The Battle for the Governor's Cup is a day away from turning 20-years-old, which means it's time for a little bit of reflection.
I'm not sure what it was like in the rest of the state, but I can still remember the excitement permeating throughout the city of Louisville in the weeks leading up to that first game in 1994. Local fast food restaurants sold giant "Game One" cups, everyone you knew was planning watch parties; to a 9-year-old, it seemed like the biggest deal in the world.
While that initial game might not have lived up to the massive hype (we went outside and played football before the first quarter was over), it was the start of a two-decade period where the growth of the rivalry was one of the only constants for a pair of programs that went through a number of highs and lows.
With the story of game No. 20 hours away from being written, let's (objectively) look at the last 19 in order of worst to best.
2008 - Kentucky 27, Louisville 2
Billed as a game where nobody knew anything about either team, Louisville actually entered as a slight favorite despite their massively disappointing 2007 campaign. Neither team showed any ability to move the ball on offense, and as a result the game came down to mistakes. The Wildcats made none, and returned two Louisville fumbles for touchdowns to embarrass the Cards at home. There would be no year two redemption for Steve Kragthorpe.
1996 - Louisville 38, Kentucky 14
The Cards blocked two punts and returned two fumbles for touchdowns in a game that was only notable otherwise for being Tim Couch's first college start. Both teams would go on to have losing seasons.
2001 - Louisville 36, Kentucky 10
The Cards became the first of the two teams to notch a three-game winning streak with this 26-point rout in Guy Morriss' coaching debut. Dave Ragone lit up the UK secondary to the tune of 368 yards and three touchdowns. Ragone set the tone for the day with an 82-yard strike to Zek Parker just 49 seconds into the game.
2004 - Louisville 28, Kentucky 0
Lionel Gates ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns, as Louisville notched the series' only shutout in the modern era. The game was also significant for Brian Brohm taking a knee inside the Kentucky 10-yard line in the closing seconds. A year earlier, many at UK had complained that Bobby Petrino ran it up on the Wildcats with an unnecessary late touchdown. "I figured, let's just give Kentucky what they want," Petrino said after the 2004 rout.
1997 - Kentucky 38, Louisville 24
Perhaps the most amazing Governor's Cup fact in existence is that Ron Cooper actually won his first two games against Kentucky and was sent packing with a winning record (2-1) against the Cats. His one loss came thanks in large part to 398 yards and four touchdowns from Tim Couch, who delighted the home crowd at Commonwealth Stadium. Louisville would go on to finish the season with a 1-10 record, effectively ending the Cooper era.
2012 - Louisville 32, Kentucky 14
A year after coming off the bench as a true freshman to lead the Cards to their first win over Kentucky in five years, Teddy Bridgewater set a school record for completion percentage by connecting on 19 of 21 passes for 232 yards. U of L also tore the Cats up on the ground, with Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright both rushing for over 100 yards.
1999 - Louisville 56, Kentucky 28
Louisville bounced back from a 34-point trouncing at the hands of Tim Couch and the Wildcats the year before by torching a young Kentucky defense to the tune of 518 total yards of offense. Chris Redman was the star of stars, completing 30 of 40 passes for 324 yards and five touchdowns without an interception.
1995 - Louisville 13, Kentucky 10
Louisville's first win over Kentucky also still holds the distinction of being the lowest-scoring game in series history. The Cards would use the win as a springboard to a 7-4 season, while UK would finish the year 4-7.
2010 - Kentucky 23, Louisville 16
In what would prove to be a false indicator of how their respective careers in the Commonwealth would go, Joker Phillips bested Charlie Strong in the debuts for both former colleagues. Kentucky welcomed Strong to the rivalry by opening the game with a 70-yard touchdown drive that took just two plays. Though the final score suggests otherwise, the Wildcats controlled the game from that point forward thanks to the steady play of quarterback Mike Hartline and running back Derrick Locke, who finished with 104 yards on 23 carries.
1998 - Kentucky 68, Louisville 34
In his final game of the series, Tim Couch christened Papa John's Cardinal Stadium with 498 passing yards and seven touchdowns. Derek Homer also rushed 19 times for 129 yards, as the Wildcats amassed a school-record 801 total yards of offense, destroying the previous high of 646 set against Tennessee Tech in 1951. It's still the most lopsided victory in series history, but cracks the top 10 because, I mean come on, 102 total points.
2009 - Kentucky 31, Louisville 27
Favored to win the game for the first time in nearly a decade, UK needed some late heroics from Mike Hartline and Randall Cobb to win their third straight over Steve Kragthorpe's Cards. Louisville led 27-24 with less than five minutes to play before a fumbled punt by Trent Guy set the stage for Hartline to find Cobb in the back of the endzone for the decisive score. The game did result in Kragthorpe's infamous "Trent Guy is a freakin' stud" rant during the postgame press conference, which will always make it special.
2006 - Louisville 59, Kentucky 28
In a game that may have featured more next-level talent than any other in series history, Louisville rolled to its largest win over its arch-rivals. Still, it was a bitter-sweet evening for the 13th-ranked Cardinals, who lost star running back Michael Bush for the season after he broke his right leg early in the third quarter. Bush had rushed for 124 yards and three touchdowns to all but put the game away in the first half.
2003 - Louisville 40, Kentucky 24
Despite a one hour and 34 minute rain delay, Louisville managed to win the Cup for the fourth time in five years thanks in large part to Eric Shelton's 151 rushing yards and two scores. The Cards recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown and scored a safety on another botched punt to build a 26-10 lead in the first half, but saw the Wildcats storm back with consecutive touchdowns to cut the lead to two. U of L answered with a 14-play, 81-yard touchdown drive engineered by Shelton. First-year coach Bobby Petrino later gave the go-ahead for Lionel Gates to punch in a final touchdown with six seconds remaining, drawing the ire of all Big Blue Nation.
2005 - Louisville 31, Kentucky 24
An Andre Woodson fumble at the 2-yard line with just over six minutes to play kept Kentucky from having a shot to pull what would have been (at the time) the biggest upset in series history. Instead, the 12th ranked Cardinals avoided a massive collapse in a game they had led 24-7 at halftime. Making his first collegiate start, Brian Brohm passed for 179 yards and uncharacteristically rushed for two touchdowns. The star of the day, however, was U of L defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who recorded a school-record six sacks.
2002 - Kentucky 22, Louisville 17
Bringing back a star quarterback and coming off a Liberty Bowl win over BYU, Louisville entered the rivalry game with a national ranking for the first time. They would leave destined to lose it. Dave Ragone's Heisman campaign was derailed before it could even really get started, as the senior completed only 14-of-39 passes and was beaten up by the Wildcat defense. Louisville mustered just 248 total yards against a Kentucky defense that had ranked 109th in the nation in yards allowed the year before, and lost their three-game winning streak in the series as a result.
2011 - Louisville 24, Kentucky 17
In what turned out to be the beginning of the Teddy Bridgewater era at Louisville, the true freshman came off the bench to replace an injured Will Stein and led the Cardinals to their first win over Kentucky since 2006. Charlie Strong famously told his team after the game that they would never lose to UK again, a proclamation U of L will look to keep accurate tomorrow.
1994 - Kentucky 20, Louisville 14
Though the product on the field wasn't exactly pristine, the first game in the series was memorable for obvious reasons. UK linebacker Donte Key turned out to be the hero, setting up the Wildcats' go-ahead touchdown with a fumble recovery, and then sealing the win with a late interception.
2000 - Louisville 40, Kentucky 34 (OT)
Still known simply as "The Lightning Game." Kentucky led 19-14 midway through the quarter before a nasty lightning storm forced the game to be delayed for over an hour. When play resumed, the teams exchanged leads until things became knotted up at 34. The Wildcats appeared to have victory in hand, but a chip-shot field goal was blocked by Louisville's Curry Burns as the regulation clock expired. After Anthony Floyd intercepted a Jared Lorenzen pass on the first series of overtime, Tony Stallings took the ball 25 yards to the house on U of L's first play to secure the dramatic win.
2007 - Kentucky 40, Louisville 34
We don't really have to talk about it if you guys don't want to. It was the end of so many things: Louisville's four-game winning streak, the Cards' time in the national spotlight, Steve Kragthorpe's honeymoon phase, innocence. Still, there's no denying that it was also the most hyped and the most exciting game in the rivalry's history.