In the biggest upset in the series, Kentucky, a 25-plus point underdog, upset No. 11 Louisville 41-38 on Saturday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Austin MacGinnis provided the winning points with a 47-yard field with just 12 seconds left. That drive was set up by a Lamar Jackson fumble, recovered by the Cats’ Courtney Love. It was the first win for UK over UofL since 2010 and the first in the series for Cats Head Coach Mark Stoops. Kentucky finishes the regular season 7-5 after an 0-2 start. Louisville finishes 9-3, and both teams will find out their bowl destinations on Sunday, December 4. Here are some post game comments from Stoops, UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart, MacGinnis and Love.
What were your emotions as you watched the winning field goal?
Mark Stoops: I had great confidence in him, but honestly I was a little numb. Just wanted to finish it off too. You knew you were going to have to go back out – whether he missed it, we were going to have to go play with a dynamic guy like that. We were thinking about the kickoff and what we were going to do and the seconds. There was a lot going through my mind.
How confident were you going into the game that you could make big plays in the passing game, from the opening play?
Stoops: I told the players this morning and we were talking about it all week. We always talk the same things, the energy in our preparation and focus, but the last piece was that we had to play aggressive and our guys, you know as you’re getting over that hump and trying to get over that hump, getting in big environments like this, making plays against a quality team. We talked about being aggressive, we always do that, but we just have to make big plays in big moments.
What does it mean to end the regular season with a win like this after the way the season started?
Mitch Barnhart: We’re 7-3 over our last 10 games, and I know it didn’t start the way we wanted it to but the resiliency of what this coaching staff and these kids have shown is truly remarkable. It’s led by a pretty steady guy at quarterback. He’s just unflappable. He doesn’t get all the hype that a lot of players get and he doesn’t look for it – frankly he doesn’t want it. He’s just a really, really humble, quiet young man. He’s got a couple of great running backs back there and our guys just stayed focused for 10 games. To get one here in Louisville, to get the Governor’s Cup is another step for us.
Take me through your emotions as you’re watching the winning field goal.
Barnhart: Austin delivered one before from 51 and you know, I thought, “Well, okay, he can kick it that far,” and when he kicked it, I watched him. I don’t watch anybody else – I watched Austin, and when it was going up and he had his hands up, I said, “All right, it’s good.” I knew he had plenty of leg. My second glance was to the clock to see how much time was left and what we needed to do to take care of the ball.
What does a bowl trip mean to a university?
Barnhart: I don’t know that there is any way to quantify it other than to say it’s something that I’m really happy about. We have 15 seniors that get a chance to go play again. For us, it’s been a little bit of a grind to get back here and just so proud of those seniors, guys that have just hung in there and kept fighting. To see the joy on their faces is really, really cool.
What is going through your mind as you are watching the final drive?
MacGinnis: As soon as Louisville fumbled, I had no doubt in my mind that we were going to get in field goal range. I just stayed focused, stayed to my routine and just trusted those guys. That offense has been great all year. Stephen doesn’t get enough love – he’s just a consistent player who you can trust. I knew they were going to get me in field goal range.
Then when you go out there, how quickly do you know it’s good?
MacGinnis: As soon as I look up off my foot, I can tell from the ball flight and how I hit it. I saw it and it was going right through the middle, I knew it was good. It felt like so surreal, like I had put in so much to get here. I’ve been really focused this season because I came off an injury last season, so to get two in one year and one versus Louisville, just God is great. That’s all you can say. Trust and have faith in God, no matter what you’re going through.
What did you see on the fumble recovery?
Courtney Love: It was just an unbelievable play by Lamar. It was tough getting him on the ground. He made a lot of unbelievable plays. He’s a great player. I voted for him for the Heisman Trophy, but recovering that ball just shows all the hard work that we do as a team. To end up like that is just a blessing.
What were you thinking as Austin lined up for that final field goal?
Love: Sometimes I don’t like to look, but I looked at this one and I saw it go in. It was just awesome. I’m just so proud of my team and to bring that trophy back to Lexington.
Do you have a sense for what this means for Coach Stoops?
Love: Absolutely. It’s a big win. This is the state of Kentucky and it’s two teams battling. They were a nationally ranked opponent and they’re our rival. It was just huge for us to get this win and to go into this bowl season with momentum. It changes this program. VT