Louisville upsets UK 24-17, ends Governor’s Cup streak



After Louisville’s loss to Florida International in week two, head coach Charlie Strong told the media that he thought UK’s football team was better than his. Saturday, his team proved him wrong, defeating the Cats 24-17 in Lexington for the first time since 2006.

“It’s a game we needed to win as a statement game,” Louisville head coach Charlie Strong said. Strong’s Cardinals certainly made a statement in Commonwealth Stadium Saturday.

With the score held at 24-17, UK’s offense drove down its home field and looked prepared to score the game-tying touchdown in front of its home fans. On a third down inside the Louisville 10-yard line, junior quarterback Morgan Newton completed a pass to freshman wide receiver Demarco Robinson for a first down. But after having the ball stripped from his possession, Robinson recovered his own fumble on the wrong side of the first down sticks, forcing a critical fourth down for the Cats with the game on the line. UK was unable to convert on fourth down as Newton overthrew a sideline pass, clinching the victory for Louisville.

“We go from having a first down to having a fourth down, and we got hit as he was throwing the football trying to convert the fourth down,” Phillips said. “Regardless of what anybody thinks, two good football teams were out there playing today, and it was missed opportunities. When a person in a backyard brawl drops his hands and gives you his chin, you’ve got to take it.”

The normally slow-starting Cats were clicking early against the Cardinals, taking the ball from the opening kickoff and moving it down the field. Freshman Josh Clemons, the Cats’ starter at running back in Raymond Sanders’ absence, took a screen pass from Newton for 38 yards to inside the Louisville five-yard line. But after that play, the offense stalled, forcing UK to settle for a field goal, giving them a 3-0 lead early.

Late in the first quarter, the Cardinals were finally able to find some traction on offense, culminating with a 38-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Will Stein to wide receiver Andrell Smith. The Cardinals took a 7-3 lead on that play, a lead they would never relinquish.

The touchdown toss would also be the last pass that Stein would throw all night, exiting the game with an injury early in the second quarter. Freshman Teddy Bridgewater took over for Louisville, giving the Cats defensive fits all night. UK had spent the week preparing for Stein, a strong-armed pocket passer, to run the offense. After Stein’s injury, they were faced with the challenge of figuring out Bridgewater, a mobile quarterback as deadly on his feet as he is with his arm, in mid-game.

“We were thinking he was more of a wildcat (offensive system) kind of guy running, and he did for the most part,” UK defensive backs coach Steve Brown said. “But he threw some good balls and to his credit he completed some.”

Bridgewater finished the game 10-of-18 for 106 yards and two touchdowns, managing to move the Louisville offense without creating opportunities for the Cats’ defense to change the momentum of the game.

Linebacker Danny Trevathan led the Cats’ defense with 12 tackles, his 12th consecutive game recording double-digit tackles. Senior safety Winston Guy recorded seven tackles of his own, equaling fellow senior linebacker Ronnie Sneed.

Although the UK defense bent from time to time, it managed to resist breaking for much of the game, keeping the Cats’ struggling offense within striking distance.

But UK’s offense was never able to strike. Clemons and backup running back CoShik Williams combined for 57 yards on 18 carries, barely more than three yards per rush. Much of the struggles in the running game could be credited to poor play by the offensive line, again playing without starting center Matt Smith and starting right tackle Billy Joe Murphy.

As the Cats began to abandon their struggling running game in favor of the pass, the Cardinals’ defense caused mayhem in the trenches for the offensive line and Newton.

For the game, Newton was 27-41 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, his best game statistically of the young season. But the most telling number of the game was six — the number of times Newton was sacked by Louisville’s defense. Even when he was not brought down for a loss, Newton was disrupted in the pocket, causing errant throws and busted plays.

Without a presence from the offensive line against Louisville’s blitz-happy defense, the offense was never able to execute as it wanted.

“We just have to focus  in on what we have to do,” senior guard Stuart Hines said. “We have to focus in practice and bring that same focus to the field on Saturdays.”

“I felt fine,” Newton said. “On a couple of the six sacks, I just got to do a better job getting rid of the ball. We just got to do better.”

Despite the disappointing loss, junior wide receiver E.J. Fields proved to be a bright spot for the Cats’ offense. Fields recorded seven catches (at least five of which resulted in first downs) for 57 yards and his first career touchdown. While the offensive line struggled and Newton and the rest of the offense fell out of rhythm, Fields made key plays in key moments to keep the Cats in the game until the very end.

“It felt really good to get my opportunity to play and make some plays on third down, and then the touchdown,” Fields said. “But it’s a little bittersweet because we couldn’t come away with the win.”

For UK’s seniors, Saturday’s loss to Louisville marks the only defeat to their bitter in-state rival in their UK careers, something that cut deep into some seniors emotionally. Senior defensive back Randall Burden said the loss is one that he will remember for the rest of his life. But he also said that the loss has motivated him and his teammates to work even harder this week as they prepare for their week four match-up with Florida.

“It’s my senior year, losing to Louisville, just going into this next week I’m just going to prepare even harder than what I ever been doing.”