LEXINGTON, Ky. — Besides displaying his usual prowess running and throwing the football, Louisville quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson mixed it up with Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones in an uncommon emotional outburst.
The bench-clearing fight symbolized the simmering intensity between in-state rivals, and Jackson made sure the surging Cardinals reclaimed Bluegrass bragging rights going away.
“There was stuff said,” said Jackson, deflecting questions about the fight. “They wanted to win, we wanted to win.”
Jackson accounted for 372 yards and two passing touchdowns , Reggie Bonnafon rushed for two scores and Louisville coasted past rival Kentucky 44-17 on Saturday to reclaim the Governor’s Cup.
The Cardinals (8-4) led 31-10 at halftime and easily avenged last year’s 41-38 upset loss to the Wildcats. Play was chippy throughout, and tempers flared early as Heisman winner and Jones clashed after Lonnie Johnson Jr. knocked Jackson out of bounds at Kentucky’s 1 following a 9-yard run.
Jackson bumped Jones after getting up, and the two players exchanged shoves before wrestling on the ground and igniting several smaller skirmishes. Jackson, Cardinals running back Malik Williams, Jones and Johnson were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct but remained in the contest.
Dae Williams’ 1-yard TD soon after play resumed made it 14-0 for Louisville and set the stage for its third straight victory. Bonnafon rushed 11 yards for his second score, Jackson followed with a 29-yard TD pass to Dez Fitzpatrick and the Cardinals rolled to their biggest victory margin in the series since a 59-28 win in 2006.
Jackson completed 15 of 21 passes for 216 yards and rushed 18 times for 156 to earn his second Howard Schnellenberger Most Valuable Player award for the game. Louisville evened the series at 15 and earned Bluegrass bragging rights for the sixth time in seven meetings.
“We were able to run the ball, and Lamar did a good job of picking out receivers,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. “Lamar did a really good job of reading it. I really liked the way Reggie and Dae ran.”
Benny Snell rushed 29 times for a career-high 211 yards and two TDs for Kentucky. But Wildcats (7-5) never got closer than 14-7 and were outgained 562-338 in losing their third of four games on a day they honored 25 seniors.
Louisville: A year after his costly fumble led to Kentucky’s game-winning field goal, Jackson and the Cardinals not only protected the football, but scored on every possession except their last. The QB was a dual threat, but Bonnafon and Dae Williams took some weight off by rushing for 125 combined yards and three scores to turn the contest in an unexpected rout. Blanton Creque kicked field goals of 38, 35 and 42 yards.
Kentucky: The Wildcats yielded over 500 yards for the second consecutive week and have allowed at least 473 in their last three losses. Granted, they faced a reigning Heisman winner having another season that merits consideration. But they failed to slow him as well as last year and didn’t force a turnover. They haven’t won at home in this series since 2009 and are 8-10 against the Cardinals in Lexington. “Not a good effort on any of our parts,” coach Mark Stoops said. “We didn’t play very good, we didn’t coach very good and we certainly didn’t play with the discipline and character that this team has.”
Tension was expected after Kentucky’s upset left a bad taste among Louisville players. They eventually boiled over in the brawl but continued with aggressive tackles by both squads.
“They were trying to do a lot of cheap things, like push your head down,” Louisville linebacker Stacy Thomas said of Kentucky’s play. “We weren’t worried about it. We just played.”
Jackson’s 12th consecutive game with 300 yards of offense broke his own Louisville record. He also extended his rushing mark with an eighth straight 100-yard rushing game.
Snell’s rushing TDs gave him a school-record 18, breaking Moe Williams’ mark of 17 in 1995. He also is the first Wildcat with 30 career rushing scores, and his 110 points broke kicker Austin MacGinnis’ record of 104 in 2014.
Both schools await bowl selections on Dec. 3.