LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Through the first two games of Kentucky's
season, new co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter's defense has been one of the team's few bright spots.
That unit faces a stern test Saturday against Louisville. Minter was hired in December to revamp the Wildcats' defense after it ranked near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference in total yards, rushing defense and scoring defense last year.
So far, the unit seems vastly improved: The Wildcats (2-0) have only given up one touchdown and they rank 35th in the country with 308.5 yards given up per game.
Players have executed the game plan well, none more so than
linebacker Danny Trevathan and safety-turned-backer Winston Guy,
Minter said. Another reason for the success on defense has been the
element of surprise.
They won't surprise Louisville. The Cardinals will be Kentucky's first opponent to have game film of Minter's scheme.
And Louisville quarterback Will Stein moves around in the pocket and is at his most dangerous when he's on the run, Minter said. It's a threat similar to the one the Wildcats faced against Western Kentucky quarterback Kawaun Jakes, who Kentucky contained in its opener.
"Any time you play a game you put yourself on display. Good, bad or indifferent, that's how it is," Minter said. "You're showing people how you line up, how you run plays, how you do things. That just means the more we go down the road, the more efficient we have to be at execution because we have fewer and fewer surprise elements for the upcoming opponent. This Saturday, they've seen us play twice already."
The element of surprise played more heavily into last year's Governor's Cup game. It was the season opener for both teams and it was the head coaching debut of Kentucky's Joker Phillips and the Cardinals' Charlie Strong.
The Wildcats won, 23-16; UK dominated with 466 yards of offense but kept the Cardinals in the game with a missed field goal an a missed extra-point attempt. This year, Louisville won't put anything drastically different on the field that Phillips hasn't seen in person.
And even though Strong has yet to see Minter's defense up close, Phillips said the two pieces of game film are enough for Strong to take advantage of. That will be Saturday's test, Phillips said.
"They'll see some things that we do defensively that they'll try to take advantage of, and they'll see some things offensively from us that will make them design some new blitzes," Phillips said. "You saw our first two games. We shouldn't be holding anything back. There's been times when we've been down in these first two games and getting outplayed. We haven't been holding anything back."