By Jeff Milby –
The Governor’s Cup series between Louisville and Kentucky now sits even at 15 wins apiece all-time, as the football demolished the arch-rival Wildcats 44-17 at Kroger Field, avenging last season’s 41-38 loss at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
“It’s really satisfying,” coach Bobby Petrino said. “It’s pretty special.”
Senior Reggie Bonnafon totaled 90 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was weird this whole season, walking past the trophy cases and not seeing the Governor’s Cup,” Bonnafon said.
Louisville led from start to finish and out-gained Kentucky by 224. The Cardinals scored on every drive but their final to run out the clock.
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson was stellar in what was the closing argument in his case to become only the second ever repeat-winner of the annual award given to college football’s best player.
In what was likely his final regular season game in a Cardinal uniform, Jackson completed 15-of-21 passes for 216 yards and a two touchdowns, while running for 156 yards on 18 attempts.
With 10:12 remaining in the game, Jackson finished his final drive of the afternoon. In yet another display of the brilliance that has captivated the country for two years, Jackson began the 99-yard series recovering his own fumble in the Louisville end-zone and escaping pressure to gain 15 yards.
“He should’ve scored on that one,” Petrino said, to laughter from the press room.
“I tried to go 99 (yards), but I got caught,” Jackson said.
The drive was capped-off by Louisville’s final touchdown, a 14-yard pass to Jaylen Smith. It was the coup de grace in a humiliation of the school’s biggest rival.
As a Heisman winner, Jackson is allowed a vote in this year’s race. When asked if he plans to vote for himself, Jackson responded, “I don’t know,” but his coach was a little more bullish on his talent.
“To me, he’s the best player that you’re ever gonna see,” Petrino said. “His ability to throw the ball, run the ball — there is nobody that’s been like him, and it’ll be awhile before we see somebody that’s like him again.”
Louisville led 31-10 at the half, but the first two periods were more notable for what happened on the sidelines than between them.
The rivalry erupted into a near-brawl on the Cardinals’ second drive of the game. Jackson ran for a gain of nine yards, and was pushed out of bounds by Kentucky defensive back Lonnie Johnson near the Kentucky goal-line. When Jackson rose to his feet, he was confronted by Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones, and the exchange quickly escalated into a shoving match. Jones took Jackson to the ground, and players from both sides swarmed. Referees ended the scuffle with off-setting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties given to two players on each side.
“Obviously, it’s not something I like to see,” Petrino said. “I was proud of our coaches being able to keep our guys on the sideline… The officials took control of it and did a good job.”
Aside from the skirmish, the Kentucky display was punch-less. The lone silver lining for the Wildcats running back Benny Snell. The sophomore powered through the Louisville defense to the tune of 211 yards, often carrying tacklers after contact. He scored Kentucky’s only two touchdowns.
“He’s a great running-back, he runs hard” linebacker Jonathan Greenard said.
Finishing 8-4, Louisville now awaits its bowl opponent. While that won’t be announced until next week, Greenard and Jackson have their hopes on climes more tropical than the temperance of central Kentucky’s bluegrass region.
“Somewhere warm,” Greenard said of his bowl hopes.
“Yeah, warm, warm,” Jackson agreed. “I’m tired of playing in the cold.”
You can follow Jeff Milby on twitter @j_milbz.
Photos by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal