The Kentucky Wildcats ended their regular season with a big win over the No. 25 Louisville Cardinals. The Wildcats prevailed 26-13 behind a strong defensive effort forcing three turnovers. This is Kentucky’s fourth consecutive victory over Louisville, all by double digits.
It was a field goal fest for Kentucky. Thankfully, Matt Ruffolo made every attempt. The rest of the offense did just enough as Will Levis threw for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Chris Rodriguez rushed for 120 yards on 24 attempts.
Finishing the season with a record of 7-5, the Wildcats now look ahead to the bowl season. But before we speculate about their bowl options, let’s take a deeper look at the win over Louisville.
Scangarello’s last stand?
While this was not a huge surprise, there was that little bit of hope throughout the season that this Kentucky offense would reach its potential. With one of the strongest receiver rooms in years, Chris Rodriguez, and Will Levis, this seemed like a recipe for success.
Whether you want to blame the young(er) offensive line, the play calling, or the guys on the field, what we saw on offense against Louisville was not pretty. Two drives stalled in the first half that ended it field goals (that were thankfully successful), one of which ended with negative total yardage for the drive. Then the offense started the second half right where they left off...with three points.
But thanks to a defensive spark from an interception by Trevin Wallace, the offense stuck the ball in the end zone early in the third quarter to extend the lead to 23-7. Add another field goal and that was enough to seal it.
Overall, this was not the performance Scangarello was hoping for to save his job, as he’ll stay squarely on the hot seat until Mark Stoops announces a decision. It felt like there was a chance Scangarello could save his job with a great showing today, but it was yet another game his unit was mostly carried by the defense.
Also, kudos to Chris Rodriguez for breaking the school record for most 100 yard rushing games in a career. C-Rod is an underrated player playing in the shadow of Benny Snell that deserves all the recognition that is coming to him.
And of course, hats off to the defense. They carried Kentucky all season, and today was no different. Two interceptions, a fumble recovery and four sacks, which the Cats needed every bit of to beat this (for like 15 seconds) top-25 team.
The Kicking Game...Shines!
The Kentucky Wildcats have struggled on special teams throughout the year. There have been so many mishaps, miscues, and flat out misses. However, the kicking team and more specifically Matt Ruffolo brought their A game today. Ruffolo was perfect for the day, outscoring the Cardinals all by himself.
When it was all said and done, including extra points, it was 14-13 in favor of Ruffolo. Sorry, Vinny.
Also, shoutout to another solid punting game from Wilson Berry, including one downed at the 1-yard line with about four minutes left.
Backup QB Curse? Nah.
Kentucky has often struggled when backup quarterbacks come into the game. It is one of many toxic traits of this program. But Louisville threw a curveball by starting their backup quarterback and then bringing in Malik Cunningham, their starter who has been out with injury, in the middle of the second quarter. Cunningham led a touchdown drive on his second series when he ran it in for a touchdown himself.
However, he hurt himself again when making the tackle on the interception he threw to Wallace in the third quarter. When starter Brock Domann came back into the came, he had a tough time moving the football down the field for most of the second half.
Barion Brown’s Strong End To Regular Season
We have seen Brown do some special things already this season. He has returned kickoffs for touchdowns, set frosh receiving records, and made some big time plays in big moments.
But Brown continues to impress with his speed, catching ability, and intensity. This is a kid that is going to play on Sundays at some point. During this game, Brown set the freshman record with 45 receptions during his first season.
Thankfully, we should get to see him for two more seasons in Lexington. With Will Levis wrapping up his final year in Lexington, Brown has now become our official L’s down representative.
This season certainly has not turned out like many had hoped. The goal was to play for an SEC championship game.
Thankfully, for the last several years, the regular season has ended with a matchup against the Louisville Cardinals. It always feels good to end the year with a W.
Now, let’s celebrate!