Louisville's 38-24 win at Kentucky on a rainy Saturday afternoon in a mostly full Commonwealth Stadium delievered a new storyline for the gridiron rivalry and has to rank as one of the most memorable wins in the series for the Cardinal faithful.
"It might be the sweetest one," Petrino said afterward.
The reason for such sweetness? It was a game that Cardinals nearly lost their shot at retaining the Governor's Cup trophy by falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter and see three interceptions lead to 17 first half points. Trailing 24-7 at the break, Louisville dominated on both sides of the ball in the second half, outgaining the Wildcats by 245 yards to fuel the second largest comeback in program history.
"It was great to come back, being down like that and seeing our guys grow up, that's what I like the most," said Petrino.
Despite the early huge hole, the team remained focused on the sideline. The defense, playing without Trevon Young and James Hearns due to team violations, stuck with their game plan. With the exception of UK's 75-yard opening drive and it's 69-yard drive to close the first half, the Cardinals limited their hosts to just 3.7 yards per play and forced a string of five consecutive three-and-outs during the second half.
Petrino said the message at halftime was simple, let's stick together.
"I basically just came in here and told them that I wanted to see them compete hard and stay together. We'll do this together. We did shut them down in the second half."
"That's what I'm so proud about; their poise, their competitive spirit and their toughness. I think it says a whole lot about the leadership and the quality of guys we have on the team."
The spark for the Cardinals was freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson. Immediately upon being called to lead the team's third offensive possession and trailing 21-0, Jackson directed a 3-play, 57-yard scoring drive, capping it with a 16 yard run. He remained behind center in the second half and highlighted an offense that gained 325 yards in the second quarter.
While he did throw one touchdown - a 35-yard connection with James Quick that tied the game at the end of the third quarter - it was his performance on the ground that caused havoc with the Kentucky defense. Jackson's 186 yards established a new school single-game rushing record for a quarterback and moved him past Teddy Bridgewater's freshman school record for total yards with 2,347.
"I thought he really grew up," said Petrino. "He made some great plays. He was running the ball, throwing it and I think that's the thing that was good for me to see. He really just concentrated on reading the plays, not guessing and making a pre-determined decision."
Jackson's rushing efforts, not only made him the first FBS quarterback to have multiple games with over 150 yards, but more importantly, it led a Cardinals ground game that rushed for a season-high 314 yards. It should also be noted that his 186 yards are the most rushing offense by a Cardinal in the Governor's Cup series, surpassing the 181 gained by Frank Moreau in 1999. He became the first rookie be selected as the Howard Schnellenberger Most Valuable Player.