The Cats and Cards met in Lexington yesterday for the 24th Battle of the Governor’s Cup. In what was an ugly game on both sides, the Cats lost to the Cards 24-17. As I have been writing for weeks, the Cats needed to play a sound football game in order win. At one time, I know I tweeted “The Cats beat UL as long as they don’t fumble the game away.” Well, unfortunately that’s what happened.
The Cats came out a little flat, but Louisville bailed the Cats out on the opening series with a penalty to keep the drive alive. The Cats drove the ball inside Louisville’s 5-yard line and had to settle for a Craig McIntosh field goal. Joker Phillips called this a game of “missed opportunities.” I’ve been saying for a while this team can’t afford to miss opportunities and leave points on the field. This came back to haunt the Cats late in the game.
On Louisville’s first offensive series, the Cats defense forces a three-and-out. Commonwealth stadium is starting to get amped up. On UK’s next offensive series, they show life again. However, Morgan Newton connects with La’Rod King on 3rd down and King fumbles. In my opinion, this is when the game really changed. Not to pour salt on a wound, but this reminded me of the Tennessee game last year when UK should have went up 14-0 and fumbled at the goal line.
Then the game started to get ugly. After punting back and forth to each other, Louisville’s Will Stein connected with Andrell Smith for a touchdown reception. This is where I give the Cards credit, they took shots at the endzone and played aggressive. Then later in the half, after Will Stein was knocked out of the game, Teddy Bridgewater connected with Devante Parker for 25-yard touchdown pass.
After Parker’s touchdown, UK fans started to really get nervous, but not Morgan Newton. He led his team down the field and found La’Rod King in the corner of the endzone for touchdown to cut the Cards lead before halftime. Many felt this could be the turning point of the game for the Cats.
Some coaches say the last five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half are crucial to the outcome of the game. In this case, it was the latter. Louisville received the ball to start the second half and pretty much ran the ball down UK’s throat until Martavius Neloms but a big hit on Jeremy Wright and forced a fumble. The play was reviewed and determined that Wright’s knee was down. What was initially thought to be a game changer for UK was wiped away. Still, UK’s defense stood tall and held Louisville to a field goal. This was actually a big stop by UK’s defense.
The next offensive series produced nothing for UK. The Cats tried to run Morgan Newton and Josh Clemons and had no success. Louisville struggled on offense too, but managed to win the field position game by downing a punt inside UK’s one-yard line. UK’s offense struggled again. Morgan Newton threw a prayer to E.J. Fields to keep the drive going when the Cats were backed up and got lucky. Still, the Cats couldn’t get anything going after that and were forced to punt.
Louisville missed an opportunity too. Bridgewater threw into the endzone and the receiver dropped the ball. That play should have resulted in a touchdown for Louisville. Still, Bridgewater found Josh Bellamy in the endzone at the start of the 4 QTR to put the Cards up 24-10. Down two scores, UK found a way to drive down the field for a score. After a few throws to Nick Melillo, Morgan Newton hooked up with E.J. Fields for a touchdown pass. On Louisville’s next offensive series, the Cats defense stood tall again and forced the Cards to punt. The Cats marched down the field with an opportunity to tie the game and missed another opportunity. Morgan Newton connected with Demarco Robinson on 3rd down, but Louisville knocked the ball loose and the Cats recovered. Instead of UK having a first down with momentum, the fumble made it fourth down and the rest is history. Remember leaving 4 points on the field during the opening drive? Would you have felt better if Craig McIntosh was running out on 4th down to tie the game instead of Newton having to throw for a first down?
In looking for a few positives from the game, Morgan Newton took another step forward, in my opinion, based on his last two performances. Newton had 27 pass completions. Also, E.J. Fields emerged as a reliable receiver and recorded his first career touchdown. Nick Melillo hauled in a three receptions. Danny Trevathan recorded his 12th consecutive game with double-digit tackles.
I don’t care what anyone says, it was an ugly game. Neither team played great, but the Cards outplayed the Cats in many ways. UK’s offensive line continues to struggle, which impacts both the rushing and passing game. The Cats gave up 6 sacks and only managed 35 rushing yards. That is not acceptable and will be a major problem with the SEC schedule looming. Now is not the time to feel sorry for the Cats. The team needs to get back to work because Florida comes to town next week.