If you think back to the way the football season started for Kentucky and Louisville the outcome of today’s season finale would have been difficult to fathom. Kentucky was sifting through the depths of an 0-2 start and dealing with the loss of starting quarterback Drew Barker.
Conversely, Louisville and quarterback Lamar Jackson were at the highest of highs. After handling Charlotte and Syracuse easily they proved that they couldn’t be taken lightly when they thrashed Florida State.
Stephen Johnson stepped in, injected some hope and optimism and steadily guided Kentucky to bowl eligibility and beyond.
— Mark Stoops (@UKCoachStoops) November 26, 2016
Flinch isn’t in Johnson’s vocabulary. His even keeled demeanor has set the tone for this team. Today he was matched up with the odds on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy on the road and he put in work to the tune of 16 completions in 27 attempts for 338 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 83 yards rushing on eight carries. In the second half of the season he’s been victimized by some costly drops by his receivers or his numbers would be even more impressive.
Kentucky answered Louisville’s initial score quickly with a Stephen Johnson to Garrett Johnson touchdown pass. and let everyone know that it was going to be a 60 minute game. Boom Williams scampered in from 36 yards out and provided the first lead change of the game.
After Louisville battled back to take a 24-14 lead it looked as if things might spiral out of control for Kentucky. Johnson and Johnson connected once again for a quick strike to pull Kentucky to within 24-21 at the half. That was huge because Kentucky got the ball to start the second half and Benny Snell put Kentucky ahead 28-24 when he scored from 18 yards out.
The game was tied entering the fourth quarter when Dorian Baker gave UK their next to last lead change with his 35 yard touchdown reception. The degree of difficulty of the catch was very high and eased the pain of some his drops on easier catches earlier in the game.
Lamar Jackson responded and tied the game and set the stage Austin MacGinnis to kick a game winner to top his heroic kick that won the Mississippi State game. This kick was for the Governor’s Cup. This kick was to avoid having to deal with overtime against Lamar Jackson. This kick was for Kentucky’s first win versus Louisville since 2010.
It was no sweat for MacGinnis as he split the uprights and sealed the 41-38 win.
Kentucky went into Louisville and did more than just keep it close. They were picked to lose by four scores and they shocked the world.
There's no way to sugar coat it: An entire season of positivity was undone in two weeks. A complete and inexplicable unraveling.
— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) November 26, 2016
Stephen Johnson. That guy came to play today. Tip of the cap.
— Nick Coffey (@TheCardConnect) November 26, 2016
Can’t sum it up much better than that. Mark Stoops, Stephen Johnson and all of the Kentucky Wildcats kept grinding and stayed the course, enhanced their bowl status and invariably made a nice impression on the recruiting trail. Not a bad Saturday afternoon’s work.