By LARRY VAUGHT
Fortunately I’ve been able to see some terrific Kentucky football wins in my 41 plus years covering UK football.
Go back to that special 1977 season or that win over eventual national champion LSU or even that Music City Bowl win over Clemson. But I am not sure any single game win has ever been better than Saturday’s 41-38 win over Louisville.
Senior running back Jojo Kemp had his arms wrapped around coach Mark Stoops as soon as Austin MacGinnis drilled the 47-yard field goal with 12 seconds left to give UK the lead to complete the amazing win.
Just a few minutes earlier, Louisville looked set to break the 38-38 tie when quarterback Lamar Jackson — the Heisman Trophy leader going into the game — fumbled deep in UK territory after UK freshman running back Benny Snell had lost the ball to the Cardinals a few plays earlier.
But this is not a Kentucky team that quits. Stoops has finally instilled a “finish” attitude in this team much like former UK coach Rich Brooks put in his Cats when he rebuilt the program.
This ended a five-year losing streak to Louisville. It came against a top 10 team playing at home. It came in a game where UK was at least a 24-point underdog.
The Kentucky offense rolled up 581 yards, including 240 rushing against a team that was allowing just 120 yards per game. Quarterback Stephen Johnson complete 16 of 27 passes for 338 yards and three scores and ran for 83 yards. Garrett Johnson had five catches for 164 yards and two scores. Dorian Baker had a sensational 35-yard scoring catch. Boom Williams ran for 63 yards, Snell 51 and Kemp 32 yards.
Louisville had plenty of offense as well. Jackson was 16 of 25 passing for 281 yards and two scores — but had two interceptions. He ran for 171 yards and two more scores. But he also had that costly fumble that could well cost him the Heisman Trophy.
The Cats had a huge celebration on the field and again in the locker room after this signature win that improved UK’s record to 7-5 and suddenly makes the Cats a much hotter bowl commodity.
My guess is that the Music City Bowl would sell its soul for a chance to have UK and the crowd it would bring to Nashville now.