LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Lamar Jackson lost the ball, No. 11 Louisville lost the game to rival Kentucky and it remains to be seen how it all will impact the Heisman Trophy race that once belonged to the Cardinals quarterback just a few weeks ago.
The Louisville sophomore had a record-setting day on Saturday, even striking a spontaneous Heisman pose following a game-tying touchdown midway through the fourth quarter before all that jubilation turned to disappointment after a 41-38 loss. Jackson didn’t want to talk about the Heisman after the game, instead focusing on his team was trying to digest another mistake-filled loss.
“This loss is gonna be hard,” Jackson said. “It’s our rival. Our seniors didn’t go out right.”
Kentucky’s seniors are going out on a high note.
Austin MacGinnis‘ 47-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining gave the Wildcats the upset, an unexpected turnaround after Jackson was driving the Cardinals toward a go-ahead score late in the game. Jackson’s fumble at Kentucky’s 10 was recovered by the Wildcats’ Courtney Love with 1:45 left. Stephen Johnson then led Kentucky (7-5) downfield and into position for MacGinnis’ game-winning kick that ended Kentucky’s five-game losing streak in the series.
“I had great confidence in him,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said of MacGinnis. “I was numb. I just wanted to finish it.”
Jackson’s desperation heave as time expired from deep in Louisville territory was intercepted by Mike Edwards, his second pick of the game, and set off a wild celebration among the Wildcats and their fans.
MacGinnis might have been the happiest Wildcat, having earlier saved Kentucky’s season with a 51-yard kick to beat Mississippi State . This one provided the program’s first seven-win season since 2009.
“As soon as we got that fumble I knew my team was going to give me a chance,” said MacGinnis, who also kicked a 35-yarder. “I can’t give enough love to my snapper and holder.”
Jackson likely could have wrapped up the Heisman with his record-setting day, but a second consecutive loss could impact the race. Jackson’s day included three interceptions — one of which was converted into a touchdown — and his late fumble led to the game-winning kick.
Louisville running back Brandon Radcliff, however, said this loss was not Jackson’s fault.
“He got us all these wins,” Radcliff said. “He’s a great player. The competitive spirit he’s got, he’s always going to put it on himself. Nobody in this locker room believes this (loss) is on Lamar.”
Jackson tallied his school-record eighth 100-yard rushing game and broke the Louisville season mark for rushing yards. His four touchdowns also broke the Atlantic Coast Conference single-season record (he has 51), but the Cardinals (9-3) were left wondering what might have been — again.
“Sometimes in this game, you find ways to win and sometimes you find ways to lose games,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. “I certainly feel like we found a way to lose that game. Give Kentucky credit.”