The end-of-year game between the Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals is always a highly anticipated matchup. This year lived up to the hype, as Kentucky’s Ray Davis put together a hat trick to lift the Wildcats over the No. 10 Cardinals, 38-31.
Not only is the win over Louisville a sweet feeling for Kentucky, but it also ended any hope of Louisville’s chance at the College Football Playoff.
In a game that came down to the wire, Jordan Lovett intercepted Jack Plummer in the end zone to preserve the seven-point victory, one of the biggest of the Mark Stoops era.
Here are four things to know following Kentucky’s triumphant win in the Governor’s Cup.
Another Year of Bragging Rights
Against significant odds, Kentucky’s win on Saturday was the fifth consecutive over the Cardinals — dating back to 2018. While the first four came by a margin of victory of more than 30 points, Saturday’s was a bit more dramatic. That was expected, though, as the Cardinals are much more competitive this season than in past years.
And even though Kentucky is having somewhat of a down year, that didn’t stop the Wildcats from spoiling the end of what had been a good season for the Cardinals. Any loss is always tough to swallow, but losing at home to Kentucky as seven-point favorites has to sting for Louisville fans. Big Blue Nation will enjoy their Governor’s Cup bragging rights for the next 12 months.
This was also a major win for the SEC as a whole, given that Kentucky came into the week viewed as one of the league’s middle-tier teams and just beat a Louisville team that may very well win the ACC next week.
Death, Taxes, and Ray Davis Touchdowns
Where would Kentucky be without Ray Davis? He led the team with three touchdowns on Saturday, including the game-winning score late in the fourth quarter. His hat trick performance included two through the air and one on the ground. With the regular season now finished, Davis contributed a total of 20 touchdowns for the Wildcats — punching in 14 and catching six.
Like he did on Saturday, Davis sometimes found himself single-handedly carrying the Wildcats on offense. While his usage has been up and down since his 280 yards against Florida, Davis has still been impactful with the ball in his hands.
Defense Comes to Play
Unlike a quarterback (or Davis for UK) on offense, it’s difficult for a single player to influence the game on defense. However, there were a couple of defenders for Kentucky that altered the outcome of Saturday’s game. J.J. Weaver forced a fumble and recovered another (both in the second half) that led to 10 Kentucky points.
Deone Walker, who continues to be a terror for opposing offensive lines, also made his presence felt throughout the afternoon. Between Weaver and Walker, they combined for 15 tackles (1 for loss) and a sack.
Yes, the defense allowed 31 points, but it has to be pointed out that three of those Louisville scoring drives were 51 yards or fewer thanks to two long kickoff returns given up by Kentucky’s cover unit, as well as the late touchdown that came off a Devin Leary interception that gave the Cards the ball at the UK 25.
Oh, and the defense forced as many turnovers as Louisville had touchdowns (three).
Also, shoutout to Kentucky’s whole team for committing zero (!) penalties today.
Barion Brown is Electric
Brown caught Devin Leary’s first pass of the day — a back shoulder throw down the sideline for a gain of 25 yards. However, he was silent for the remainder of the first half. Nearly 10 minutes into the third quarter, though, Brown decided to take a kickoff return out of the end-zone. Just seconds later, Brown scored his third career touchdown via a kickoff return. That touchdown fueled a 14-point third quarter off of four touches by the Wildcats.
What a game. What a win. This is easily one of the biggest of the Mark Stoops era, and it came at the expense of Louisville’s dream season.
Now, let’s celebrate!