By Beau Kilpatrick—
Louisville’s loss on Saturday against the University of Kentucky was a fitting end to a hopeful season that ended in self-destruction. The No. 11 Cardinals fell 38-41 against their in-state rival U of K.
The Cardinals showed an unbelievable amount of potential through the first half of the season. Their average margin of victory through the first four games was by 41.5 points, including a 43-point win over Florida State. Their first loss came at the hands of the now no.4 Clemson Tigers. However, that game was fought to the end and Louisville fell one yard shy. They won their next five games, three blowouts against NC State, Boston College and Wake Forest. They also struggled in two closer games against Duke and Virginia.
The crack in Louisville’s armor was exposed when they lost to Houston, a game where they were heavy favorites. The Cards were ranked No. 5 heading into the Houston game. The Cougars did not hide the fact that this game was going to be their Super Bowl and they prepared well. This game was supposed to go to the Cardinals by a few touchdowns; however, it was Houston that blew out Louisville by 26 points. U of L gave the nation one of the worst performances by any football team in the country.
The Cardinals came into their final game of the season after their worst loss, after giving up hope for entering the college football playoffs, and after embarrassing themselves in front of the country. The Governor’s Cup was supposed to be the game where Louisville was to bounce back. This rivalry game had the potential to put a band-aid on a dismal ending to an impressive season, it would have solidified their position in a New Years Six bowl game, and it would have concreted Lamar Jackson’s Heisman campaign.
U of L was a heavy favorite against Kentucky. However, rivalry games are not concerned with ranking, record, elite players, or bowl predictions. Rivalry games are purely emotional and the Wildcats were more emotionally charged for the matchup.
Lamar Jackson led his offense down the field to score on the first offensive drive of the game. Fans had a false hope that the team was back to its high-octane attack, but they were wrong. Kentucky scored on a huge pass on its opening offensive possession and the game was on.
From an objective perspective, this was the most exciting Governor’s Cup that has been played in the past decade. Louisville has dominated the series between the two teams, especially in the past ten years where the Cards have won six in a row. Perhaps this is exactly what fans on both sides needed to keep the rivalry going and to reignite the tension between the teams.
Kentucky did a good job running the ball and then launching the deep ball when Louisville least expected it. Their run-heavy offense was impressive against the elite Cardinals defense.
Louisville’s offense has led the nation in total offense for most of the season, now they are No.2, and they have the only quarterback in FBS history to have over 20 rushing touchdowns and 30 passing touchdowns. Jackson has 51 total this season. Louisville also has a hold on other categories that are not so glamorous. They lead the nation in fumbles lost with 21 and are eighth in most penalties per game.
This year’s Governor’s Cup was a great back and forth match between the red and blue. The game was tied with less than a minute to go. Louisville was in the red-zone and ten yards away from a touchdown when Lamar Jackson fumbled the ball at the 10-yard line. The Wildcats recovered and Austin MacGinnis nailed a 47-yard field goal to seal the win with 12 seconds left in the game.
The Fumble: http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=18142134
Louisville’s chances to be invited to the Orange Bowl have dropped substantially after their loss to Kentucky. The most likely situation now places them in the Citrus Bowl against the Florida Gators. This is a rematch that Florida has been wanting ever since the Cardinals destroyed them in the Sugar Bowl in 2013.
In the meantime, Lamar Jackson will be going to New York City for the Heisman Trophy awards ceremony on Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. The presentation will be broadcasted live at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
The Cardinals’ season was like a shooting star. It caught fire quickly. It burned brighter than everybody else. But it could not burn brighter than the rest of the NCAA for the length of the season and it fell with two games. The season looks bright for next year as many names will be returning to the roster; including Lamar Jackson, who will return bigger, smarter, and brighter for his junior year.