When the University of Louisville faithful are sitting around in the future, reliving beloved interludes from the past when the Cardinals were rockin’ on the good foot, they will not mention Thanksgiving Weekend 2016.
Hardwood meltdown in the Bahamas.
Which was trumped when the Cards were outcoached, outfocused, outperformed and generally punched in the solar plexus by an improving Kentucky football team that was not about to lose its sixth rivalry battle in a row.
Mark Stoops and his staff outcoached Bobby Petrino and his.
UK had a great game plan, and never wavered. They were able to pass on the Cards. They were able to run on the Cards. They were able to defend the Cards.
Stephen Johnson — Stephen Johnson??? — outplayed Lamar Jackson.
Johnson was 16/27 in the air for 338 yards, three TDs, and a pick of little consequence in the first half. His QB rating was 193.7. Which was 32.9 points better than that of the Cards’ Heisman hopeful. The unheralded Johnson also toted the ball 8 times for 83 yards.
Lamar Jackson was 16/25 passing for 281 yards and 2 TDs. But he threw three interceptions. One was in the red zone late, when he threw too hard for Cole Hikutini to catch it. He rushed 25 times for 171 yards. But late, with less than two minutes to play, with the score knotted, with the Cardinals 1st and Goal and victory 9 yards away, Jackson fumbled when forced to scramble because of the last of the offensive line’s many failures on the day.
Kentucky’s defense was more stalwart than Louisville’s.
U of L missed too many tackles and gave up too many big plays. Big passing plays. Big running plays. And, with the game on the line, and OT beckoning if they could get a stop, they could not, allowing UK to drive from its own 10 for a winning FG in a minute and a half.
Kentucky’s offensive line outplayed Louisville’s offensive line.
U of L had zero sacks and only 4 TFLs. UK had 3 sacks and 8 TFLs.
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I can think of several plays, one at the end of the opening half, which had they gone the other way might have given Louisville the momentum necessary to deflate Kentucky.
But they did not.
So, there’s really no reason to look at this game under a microscope.
Kentucky played better with a better game plan and deserved to win.
Which they did.
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When looking back at the entire campaign, it appears the demolition of Florida State might have been a false positive.
Other than a gallant but losing effort at Clemson, and acknowledging a couple of blow outs over lesser teams not ready for Lamar, Louisville’s game on both sides of the ball regressed as the season progressed.
Which is to say that in retrospect U of L was overrated. By its fans. By Vegas. By the pollsters.
Absurd expectations with unrealistic point spreads ensued. So too fumbles — more than any team in the land — and penalties.
Louisville — the players and the coaches — weren’t ready for prime time, weren’t able to perform as the spotlight got brighter.
When the defeat to rival Kentucky was becoming increasingly inevitable in the 4th Q, I got a text from my pal Doc.
“A November to forget.”
— Seedy K