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Ranking every Louisville-Kentucky football game from worst to best

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No. 1 is probably going to upset you.

I would say “this is an objective list, so don’t get mad about No. 1,” but you’re going to be mad about No. 1 anyway so there’s no point. I’ve already come to terms with it.

With Battle for the Governor’s Cup No. 27 going down in a mere four days, let’s rank the previous 26 installments of the Louisville-Kentucky football series.

*modern series ... if you want rankings of the six games that were played over 100 years ago, I sadly have nothing for you

No. 26

2018 — Kentucky 56, Louisville 10

Kentucky being nationally ranked (No. 12) for the first time in a game against Louisville is just about the only notable item to take away from this one, where the Wildcats prevailed by the largest margin of victory since a 73-0 triumph in 1922. Louisville was led onto the field by a first-year athletic director, coached by a second-week interim head coach named “Whammy,” and started a wide receiver (TuTu Atwell) at quarterback. Predictably, things went poorly for the home team.

No. 25

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.

No. 24

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.

No. 23

2019 — Kentucky 45, Louisville 13

Led by star Lynn Bowden, the Wildcats set a school record for rushing yards in a single game with a whopping 517 against an overmatched Cardinal defense. The game might best be remembered for Scott Satterfield appearing to complain at midfield after the game about Kentucky players constantly making the “Ls Down” gesture.

UK head coach Mark Stoops was asked about the conversation after the game and downplayed it.

“I don’t know, at the end it got weird because they called a time-out and we got a sack and there’s a fumble and ruckus and all that,” Stoops said. “But our team was very respectful all day. I don’t know if an L’s down is going to offend them. There’s going to be a lot worse in this rivalry over time.”

No. 22

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.

No. 21

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.

No. 20

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.

No. 19

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.

No. 18

2017 - Louisville 44, Kentucky 17

Lamar Jackson went crazy in his final rivalry game as Louisville destroyed Kentucky at Kroger Field. This game, however, will always be significant for the first half fight that involved Jackson and a garbage can thrown by a Kentucky player.

No. 17

2013 - Louisville 27, Kentucky 13

No. 7 remains the highest ranking either team has carried into one of these games, and the seventh-ranked Cardinals arrived at Commonwealth Stadium on this beautiful September day looking for both style points and a boost to Teddy Bridgewater’s Heisman Trophy campaign. Instead, the Cards and Bridgewater jogged (figuratively) to a two touchdown win that left both sides feeling a bit unsatisfied.

No. 16

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.

No. 15

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.

No. 14

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.

No. 13

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 one of the most lopsided victory in series history, but still ranks this highly because I mean, come on, 102 total points.

No. 12

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.

No. 11

2006 - Louisville 59, Kentucky 28

In a game that featured more next-level talent than any other in the series before it, 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.

No. 10

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.

No. 9

2015 - Louisville 38, Kentucky 24

For a second straight season, Kentucky faced Louisville with bowl eligibility on the line, and also for a second straight season, the Cards spotted their in-state rivals a huge early advantage. Then Lamar Jackson made himself known to Big Blue Nation.

No. 8

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.

After the game, Fatu Turituri — the Kentucky offensive lineman who allowed Dumervil to whip him for six sacks — offered up one of the greatest rivalry quotes of all-time, saying Dumervil “really isn’t very good,” and that the sacks were more about him than the All-American.

No. 7

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.

No. 6

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.

No. 5

2016 - Kentucky 41, Louisville 38

The biggest upset in the history of the series came in 2016 when 24.5-point underdog Kentucky came into Cardinal Stadium and stunned No. 11 Louisville. Austin MacGinnis’ 47-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining wound up making all the difference, as U of L lost both an Orange Bowl bid and all the good vibes that the previous two months had brought the program.

No. 4

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 he made good on before bolting for Texas after the 2013 season.

No. 3

2014 - Louisville 44, Kentucky 40

One of the most bizarre and exciting games in series history featured a pair of pregame scuffles, five personal foul penalties, and a third string quarterback from Lexington leading Louisville to a miraculous victory in an unexpected shootout.

With the Cardinals trailing 13-0 in the 2nd quarter, starting quarterback Reggie Bonnafon left the game with an injured knee. With Will Gardner already done for the season, that left only redshirt freshman Kyle Bolin (a Lexington Catholic product) to command the U of L offense. Bolin responded by tossing for 381 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were hauled in by DeVante Parker. The game was sealed by Gerod Holliman’s 14th interception of the season, which tied a longstanding NCAA record.

No. 2

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.

No. 1

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.