LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Louisville players enthusiastically hoisted the Governor's Cup in the steady drizzle, an understandable reaction considering the scenario seemed unlikely early on as rival Kentucky turned their error-prone start into a big lead.
The Cardinals got out of their own way at halftime and rallied for their most satisfying series victory because mobile quarterback Lamar Jackson found few Wildcats in his path.
Said Jackson, "there was never a doubt."
Jackson accounted for 316 yards and three touchdowns, Brandon Radcliff ran for two TDs and Louisville erased a 24-7 halftime deficit with 31 unanswered points for a 38-24 victory Saturday and fifth straight win over its in-state rival.
"Obviously we didn't get off to the best start," Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino said. "We rallied at halftime. They did a good job of keeping their poise and we came out and competed extremely hard in the second half and found a way to come back and win the game."
This rivalry win was especially sweet for the Cardinals (7-5), who trailed 21-0 after one quarter behind two interceptions leading to 14 points. Jackson replaced Kyle Bolin at quarterback and brought them back with his arm and feet, and Kentucky couldn't stop either.
Jackson finished with 186 yards rushing and TDs of 16 and 13 yards on 17 carries. He also threw for 130 yards, including a 35-yard TD to James Quick.
"I kept the ball in our hands, kept moving the chains," said Jackson, whose fourth 100-yard rushing game broke his own single-game school record set earlier this season. "I used short-yardage throws, I never tried to make a big play fast. I just kept taking my time."
Jackson finished the regular season with 2,347 yards of offense to break Teddy Bridgewater's previous mark of 2,195 in 2011. His two rushing TDs helped set another school season mark with nine, breaking Benny Russell's old record.
Louisville gained 489 yards, including 325 in the second half, in tying the series at 14 wins.
The Cardinals' defense meanwhile clamped down to hold Kentucky (5-7) to three points and 143 yards over the final three quarters, 291 overall in denying the Wildcats' postseason quest for a second consecutive season.
"We're not very pleased with the way we finished again," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "I know the fans are not happy. And I'm not happy. It's disappointing. It's tough."
Like last year's finale that Louisville won 44-40, this contest was just as wild.
The Wildcats seemed headed toward ending their five-year postseason drought after 10 1/2 minutes when senior linebacker Josh Forrest returned an interception 81 yards for a TD and a 21-0 lead. A.J. Stamps preceded that huge play by picking off Bolin to set up Boom Williams' 6-yard run two plays later, which came after quarterback Drew Barker's 1-yard TD run got the Wildcats started on their opening drive.
Louisville settled down and took over from there, with Jackson running and throwing his way past a Kentucky defense that had no answer for him or Radcliff.
Radcliff ran for TDs of 6 and 4 yards, the last putting Louisville ahead 31-24 with 10:17 remaining. He finished with 62 yards on 14 carries.
Quick scored the game-tying touchdown late in the third quarter and nearly had another in the fourth before a vicious hit by Derrick Baity in the end zone knocked the ball loose and laid him out on the turf for a few nervous minutes.
The receiver was soon jumping in the stands to celebrate with Cardinals fans who had witnessed the impossible, not far from teammates gathered at midfield to lift the 110-pound, 33-inch-tall trophy for the fifth year in a row.
Barker was 6 of 22 passing for 128 yards. Williams had 37 yards rushing on seven carries before leaving in the second quarter after re-injuring his right elbow.