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Louisville stalls in second half, blown out by Kentucky 45-13

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The Cardinals allow 517 rushing yards in the loss to their rival.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville entered halftime with some momentum after Javian Hawkins cut into Kentucky’s lead with a 56-yard touchdown run near the end of the second quarter.

Instead, Kentucky’s running game took the momentum back and poured it on Louisville’s defense in a downpour. The Wildcats racked up 517 rushing yards, including 284 from quarterback Lynn Bowden, as Kentucky (7-5) cruised to a 45-13 win over Louisville (7-5).

Kentucky’s win is the first for a home team in the rivalry since 2014, and also the first time that either school won back-to-back games in the rivalry since 2014-2015.

Louisville did score a touchdown on their opening drive, with Micale Cunningham finding Tutu Atwell on a 33-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-ten. Ryan Chalifoux missed the extra point though, leaving the Cardinals with a 6-0 lead.

But as would be the case for the rest of the game, Kentucky’s rushing attack took charge and did not let up. The Wildcats scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives, coming on runs of 4 and 6 yards from A.J. Rose and Lynn Bowden, respectively. Matt Ruffolo added a 45-yard field goal to give them a 17-6 lead.

Louisville’s offense, meanwhile, sputtered with untimely turnovers and penalties in the first half. Their drive after Kentucky’s first touchdown ended in a punt, after Louisville had a holding and false start penalty that pushed them back to second-and-20. Micale Cunningham was then sacked on third-and-five to force the Louisville punt. A failed fake punt attempt, Micale Cunningham interception, and three-and-out were the end result of Louisville’s next three series in the first half.

But Louisville rebounded with a 56-yard touchdown run by Javian Hawkins, cutting Kentucky’s lead to 17-13 lead at halftime. The touchdown run put the redshirt freshman over 100 yards rushing in the first half.

Kentucky would only need two plays on its opening drive of the second half to push the lead to 24-13. Lynn Bowden sprinted for a 60-yard touchdown, highlighting the first of four long touchdown runs in a 28-0 second half run by Kentucky.

Bowden would score again on touchdown runs of 46 and 32 yards in the third and fourth quarters, respectively. Christopher Rodriguez had Kentucky’s first touchdown of the final frame on a 64-yard burst down the middle.

Louisville, however, would go scoreless in the second half with four punts and a lost fumble on the final drive of the game. Backup quarterback Evan Conley would substitute for Micale Cunningham on their final three drives, but couldn’t provide a spark for Louisville’s offense amidst rainy conditions.

Kentucky set a new school record for single-game rushing yards with 517 against their in-state rival, averaging 12.9 yards per carry and attempting 40 runs versus just two passes. Lynn Bowden led the team with 284 rushing yards and four touchdowns, setting a new Governor’s Cup record for yardage and taking home the Howard Schellenberger MVP Award. Kentucky’s trio of running backs — Christopher Rodriguez, Kavosiey Smoke, and AJ Rose — combined for the remaining 233 yards on the ground, with Rodriguez going for 125 himself.

Javian Hawkins had another 100-yard game, going for 142 and a touchdown against Kentucky. The redshirt freshman was the lone bright spot in an offense that couldn’t get its explosive passing game going in the pouring rain. Louisville had 209 yards rushing, but just 109 passing and allowed six sacks. Tutu Atwell led the team with 57 receiving yards and a touchdown; his touchdown ties the U of L single-season receiving record of 12, set by Ibn Green (1998) and DeVante Parker (2013).