LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Kentucky seemingly had everything in place to beat in-state rival Louisville and return to a bowl game for the first time in four years.
Except in the fourth quarter as the Wildcats blew two late leads in a 44-40 loss to the No. 24 Cardinals on Saturday that kept them out of the postseason.
As if losing to a fierce opponent wasn't hard enough to swallow.
"Growing up a Kentucky fan, this is the game you dream about playing. We had an opportunity and I didn't get it done today," said quarterback Patrick Towles, whose attempt to lead the Wildcats (5-7) back on their final drive ended with him being intercepted by Cardinals safety Gerod Holliman in the final minute.
Kentucky jumped to a 13-0 lead and forced four turnovers, two of which led to defensive touchdowns. The Wildcats also overcame a 28-20 deficit with 13 unanswered points for a five-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
But they allowed the Cardinals' third-string quarterback, Lexington native Kyle Bolin, to throw for 381 yards and three touchdowns. All three scores went to star wideout DeVante Parker, who had 180 yards on six catches including a 26-yarder to set up Brandon Radcliff's game-winning 4-yard touchdown.
"There are several plays that really are going to haunt us," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "That's what happens — they made the plays and we came up short. We had our opportunities. Even down the stretch — good and bad throughout the whole game, right down to the bitter end there — we had our opportunities to change the game."
Kentucky closed the season with its sixth straight loss and lost the Governor's Cup for the fourth time in a row to Louisville.
But it was definitely interesting in a game between rivals that got physical before kickoff. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino grabbed the jacket of Wildcats assistant Daniel Berezowitz during one pregame scuffle.
"Anytime you're in a great atmosphere, you need an edge," Kentucky defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree said. "We came out before the game and got an edge. It was great; we just couldn't hold up."
Kentucky freshman tailback Stanley "Boom" Williams rushed for 126 yards and two TDs, barging through several tackles for a 14-yard go-ahead score and 40-37 lead with 5:31 left.
Kentucky got defensive TDs on Fred Tiller's 40-yard interception return and Mike Douglas' 30-yard fumble return along with four Austin MacGinnis field goals.
Bolin entered in the second quarter in relief of freshman Reggie Bonnafon, who injured his left knee and did not return. Louisville outgained Kentucky 472-327.
Holliman's 14th interception tied an NCAA single-season record. His 65-yard return provided the exclamation point to a wild game that seemed destined to be decided on the final possession.
"This is one of the craziest games I've ever been a part of," Williams said. "It's a great rivalry."