If you’re like me right now, you’re struggling to put what just happened into words. The Kentucky Wildcats have pulled a herculean upset, topping the No. 11 team in the country, 41-38, bringing their record on the season to 7-5. This win was as stressful as it gets, and it took great games from Stephen Johnson and the defense as a whole. But in the end, Kentucky did what will often times make up for a terrible season: they beat Louisville. This should greatly improve their bowl standing.
Here are some takeaways from the game.
The defense didn’t care who Lamar Jackson was
If Kentucky knew that the Heisman front runner was playing opposite of them, they didn’t show it. They did a better job than pretty much any other of Louisville’s opponents, holding Jackson to 281 yards passing and 171 yards rushing.
That may not seem like “holding” him, but he’s the most explosive player in college football. To help, they forced him into 4 turnovers, 3 interceptions and a fumble. The fumble led to the game-winning field goal, and it can’t be overstated how big that turnover was.
UK beating UofL may cost Lamar & Cards dearly
Millions of dollars, a BCS bowl, and the Heisman could be what Louisville misses out on thanks to UK.
Kentucky’s defense has come an extremely long way. From giving up 44 points to Southern Miss in Week 1, to potentially playing spoiler to Lamar Jackson’s Heisman campaign in the final week of the season (I still think Jackson will win it though).
Stephen Johnson became a Kentucky legend
Johnson looked better than everyone else on the field today (except maybe Jackson). He threw for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns while also running for 83 yards (a team high). He outdid Jackson passing the ball, he was better with ball security than he has been for most of the year, and he connected on several huge passes to help Kentucky get the win. He had his best game in Kentucky’s biggest rivalry game, and for that, Kentucky fans will remember his performance for quite some time.
Garrett Johnson stepped up too
The Johnson to Johnson connection was a prevalent theme in this game, as Garrett Johnson had a career-high 164 receiving yards on just 5 catches, going for an average of 32.8 yards per catch. He had 2 touchdowns, including the 75-yarder, which was his longest catch of the day. Johnson had a career performance, and certainly ended his regular season on a high note.
There wasn’t a breakout running back in this game
Kentucky usually has two or three rushers getting near or over 100 yards, but that wasn’t the case today. The team totaled 229 rushing yards, but it was a running back by committee performance this time. As mentioned before, Johnson led the way with 83 yards, and Boom Williams followed in behind him with 63 yards and a touchdown. Benny Snell had 51 yards and a touchdown, and Jojo Kemp also contributed with 32 yards. The Cats didn’t need huge performances from Williams and Snell like they usually do, thanks to the fact that the passing game was successful this week. The run game was still able to get the job done, despite the fact that no one broke 100 yards.
Oh, and Kentucky still had plenty of big runs.
Dorian Baker made up for all his drops today
If you’ve followed Kentucky football the past couple seasons, you know that these receivers are prone to drop passes...a lot. One of the prime culprits of this is receiver Dorian Baker. He even had a drop today. But when it comes to rivalry games like this, one play can make everyone forget what you’ve done wrong. And Baker capitalized on his opportunity to make up for previous blunders.
The corner played that ball pretty well, and made it tough for Baker to come up with it. But Johnson’s deep pass was right where it needed to be, and his receiver came up with it. That was Baker’s only catch on the day, but it was a big one. This was no doubt one of the biggest plays of the game.