Rivalry games bring out the best and the worst in teams. Saturday’s game between the Louisville Cardinals and the Kentucky Wildcats did just that. Kentucky needed just one win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2011. Louisville, already bowl eligible, was playing for bragging rights as well as their fifth straight victory in the series.
Kentucky started off strong, going up 21 – 0 in the first quarter with the help of two interceptions thrown by Louisville starter Kyle Bolin. The second interception was returned 81 yards by Josh Forrest for a touchdown.
Bolin threw only five passes for 45 yards. He was pulled in favor of freshman Lamar Jackson. It proved to be a wise decision as Jackson and the Cardinals needed only three plays to drive down the field and score to bring the Kentucky lead to 21- 7. Jackson started off with a beautiful play fake and then tossed a pass to James Quick for a 38 yard completion. After another Quick reception Jackson athleticism kicked in as he went around the end for a 16 yard touchdown run.
The first half did not go completely smooth for U of L with Jackson in. Midway through the second quarter, with the Cardinals’ offense moving easily down the field, Jackson tossed the Cardinals’ third interception of the half. The worst part is that they were on Kentucky’s 13 yard line. This led to a field goal by Kentucky to close out the half with a 24 – 7 lead.
The second half was all Louisville and Lamar Jackson. All Jackson did for the game was run for a Louisville quarterback record of 186 yards and 2 touchdowns. For good measure he also tossed a touchdown pass to James Quick.
Most Cardinal fans remember a very similar situation in the rivalry from 2012 when a freshman quarterback by the name of Teddy Bridgewater came off of the bench to bring the Cardinals back and lead them to a 24 – 17 win in Lexington.
Petrino had this to say about Jackson’s performance, “I thought he really grew up. He made some great plays. He was running the ball, throwing it and I think that’s the thing that was good for me to see. He really just concentrated on reading the plays, not guessing and not making a pre-determined decision.”
Louisville completely controlled the second half gaining 325 of their 489 yards. Brandon Radcliff ran for 62 yards and 2 touchdowns including to the go-ahead touchdown to put the Cardinals up for good.
You can’t talk about this game without mentioning the defense as well. Louisville held Kentucky to only 143 yards over the final three quarters.
For Louisville the future will be determined in the next week as to what bowl game they will be headed to. It has been an up-and-down season for U of L, but the positives of going to a bowl game are huge with perhaps none bigger than the practice time they will get, especially with a young team.