The Cardinals reached double-digit wins for the seventh time in program history and will play for an ACC championship for the first time ever. Their 10th win was the result of another first, as they beat Miami, 38-31, on its home field where they were previously 0-6-1.
Hosting Kentucky for its home finale, U of L looks to cap the regular season with the Governor’s Cup. The Wildcats have won the last four and lead the rivalry series, 19-15. UK also has a 9-5 record at Louisville.
Kentucky enters the contest on the heels of a 17-14 loss at South Carolina in its SEC finale. The Wildcats (6-5) are bowl eligible but ended SEC play with a 3-5 record and fourth in the SEC East after falling to the Gamecocks in consecutive seasons. Like Louisville, UK started the season with a 5-0 mark but struggled to stay afloat in conference play.
Here are three story lines to watch in the annual Governor’s Cup contest:
Brohms back in Governor’s Cup rivalry
The Governor’s Cup took a 70-year hiatus and returned the season after head coach Jeff Brohm, who played quarterback for the Cards (1989-93), graduated. Louisville offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brian Brohm, Jeff's younger brother, played in the rivalry. Louisville went 3-1 against UK during his time with program (2004-07). The former quarterback’s lone loss to the Wildcats was his senior season when then-No. 9 Louisville fell, 40-34.
While Jeff Brohm never took the field against Kentucky, he was U of L’s quarterbacks coach while Brian Brohm was playing.
One streak will end
After Louisville tied the rivalry series, 15-15, with a 44-17 road win in 2017, Kentucky responded by winning the next four meetings to take the 19-15 series advantage. The Wildcats have dominated in the games, outscoring the Cardinals 179-57, during that time. Last season, UK beat Louisville 26-13 at home, the closest the two teams have played since the Wildcats’ 41-38 win at Louisville in 2016.
Despite Kentucky’s up-and-down season, the Wildcats look to extend their streak against Louisville and end the regular season on a high note. Louisville, having won four in a row following its lone loss of the season at Pitt, aims to keep its momentum going and extend its home win streak to 12. The streak would rank second to the Cardinals’ program-best 20 consecutive home wins between 2003 and 2007.
Can Kentucky pull together in time for finale at Louisville?
Not long after Kentucky's loss to South Carolina, UK running back Ray Davis logged onto X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, to vent his frustrations. Not at the loss specifically. But at his usage.
He carried 12 times for 61 yards and a touchdown.
"It is what it is. Thought I was the bellcow," Davis wrote in the since-deleted post.
He's not the only person affiliated with the program who's frustrated. The fathers of both Davis and sophomore wide receiver Dane Key also vented on social media during and after the setback. And earlier in the week, Valerie Wade, the mother of twin brothers Destin Wade (a quarterback) and Keaten Wade (a linebacker) weighed in on Destin following a post from Tennessee radio personality Chris Yow.
"I would give everything I own to see Destin Wade operate Josh Heupel’s offense," Yow wrote. "I don’t think y’all understand how DYNAMIC we would be."
Valerie Wade quoted Yow's post and wrote, "From someone who has actually SEEN what Destin Wade can do." The only time Destin's ever taken the field in a game came in last season's finale, when he started versus Iowa in the Music City Bowl, a 21-0 loss for Kentucky.
After the three-point defeat to the Gamecocks, UK coach Mark Stoops dubbed it one of the most "difficult" losses in his 11 seasons at the helm.
As more players, and their parents, turn to social media to air their thoughts on an underachieving season, can Kentucky pull itself off the mat to down U of L for a fifth straight time?
Three Louisville football players to watch
Mason Reiger, junior defensive lineman: Reiger has been an invaluable reserve for Louisville, recording 16 tackles, six for loss, with five sacks on the year. He added to his season total with three tackles and a sack against Miami.
Quincy Riley, redshirt junior cornerback: With the Cardinals taking blows to their secondary, Riley has been a constant force this season. He was in coverage during Miami’s attempt at the end zone on fourth down late in Saturday’s contest then made the game-ending tackle, finishing with six in the contest. Riley has 38 tackles one the season with a team-high eight pass breakups to go with two interceptions.
Ahmari Huggins-Bruce, junior wide receiver: After Louisville’s win against Virginia, Brohm said he wanted to get Huggins-Bruce and the team’s slot receivers more involved in the pass game. Huggins-Bruce saw four targets and caught two passes for 22 yards in the ACC finale against Miami. He’s currently the team’s fourth-leading receiver with 281 yards and three touchdowns on 17 receptions while also running the ball five times for 46 yards and another score.
Three Kentucky football players to watch
Ray Davis, senior running back: Only needing 10 rushing yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark, Davis has been an essential cog to the Wildcats’ offense. But he was held under 100 yards on the ground against South Carolina, totaling 61 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Still, his score versus the Gamecocks (a 31-yard rush in the third quarter that gave UK its first, and only, lead) pushed him to 17 TDs on the season. Three more will set the school's single-season TD mark, set by Benny Snell, who scored 19 times on the ground in 2017.
Devin Leary, graduate quarterback: The N.C. State transfer completed 17 of 34 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown with an interception against the Gamecocks. Despite some inconsistencies in his game, Leary has 2,243 passing yards on the year with 20 TDs to nine interceptions. His 20 TD passes rank third in the SEC this season. One area where he's struggled and will try to avoid cropping up against Louisville: tipped passes at the line of scrimmage. After Saturday's loss, Stoops said there were a variety of factors that went into it, but most of all, Leary needs to put more loft on his passes and trust the playcall.
Deone Walker, sophomore defensive lineman: As one of the Wildcats’ best defensive players, Walker led the team in tackles with nine and a sack against South Carolina. The sophomore heads into the regular season finale with a team-best 5 ½ sacks to go along with 44 tackles, 10 ½ for loss. A Detroit native considered the Wildcats' top NFL prospect, the nine tackles he notched in Saturday's loss set a personal best for a single game.
Louisville vs. Kentucky odds
Louisville is a 7-point home favorite over Kentucky in the Governor’s Cup, according to DraftKings.
How to watch Louisville vs. Kentucky football game
Who: Louisville (10-1, 7-1 ACC) vs. Kentucky (6-5, 3-5 SEC)
When: Noon Saturday, Nov. 25
Where: L&N Stadium; Louisville
Radio: Paul Rogers (play-by-play) and John L. Smith (analyst) will call the game on Louisville Radio Network (93.9 FM and 970 AM).
Streaming: Qualified subscribers can stream the game at espn.com/watch.
2023 Governor's Cup: U of L vs. UK game is sold out, but here's where you can find tickets
Reach Louisville football, women's basketball and baseball beat writer Alexis Cubit at email@example.com and follow her on X at @Alexis_Cubit. And reach Kentucky men’s basketball and football reporter Ryan Black at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on X at @RyanABlack.
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This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Governor's Cup 2023: Jeff Brohm, Louisville vs Kentucky, Mark Stoops