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Billy Reed: UK’s Stoops had much better team and it showed; he also took Cunningham out of his game

So many bettors fell in love with the shimmering talents of Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham that the Cardinals were made a three-point favorite over Kentucky.

Wildcat coach Mark Stoops must have gotten a bit angry when he saw that bit of disrespect. He respected Cunningham as much as anybody. Yet he also knew he had the better team.

The much better team, actually.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award twice. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon.

Kentucky 52, Louisville 21.

Until Saturday night, nobody knew Stoops was a magician. But he is. He made Cunningham disappear into the cold air at Commonwealth Stadium, creating a vacuum that UK quarterback Will Levis filled magnificently.

Actually, it was Levis with tremendous backing from his fellow stars in UK’s diverse attack.

Levis rushed 14 times for 113 yards and four touchdowns. He also completed 14 of 18 passes for 149 more yards.

Chris Rodriquez Jr. ran 16 times for 121 yards and another touchdown, and wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson caught nine passes for 97 yards, setting a new school record for receptions

And Cunningham?

Glad you asked. Wherever he was Saturday night, it wasn’t Cardinal Stadium. Oh, sure, an imposter wore his No.3 jersey. But in truth, he was wherever Stoops sent him.

He passed for 145 yards, was ineffective with his passing, and accounted for zero touchdowns.

Knowing he had the better players, Stoops kept pressure on Cunningham every play. The UK defense gave him little time to throw and contained his running game.

It was a virtuoso job by Stoops and it also may have been his lovely parting gift to UK fans, unless he coaches the Cats to a bowl game.

I don’t know if it’s accurate to call Stoops a “hot commodity” on the coaching market, but several historically good programs are giving him a hard look.

Unappreciated by many UK fans, he nevertheless has put the program on sound footing where eight or nine wins always seem possible. You don’t have to delve too deep into UK’s football history to see what a good job he’s done.

Naturally, the speculation about Stoops’ future is accompanied by speculation over who might replace him. If there’s an obvious candidate out there, I don’t know who he is.

As for U of L’s Satterfield, he now knows the kind of speed and athleticism he must recruit if he wants to be the best in the Commonwealth.

It will take him a while to catch up.

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