Kentucky’s struggling offense took on an inept Louisville defense in the Governor’s Cup showdown Saturday night to end the 2018 regular season. Something had to give, and it was the Cardinals’ defense.

Again and again.

Kentucky scored touchdowns on all five first-half possessions en route to a 56-10 victory, the Wildcats’ ninth win of the season, which is most regular-season victories since 1977.

Among the notable points milestones:

  • It was the most points the Cats scored against the Cardinals since hanging 68 on them in 1998.
  • It was the largest victory margin since the series resumed in 1994.
  • It was the first time Kentucky topped 50 points since Week 3 of the 2016 season.

Quarterback Terry Wilson threw a career-high 3 TD passes and added a rushing score. He had a near-perfect first half, completing 14-of-16 passes for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns against a Louisville front that was focused on slowing Kentucky back Benny Snell. Snell had two scoring runs of his own, including a 24-yard run in which he bounced off Louisville’s first line of defenders and picked his way to the end zone standing up.

Kentucky opened the game forcing Louisville to go 3-and-out and then took over after a short punt and drove 53 yards on eight plays, with Snell covering the last 7 yards for the touchdown. After Louisville’s ensuing drive went nowhere, Kentucky drove 84 yards in nine plays, with Wilson scoring a 3-yard touchdown on the ground.

Louisville’s one moment of hope came on the following play, when starting QB Malik Cunningham rolled out, broke containment, and raced 75 yards for a touchdown that pulled the margin to 14-7. Louisville never agained threaten on a night when they had 109 first-half penalty yards. The increasingly rudderless Cardinals ship ran aground early and often.

Early in the third quarter, tight end Mickey Crum drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and appeared to be ordered to the locker room by interim coach Lorenzo Ward. After Crum refused to go, he was back in the game a few minutes later.

With the victory, Kentucky finishes its best season in four decades, and looks all but locked in to a spot in the Citrus Bowl. Kentucky last played in a New Year’s Day bowl game in the Outback Bowl on January 1, 1999, when they lost to Penn State 26-14. The Nittany Lions have been an early topic of speculation as a potential matchup for the current Wildcats.

Louisville finished their season 2-10, with head coach Bobby Petrino fired two weeks ago. The Cardinals’ coaching search quickly centered around former Cardinal Jeff Brohm, who has taken Purdue from morbid to respectable seemingly overnight in his two seasons in West Lafayette. Brohm has publicly continued to proclaim his happiness at Purdue, which has raised recent speculation to suggest that the Cardinals might be looking at Plan B.

For the night, Kentucky seemed contented in heights rarely reached by the program, which coincided with lows not seen by Louisville football since Ron Cooper was coaching the Cardinals. If the Big Blue Nation couldn’t get everything they wanted for Christmas, they at least got an early present with the Governor’s Cup beatdown.