Kentucky tops No. 25 in Governor’s Cup battle to win 4-straight
The Kentucky Wildcats football team (7-5) finished the regular season on a high note, snapping a two-game losing streak against their rival, the No. 25 Louisville Cardinals (7-6) 26-13 at Kroger Field on Saturday, keeping the Governor’s Cup trophy in Lexington.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The Kentucky Wildcats football team (7-5) finished the regular season on a high note, snapping a two-game losing streak against their rival, the No. 25 Louisville Cardinals (7-6) 26-13 at Kroger Field on Saturday, keeping the Governor’s Cup trophy in Lexington. The Cardinals were favored by a field goal.
Pregame, UK honored 28 players in their senior day ceremony.
The first touchdown of the game came from senior quarterback Will Levis connecting with Frederick Douglass alum, true freshman wide receiver Dane Key for an 8-yard touchdown with 7:46 to go in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, the Cardinals held UK to a field goal. 6th year kicker Matt Ruffolo sent it through the uprights from 43-yards to put Kentucky up 10-0. He would drill another before the half, this time from 29 yards, to put UK up 13-0.
With under 2 minutes until the half, redshirt senior quarterback Malik Cunningham, who didn’t start for Louisville due to injuries, ended a 12-play drive with a 6-yard touchdown. UK would hang onto a 13-7 lead at the half.
The Wildcat defense held the Cardinals to just 143 yards of total offense in the first half.
In the third quarter, another field goal for Ruffolo to end a 10-yard drive would put UK up by 11. Then on the ensuing Louisville drive, sophomore inside linebacker Trevin Wallace intercepted Cunningham, returning it to the Louisville 16, setting the offense up in good position. Three plays later, Levis found Barion Brown, another true freshman wide receiver, on a three-yard touchdown to put the Cats up 23-7 with 6:35 remaining in the third and that would remain the score heading into the fourth.
Early in the fourth quarter, Ruffolo, who had struggled at times in the season, kicked a 40-yarder that capped off a 12-play, 60 yard drive for Kentucky to put them up 26-7. That drive took over seven minutes off the clock.
Later, Dormann back in the game would find senior Tyler Hudson for a 27-yard touchdown. He tried a quarterback sneak for a two-point conversion, but upon review, the referees said it was no good, so UK would hold onto a 26 to 13 lead with just over seven minutes to go.”
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. Stoops said following the win “It’s challenging, and our team responded the way I had hoped. Felt like we did some really good things in the first half. Penalties were one thing that kind of crept up on us a little bit. Made a few penalties that stalled some things. Overall, played really solid defense. I think giving up the touchdown at the end of the first half was a big response to go into halftime and come out in the second half and hold them to a three and out and get good field position kind of set the tone for the third quarter and put us in pretty good position to feel like you had pretty good control.”
It was a record-setting day for several Wildcats. Running back Chris Rodriguez on senior day notched over 100 yards for the fifth time this season. That marked the 20th 100+ yard rushing game of his UK career, breaking Benny Snell’s Kentucky record.
Senior linebacker DeAndre Square hit the 300 career tackle milestone in his return from injury, as did Jaquez Jones in his return. Key added to his freshman touchdown reception record, making it six.
In his final game at Kroger Field, Levis went 11/19 for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Rodriguez had 24 carries for 120 yards. Weaver, who said on Tuesday he had not made a decision as to whether or not he would return, had seven tackles (3 solo), a sack, a tackle for loss and a pass defended. Square and Jones each notched three tackles.
“It was a great way to have the last home game here,” Levis said. “We talked all week about how much this game means to us, to all our fans, the whole state really. Obviously the season didn’t go how we planned it but we knew that we’d feel a heck of a lot better about it if we win. We needed it, we got ready for it and we got it.”
Ruffolo was named the game MVP going 4/4 on field goals and 2/2 on extra point attempts, notching 14 points for Kentucky.
“I had confidence in him, the team did, and I treated him like we always did,” Stoops said. “He missed a kick or two [heading into this game]. It’s a snap, it’s a hold, it’s laces. There is a lot of things that go into it. As I mentioned many times throughout the year, was I concerned? Yeah, I was concerned, and we worked on it. But we had to stay the course and go with the best option we had, and he kicked it really solid tonight. Really good snaps, really good holds, and really good kicks from where I was. You guys could probably see on the TV, but they looked pretty darn good, pretty high.”
The UK offensive line, which has had woes throughout the year, protected Levis, allowing Louisville just two sacks. They came into the game first in the country in sacks per game, averaging nearly double that (3.73).
The Cats own the Governor’s Cup series all-time 19-15.
UK will await their bowl bid on December 4.
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