John Clay

Kentucky football in same place as a year ago facing Louisville

Louisville Cardinals's Kyle Bolin (14) a Lexington Catholic graduate handed the ball off to Louisville Cardinals's Michael Dyer (5) in the third quarter of the Kentucky at Louisville football game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 29, 2014. Louisville won 44-40. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff
Louisville Cardinals's Kyle Bolin (14) a Lexington Catholic graduate handed the ball off to Louisville Cardinals's Michael Dyer (5) in the third quarter of the Kentucky at Louisville football game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 29, 2014. Louisville won 44-40. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff Lexington Herald-Leader

Here in our fair commonwealth we end this college football regular season the way we ended last year’s college football regular season.

Last year, Kentucky carried a 5-6 record into its annual Governor’s Cup game against archrival Louisville. UK needed a win to keep its season going by qualifying for a bowl game. This season, Kentucky brings a 5-6 record into its annual Governor’s Cup game against archrival Louisville. UK needs a win to keep its season going by qualifying for a bowl game.

Kentucky hopes the one difference will lead to another. Last season, UK-U of L was played at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. This season’s game is a noon kickoff at the new Commonwealth Stadium. Last season, Louisville earned the victory. This year, Kentucky hopes to turn the tables.

“We’re going to play our hearts out,” said UK running back Jojo Kemp after rushing for a career-high 165 yards as the Cats crushed Charlotte 58-10 on Saturday night.

“We know this is a very important week,” said head coach Mark Stoops after his steam snapped a five-game losing streak.

Louisville was a 12-point favorite in 2014, yet UK nearly pulled the upset. Determined not to back down, the Cats tried to establish that mentality early, very early, prompting a near brawl when the two teams traded words and shoves during pre-game warmups. “Separation Saturday” meant the teams had to be separated.

The lasting memory from 2015 may not have been U of L’s 44-40 win as much as it was Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino and UK assistant recruiting coordinator Dan Berezowitz going nose to nose before the kickoff.

We just flat got beat

Louisville coach Bobby Petrino after loss to Pittsburgh

On the field, the lasting memory was Louisville receiver DeVante Parker. The outrageously talented Cardinal was the difference in the game, catching six passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns.

His 45-yard TD pass from Louisville’s other hero, backup quarterback Kyle Bolin, the former Lexington Catholic star, put U of L in front 34-33 with 7:58 left. When Kentucky went ahead 40-37, Bolin hit Parker with a 26-yard pass that set up the game-winning touchdown with 2:47 remaining. Parker won’t be around this time, however. The Louisville native is a Miami Dolphin.

Asked what he remembered about last year’s game, UK’s Kemp laughed and said, “That’s over.”

To have a chance to win this Saturday at noon, however, the Cats are going to have to bring the same sort of determination they brought to Louisville last year. That’s because the Cards will probably bring a similar mindset to CWS.

At 6-5, U of L will carry a sour taste from Saturday’s 45-34 loss at Pittsburgh. The Louisville defense, ranked 17th nationally in total defense, allowed 476 yards to the Panthers. Pittsburgh scored 42 first-half points. Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman threw four touchdown passes in the second quarter. Yes, the second quarter. Louisville crawled back to within eight points early in the final period only to come up short.

“We just flat got beat,” said Petrino afterwards.

The Cards couldn’t run the ball. Thanks to sacks, Louisville’s official rushing total was minus-1 yard. Individually, running back Brandon Radcliff carried the football seven times for minus-1 yard. Petrino will not be an easy coach to live with this week.

For Kentucky, the living is easier after the 48-point Saturday night special over the overmatched 49ers. Quarterback Drew Barker didn’t dazzle in his first collegiate start, but he didn’t make any major mistakes. Kentucky’s running backs ran free in the Charlotte secondary. The UK defense avoided its previous organizational blunders and even scored a touchdown on Mike Edwards’ interception return.

But how much did it all mean? Kentucky was the first Power 5 program that Charlotte had ever faced. The 49ers were obviously not up to the task. Louisville is a whole different problem. Its pride bruised at Pittsburgh, the U of L defense will be looking for a rebound. Petrino, who unsuccessfully lobbied to get the Kentucky job in 2013, would love nothing better than to end the Cats’ season. Again.

Will history repeat?

Louisville at Kentucky

When: Saturday at noon

Where: Commonwealth Stadium

Television: SEC Network

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