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Kentucky Football ends regular season on sour note as Lamar Jackson gets revenge

The defense was a no-show, and the offense was stagnant outside of Benny Snell.

Louisville v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Lamar Jackson and Louisville entered the Governor’s Cup matchup with Kentucky with one thing on their minds.

Revenge.

That retribution was felt for 60 minutes, as the Cardinals (8-4, 4-4) dominated in all three phases against the Wildcats (7-5, 4-4), earning a 44-17 win at Kroger Field.

The win was more than just points on a scoreboard.

“It meant a lot,” Jackson said when asked about how it felt to get a win against a rival like UK. “You know, I said it last week I was ready for them. Our whole team, we went out there and practiced. We were just executing a lot. We had perfect practices, I’ll say almost every day, and we just came out here and we showed it.”

The disappointing loss was immediately felt after the game. With high hopes entering Saturday, UK was a dealt a big blow.

With the game in the rearview mirror, it’s about turning the focus to the postseason.

“I don’t really have words,” UK linebacker Josh Allen said. “We have to get past it. We have to regroup and get right. This loss hurt.”

UK gave up 562 yards to Louisville, including 358 in the first half alone. The Cardinal punting unit never saw any action due to the fact Louisville was able to score on all eight of its possessions.

The UK defense struggled to contain Jackson’s scrambling in every offensive series Louisville had. The capability to keep plays alive and move the pocket made Jackson hard to defend.

On one instance, in the fourth quarter on a 3rd-and-7 play, UK found itself with a possible sack that would’ve lost eight to ten yards. Instead, Jackson eluded several Wildcat tacklers and picked up a first down.

It was that kind of day for UK. The Heisman trophy contender ended the afternoon with 372 total yards and two touchdowns through the air. He completed 16 of his 21 passes for 211 of those yards.

Lamar Jackson is one heck of a player,” UK linebacker Courtney Love said. “He’s a resilient and tough player. We give those guys all the credit. We came out on the short end and it wasn’t something that we wanted to do, but they executed when we didn’t and that showed up a lot.”

While the defense for UK has taken steps forward at times, it has taken steps backwards as well.

Last week against Georgia, the Wildcats’ run defense was gashed for 346 yards. Against the Cardinals, it was another backwards step, giving up close to 400 yards to Jackson, Reggie Bonnafon, and the Louisville backfield (381).

“It’s frustrating,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said, “and the consistency is not what it needs to be, and that is bothering me. I got some things fixed, and there are some things we didn’t. There are things you get fixed, and you didn’t, you know -- you can’t bring that guy down.”

Stoops said after the game that Jackson might be the best player he has ever coached against. His ability to throw and run the ball is hard to prepare for. A player like that is hard to replicate in practice.

“I can’t recall defending anybody as talented as he is,” Stoops said. “It’s really difficult when things break down or you’ve got them covered or got them stopped, and he just absolutely makes you miss and gets bunches of yards. It’s heartbreaking, and it is frustrating, especially with them being our rival in a heated game. He can aggravate you.”

While the run defense failed to show up, the ground attack showed up. Benny Snell was the lone bright spot for the offense, carrying the ball 29 times for 211 yards and two scores.

Snell set the Kentucky rushing yards record in a win against Vanderbilt. He put his name next to another record with his 18th touchdown of the season to break Moe Williams’ single season record of 17.

“Obviously Benny is an incredible back,” UK quarterback Stephen Johnson said. “He’s just phenomenal. The way he runs, he’s so passionate with all of it. He did nine straight run plays forward, so obviously he’s getting hit every play. He’s pretty tired, so we have to commend him for that.”

At times, Snell was seen with his hands on hips, gasping for air. But he’s a fighter and he kept fighting for his team.

“No matter what the score is, I’m going hard,” Snell said.

Outside out of Snell, the UK offense failed to respond to Louisville’s offensive onslaught.

“They did respond very well and it’s just one of those things," UK offensive lineman Landon Young said. "It happens. We just hate that it happens during this game and we would like to respond a lot better. I just feel like we sort of got down on ourselves. We didn’t bounce back and come back and get them like we have the rest of the season. That’s something that we need to improve on still to this day.”

This story originally appeared in the Glasgow Daily Times.