Cats Play Complete Game, Upset No. 9 Louisville

Cats Play Complete Game, Upset No. 9 Louisville

by Tim Letcher

All season long, the Kentucky football coaching staff and players talked about playing a complete game. They talked about playing complimentary football. They talked about how good this team could be if they ever put it all together.

On Saturday, in the regular season finale at Louisville, the Cats were finally able to do just that. And in the process, Kentucky upset the nation’s ninth-ranked team and UK’s archrival, 38-31 at L&N Federal Credit Union Stadium in Louisville.

Kentucky got big contributions from all three phases on Saturday, and that was enough to hold off the Cardinals and to keep the Governor’s Cup in Lexington for a fifth consecutive season.

On offense, quarterback Devin Leary had a solid game. He passed for 206 yards and three touchdowns with just one interception. In the second half, when Kentucky rallied from a double-digit deficit to take the lead, Leary was largely on target and in control of the offense.

The offense also got a huge boost from running back Ray Davis again on Saturday. He carried 14 times for 76 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown with a 37-yard scamper with just over a minute remaining in the game. Davis also caught four passes for a team-high 51 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Kentucky’s defense was on the field a lot during the game. The Cards ran 76 plays (compared to just 47 for the Cats) but the UK defense was able to slow down the Cards’ potent attack in this game. Kentucky also forced three Louisville turnovers, two fumbles and an interception, including one by Jordan Lovett that sealed the victory. Linebackers D’Eryk Jackson and Trevin Wallce each had 11 tackles and J.J. Weaver recovered a pair of fumbles for the Cats. Weaver and Josaih Hayes each had a sack for the Cats.

How about special teams? Kentucky dominated in that area as well. Barion Brown returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Alex Raynor made five extra points and a 46-yard field goal for UK.

The Kentucky punt game had its struggles all season long, but on Saturday, Wilson Berry punted three times for an average of 40 yards with a long of 55 yards.

Penalties had been a problem for the Cats at times this season. On Saturday, Kentucky did not commit a single penalty against Louisville. UK head coach Mark Stoops was especially pleased with that number.

“I told them how emotional this game was going to be and ultimately it comes down to execution,” Stoops said. “Just execute, emotions will be there, but in the end, everyone wants to win. We knew we were going to have to play a good game to finish and win. Some crazy things happened during that game, but I am just proud of the execution.”

The complete game that Kentucky’s players and coaches have been talking about all season finally showed up on Saturday. The Cats played complimentary football, with the offense helping the defense and vice versa, with a dash of special teams added as well. It was the perfect time for it to happen, with the Cats facing another top 10 opponent, one that happens to be UK’s archrival. Without a doubt, this was Kentucky’s signature win for 2023.

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