At the 4:42 mark of the first quarter of yesterday’s still hard to comprehend Cardinal fifth straight capture of the Governor’s Cup, gloom had descended in the HummelDome, where I was experiencing the game with my red-clad peeps.
Louisville, 0. Hated Arch Rival Kentucky, 21.
The crudities were molding in a platter on the coffee table. The chips went from from crisp to soggy, as if they’d been left in the mist on the back porch.
The faithful were glum. Cooper, our host’s usually effervescent labradoodle, forlorn, lay on the floor in the corner.
At which juncture, in an attempt to inject some color onto the rapidly graying palette, I intoned, “Look at it this way. If U of L does come back, it’ll be the most fun ever.”
If not quite that, there are few things that will warm one’s countenance on a grievously ugly football Saturday more than outscoring one’s Hated Arch Rival the rest of the way, 38-3. Or watching the stands empty as the hometeam meltdown played out on the soggy gridiron.
In a rivalry game, between two mediocre teams, where the winner would surely be the team that played less awful, the inevitable, UK’s immutable capacity to self destuct, insinuated itself.
The eternal ringmaster Bob Barker bellowed, a directive not an inquiry, “Will the real Kentucky Wildcats come on down.”
On cue, Kentucky did, what Kentucky does.
Louisville did, what Louisville does, at least for the last half decade when playing Hated Arch Rival on the gridiron.
Little Brother, 38. Big Blue Not So Big Bro, 24.
* * * * *
U of L coach Bobby Petrino went against inclination to start the game. The Cards won the toss, yet surprisingly deferred its decision until the second half, meaning it would start on defense.
Todd Grantham’s D didn’t show up until the first quarter was almost done, when the game appeared in peril.
Like the proverbial hot knife through butter, UK drove the field on its first possession to take a 7-0 lead. Louisville gave up 59 yards on two 3d & Longs.1
Then QB starter Kyle Bolin, a nervous Lexington native, playing at home, threw interceptions on the next two Cardinal possessions, the second, an 81 yard Pick Six.
* * * * *
Enter prodigal prodigy Lamar Jackson.
Three plays and a minute & 21 seconds later, LJ, with the help of a couple sweet downfield blocks, scampered for a TD from sixteen yards out.
* * * * *
Hold the slobber for a sec over wünderkind QB, it’s time for some ink to a deserving crew.
Because I have been relentless with my criticism of U of L’s O Line all season — well deserved barbs, I’d offer — I must now praise the unit’s play Saturday. It was steady and stalwart.
The Wildcats had but three TFLs on the day.
More germane: # of times Cardinal QBs were sacked? ZERO!!!!!
I’ll repeat. U of L’s offensive line gave up NO SACKS.
Louisville had 314 net rushing yards. While Jackson and Brandon Radcliffe (and their fellow rushers) deserve much of the credit, they would not have found the downfield green, had the Big Uns not been providing the openings.
They pushed Matt Elam around like he was a big ol’ bulging plastic bag, full of styrofoam packing peanuts.
* * * * *
Anyway, where was I?
Oh yes, Lamar Jackson.
The kid can scramble. Against all comers, but more so against a defense that’s proven vulnerable all season to running QBs.
While his passing continues to be “powerful rifle, needs new sight,”2 he completed several long bombs. To James Quick for 38 yards, setting up the first very important TD. To Quick for 35 yards and tying TD.
Then there was the 37 yard strike to Quick on U of L’s 7th drive after halftime. The Trinity grad caught the ball in the endzone, took a step and a half, then was battered in a helmet to helmet concussion maker, which caused him to drop the pigskin.
That it wasn’t called a catch (and TD) is defensible. That no targeting penalty was flagged is a travesty, a major officiating blunder. Louisville should have had the ball 1st & 10 at UK’s 22.
Yes, Jackson, I know, also toted the ball 17 times for 186 yards, averaging a glossy 10.9 ypc.
* * * * *
Louisville’s D missed a lot of tackles.
I mean, a whole lot of tackles.
But, when playing a team like Kentucky, which is always willing and able to out awful even the meekest of opponents, those Cardinal defensive miscues proved of little consequence.
Kentucky was held to 142 total yards for the last three quarters of the game.
Truth is the Cards’ D was solid after intermission.
The Cats had the ball for eight second half possessions. Six of them were 3 & Out. Another went for 5 plays, before the Wildcats punted. The coup de grace came on UK’s final possession, when former starter Patrick Towles moved his team quickly down the field.
Until, almost poetically, for the final time this season, Kentucky did what Kentucky does. Towles threw an ill advised toss toward the endzone, which was picked off by Jermaine Reve.
* * * * *
Prior to Saturday, there had been 328 games this season, during which one team forged a 21 point lead.
In only six of those, did the school down 3 TDs come back to win.
It happened twice this weekend. Rutgers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Maryland, which came back.
And, you know, U of L against Hated Arch Rival.
* * * * *
As Bracketology is to college hoops, i.e. a meaningless water cooler, argument fostering exercise, bowl projections are to college pigskin.
As of this writing, minimal research by your not so intrepid chronicler indicates a couple of updated guesses, about where the nation’s bowl eligible (and some not bowl eligible) shall be spending the holidays.
One projector has the Cards playing IU in balmy NYC in the Pinstripe Bowl on 12/26. In which case, I’d suggest they move the game to a neutral site closer to home, like, say, Lucas Oil in Indy.3
Another has the Cards battling the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 12/30 Music City Bowl.
But, you know, nobody knows.
Here’s what we do know: Louisville 38, Kentucky 24.
And the glum felt by U of L fans when down 21 in the opening quarter was nothing compared to that of Mark Stoops and Matt Jones postgame.
— Seedy K