For No. 25 Louisville, playing a game it could boast about was just as important as bragging rights against in-state rival Kentucky.
The Cardinals succeeded on both counts Sunday.
Jeremy Wright ran for 105 yards and three touchdowns and Louisville opened the game with three long scoring drives en route to a 32-14 victory against the Wildcats. That claimed the Governor’s Cup for the second year in a row while ending a three-game home losing streak to Kentucky.
More memorable for Louisville was the thorough way it was achieved. The Cardinals moved the ball at will against the Wildcats, gaining 314 of their 466 yards in the first half thanks to touchdown drives of 99, 85 and 93 yards.
Partial credit for that goes to a more experienced line that protected sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and created huge holes for the running game. Wright and fellow Senorise Perry did a lot on their own, too.
Nearly a third of Wright’s yards came on The Opening drive as he gained 30 on eight carries and ran for the first of two 1-yard scores. He added a 14-yarder in the second quarter.
Perry added 108 on 16 carries including a 47-yard TD that made it 15-7.
The Cardinals had 141 yards rushing after those three TD drives, nearly 20 above last season’s 121.5 average per game that ranked 93rd nationally.
Their contributions almost overshadowed Bridgewater, though not by much. Last year’s Big East Conference rookie of the year faced little pressure from Kentucky and ended up completing 10 of his first 11 passes and 19 of 21 overall for 232 yards to nine targets.
Other than a 75-yard scoring drive that briefly brought Kentucky within 8-7 in the first quarter, the Wildcats’ offense found little room against a Cardinals defense that had sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith covered in many facets.
The sophomore completed 35-of-50 passes for 280 yards. Kentucky ran for 93 yards on 19 carries.
Kentucky started promisingly, driving 34 yards to Louisville’s 41 before the drive stalled on consecutive passes that started slowly and gained little yardage. The Wildcats then forced the Cardinals to start from their 1 when Kai Dominguez fumbled a line-drive punt after being hit by Martarvius Neloms.
Unfazed, Louisville mounted a 15-play, 99-yard scoring drive. Bridgewater got it started with consecutive passes to Damian Copeland and Andrell Smith for 40 yards and first down at their 42.
Wright then went to work, capped the drive with a touchdown, and Will Stein followed with a 2-point conversion pass to defensive end Marcus Smith.
Kentucky answered with a 14-play, 75-yard scoring drive led by Smith, beginning the season as the starter. He had time to hit several targets, mixing in a 5-yard keeper. That spread things enough for him to find a wide-open Scott Radcliff in the end zone for a 3-yard TD that brought the Wildcats within a point.