Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky fans may wish Lamar Jackson luck, but they won’t miss him

Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs downfield during the Cards’ 44-17 win over the Kentucky Wildcats during the Governor's Cup at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, November 25, 2017. Jackson announced Friday he is declaring for the 2018 NFL draft.
Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs downfield during the Cards’ 44-17 win over the Kentucky Wildcats during the Governor's Cup at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, November 25, 2017. Jackson announced Friday he is declaring for the 2018 NFL draft. Lexington Herald-Leader

So Lamar Jackson has made it official, the Louisville quarterback tweeting Friday morning that he’s giving up his senior year to enter the 2018 NFL draft.

Who knows for sure how the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner will fare in the professional ranks. Personally, I think he has a better shot than some might think. He can obviously move. His accuracy has improved. And he’s learned to be more disciplined in the pocket.

Here’s something I do know: This state is not likely to see another quarterback like him again.

If Jackson was not the most exciting college football player in the commonwealth’s history, he surely ranks in the top three or four. With Jackson, every play was electric, every play had the chance of going to the end zone.

Here’s something else I do know: Kentucky fans are glad to see him go.

In 2015, as a true freshman, Jackson rallied Louisville from a 24-7 halftime deficit to a 38-24 win at then Comnmonwealth Stadium. Replacing starting quarterback Kyle Bolin, Jackson completed just eight of 21 passes for 130 yards, but his legs, wow. On 17 carries, Jackson rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

His 29-yard run set up the touchdown that pulled Louisville to within 24-17. He threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to James Quick that tied the score 24-24 with two seconds left in the third quarter. His 21-yard run helped put the Cards ahead 31-24. And his 13-yard touchdown made it 38-24 Louisville.

Kentucky did beat Louisville 41-38 in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in 2016 in part because of a late Jackson fumble at the Kentucky nine-yard line that set up UK’s game-winning field goal drive.

[Lamar Jackson wins Kentucky Sports Figure of the Year]

Still, Jackson carried the football 25 times for 171 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 16 of 25 passes for 281 yards and two more scores. He had a 61-yard run and a 33-yard run.

Jackson avenged that loss and then some this year when Louisville rolled to a 44-17 win over Kentucky at Kroger Field on Nov. 26. He completed 15 of 21 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns. He ran the football 18 times for 156 yards.

So in three games against Kentucky, Jackson completed 39 of 67 passes for 411 yards and four touchdowns. He ran the football 60 times for 513 yards and four touchdowns.

Before this year’s game, I wrote that even UK fans should appreciate Jackson. And though I’m sure they wish him luck in the NFL, they’re happy to see him go.

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