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COLUMN: WKU, UK gear up for Governor’s Cup Redux

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By Bob Watkins

Governor’s Cup Redux is Saturday in Lexington.
Coming in Week 3, this one has the entertainment value of any season opener and, says here a UK-WKU series is more geographically attractive than any college football game in Jefferson County.
These days, Western Kentucky is a D-I climber willing to take a thump and donut hole in Tuscaloosa to upgrade its rep and respect; Kentucky is an SEC clinger trying to W wherever it can to get back to middle-of-the-pack.
At stake? Must win for one program, respect for the other. You decide which is which, but not too quickly.
Western Kentucky and Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium in Week 3 is a natural that could/should be a first month, but not first week, fixture.
Goals? For Kentucky, fill those 19,596 empty seats at Commonwealth Stadium last week. Hilltopper fans and Kentucky having put 47 points on the board last week, “ought to do it.”
Western donated four touchdowns to the Crimson Tide via turnover, and Kentucky’s 89th ranked defense gave up 409 total yards to a MAC team, spawns promise that fans could see, well, a show in Governor’s Cup Redux.
Coming to the start line, the Hilltoppers are ‘Bama bruised, but will have watched a game film that shows Kent State pushed Kentucky’s defense around as much as Louisville did.
Inspired by Sun Belt rival Louisiana-Monroe’s stunner in Little Rock last week, Western should be primed.
The Wildcats? Turns out a Maxwell Smith-run offense is worth the time and ticket price.
So, Week 3, Governor’s Cup Redux. Perfect.

ELSEWHERE
Putting aside ugly run-up-score-to-help-our-ranking by Tennessee, 51-13 over Georgia State and Oklahoma 69-13 over Florida A&M, the college season’s fun began last weekend.
•AT LOUISVILLE. Coach Charlie Strong follows his instincts, sniff out and nip trouble in the bud. Sensing his team was growing too smug, too soon, the Cardinals coach reportedly blistered his team before and after beating lightweight Missouri State.
Good news for Louisville fans — the Cards are 2-0, ranked 19th in America and up for an ABC/ESPNl television date this week. The better news came from Tobacco Road. North Carolina, U of L’s next foe, surrendered 362 passing yards and 426 total in a 28-27 loss to Wake Forest moving Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora to say “I didn’t see too much pressure on the quarterback the whole night. I didn’t see anybody close to any receivers. It will be interesting to see on film.”
Teddy Bridgewater will be interested in the film too.
• AT LEXINGTON, Kentucky turned in a season opening performance six days late. The Wildcats sputtered early, but Kent followed the script.
Fans grown weary of Joker Phillips’ “... we’re awfully young” talk just before or just after his “you’re either for us or against us,” remark, got an eyeful. The Wildcats are young, but talented and deep in places that promise dividends.
Prime among them, sophomore quarterback Smith. Poise, good decisions and efficiency are bringing him Tim Couch comparisons.
Second-year man Raymond Sanders rushed for 115 yards and didn’t fumble. Surprise Department? Receiver Aaron Boyd arrived apparently from another planet – 11 catches, 100 yards, a touchdown.
Defense? Rick Minter’s bunch was disorganized and poor early against Kent, better after half-time and swaggered by the fourth quarter when the visitors had surrendered.
Bottom line? Joker’s offense is coming, but 409 yards offense by a MAC team at home, equals no improvement from Week One. With Florida, South Carolina and Mississippi State coming, Minter had better find solutions or find a new line of work.
Lone eye sore in Lexington last Saturday? Commonwealth Stadium barely qualified as our state’s third largest city. 48,346 paid Mitch Barnhart prices to see a season opener on an evening God made for humans to be outdoors. For 19,596 empty seats, the man who raised ticket prices, took a sack.
• AT TUSCALOOSA, Western Kentucky took its medicine, but beat the point spread. Despite four turnovers which Alabama turned into scores, the Hilltoppers acquitted themselves reasonably and kept a measure of poise in front of more fans a Western team had seen ever, 101,821. A ticket sale bonanza for the Tide that left us hoping WKU negotiated a percentage of the gate instead of flat rate. Dream on.

Good fun ...
• Thing of beauty: Louisiana-Monroe stunned No. 8 Arkansas in overtime in Little Rock. A result that should not be lost on fans in Kentucky.
Kentucky plays the Hogs two days before Big Blue Madness. Western Kentucky gets Louisiana-Monroe for Hilltopper homecoming, October 20.
• Georgia and Florida gave Missouri and Texas A&M a proper welcome to the Southeastern Conference.
• Tennessee ended cream puff portion of its schedule. The Vols return to big league play this week with Florida in Knoxville. Last time the Vols beat the Gators SEC experts were saying Tennessee’s new freshman quarterback had “happy feet” and was overrated. Peyton Manning.

PARTING SHOT
Headline read: John Calipari Unveils ‘New Gold Standard’ at Kentucky.
From his internet site, Kentucky’s coach was crowing  about the posh new home for basketball players last week, Coal Lodge.
Reactions from Wildcat fans are mixed. One of my favorites came from Eric Lynch in Wolfe County.
“The Coal industry makes outrageous profits for its executives and pays the hard-working coal miners very little all while destroying our mountains and wildlife habitats. Why you guys think (bleeping) on the little man, poisoning the air, adulterating our water and destroying our land is a boon for this state I’ll never know.
“They certainly won’t be doing anything for Kentucky or its people once they’ve raped us of all our natural resources. There’s not a single chance I’ll ever refer to the Wildcat Lodge with an acknowledgement to coal. For the record, before you disparage me as an outsider, my people go back to the early 1800s in Wolfe County.”
Comment: Thank you.
And so it goes.