Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky football’s huge win brings plenty of Big Blue Links

Kentucky cornerback Derrick Baity (29) got a big hug from UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart after Kentucky defeated host Louisville 41-38 on Saturday November 26, 2016 in Louisville, Ky.
Kentucky cornerback Derrick Baity (29) got a big hug from UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart after Kentucky defeated host Louisville 41-38 on Saturday November 26, 2016 in Louisville, Ky. Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Sunday:

My column from Kentucky’s 41-38 win over Louisville. “Coaches talk all the time about it being a four-quarter game. Kentucky’s 41-38 upset win over Louisville on Saturday was a victory four years in the making. That’s what it felt like, the culmination of a four-year effort that began the day Mark Stoops became the UK football coach; four years of work and sweat and ups and downs to reach the point where as a 27-point underdog on the home field of its archrival, Kentucky could pull off the biggest victory in the Stoops era.”

Mitch Barnhart discusses bowl opportunities for the Cats. “I think we’ll go do the best we can to go find a bowl that will fit hopefully what we’ve accomplished,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart told Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader after the Cats’ 41-38 upset win at No. 11 Louisville on Saturday. “I think that will be something our fan base can jump on board and be a part of. I’m excited about that.”

It was Stephen Johnson’s game, not Lamar Jackson’s game. Mark Story of the Herald-Leader writes, “As everyone predicted, the winning quarterback was the story of the 2016 Kentucky-Louisville game. What few would have imagined was that the QB leaving Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium with both the Governor’s Cup and the Howard Schnellenberger MVP Award was not Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. Stephen Johnson stole the Heisman Trophy favorite’s thunder.”

How to explain Louisville football’s slide? Rick Bozich of the Courier-Journal writes, “There’s no reason to get Kirk Herbstreit, Nick Saban or even Daffy Duck on the line to explain what happened to the University of Louisville football team twice in the last nine days. You can’t let opposing quarterbacks frolic like Jameis Winston. You can’t hand over the football like pieces of pumpkin pie and expect to beat Houston, Kentucky or the Mid-City Mall Warriors.”

Kentucky and Mark Stoops just getting started. Fletcher Page of the Courier-Journal writes, “Mark Stoops told his team he was proud and left to meet reporters as players danced and hugged and posed for pictures in the locker room following Kentucky’s 41-38 upset of No. 11 Louisville on Saturday. The UK coach walked out a door with a sign that said “Finish” in big, bold, blue letters. For the Wildcats’ football program, the feeling is more like things are just getting started.”

Kentucky’s win is a giant step in the right direction. Alex Forkner of the Cats Pause writes: There’s a rhythm to our team and what we’re doing,” Mitch Barnhart said. “I think that will be something our fan base can jump on board and be a part of. I’m excited about that. The way that it works in our league is certain bowls have a pick and then it comes down to – the group of six – and everybody puts down what they want and then hopefully where we can go. Then I want it to be two things: one, the best we can do for our team and I want it to be something our fans can get to and go enjoy this team. They’re fun to watch. We’re a fun team to watch.”

Stephen Johnson comes out on top. Jon Hale of the Courier-Journal writes, “This was supposed to be Lamar Jackson’s Heisman Trophy-clinching performance. Instead, it was Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson, who no one would have confused with the best player in the country for much of an up-and-down season, who left Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium having carried his team to an upset win in the annual Governor’s Cup rivalry.”

Kentucky stuns the Cards. Derek Terry of Cats Illustrated writes, “In a back-and-forth battle it’s hard to pinpoint just one defining moment, but Lamar Jackson’s fumble gave Kentucky the chance to win. Instead of taking the lead, Louisville had to try and defend a Kentucky offense that totaled 581 yards on the day. Louisville had one last shot after the field goal, but Jackson’s hail-Mary was picked off by Mike Edwards.”

Kentucky’s defense comes through when it counts. Joe Mussatto of SEC Country writes, “Kentucky did its best to loosen Lamar Jackson’s grip on the Heisman Trophy that was all but sure to become his. The Louisville quarterback still may be the front-runner for the award — but despite accounting for 281 passing yards, 181 rushing yards and four scores, Kentucky forced Jackson into 4 turnovers. Star Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones, who leads the SEC in solo tackles, was blunt about the Wildcats’ game plan for Saturday.”

Stephen Johnson strikes a winning pose. Eric Crawford of WDRB writes, “This celebration had been a long time coming, and it was a long time ending. It raged from the minute Austin MacGinnis’ 47-yard field goal split the uprights to put Kentucky up 41-38 on No. 11-ranked Louisville with seconds to play. It lasted through the ensuing kickoff, through the game’s final play, through Gov. Matt Bevin handing the Governor’s Cup trophy to the Wildcats, through the players’ celebrating with fans (complete with ‘L’s down!’ chants). It was still going when coach Mark Stoops began his news postgame conference, the locker room roaring.”

Austin MacGinnis’ field goal takes down the Cards. Anthony Crawford of the Kentucky Kernel writes, “For the first time in the Mark Stoops Era and first time since 2010, UK football came away from the Governor’s Cup matchup with rival No. 11 Louisville victorious, winning 41-38 on the road in Papa John Stadium. The game was a back-and-forth affair full of offense, but turnovers proved to be the Cardinals downfall as a fumble from UofL quarterback Lamar Jackson at the UK 10-yard line set up a drive that ended in a game-winning field from Cats kicker Austin MacGinnis.”

November 26 is a great day for Kentucky football. Nick Roush of KSR writes, “On this day five years ago, Matt Roark quarterbacked Kentucky to their first victory over the Tennessee Volunteers in 26 years. Today, another backup quarterback became Kentucky’s hero. A few of the Cats’ most notable accomplishments: The Cats snapped a five-game losing streak to Louisville. It was UK’s first win over a Top 25 team on the road since their ’02 victory at No. 17 UofL. UK has seven regular-season wins for the first time since 2009. “

Louisville drops the Governor’s Cup. Mark Ennis of Card Chronicle writes, “The downward trend for the Louisville football team in the second half of the season reached rock bottom on Saturday. With a chance to send Lamar Jackson off to New York City to collect a Heisman Trophy and lock up an Orange Bowl berth, Louisville displayed each and every one of its flaws in a 41-38 loss to Kentucky at Papa John’s Cardinals Stadium. Now, Louisville will sweat out Jackson’s chances to win the Heisman and its bowl possibilities, likely wholly dependent on the results of others for both.”

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