On the opening play of Louisville’s defeat to arch rival UK, a Cardinal special teamer committed an unsportsmanlike act. He reacted to a Wildcat’s woofing with a swing at the fellow’s head.
The Cardinal player’s name does not matter. He was far from the only one who who was amped up to the point where it affected focus and winning judgement.
That Kentucky did not score that possession really does not matter either.
The miscue did foretell what would be the significant play of the 31-38 defeat.
A lack of intention by the kickoff teams to prioritize the task at hand.
Louisville, up an obviously wobbly 10-7, received the opening kickoff after intermission.
The Cards had two returners back. Neither, as best I recall, signaled for a fair catch as the ball landed in the end zone. Instead of immediately going to down it, there by protecting the possession, it bounced around the end zone, until one finally beat a Wildcat to the ball.
Focus. Or, lack thereof.
That disturbing mindset finally came to roost on the play I referenced at the top. After Louisville’s just gorgeous lead increasing 15 play TD drive consuming 9:10 off the clock to open the 3d, the kickoff protection unit handed Uncle Mo a blue shirt.
A 100 yard kickoff return.
U of L continued to fight. The Cards increased the lead to ten again. Then surrendered a FG. Then a touchdown, which knotted the battle at 24. Then less than two minutes later after a fumble, another TD.
Cats 31, Cards 24 with eight and a half to go.
On U of L’s ensuing possession, the most uninspired call of Jeff Brohm’s regime back at his alma mater — on fourth and one at the Wildcat 38, a slow developing rush to the strong side of UK’s D — didn’t work. Kentucky held.
Ashton Gillotte, as he has done time and again all season, gave the Cards one more shot. He bullrushed Devin Leary, who forced a wounded duck picked by Jarvis Brownlee.
Louisville scored to tie the affair at 31-31.
But, in retrospect, too quickly.
But, hey, that’s not a mistake, just as it turns out, bad luck. The time part, not the scoring part.
It didn’t take long for up to the task Kentucky to move down the field for the winning score.
So much for all the ridiculous contemplation before kickoff of how U of L could make it to the Final Four.
The 10-2 Cardinals have now fallen to arch rival five times in a row.
This one hurt even more than the others.
— c d kaplan