Turnovers Lead to a Win
Seven years ago the Kentucky football team faced eventual Heisman winner Lamar Jackson as a four-touchdown underdog. Led by quarterback Stephen Johnson and four Louisville turnovers the Cats shocked the Cards 41-38. On Saturday UK was once again a heavy underdog on the road against Louisville. Once again Mark Stoops’ club again took advantage of turnovers. Let’s break it down as Kentucky upsets Louisville 38-31.
Another Slow Start
All season long the Wildcats have had trouble getting out of the blocks and Saturday was no different. The Cards took advantage after a bad punt on Kentucky’s first possession. Taking over eight minutes off the clock UL methodically marched down the field going 70 yards in 14 plays. Jawhar Jordan took it the final yard and it was 7-0.
The Cats finally got on the board on a nine-yard pass from Devin Leary to Dane Key. A Brock Travelstead 46-yard field goal put the Cards up 10-7 at the intermission. For the half Kentucky only had 16 yards rushing on 14 attempts and 97 yards overall. Nothing that happened in the first 30 minutes led anyone to believe we were in for an offensive shootout. However, that’s exactly what happened.
Back and Forth We Go
Much like the beginning of the game Louisville took the second half kick, held the ball for over nine minutes, and scored on another Jordan run. Kentucky needed a spark and Barion Brown provided it. Taking the ensuing kickoff the sophomore took it 100 yards to the house to make it 17-14. That was Brown’s second kickoff return of the year and third overall. That ties him with Craig Yeast for most of all time.
Big-Time Players Making Plays
On the next Cardinal possession, J.J. Weaver recovered a Jordan fumble setting up an Alex Raynor 46-yard field goal. Then D’Eryk Jackson caused a Plummer fumble recovered again by Weaver. Two plays later Leary to Davis gave the Cats their first lead of the day.
Louisville turned it over on downs and at that point, things looked good for the Cats with five minutes to go. Of course, what’s the one thing you can’t do when trying to run out the clock? Turn the ball over. What did Kentucky do? You guessed it. While being pressured by the Louisville defense Leary made one of the most ill-advised throws ever leading to an interception.
All year the Wildcat defense has had issues on third or fourth and long and it burned them again. Plummer hit Amari Huggins-Bruce on a 21-yard strike and instead of UK running out the game we were tied at 31.
However, give Leary all the credit in the world for forgetting about the interception as he made a tough throw to Brown putting the Cats at the Louisville 37. Davis scored on the next play. Unfortunately for the Big Blue Nation, they gave the Cards about a minute to work with. Could a team with four come-from-behind wins make it five? The answer was no as Jordan Lovett picked off a pass in the end zone and that was your game as Kentucky upsets Louisville 38-31.
The win definitely takes some sting out of what’s been a disappointing season, finishing 7-5 after starting 5-0. However, they spoiled their arch-rivals’ season for a fifth straight year and kept the Governor’s Cup. UK will play in a bowl for an eighth straight year extending their school record. Currently, Last Word has the Wildcats playing in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.
As for the Cardinals, their magical season under Jeff Brohm takes a big hit. They fall to 10-2 on the year and likely drop out of the selection committee games. However, they still have a lot to play for as they head to their first-ever ACC Championship game. They’ll face Florida State in hopes of derailing their playoff hopes. Of course, the Seminoles are without star quarterback Jordan Travis who is out for the year with a leg injury.
A year ago Weaver went through Senior Day festivities but decided to come back for one more year. He’s had his struggles this year but on Saturday the Louisville native had one of the biggest games of his career with eight tackles, two fumble recoveries, and a sack. As a result, he won the Howard Schnellenberger MVP Award.
JJ Weaver as he’s leaving the press conference:
“It’s my city, remember that. I never lost to these guys!”
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) November 25, 2023
In addition, it was a record-setting day for Davis and his three touchdowns ran his total to 20 breaking Benny Snell’s single-season record of 19 set in 2017.
One other huge plus for the Cats was no penalties. If you read our game preview we said Kentucky had to limit both penalties and turnovers and other than the Leary interception they did both.
As for Stoops, he’s now won five straight against the Cardinals and six of the last seven. Overall he’s 6-4 against their bitter rival. Only Bobby Petrino has more wins (7-1) in the modern rivalry than Stoops.
Of course, we must address the elephant in the room. Published reports have the UK head man as a possible replacement for Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M. Stoops is Kentucky’s all-time leader in wins and is currently the seventh highest-paid coach in college football. If he were to leave he’d be the second Kentucky coach to follow that path. Paul “Bear” Bryant went to College Station after the 1954 season.
We’ll worry about that another day but right now it’s celebration time for the BBN as Kentucky upsets Louisville 38-31 in front of the largest crowd ever at L&N Federal Credit Union Stadium, formerly Cardinal Stadium.
Thanks for checking out our recap here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll be back with our updated bowl projections for the Cats and Cards later this week.