COLUMN: Motivation Abundant for Louisville as they Prime for Kentucky

Maybe this is the first year Charlie Strong can truly experience the Louisville/Kentucky rivalry?

Though Charlie Strong has only lost once to Kentucky. It’s always noted – that even in a rivalry full of hatred – he was coaching against his good friend Joker Phillips. Perhaps that caused him to play it a bit more conservative after holding big lead & pulling QB Teddy Bridgewater for nearly the entire second half when the two met last season? Perhaps that’s all mere speculation, but one thing that isn’t: there will be no love-lost on Saturday.

There is a new man in town for Kentucky in Mark Stoops. Charlie Strong said on Monday that the two have no ‘prior relationships’ or anything resembling what him and Ex-Kentucky Head Coach Joker Phillips had, for that matter.

“I was here (Louisville) while he was at Florida State…We didn’t get a chance to see one another or talk to one another,” Strong explained. “When he was at Florida State and Miami, I wasn’t in the state then. So we don’t have a relationship.”

No prior relationship, but who could forget the exchange between the two prior to Louisville’s BCS Bowl status being known?

Stoops stated that he would do ‘whatever he could to help Florida State’ (Florida State would have been possible Orange Bowl opponent) adding, ‘especially against Louisville’.

Strong fired back simply stating, ‘They’ll get a chance to play us next season’.

No love-lost indeed.

Maybe Charlie Strong will be a bit slower to pull  Bridgewater if the Cardinals are able to hold a commending lead Saturday? Possibly it’s needed to impress BCS voters as Louisville continues their unlikely campaign for a BCS National Championship?

Strong will always be highly motivated to win against any opponent. It’s woven into the fabric of  his DNA. While the upgrade of motivation that Charlie Strong may have this year against Kentucky is probably microscopic. That story may be a bit different for some players on Louisville team, Saturday.

For G Brandon Dunn, it’s all about retribution. The local product from Pleasure Ridge Park High School was once originally committed to Kentucky.

“I was committed to Kentucky. I was offered a greyshirt,” Dunn said. “I was committed and then Coach [Charlie] Strong invited me and my pops over. Then, within 10 minutes, I was a Louisville Cardinal.”

A greyshirt. One of the most ironic things in College Football. Plainly it’s telling a player, ‘Hey, you’re good enough to have a scholarship with this program, just not till next year’. That’s what Kentucky essentially was telling Dunn.

The Cardinals thought otherwise and offered Dunn a full scholarship; no ‘counter-offer’ ever came from the Wildcats and Dunn played for the red team.

I’d say he’s playing with a bit of chip on his shoulder Saturday. Going up against the team that never thought you were good enough is always fun.

For DT Roy Philon, it’s about coming home. The Lexington native from Bryan Station High School, wants to leave a lasting mark as a Senior participating in his last Louisville-Kentucky game.

“It’s a home game for Roy [Philon]. I haven’t talked to him yet, but I know how he is feeling about this game,” Dunn, Philon’s good friend, noted. ” It’s his senior year and I want to make sure we send him out on the right note, that way he can be comfortable for the rest of his years.”

Dunn explained how Philon had preformed last time he traveled back home to Lexington. Noting that he had an ‘outstanding’ game and he’s right.

Overshadowed by the Bridgewater Renaissance, Philon had a breakout game. He had 4 tackles, 2 for a loss, and 1.5 sacks. He was constantly a force in the backfield and was a bit part of slowing down the Kentucky offense.

Don’t be shocked if you hear Philon’s name called a lot on Saturday once again.

The Louisville Defense as a whole is playing a ‘disrespect card’ when it comes to Kentucky. After underachieving last season, they’ve heavily noted that they’ll be playing with a chip on their shoulder this season. That holds especially true for Kentucky. They feel slighted by some remarks that have been made over the Summer about the Cardinals Defense.

S Calvin Pryor wouldn’t shy away from commenting about it either.

“I heard a comment over the Summer from them about our defense being ‘average’,” Pryor stated. “I didn’t like that…It’s going down Saturday at 12.”

DE Lorenzo Maudlin wasn’t exactly bashful about his disdain for the Wildcats either.

“I’ve never liked Kentucky since I’ve been here,” Maudlin noted. “From tweets from my Freshman year to now. Everybody knows I don’t like Kentucky.”

Much will be made about the Kentucky mental approach to this game. The Wildcats are tired of losing to the Cardinals. They’ve lost two straight and continue to fall further in the rear view mirror of the Cardinals. Kentucky DE Bud Dupree chronicled his frustrations over the exodus of the Governor’s Cup in Lexington on Monday, stating that it’s something that ‘all my teammates talk about’.

As expected, emotions will at a high level on Sunday afternoon. But maybe – just maybe – they’ll reach new heights this year…even if it ends in a lopsided victory for one side.

“All games are important,” Strong said. “But let’s be honest, some games are more important than others. This is one of those games.”
Kentucky RB Jonathon George’s explained best why Strong – like all – feel that way about Louisville & Kentucky.

“It’s a bitter rivalry,” George noted. “The word ‘love’ won’t be thrown around too loosely when you put both teams together in the same sentence.”

Let the fun begin.

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