Louisville 24, Kentucky 17

Louisville sacks Kentucky 24-17, ends streak

U of L outrushes UK 181-35

jtipton@herald-leader.comSeptember 18, 2011 

For the game sponsor, Friends of Coal, Kentucky's 24-17 loss to Louisville on Saturday night looked much more like slurry than land reclamation.

UK tried mightily to reclaim the victory, staging an improbable rally from 14 points down that died 18 yards from tying the score.

Louisville held on to snap a four-game losing streak in the in-state series.

U of L enjoyed a 181-35 advantage in rushing yards. That continued a trend that had seen the winner of this game gain the most rushing yards every year since 1996.

UK's run total marked the third-lowest by either team since the series was renewed in 1994. UK had a minus-10 yards in 1999 and 22 in 2006.

"When you run for 35 yards, that's not good enough," UK Coach Joker Phillips said. "Give up six sacks. Not saying it's all the offensive line's fault. But it'd be crazy for me to say they played good enough to win."

Despite the return of veteran center Matt Smith, offensive line coach Mike Summers again found fingers of blame pointing at him and his linemen.

"Hard to deal with," he said of the 35 rushing yards on 32 attempts. "Unacceptable. And we have to do a better job."

The challenge only grows larger with Kentucky (2-1) opening Southeastern Conference play this weekend against 16th-ranked Florida (3-0).

The defeat and the all-but-invisible running attack overshadowed a coming-out party for quarterback Morgan Newton. He had career highs with 27 completions for 255 yards.

"I'd much rather run the ball for 255 and throw the ball for 35," Phillips said. "Much rather. You have to run the football to win games."

For the 11th time in the last 13 games, Kentucky trailed at halftime. But as the teams left the field, fans clapping in rhythm to a recorded version of On, On U of K suggested the 14-10 deficit was relatively easy to swallow.

Despite losing starting quarterback Will Stein early in the second quarter, Louisville outplayed Kentucky for much of the half. But helped by a roughing-the-passer penalty, UK drove 80 yards for a touchdown with 10 seconds left to set the halftime score. Newton, who showed critics he could consistently connect on short touch passes, hit La'Rod King with a 15-yard scoring toss.

Junior E.J. Fields, who had no receptions in his college career, made two of his five first-half catches on the drive. He finished with seven receptions.

A roughing-the-passer penalty helped Kentucky get off to its fastest start in three games. The penalty fueled a 58-yard march on the game's first possession that netted a 20-yard field goal with 11:51 left in the first quarter.

The field goal was a victory of sorts for Louisville, which made UK settle for three points after having first-and-goal at the 5-yard line.

Stein put the Cardinals ahead 7-3 with a 38-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter.

But Stein injured his right shoulder while scrambling on U of L's first play of the second quarter. That brought in freshman Teddy Bridgewater, a highly regarded prospect from Miami who originally committed to the University of Miami.

Bridgewater, who had played only one series each in Louisville's first two games, looked comfortable. The Cardinals had one or more first downs on each of their next three possessions. Bridgewater's 25-yard strike to DeVante Parker with 1:16 left in the half put Louisville ahead 14-3. The freshman-to-freshman score gave Parker, an all-state player from Ballard, touchdowns in each of U of L's first three games.

While Kentucky's late score relieved fans, U of L had to like having a lead. The Cards came into the game with a 1-5 record under Coach Charlie Strong when trailing at intermission.

Louisville extended its lead to 17-10 with the first possession of the second half. Kentucky appeared to have blunted the Cards by recovering Jeremy Wright's fumble at the 9-yard line. But a review of the play revealed that Wright's left knee touched the turf before the fumble. The reversal enabled Chris Philpott to kick a 20-yard field goal with 9:01 left in the third quarter.

Kentucky had minus-4 yards of offense in the third quarter. The Cats stayed within a touchdown thanks to U of L walk-on Scott Radcliff letting a touchdown pass go through his arms.

Louisville got that seemingly clinching touchdown early in the fourth quarter. On third-and-10, Bridgewater used pass protection to find Josh Bellamy on a 25-yard TD pass with 11:15 left. That second completion on a third down in the drive put U of L ahead 24-10.

With a U of L penalty again playing a critical role, Kentucky closed within 24-17 with 4:56 left. A fourth-down pass interference penalty on U of L's Hakeem Smith gave Kentucky new life. Newton cashed in with a 2-yard scoring pass to Fields.

Kentucky's defense held Louisville to three-and-out. That gave UK the ball with 2:27 left.

Helped yet again by a penalty on Louisville, this time a personal foul, the Cats drove to the 18. But Demarco Robinson fumbled after seemingly catching a first-down pass inside the 10. UK recovered, but Newton badly missed King on fourth down to seal Louisville's victory.

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