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September 2, 2012

Defense hammered 32-14 in season opener

LOUISVILLE - The rain that was supposed to douse Louisville on Sunday afternoon fizzed out as fans filed into their seats. By kickoff, the rain had all but relented. The Cardinal offense wasn't so kind.

The Cardinals seized control of the game early, constructing three long drives in the first half to drown Kentucky's hopes of reclaiming the Governor's Cup. Louisville finished the first half with 314 yards of total offense before easing off in the second half while claiming a 32-14 win.

"I think we're better than that," head coach Joker Phillips said. "I really do. You guys might think I'm crazy, but we're better than that."

Louisville drove 99 yards for a touchdown on its first drive. Louisville drove 85 yards for a touchdown on its second drive. Louisville drove 93 yards for a touchdown on its third drive.

"It's demoralizing," defensive coordinator Rick Minter said. "It's about the worst thing that can happen to you."

The Wildcats didn't couldn't find their way back from there. Louisville pulled ahead 22-7 and didn't look back, even if the offense did slow down in the second half.

Kentucky briefly had a chance to pull within a possession just after halftime, when linebacker Josh Forrest recovered an onside kick and the Wildcats drove within field goal range. But senior kicker Craig McIntosh pushed the kick wide right. Louisville pushed the lead to 32-7 with a field goal and a touchdown on its next two possessions before pulling starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

The Kentucky defense struggled all day. Bridgewater finished the day with 19 completions in 21 attempts, and one of his incompletions was a pass he intentionally threw out of bounds.

But it was Louisville's running game that wore away at the Wildcats. Senorise Perry led all rushers with 108 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown, while Jeremy Wright scored three touchdowns while finishing with 105 yards on 22 carries. Louisville outgained Kentucky on the ground 219-93. The team that has finished with the most rushing yards has now won 17 straight games in the series.

Kentucky's offense took a major step forward from 2011, when it finished 118th in the country. There were issues, though. The Wildcats drove within 25 yards of the end zone four times without coming away with points.

"We obviously have to do a better job of finishing drives," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. "That was probably the biggest thing today. We didn't finish."

Louisville had no such problems. The Cardinals' first six drives all went into Kentucky territory as they piled up 420 of their 466 yards and four touchdowns. The first time Louisville failed to cross midfield, it was with backup quarterback Will Stein at the helm late in the third quarter.

Louisville's offense finally slowed with Stein under center, though most of the other offensive starters remained in the game. Bridgewater finished with 232 yards before a record crowd of 55,386 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

By that point, it was too late. Sophomore Maxwell Smith found La'Rod King in the end zone late in the third quarter, but the senior receiver didn't even bother to celebrate his touchdown. He dropped the ball as the official raised his arms in the air, jogging alone back to the sideline.

Then it was the defense's turn again. They managed a stop, but it was no consolation to Minter.

"It really couldn't have gone worse for us today," he said.

Injury report

Kentucky sustained no major injuries in the game. Smith banged up his elbow, but it's not believed to be serious. Freshman linebacker Josh Forrest suffered a hip flexor. Sophomore linebacker Miles Simpson had a quadriceps contusion.


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