his promising performance late last season can revive one of the nation's worst offenses. Senior running back CoShik Williams will be counted on to set things up for Smith, though.

Strong believes both schools' have more to prove to themselves and that adds more to this showdown. Other than a "(hash)WeAreUK" billboard strategically placed high above Interstate 65 near the Louisville campus, there has been no trash talk and Cardinals players have found it more amusing than anything.

Louisville enters as a two-touchdown favorite, but that means little in a series Kentucky leads 14-10 with three wins on the Cardinals' turf. Strong views as it two teams seeking the same goal, and if bragging rights ratchet up the focus and intensity, all the better.

"Kentucky is similar to us in a lot of ways," Strong said. "It's a young team, and we're still a young football team. ... When you look at a rival(ry) game, everybody's all excited and everybody gets excited because you look at the (fact) we're an hour away. But it's two good football teams."

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