Kentucky dominates Louisville, keeps Governor’s Cup in Lexington


Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Will Levis (7) gives the “L’s down” signal after scoring a touchdown during the UK vs. Louisville football game on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Barkley Truax

For the third game in row, Kentucky (9-3) has taken care of business against in-state rival Louisville (6-6), defeating the Cardinals 52-21 to retain the Governor’s Cup.

Kentucky‘s Will Levis was the star of the game for Kentucky, taking 14 carries for 113 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 8.1 yards per carry. He complemented his ground game completing 14 of his 18 passes for 149 yards.

It took just six plays for Kentucky to find the end zone on their opening drive, the seventh time they’ve done so this season. Levis took the quarterback keeper 29 yards to the house to get the Cats on the board first. 

Louisville matched Kentucky with their own 75-yard drive on the ensuing possession, capped by the Cardinal’s dual-threat quarterback Malik Cunningham hurdling over the Kentucky defense for the score—the last time they’d find themselves on the scoreboard until the fourth quarter.

Levis hit a seam up the middle of the Louisville defense for his second rushing touchdown of the night. After two possessions—Levis already had 119 all-purpose yards.

Kentucky caught a break when Louisville failed to convert on fourth down in Kentucky territory. When tasked with the same down, Kentucky was able to convert via Levis’ legs on a read option. The Cats were facing fourth down on the next set of downs; Stoops took the field goal rather than gamble again and kicker Matt Ruffolo nailed his lone attempt from 43 yards out.

Levis kept the trend of rushing touchdowns going as he lunged forward on the next Kentucky drive after his defense forced a three and out. He finished the half with 88 yards on 11 rushing attempts for three touchdowns while throwing 10-14 for 107 yards as well.

Cunningham was shaken up and taken out for a play on the Cardinals’ ensuing possession. That’s when Big Blue Nation was introduced to backup quarterback Evan Conley for one play, where he rushed for 20 yards before Cunningham marched back onto the field. 

Louisville was held to a field goal attempt on the drive, which was missed from 49 yards out by James Turner before heading into the locker room at halftime down 24-7.

Why not keep the trend going?

Levis snuck his fourth rushing touchdown of the game inside the end zone from one-yard out to give Kentucky a four-score lead over the Cardinals on their opening possession of the second half.

The Kentucky defense came up big yet again as JJ Weaver secured his second interception of the season midway through the third. The Cats came out hot after the change of the possession, pushing their lead to 31 after running back Chris Rodriguez scored from two yards out.

That scoring possession also saw Rodriguez pass the century mark for the eighth time this season, tying Artose Pinner’s school record set in 2002.

Kavosiey Smoke would join the party with a touchdown of his own from 13 yards out after Levis brought the Wildcats into the red zone with a 22-yard rush that set up their sixth rushing score of the game, inflating the score to 45-7.

Conley found his way back onto the field after Cunningham was shaken up in the fourth quarter. He hit Josh Johnson for an eight-yard score to give the Cardinals their first score since their opening drive.

Kentucky would sub in their second team with nine minutes remaining in regulation. Freshman La’Vell Wright made the most of his minutes for the second-straight game, outrunning the Louisville defense for a 41-yard score late in the game.

Louisville’s Maurice Burkley galloped his way into the end zone with under 10 second remaining to cut the final score one possession closer.

The Cats now await their bowl selection, which will be announced Dec. 5 following the remainder of the regular season and conference championship games.