Western Kentucky (0-1) at Kentucky (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 11th, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Commonwealth Stadium (67,942) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: CSS. Home Record: WKU 0-0, Kentucky 0-0. Away Record: WKU 0-1, Kentucky 1-0. Neutral Record: WKU 0-0, Kentucky 0-0. Conference Record: WKU 0-0, Kentucky 0-0. Series Record: Kentucky leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Western Kentucky was beaten and battered in its season-opener, but the Hilltoppers will look for a better showing this Saturday when Willie Taggart bunch head to Commonwealth Stadium to take on the Kentucky Wildcats.
The Hilltoppers were clearly no match for the Cornhuskers this past Saturday, as eighth-ranked Nebraska bombarded WKU, 49-10. It was an inauspicious start for coach Taggart, who took over a Western Kentucky squad that currently holds the nation's longest losing streak at 21 games.
Joker Phillips opened his tenure at Kentucky with a hard-fought, 23-16 victory over Louisville. Phillips took over a Kentucky team that finished the 2009 campaign with a respectable 7-6 ledger. The Wildcats are 90-23-6 in home openers and have won 14 straight matchups against non-league foes at home.
In 2008, the Wildcats clashed with Western Kentucky for the first time on the gridiron, and it was a convincing decision for Kentucky, which won by a 41-3 margin.
Although the Hilltoppers finished with just 10 points in their loss to Nebraska there were some good things coach Taggart can take away from the setback. The big positive for WKU was the success of the ground game, mainly Bobby Rainey, who rushed for 155 of the Hilltoppers' 179 yards on the ground. Rainey, who also scored a touchdown, became the first player to reach the 100- yard plateau on the ground against Nebraska since Hugh Charles of Colorado achieved the feat back in 2007.
While the rushing game looked to be in mid-season form, the same cannot be said of the passing attack. Kawaun Jakes was inconsistent in the season-opener, as the signal caller completed just 12-of-22 passes for 120 yards. Jakes, who ha plenty of trouble with turnovers last year, also threw an interception in the lo
Western Kentucky's offense did a nice job on the ground against Nebraska, but the defense had no answers for the Cornhuskers' rushing attack, which pulverized WKU throughout the matchup. Nebraska scored six times on the ground and proceeded to rumble for 289 yards on an eye-popping 8.8 yards per carry.
The Hilltoppers were also stung by Nebraska through the air, as the Cornhuskers finished with 247 passing yards. The only bright spot for WKU was the two fumbles the defense forced and recovered, but other than that, not much went right for this defense against a clearly better opponent.
The Wildcats only posted 23 points against Louisville this past Saturday, but that was good enough to make a winner out of Kentucky. Surprisingly, the offense was effective and well balanced, as the Wildcats had their way with Louisville for most of the matchup.
Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb provided a one-two punch that Louisville was unable to contain. Locke, who led the team last season with 907 yards, rushed for 104 yards and two scores against the Cardinals, while Cobb added 80 yards and one touchdown on 20.0 yards per attempt.
Mike Hartline did not throw a touchdown in the season-opener, but the quarterback still managed the game well and did a solid job overall. The senior completed 17-of-26 passes in the contest and finished with 217 yards. Seven different players caught a pass, while La'Rod King led the way with 58 yards on three receptions.
Overall the Wildcats did an admirable job defensively, limiting the Cardinals to just 16 points, only one touchdown and 317 total yards.
Kentucky's play against the pass was tremendous, as the defense held Louisville to just 127 yards through the air, while also recording an interception. Overall the defense forced two turnovers in the win and posted two sacks.
However, not everything went well for Kentucky, as the defense had plenty of problems stopping the run. Kentucky's inability to stop the run in 2009 (182.9 ypg) was the team's main issue and that problem carried over into the opener, as the Cardinals punished the Wildcats for 190 yards on 5.9 yards per carry. If Kentucky wants to remain in the win column that is clearly the area this unit will have to make improvements.
After enjoying surprising success with the run against Nebraska, the Hilltoppers should have no trouble pounding the rock against Kentucky. However, with that said, the Wildcats will likely return the favor with the duo of Locke and Cobb, as the tandem should run Kentucky to a 2-0 start in 2010.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 38, Western Kentucky 17
09/08 10:40:31 ET