UK looks to finish regular season with Governor’s Cup win


Kentucky wide receiver Garrett Johnson catches a deep pass during the game against the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday, November 26, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Hunter Mitchell | Staff

Roman West

The Kentucky Wildcats (7-4, 4-4) head into their twelfth and final game of the regular season against in-state rival Louisville Cardinals (7-4, 4-4). A win for UK would put them at eight wins on the season, a mark they haven’t reached since 1984.

A win for the Cats would also keep the Governor’s Cup in Lexington for the second consecutive year after last season’s 41-38 victory in Louisville.

In last season’s thriller, Austin MacGinnis capped off the 10-point comeback with a 47-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining. The win propelled UK to its first seven-win regular season since 2007, a year that also saw a major upset for the Cats over the Cards.

Louisville will be heavily reliant on their best player, junior quarterback and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Jackson has thrown for more than 3,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

Jackson ranks first nationally in total offense (4,560 yards), second in points responsible for (240), third in rushing touchdowns (17) and nineteenth in passing touchdowns (30).

Jackson is the leader of the offense that is good enough to rank third nationally, averaging 560.4 yards per game. They also convert those yards into points, scoring 38.5 points per game.

Louisville’s defense is headlined by their pass-rush duo of James Hearns (7 sacks) and Jonathan Greenard (6 sacks).

Another standout is true freshman linebacker Dorian Etheridge, who leads the Cards in tackles, totaling 69 on the season.

Their defense has been opportunistic, creating 20 turnovers, which is good enough to put them in the Top 25 in the nation for that statistic.

To contrast, Kentucky’s offense is headlined by their quarterback and their defense has a solid pass-rush duo with an outstanding linebacker as well. Stephen Johnson outdueled Jackson in last season’s matchup, throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 83 yards on the ground.

Johnson’s numbers this season haven’t been as glamorous as Jackson’s; however, they have led to the same team record.

Johnson has thrown for 1,938 yards and 10 touchdowns with only four interceptions. Johnson has also added on 352 yards and three touchdowns on the ground this season.

Kentucky’s pass-rush duo of Josh Allen (7 sacks) and Denzil Ware (6.5 sacks) have been terrorizing opposing quarterbacks all season.

Allen has been selected as a Butkus Award semifinalist, an award given to the nation’s top linebacker. He is one of the final 15 players who have been selected as a semifinalist.

To go alongside UK’s pass-rush duo is All-SEC linebacker Jordan Jones. Jones is currently fifth on the team in tackles (51) after missing four games.

ESPN’s Football Power Index likes Louisville to ruin Kentucky’s senior day, giving them a 71.0 percent chance to win. Las Vegas also favors the Cardinals, making them 10-point favorites as of Monday night.

The game kicks off at noon on Saturday at Kroger Field. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.