That one is going to stick with Kentucky for a long time.
The final score, 44-17, is going to hurt.
The drama surrounding the game and then within the game is going to be painful.
And there’s no getting back to work on Monday to get the bad taste out of the Cats’ mouths this time.
Nope, Saturday’s loss to Louisville is going to linger, Coach Mark Stoops said.
“What stinks is it’s the last game of the year,” he said of the regular-season finale at Kroger Field where the smallest crowd to witness the rivalry in Lexington (56,186) watched Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson run away with the victory, masterfully amassing 372 total yards of his own, some 34 more yards than UK’s entire offense.
“This sits with you for a while, and that’s the thing that’s very difficult about losing the last game of the year,” Stoops continued. “I’m very disappointed. I’m disappointed I let some people down and we didn’t play the way we had hoped.”
The drama before the game included a senior offensive lineman the night before his Senior Day tweeting out — and then deleting — a nasty indictment of his coaching staff, multiple skirmishes during the game and a rash of unsportsmanlike penalties.
“The undisciplined penalties, the missed tackles and the lack of execution: You can’t do that against a good football team,” UK defensive coordinator Matt House said. “They played really well, but we did some things you can’t do in a big game like that.”
The Cardinals, who have won six of the last seven over Kentucky in the Governor’s Cup, stood in the middle of Kroger Field celebrating with their trophy atop the interlocking UK.
“It’s really satisfying,” Coach Bobby Petrino said afterward. “I’m excited about it.”
Jackson was the star for Louisville, throwing precision passes to open receivers in the Kentucky secondary, no pass longer than 29 yards, but managing 216 yards and two touchdowns.
“Lamar did a great job of throwing it, picking out the right guys, getting to the right matchups,” Petrino said of the touchdown passes to Jaylen Smith and Dez Fitzpatrick. “We didn’t throw it as much as, you know, I would like, but we were very, very efficient at it, threw for touchdowns.”
Jackson is a “special player,” UK senior Courtney Love said of the quarterback, who also ran for 156 yards on 18 carries.
“He deserves to win the Heisman Trophy again. He showed it today. He’s just a resilient, tough, executing player. Give them guys all the credit. We came out on the short end. They executed when we didn’t and that showed up a lot.”
It showed up quickly when Louisville (8-4) jumped out to a 14-0 lead despite a brawl near the Kentucky sideline that ended in two players from each team: Louisville’s Jackson and Malik Williams as well as UK’s Jordan Jones and Lonnie Johnson all being flagged with unsportsmanlike penalties.
“We certainly did not play with the discipline and the character that this team has,” Stoops said after the game, which included seven penalties for 86 yards, 50 of those yards coming early in the third quarter when the Cats trailed 31-10.
“That’s not acceptable. That’s not OK. I was very disappointed in that, and that needs to be addressed and improved. So that’s probably the biggest disappointment.”
On Monday, Louisville running back Reggie Bonnafon noted that in this series, “if you make a play in this game everybody kind of remembers it.”
The senior from Louisville Trinity had a few big ones, rushing for 63 yards and two scores of 18 and 11 yards in the first half for the Cardinals, who finished with 346 yards on the ground, second most by a UK opponent this season.
After the Cats (7-5) fell into the two-touchdown hole, they replied with an 80-yard drive, 55 of those behind the ever-churning legs of Benny Snell, who ran in a 2-yard touchdown, one of his two on the game.
“I play 110 percent whether we’re losing by 100 or I’m hurt or whatever the case may be,” said Snell, who ran for a career-high 211 yards on 29 carries. “I’m going to try and go hard and win for my team.”
Snell’s final touchdown, a 4-yard run with five minutes to go, rounded out the scoring for Kentucky.
Quarterback Stephen Johnson, who had one of his best games as a Wildcat a season ago against Louisville, struggled on Saturday, completing just eight of 19 pass attempts for 110 yards.
And now Kentucky takes a few days off before finding out its bowl destination on Dec. 3.
The loss is going to stick with them, UK’s senior quarterback said: “Now we’ve got to wait for three or four weeks to really get back into it and we’ve still got this bad taste in our mouth.”