There was a football game for Louisville on 11/25/2017. The Kentucky Wildcats traveled 70 miles to Lexington to play it in front of a pretty big crowd at Kroger Field. Kentucky was supposed to play against the Cardinals, but for reasons unbeknownst to me, UK never showed up. Sounds dramatic, but that’s exactly how I’ve chosen to remember it. UK’s team did take the field on that beautiful Saturday in the Bluegrass State, but they sure as hell forgot everything there was to know about football.
The Wildcats put on probably the worst performance of the season when in-state rival Louisville came to visit for the last game of the regular season. Both teams were already bowl eligible and had matching records of 7-4 before the big rivalry game. Fans in blue were anticipating a close game, much like last year’s contest where the Wildcats (as 27 point underdogs) pulled off the biggest upset of the Mark Stoops era, and one of the biggest at UK. But Lamar Jackson was ready to exact revenge. And he did so, in a very big way.
Last year, with the game on the line, Lamar fumbled in the red zone and gave the ball, and ultimately, the game to Kentucky. In the week leading up to this year’s game, he spoke of making up for that fumble. Lamar wanted revenge for that heartbreaker. Fast forward to game day, and Lamar did very Lamar things. He threw for 216 yards and 2 TD. He ran 18 times for 156 yards. That’s almost 400 yards of offense for a rival quarterback. Kentucky had no answer for him.
In an embarrassing defensive display, the Wildcats gave up over 500 yards and 44 points. While the defense struggled, the offense wasn’t any better. Missed opportunities and poor decision-making plagued the Cats the entire game, as they were only able to hang 17 on the scoreboard.
It’s not the end of the world losing to your in-state rival. But laying a big goose egg on senior day in front of a crowd whose hopes of a 9 win season were dashed by some pretty dumb coaching decisions throughout the season, was a pretty low end to a roller coaster of a season.
I felt terrible for Stephen Johnson. Johnson, after transferring from JuCo, resurrected this team with an energetic and somewhat dangerous threat as quarterback. He deserves to be sent out with all the love the BBN has to muster. Instead, he walked off after his last game at Kroger Field with his head hung, taking slow steps into the tunnel. Sure, there were a few fans left to applaud him. And, as always, he waved at them and gave them fives. But you could see the pain. That’s the agonizing side of sports, I guess.
Even after all that, the Wildcats are still going bowling. It was announced this weekend that Kentucky will play Northwestern in the Music City Bowl in Nashville. Nashville has been pretty good to the Cats as far as sports are concerned, so I hope this will be no different.
It’s only a 2 hour drive from where I live to Nashville. I would be all in to go, but there’s one little problem. Kentucky and Louisville basketball teams play each other that same day, a couple hours earlier in Lexington. Basketball might be kind of a big deal here. I could probably score some tickets to Nashville easier than Lexington for that game, though. So here’s hoping I can bring you guys some coverage from one of those two places!