LEXINGTON — Kentucky senior center Matt Smith remembers what it was like last season when UK¿lost to Louisville to start the season and everyone questioned the offense. That’s why he knows the 32-14 opening-game loss to Louisville this season should not be blamed solely on the defense.
“The offense did move the ball, but we made mistakes and had two fumbles that cost us scores,” said Smith. “Hopefully we can realize how important it is to keep the ball and do what we know how to do. We have to back to square one and come out and show people we can play against Kent State.
“Obviously it was disappointing to start 0-1 and lose to our instate rivals. But we had a lot of positives out there. We were able to put some drives together with our no-huddle offense and able to move the ball on them, which is really encouraging, the way Max (Smith) was back there commanding the huddle and the way he was able to throw the ball and the receivers were catching the ball, that was good.
“We had a few hiccups that forced us into bad situations. We have to figure out how to do what we can and not let them have opportunities to make big plays on us. We have to keep moving forward Saturday. We can’t look back.”
That’s the message defensive coordinator Rick Minter has told his players and UK¿fans.
“We lost to Louisville. But we can’t let Louisville beat us twice,” he said. “Most of it was mental more so than physical. Not taking anything away from them. They are a good, solid offensive line and have good blockers on the edges and they are well coached, but I trust our guys are all also. There were some mis-alignments in there that kept the runner going. Other than that guys have to get off blocks and make tackles.
“We will bounce back this week. It takes more than that game to kill this group. We have to swallow it, give credit where it is due. They beat our tails. But we can’t dwell on that and let that cause us to lose another game.”
Matt Smith is convinced the defense will play better in the home opener.
“Those guys up front are so big and so athletic that we have been going against. In practice they have shown a lot of things they can do and have broken us down,” the Kentucky center said.
“It just comes down to physicality on both sides of the ball. We have to be up there and be controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides, and we didn’t against Louisville. But I¿know what our defense can do.¿I’ve seen it. They can control the line and they will.”
Nervous: Freshman punter Landon Foster certainly had a memorable debut for Kentucky. His first punt — a rugby-style kick he learned at UK — was fumbled, almost recovered by UK¿and pinned Louisville at the 1-yard line. His second punt went 53 yards. He also tried to run out of punt formation on a called fake and was stopped short of a first down even though it appeared a Louisville defender should have been called for grabbing his face mask.
“I was a little nervous with the playing conditions (rain and windy), but I just like playing ball. After it got started,¿I was good,” Foster said.
He thought the fake would work even deep in Louisville territory.
“Obviously the guy broke through. The whole week we ran it and we had done all preseason. It worked pretty good every time. We were pretty sure it would work,” Foster said. “It was a big disappointment obviously not to win. I feel, and all the coaches feel, bad for the seniors in their last game against Louisville. It is so hard to work four or five years and have that game we did.
“You could sure tell what a rivalry it is. We came out to a lot of boos and I¿have never had that loud of boos before. It was fun and what I¿like — SEC and Big East going at it.”
Foster is confident UK will bounce back and win Saturday.
“You have to have confidence in what you do and in your team. If you are not confident, you don’t belong here,” he said.
Williams out: Senior tailback Coshik Williams ran 10 times for 62 yards, caught three passes for 21 yards and returned three kickoffs for 85 yards against Louisville, but he won’t play Saturday because he’s been out this week with muscle spasms in his back. Coach Joker Phillips said junior Raymond Sanders would start with Jonathan George also playing more, but true freshman Dyshawn Mobley would also get his opportunity to play.
“He’s going to play for us, get some reps in there, and we’ll see how he does,” Phillips said of Mobley.
Phillips said when Williams, a former walk-on, is hurting, he knows the injury is serious.
“The guy is a tough guy. Ain’t no doubt about that. The thing we have to have him for the long haul. I’m not taking these (other) guys for granted by any means, but we need CoShik full speed,” Phillips said. “He’s not a real big guy, and he needs to be full speed. The guy busts his gut on every play, whether it’s practice or pregame. We’ve just got to make sure we take care of it and make sure we get him to the field healthy.”
Phillips also said that backup linebacker Josh Forrest won’t play because of an injury.