The Kentucky Wildcats ended their season on as high of a note as you could hope for with a 52-21 romping over Louisville in the Governor’s Cup Saturday night.
It’s the third straight win for UK in the series, as well as the first time they’ve beaten the Cardinals by 30 or more points in the history of the series.
After a rough patch during the back half of the schedule, the Wildcats enter the postseason rolling with a final record of 9-3.
Now, let’s take a look at the biggest risers following this fun win.
Will Levis: Will Levis had about as good of a night as one could imagine against the Cardinals, but it wasn’t entirely what you’d expect. He was efficient with his arm with 14-18 for 149 yards, but he had an all-time performance with his legs with 14 rushes for 113 yards and four touchdowns. Of all the great rushers, especially at QB, under Mark Stoops, Levis did something that hadn’t been done since Lynn Bowden and became a fan favorite for life with his performance that was full of celebrations and L’s pointed down.
Rushing Offense: It wasn’t just UK’s QB1 who had a day on the ground. The Wildcats pounded the Cardinals in the run game with 362 rushing yards. Chris Rodriguez scored a touchdown while topping Levis in yardage with 121. La’Vell Wright, JuTahn McClain, and Kavosiey Smoke combined for 107 yards and two touchdowns as well. Even Beau Allen came in in the fourth quarter and broke out for a 23 yard rush. UK’s offense has been more balanced this season, but their bread and butter with the rushing attack was on full display and a lot of credit goes to both the players in the backfield and the Big Blue Wall.
Darian Kinnard: Kentucky is enjoying one of its best stretches in program history, and a big part of that has been stalwart tackle Darian Kinnard. So of course, he made sure his final regular-season game as a Wildcat was a special. He completely dominated Louisville defenders Saturday, which paved the way for a season-high 362 rushing yards and seven(!) rushing scores.
P5 OTs with 85+ grades as both a pass and run blocker:— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) November 23, 2021
Darian Kinnard, Kentucky
Charles Cross, Mississippi State
Jordan McFadden, Clemson pic.twitter.com/u1ot4Kku7A
For his efforts, Kinnard was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week. He will now finish his career having one to four bowl games and was part of two 9+ win seasons since he arrived in 2018. Kinnard should be a strong contender to make the UK Athletics Hall of Fame someday.
D’Eryk Jackson: What a feel-good story this has been. After suffering what was believed to be a season-ending torn Achilles during spring football, Jackson was able to make his return to game action against New Mexico State last week. Then against Louisville, Jackson ended up seeing significant playing time and finished with a team-high eight tackles. He looks poised to have a major role in this defense moving forward.
Wan’Dale Robinson: Robinson was great again with nine more catches on eleven targets for 97 yards against the Louisville secondary, but he made a little history as well. With his sixth catch, he passed James Whalen’s season reception record of 90 catches from 1999. With a 39.6% target share, Wan’Dale separated himself as Liam Coen’s Swiss Army Knife and Will Levis’ favorite target this season which has allowed him to break records like these with at least one more game still left in his Wildcat career.
Defense: Coming in to Saturday night, Louisville had scored 41 against Syracuse and 62 against Duke. Those programs aren’t elite on defense by any means, but Malik Cunningham is a formidable QB and the Cardinal offense had been putting up points. With that said, UK’s defense held firm by holding Cunningham to 12-20 passing and an interception. Cunningham rushed for a touchdown in the first quarter, but both of the Cardinals’ other scores came in the fourth quarter after the game had long been in hand. In a hit or miss year for the defense, specifically down the stretch of the season, they rose to the challenge and handled their business in the season finale.
UK Football Program: As they prepare to learn their postseason fate on December 5th, it’s hard not to appreciate where the Kentucky Football program is at. This will be their sixth straight bowl appearance after finishing with the fourth-best record in the SEC this season. Stoops went out and improved the offense last offseason and the Wildcats have reaped the benefits of Liam Coen’s style of play this year on the field and as a selling point for recruits in the future. Whether or not Stoops ends up at a different school to coach football next season, there’s a reason why he’s in those discussions to begin with, and it’s because of what he’s grown here in Lexington.