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August 31, 2012

Defensive line is UK strength, key against Cards

The message has been drilled into the defensive line by David Turner all preseason.

"When the big guys start rolling and start having fun everybody starts having fun," defensive tackle Donte Rumph said, repeating his position coach's mantra. "We take that to heart. We try to be the leaders on defense."

The line will try to set the tone for the defense in a tone-setting season opener at Louisville on Sunday.

It starts with the presence of Rumph and Mister Cobble in the middle. Both took a less-than-direct route to the starting tackle spots - Rumph took two seasons to get eligible; Cobble missed all but one game in 2010 for academic reasons - but both are now looked to as leaders.

"After falling really far behind as a freshman, (Cobble) is becoming one of those guys that brings guys with him," head coach Joker Phillips said.

He's hoping Cobble - and the rest of the defensive line - can help bring home the Governor's Cup, as well.

"We know for us, everything starts up front," Turner said.

Controlling the line of scrimmage will be imperative. The team that has rushed for more yards has won 16 straight in the series. Last year, Louisville outgained Kentucky 181-35 on the ground.

The 328-pound Cobble (33 tackles last year) and 315-pound Rumph (31) aren't easy to move off the ball, but the Cardinals have four starters returning on the offensive line.

"You're talking about four guys who lined up and beat us last year," Turner said. "I'd
say that right there is a strength."

Another crucial task for the defensive line: pressuring and containing Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

UK thought that task would be easy last year, when the then-freshman was forced into the game because of an injury to starter Will Stein.

"We thought it would be a cake walk when he came in the game," defensive end Collins Ukwu said.

Instead, Bridgewater threw for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the 24-17 Louisville win.

"You wouldn't think a freshman quarterback would come in and do what he did," Ukwu said.

It wasn't that UK underestimated him, Ukwu said, just that the team wasn't
prepared to play him. This year, Bridgewater, a favorite for Big East Player of the Year, isn't sneaking up on anybody.

Or running on anybody, Cobble hopes. He said UK's plan will focus on keeping Bridgewater inside the pocket.

"We've really been game-planning around him," Cobble said.

Part of that includes hitting and taking down Bridgewater. Last year, Kentucky picked up four of its 20 season sacks against Louisville.

Still, Rumph said the Wildcats missed opportunities to make plays in that game that they will try to make this year - as long as it doesn't come at the expense of opening
up the defense.

"We just have to eliminate the big play," Turner said. "We have to be accountable every time, we have to be mentally tough to do our job every time. Don't think 'I have to be a hero and do something outside of what my job tells me to do.'"

That job description calls for the defensive line to control the line of scrimmage - and, as Rumph is quick to point out, have fun along the way.

"The D-line," Rumph said, "we're just going to ball out together."


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