Kentucky-Louisville grades: Stephen Johnson leads Wildcats’ upset win

The top takeaways and highest-graded players from Kentucky's win over Louisville.

| 1 week ago
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Kentucky-Louisville grades: Stephen Johnson leads Wildcats’ upset win


Kentucky 41, Louisville 38

These are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from Kentucky’s win over Louisville:

Kentucky Wildcats

Quarterback grade: Stephen Johnson, 81.1

Johnson leads road upset with clinical display

Stephen Johnson was absolutely locked in against Louisville, finding the mark on 19 of his 26 passes. He was able to move the ball on a typically stingy Cardinals’ defense, making plays even when forced to adjust against pressure. In total, he completed five of eight attempts for 189 yards against the rush, with two touchdowns and one interception. All three of his scores came on downfield throws. On 20+ yard passes, Johnson was an impressive four of eight for 202 yards, breaking off the long gains that kept Kentucky competitive in a shootout.

Top offensive grades:

LG Nick Haynes, 82.5
QB Stephen Johnson, 81.1
WR Garrett Johnson, 79.8
HB Stanley Williams, 72.9
WR Ryan Timmons, 72.1

Scheme and steam help Wildcats trample Cardinals

True to their name, Kentucky employed the wildcat effectively against Louisville. Stanley Williams topped their running back crop with 14 carries, amassing 63 yards (25 after contact), a touchdown and four broken tackles. Benjamin Snell was equally as devastating, toting 11 times for 49 yards (47 after contact), one touchdown and six broken tackles. Combined with Johnson’s exploits scrambling, he took off three times for 49 yards, the Wildcats enjoyed a highly productive game on the ground. 

Top defensive grades:

SS Mike Edwards, 80.5
DE Alvonte Bell, 74.8
OLB Josh Allen, 73.2
ILB Jordan Jones, 75.9
NT Naquez Pringle, 73.0 

Group effort limits Heisman hopeful

None of Kentucky’s defenders enjoyed dominant games, but they performed well as a collective. Although no individual recorded more than three combined pressures or more than four stops, together they found ways to get Lamar Jackson off the field. Safety Mike Edwards was the catalyst. He allowed only one catch on five targets for 42 yards and a pair of interceptions. Along with some timely pressure from the defensive front, which was able to sack Jackson on five occasions, the Wildcats did just enough to earn the victory.

Louisville Cardinals

Quarterback grade: Lamar Jackson, 77.9

Despite breaking the NCAA total touchdowns record against Kentucky, Lamar Jackson was unable to prevent the Cardinals falling to a second-straight defeat. Jackson was much better than last Thursday against Houston, but fumbled in a key moment with Louisville poised to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. Otherwise, he was mighty effective on the ground, carrying 22 times for 200 yards (97 after contact), two touchdowns and a broken tackle. Jackson’s inability to beat Kentucky from the pocket, however, was evident. He managed only two completions from six attempts for 32 yards and a pick under pressure. 

Top offensive grades:

TE Cole Hikutini, 84.1
OT Kenny Thomas, 78.4
OT Lukayus McNeil, 78.2
QB Lamar Jackson, 77.9
WR Jaylen Smith, 74.3

Contrast in fortunes for Cardinals’ receiving corps

Jaylen Smith and Cole Hikutini have emerged as Lamar Jackson’s top targets in recent weeks. The pair combined for nine catches from 12 targets for 163 yards and a touchdown against Kentucky. Smith has generated a big play in all but one of his last six games, emerging as a legitimate vertical threat. Hikutini is most devastating in the intermediate range, showing the quickness and athleticism to shake free at the second level. At the other end of the spectrum, James Quick continues to toil. He had another drop against Kentucky, taking his total to eight on the year.

Top defensive grades:

FS Chucky Williams, 89.3
DT Drew Bailey, 83.4
DT Chris Williams, 82.6
CB Jaire Alexander, 82.3
ILB Stacy Thomas, 73.8

Rotation lineman relish extended role

Louisville has produced some prodigious talent on the defensive line in recent seasons, and their current crop looks set to continue that tradition. Defensive tackle Drew Bailey is not a marquee name, but he’s a foundation piece for the Cardinals’ 3-4 defense. From just 29 snaps against Kentucky, he managed four stops and two hurries. Only playing time limited further impact. Behind him, Chris Williams also maximised his productivity from limited opportunities. He generated five tops, a hit and a hurry in his 33 reps. Top to bottom, Louisville’s defensive line is amongst the most talented in the nation.

| Analyst

John joined the PFF team in 2008, providing focused analysis on the NFL draft, team-building strategies, and positional value.