Rivalry game is Louisville's last shot to prove worth
Throughout Louisville's eight-game losing streak, the players have continuously said they believe they aren't playing up to their potential, insisting they are better than their record.
The Cardinals (2-9) have one final chance to prove that Saturday vs. arch-rival Kentucky (8-3) Saturday night.
"I think anytime you play a rival, the guys on the other side are going to play harder," Louisville interim coach Lorenzo Ward said. "It's about pride, so you can throw the records out. Regardless of how a season's gone, it's still the same as if we were undefeated."
Louisville has owned the modern series between these teams, but this meeting has a drastically different feeling. Louisville is a 17.5-point underdog, the largest spread ever for a UofL team in the Governor's Cup series.
"If I had a way to attack them, I wouldn't tell you," Ward said when asked about facing Kentucky.
"Again, if you look at this team, Kentucky was probably a couple of years ago where Louisville is now a young football team. Kentucky is a veteran squad. They've got eight seniors on defense that are starting, and I think five of them are fifth-year players, which means they've been in the system a long time.
"When you keep that continuity, you're going to have that good defense, and that's why they're playing great. They've got a lot of good football players on defense, I think they're entire secondary is seniors. Then (senior linebacker) Josh Allen is the key to that defense. He can destroy an offense. He's a great football player."
Kentucky's defense certainly leads the team, but the Wildcats offense, particularly the running game with Benny Snell, has been impressive at times as well. Snell is 14th in the nation in rushing yards per game at 109.55, averaging 4.92 yards per carry. He has 12 touchdowns this season.
"I watched him a lot today. I watched him a lot yesterday," Ward said. "I think he's really worked on his patience. He's just not ramming it up in there. He's trying to find open gaps, and then he hits it. He has no problem balancing the football. He moves well. He's physical. He drives his legs on contact.
"And then, he's catching the ball out of the backfield well this season. So, he's always been a really good back, but I think he's more complete."
Louisville must slow Snell and score points against Kentucky's fearsome defense. That's no small task for a Cardinal squad that has scored an average of 15 points in the last three games.