Kentucky football: Wildcats stuff Cardinals with all-around dominating effort
It has been a wacky and topsy-turvy season for the Kentucky football team but on Saturday they dominated in-state rival Louisville 26-13 with a solid team effort that had been missing the mark all season keeping the Governor’s Cup in Lexington for the fourth straight year.
The offense played mistake-free and didn’t turn the ball over, the special teams were equally as perfect as Mark Rullolo made all 4 field goals and both extra points and as it has been all season long the defense was stout and even managed to recover a fumble and pick off two Louisville passes.
In fact, there are a number of game balls that could be given out which has been a rarity in a number of games this year. Also not to be lost in the win was that the Kentucky football team it ran its home winning streak to 20 straight victories over non-conference foes at Kroger Field.
While Kentucky started strong going 4-0 and beating Florida it got derailed in the middle of the season stumbling down the stretch at 2-5. Still beating your rival to close out the regular season is just what this team needed and now must wait on its post-season bowl destination to put the exclamation mark on the finish.
Coach Mark Stoops addressed the importance of winning the Governor’s Cup.
“So, you’re going to have some adversity, and our team responded how I believed they would. This game is important. I’ve recognized that from the moment I walked in the door when we had a long way together and they were consistent top 10 team or Top 5 at the time or whatever it was when Charlie (Strong) had them rolling…So, I know it’s important to this state, important to or football players and our staff, and I just really appreciate the way they dug in and competed and finished the season.”
Louisville came to Lexington as the No. 25 ranked team and on a hot streak, but from the start of the game, it was Kentucky taking the upper hand and muffling the Cardinal offense. Meanwhile, quarterback Will Levis, Chris Rodriguez, and the rest of the offense were able to move the ball up and down the field finishing with 346 yards of offense.
Both teams finished the regular season with 7-5 records.
There were 28 Kentucky seniors honored before the game and the dozen Wildcat players who call Louisville home will have bragging rights until next Thanksgiving weekend.
For Stoops, the win ensures another winning season and a seventh straight bowl trip in his 10 seasons in Lexington. The all-time winningest coach now has a record of 66-58 and by signing a contract extension two weeks ago will be adding to those numbers.
With all that said let’s get to the quick takeaways.
No. 1 Will Levis and Chris Rodriguez showed how this offense could have run
Kentucky’s offense has been explosive at times this season and sputtered at others never really having a healthy duo of quarterback Will Levis and running back Chris Rodriguez healthy or available at the same time.
That coupled with the often criticized playcalling of Rich Scangarello as sent the offense to the bottom of the Southeastern Conference.
Rodriguez missed the first four games of the season on a suspension while Levis missed one with an injured foot and had been beat up and banged up down the stretch. But on Saturday they were both clicking.
Levis made smart throws, ran for some yards, and didn’t take a lot of sacks or throw any interceptions. He hasn’t decided on playing in the bowl game, but if he doesn’t he finished his career with a game completing 11 of 19 passes for 188 yards with no picks and an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dane Key and a 3-yard toss to Barion Brown.
Key has already set the freshman record for touchdowns and keeps adding to that with his sixth one.
On the season Levis finished with 2,406 yards with
As for Rodriguez, he did what he does the best rumble, pound, and bowl defenses carrying the ball 24 times for 120 yards. That 100-yard game was the 20th of his career and moved past Benny Snell as the all-time leader in 100-yard games.
Rodriguez in just eight games this season carried 175 times for 904 yards.