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No. 25 Louisville rolls into Governor’s Cup vs. Kentucky

Sportsnaut
Nov 19, 2022; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (24) during the game at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

The 34th version of the Governor’s Cup will have the Bluegrass State enthralled Saturday afternoon when No. 25 Louisville faces Kentucky at Lexington, Ky.

Winners of five of its past six outings, Louisville (7-4) is coming off a 25-10 win over N.C. State, which the Cardinals achieved without the services of star quarterback Malik Cunningham (shoulder).

If the senior can’t play this Saturday, coach Scott Satterfield will count on junior Brock Domann, who has defeated both N.C. State and Virginia.

“Brock is 2-0 as a starter,” Satterfield said. “He runs the operation. He runs our offense. We will see where Malik is at. … He has gotten better as the week’s gone on so we will see where he is at.”

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said the Wildcats (6-5) would game-plan for Cunningham, a dangerous, dual-threat weapon.

“We have to prepare for Malik,” said Stoops, who signed an extension this week that runs through the 2030 season. “And they do the same with Brock, as far as some of the quarterback run game — designed. Just with the zone-read keeps and things with the gun runs, you have to be prepared for.”

The Wildcats are just 2-5 since starting the season with four straight wins and moving up as high as No. 7 in the rankings. Then they lost at Ole Miss 22-19 on Oct. 1.

With a school-record seventh consecutive bowl appearance locked down, they hope their injury concern along their offensive line — shaky for most of the season — will be resolved.

Starting left tackle Kenneth Horsey didn’t play against top-ranked Georgia in Kentucky’s 16-6 home loss Saturday. The senior from Sanford, Fla., was injured in pregame warmups and is questionable against Louisville.

The Wildcats have won the last three meetings in the series by an average margin of victory of 36.3 points per game.

Kentucky holds an 18-15 edge in the series that dates back 110 years, with the Wildcats triumphant in the first seven meetings for the longest streak in the matchup.

Improvement on defense has been key for the Cardinals. In 2021, they ranked 83rd in total defense, while improving to 37th this season. They also forced eight turnovers in a 48-21 win over Wake Forest.

Louisville, which owns the nation’s No. 54 run defense at 139 yards per game, will face a serious task in slowing down Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez Jr., a 5-foot-11, 224-pound juggernaut.

Despite missing the first four games due to suspension, the senior from McDonough, Ga., has 784 rushing yards on 151 carries (5.2 per attempt) to go along with six TDs and no fumbles.

“I think defensively, we’ve been really good,” said Satterfield. “The negatives from some of those early losses was just the big plays. We were still playing good defense, what we call havoc defense: tackles for loss, sacks, turnovers. It’s been really, really good this year.

“We’re No. 1 in the country in sacks. We’re No. 2 in takeaways. It’s hard to get any better than that.”

On Monday, Louisville kicker James Turner was named the ACC Co-Specialist of the Week after tying a school record with four field goals against the Wolfpack.

Turner, a native of Saline, Mich., has drilled 19 of 21 field goals this season, just two off the school mark for total in a season.

–Field Level Media