By Josh Cook
Randall Cobb & Co. spoiled Charlie Strong’s debut.
Cobb, a junior do-it-all for the University of Kentucky, accounted for 150 all-purpose yards and one touchdown as the Wildcats held off the University of Louisville 23-16 in front of 55,327 fans at new-and-improved Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Strong’s first game as the Cardinals’ head coach.
Behind Cobb and senior running back Derrick Locke, who rushed for 104 yards and two TDs, the Cats built a 20-6 halftime lead and led 23-6 early in the third quarter before UofL rallied. The Cards, sparked by Bilal Powell’s 80-yard touchdown run, cut UK’s lead to 23-16 with 3:16 to play. However Cobb helped the Cats kill the clock as UK beat UofL for the fourth straight time in the intrastate series.
"I was pleased with the way we came back and played in the second half," Strong said. "I was pleased with the way the guys hung in there...I was pleased with our overall effort."
Powell rushed 16 times for 153 yards, including the aforementioned 80-yard TD run with 8:41 remaining in the third quarter.
"Bilal Powell is a special player," Strong said. "That was a big momentum changer for us."
Senior quarterback Adam Froman completed 14 of 29 passes with one interception for 127 yards. He did, though, have several critical dropped passes by his receivers.
"I thought Froman did an outstanding job," Strong said. "He had some drops, so the stats may not show that."
Doug Beaumont and Cameron Graham had three catches apiece for the Cards. Beaumont totaled 40 yards receiving, while Graham had 38.
Meanwhile Cobb rushed four times for 80 yards, completed his only pass attempt for 19 yards, had two catches for 19 yards, returned one punt for -8 yards and had two kickoff returns for 59 yards. UK quarterback Mike Hartline completed 17 of 26 passes for 217 yards.
"He’s the guy I praise the most on our football team," Phillips said. "Mike has taken a lot of criticism and he handled it like a man. He didn’t come out here and have a sour look on his face. He had balance in his step and he’s 3-0 (vs. Louisville). I don’t think anybody else in Kentucky has been 3-0. He did more than just manage the game. He made some plays to win the game."
La’Rod King had three catches for 58 yards for the Cats, while Chris Matthews had three for 56.
UK (1-0) hosts Western Kentucky at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday, while the Cards (0-1) host Eastern Kentucky at 3:30 p.m. on the same day.
"I told them (after the game), 'We have 11 games to play this year, it’s up to you how we bounce back, this isn’t last year,'" Strong said.
Photo courtesy UK athletics