Louisville defense was shorthanded but dominated Kentucky in the second half of a 38-24 victory

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The defense was short handed but stepped up when the Cardinals needed them the most in a stirring 38-24 victory over rival Kentucky in the Governor's Cup at Commonwealth Stadium. The U of L defense pitched a shutout in the second half as the Cardinals rallied from 21 points down for the victory.

It wasn't a great wake-up call for Louisville defensive coordiantor Todd Grantham.

Just hours before kickoff against Kentucky, Grantham found out his defense would be without All-ACC defensive end Trevon Young and his backup - James Hearns - who were both sent home after being suspended by Bobby Petrino.

And it worked.

The Cardinals used a nickel defense more often in the game and held Kentucky scoreless in the second half, rallying from a 21-0 and 24-7 deficit to beat the Wildcats 38-24 at Commonwealth Stadum. UK had just 83 total yards in the second half.

"We have a lot of grit," Grantham said. "These just just kept playing no matter what went wrong, they kept playing.

"We went back to an old package called Peso and put Sheldon (Rankins) on the outside. It was a big nickel and that's what we felt like we had to do based on what happened this morning."

Rankins played almost the entire game and logged five tackles, including three tackles for a loss and a sack. Devonte Fields had another stelalr game with six tackles - all six a tackle for a loss - and three sacks.

Chucky Williams and Josh Harvey-Clemons had eight tackles apiece.

"We practiced everybody at different positions all week, just in case something like that happened we'd be prepared," Fields said. "We're always ready just in case we need to be ready for something."

The Cardinals also dominated the second half without leading tackler Keith Kelsey. The junior linebacker had two tackles in the first half before leaving the game with a lower leg injury. He was on crutches in the second half.

"We battled back," Rankins said. "Each guy on this defense treats it like he's a starter and that's every week. Everybody comes out and prepares like they are a starter and takes it series and I think that showed up today."

UK started the game with a 75-yard scoring drive before an interception set up a ut an interception returned to the Cards' 13 set up a 13-yard TD run on the second drive. It was 21-0 after Kyle Bolin threw a pick six.

The Wildcats scored to make it 24-7 late in the first half when the U of L defense held the Wildcats on third-and-goal.

Grantham called that play "huge" and Petrino said it was "absolutely" the play that turned the tide in the game. It gave U of L's defense some momentum going into half time and the Wildcats never scored again.

"I just told them that this game was going to come down who played the best the longest," Grantham said. "We just had to keep playing hard and realize it was going to work."

U of L forced seven punts in the second half and UK finishes 1-of-8 on third down in the final half.

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