The Wildcats knocked out the Cardinals’ starting quarterback, leaving the game in the hands of third-stringer Kyle Bolin. They forced four turnovers. They scored two defensive touchdowns and blocked a punt. Offensively, UK won the rushing battle 151-83, a stat column that has been on the winning side of the Governor’s Cup game every year since 1995.
And it still wasn’t enough.
No. 24 Louisville (9-3) had just enough weapons to overcome its miscues – and a little help from the Cats themselves – in a 44-40 victory at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Lexington native Kyle Bolin came off the bench to throw for 381 yards and three touchdowns, all of them to senior receiver DeVante Parker, who had six catches for 180 yards.
The lead changed hands four times in a thrilling fourth quarter that saw Louisville gain 175 yards and Kentucky record 171. Brandon Radcliff gave the Cards the lead for good with a 4-yard run with 2:47 to go.
The Cats (5-7) got the ball back for one final chance to win the game, but the drive ended near midfield on fourth-and-long when the Cards’ Gerod Holliman snagged his NCAA record-tying 14th interception of the season.
In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some of the day's highs and lows:
WHAT WENT WRONG: Kentucky was not able to take full advantage of Louisville’s frequent turnovers and special teams gaffes, including a blocked punt and a downed kickoff at its own 4-yard line. The Cats had tremendous field position for most of the first quarter, but settled for two Austin MacGinnis field goals and a 13-0 lead. The passing game was the main culprit, going into halftime with only 29 yards and into the fourth quarter with only 42. Patrick Towles was not nearly as sharp as his UofL counterpart, finishing 14-of-29 for 176 yards and no touchdowns and two interceptions. The Cats also committed three costly personal foul penalties that helped extend drives or improve field position and lead to 21 points for the Cards.
KEY MOMENT: Leading 40-37 with 4:29 to play, Louisville’s Bolin made what could have been a fatal mistake when he threw deep into UK coverage on what appeared to be miscommunication with his receiver, but safety Marcus McWilson dropped the pass that hit him directly in the hands with no Cards in the vicinity. Earlier on the same drive, UK lost a sack against Bolin due to a personal foul against Za’Darius Smith for hands to the face of a lineman on his way to the quarterback. Unfortunately, it detracted from an inspired day for the UK defense, which produced touchdowns earlier on a Fred Tiller Pick-6 and a Bud Dupree sack-and-strip that turned into a Mike Douglas return for a score.
STAT OF THE DAY: UK was only 3-for-16 on third down compared to 7-of-14 for Louisville.
QUOTABLE: “I’m proud of the guys’ effort and attitude and the way we competed at a very high level… I really wish for these seniors and our great fans that we could have found a way to get this sixth win, but we definitely left it all out there on the field." - UK head coach Mark Stoops
UP NEXT: Kentucky heads into the off-season program after going from two wins in 2013 to five wins in 2014. The Cats will be seeking a second straight Top 25 recruiting class in February. (They are currently No. 24 in the Scout rankings.) Spring practice could have a different look and feel with rumors swirling that UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown will accept the head coaching position at Troy.