Saturday, September 04, 1999

Stakes high for UK




BY NEIL SCHMIDT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEXINGTON, Ky. — Louisville will enter Commonwealth Stadium today with a Heisman Trophy candidate, a near-Top 25 ranking and hopes of an undefeated season. Kentucky hopes mostly to avoid a rebuilding year.

        But whether the Cardinals indeed claim the season opener, they insist the state's Big Brother institution is tiring of this tussle. Asked in a news conference about a rumor UK might end the annual series, Cardinals coach John L. Smith said, “I wouldn't be a bit surprised.

        “You know they look down their nose at us. It's like we're the redheaded stepchild that comes in. They don't want to play us.”

        Indeed, UK is considering a change. Athletic Director C.M. Newton said a possible way to create more flexibility in UK's non-conference schedule was to not play Louisville and Indiana in the same season, rotating those opponents every other year. But Smith's comments rankled him.

        “I really resent that,” Newton told reporters. “We have nothing but respect for what they've done with their program.”

        Said UK coach Hal Mumme: “They'll probably come over here and whip us. ... So as far as them being redheaded stepchildren, I don't know. I've never had any stepchildren.”

        No Wildcats claim playing Louisville is beneath them. Some call this UK's biggest rivalry.

        “We go to parties and the fans are there, talking up Louisville,” senior halfback Anthony White said. “We've gotta hear about it. I think Louisville is a bigger rival than Tennessee.”

        Coming off its first New Year's Day bowl in 47 years, UK is keen on proving its resurgence wasn't just quarterback Tim Couch's doing.

        Playing a team it beat by 34 points last year, UK could find few moral victories in a loss. “If you lose, people will say, "The thrill is gone out of Kentucky,'” White said. “That's the biggest reason this is a big game. We've got to win respect.”

        A forgiving schedule has started talk of the Cardinals going undefeated.

        “It's a huge game for both of us,” quarterback Dusty Bonner said. “We both have a lot to prove.”

       



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- Stakes high for UK
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