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J.J. Weaver Earns 14th Annual Howard Schnellenberger MVP Award

Award Given to MVP on Winning Team in Annual UofL vs UK Kentucky Governor’s Cup

Louisville, Ky. – Nov. 25, 2023 – Kentucky senior linebacker J.J. Weaver earned the 2023 Howard Schnellenberger MVP Award by recovering two fumbles in the second half as the Wildcats battled back from a 10-point deficit for a 38-31 road win over Louisville at L&N Stadium.

Weaver was selected by a vote of the working media covering the game as the MVP of the annual Governor’s Cup matchup between UK and UofL.

Weaver recovered fumbles on a pair of Louisville possessions in the second half that helped change the momentum of the game. Late in the third quarter, he stripped the ball from a Cardinal running back and made the recovery near midfield, leading to a UK field goal that tied the game at 24.  Early in the fourth quarter, Weaver recovered a fumble by UofL quarterback Jack Plummer on the Cardinal 20-yard line, and Kentucky scored two plays later for its first lead of the game.

Weaver also recorded eight solo tackles, a tackle for a loss and a fourth-quarter sack when the Wildcats outscored Louisville 17-7 to seal the win. A Louisville native who played for Moore Traditional High School, Weaver finished his UK career undefeated against Louisville.

Kentucky finishes the regular season 7-5; the Cardinals drop to 10-2.

The Howard Schnellenberger MVP Award presented annually to the most valuable player on the winning team in the University of Louisville – University of Kentucky football game, was created in 2010 by the Louisville Sports Commission. The Award received the blessing from both athletic departments and honors the late Howard Schnellenberger, who passed away in March 2021. He is the only person inducted into both the UK and UofL athletic halls of fame.

A Louisville native, Schnellenberger was recruited to UK by the legendary Bear Bryant, earned varsity letters in 1952-53-54-55 and was an All-American tight end for the Wildcats under Blanton Collier as a senior. Schnellenberger was an assistant coach at UK under Collier in 1959 and 1960. As the head coach at UofL for 10 years (1985-1994), Schnellenberger is credited with rejuvenating the football program and boosting support for a new, on-campus stadium. He led the Cardinals to victories in the Liberty and Fiesta Bowls.

In 2011, Schnellenberger retired as head coach and director of football operations at Florida Atlantic University, having built the Division I program from scratch starting in 1998. From the 1960s through the 1980s, he was integral to four college national championships and two Super Bowl victories. His upstart Miami Hurricanes won the 1983 title and he was offensive coordinator under Bryant at Alabama for titles in 1961, 1964 and 1965. At Miami, Louisville and FAU, Schnellenberger-coached teams are a remarkable 6-0 in bowl games. He was the offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins under Don Shula, including the 17-0 season in 1972, and assistant under George Allen with the LA Rams.

Famed for his offensive football genius, Schnellenberger influenced a memorable list of quarterbacks, including Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler, Roman Gabriel, Bob Griese, Earl Morrall, Bert Jones, Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde, Mark Richt, Browning Nagel, Jay Gruden, Jeff Brohm, and Rusty Smith.

Year-by-Year Howard Schnellenberger Award Winners

2022 Schnellenberger Award Winner

UK senior placekicker Matt Ruffalo kicked two extra points and four field goals, including what proved to be the game-winner in UK’s 26-13 win over Louisville at Kroger Field in Lexington. A former walk-on playing in his sixth season at UK, Ruffalo connected on field goals of 43 and 29 yards in the second quarter as UK built a 13-7 halftime lead. His 35-yard field goal in the middle of the third quarter extended UK’s lead to 16-7 and proved to be the game-winning score. He added a 40-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that effectively put the game out of reach.

2021 Schnellenberger Award Winner

UK junior quarterback Will Levis rushed for 113 yards and four touchdowns as the Wildcats overpowered Louisville 52-21 at Cardinal Stadium. Levis scored on runs of 29, seven and five yards in the first half as UK built a 24-7 lead, then added a one-yard scoring run to open the third quarter. His four rushing touchdowns tied a single-game, school record. Levis also completed 14 of 18 passes for 149 yards and finished the game with 262 total yards and no turnovers.

2020 Schnellenberger Award was paused due to COVID-19 canceling the Governor’s Cup.

2019 Schnellenberger Award Winner.

UK junior quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr., who moved from wide receiver to signal caller in mid-season, rushed for 293 yards and four touchdowns leading the Wildcats in a 45-13 win over the UofL at Commonwealth Stadium. Bowden’s six-yard touchdown run in the second quarter put UK ahead for good with a score of 14-13, then he added scoring runs of 60 and 46 yards in the third quarter when the Wildcats jumped out to a 31-13 lead. Bowden’s 32-yard, fourth quarter touchdown scamper closed out the scoring.

2018 Schnellenberger Award Winner.

UK junior quarterback Terry Wilson led the Wildcats in a 56-10 blowout win over UofL at Cardinal Stadium by connecting on 17 of 23 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. He also carried the ball 10 times for 79 yards and a two-yard touchdown. Wilson led the Wildcats on scoring drives of 75 and 67 yards that ended with scoring strikes of 28 and 13 yards to Lynn Bowden. Wilson also threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Josh Ali.

2017 Schnellenberger Award Winner.

UofL junior quarterback Lamar Jackson earned his second Schnellenberger Award (he also won in 2015) by amassing 372 yards in total offense and leading the Cardinals to a 44-17 blowout win over rival UK. Jackson completed 15 of 21 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns and ran 18 times for 156 yards. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner accounted for 22 total first downs on the ground and in the air, and averaged 8.7 yards-per-carry and 10.9 yards-per-pass attempt. This was Jackson’s 12th consecutive game with more than 300 yards in total offense and his eighth consecutive game with more than 100 yards rushing, both school records.

2016 Schnellenberger Award Winner.

UK junior quarterback Stephen Johnson earned the Award after leading the visiting Wildcats to a wild, 41-38 upset win. Johnson completed 16 of 27 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 83 yards on eight carries in leading UK to its seventh win of the season. Unflustered and precise in front of a raucous crowd, Johnson engineered a masterful, seven-play, 60-yard drive that consumed 1:33 and led to UK’s winning 47-yard field goal with 00:12 remaining in the game. On the game-winning drive, he was 2-2 passing for 34 yards and scrambled 15 yards for a first down to put the Wildcats in field goal range.

2015 Schnellenberger Award Winner.

UofL freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson earned the Award by rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for one as he led the Cardinals to a 38-24 come-from-behind win over Kentucky in Commonwealth Stadium. With the Cardinals down 21-0, Jackson entered the game in mid first quarter to engineer the dramatic comeback by rushing for 186 yards and throwing for 130. Down 24-7 at intermission, UofL scored 31 straight points in the second half.

2014 Schnellenberger Award Winner.

UofL junior wide receiver Devante Parker earned the Award with six catches for 180 yards and three touchdowns in a wild back and forth game in Cardinal Stadium that Louisville won 38-34. Parker, a Louisville native out of Ballard High School, notched his seventh 100-yard receiving game and tied the UofL career touchdown receiving record with 33. The game featured nearly 800 yards in combined total offense and seven lead changes.

2013 Schnellenberger Award Winner.

Teddy Bridgewater captured his second consecutive MVP Award when he threw to seven different receivers in UofL’s 27-13 win over UK at Commonwealth Stadium. For the day, Bridgewater was 16-28 passing for 250 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. He lofted a second quarter touchdown pass to wide receiver Devante Parker deep in the corner of the end zone for the go-ahead score.

2012 Schnellenberger Award Winner.

Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater earned the Award with a sterling performance in UofL’s 32-14 win over UK at Cardinal Stadium. He completed 19-21 passes for 232 yards and no interceptions and set a UofL single-game record with a 90.5 percent completion rate. He led UofL on a 15-play 99-yard scoring drive on the Cardinals’ first possession and a six-play 85-yard scoring drive on their second possession for a lead they would never relinquish.

2011 Schnellenberger Award Winner.

A senior linebacker and Louisville native, Dexter Heyman earned the Award as the Cardinals defeated the Wildcats 24-17 at Commonwealth Stadium. Heyman made 12 tackles, two for a loss, and a forced fumble recovered by a teammate, leading the Cardinal defense that limited the Wildcats to 35 yards rushing in 32 carries.

2010 Schnellenberger Award Winner.

UK senior running back Derrick Locke was named the inaugural recipient of the Award for his performance in the Wildcats’ 23-16 win over UofL at Cardinal Stadium. Locke registered 150 all-purpose yards, including 104 rushing yards on 23 carries. He scored two first quarter touchdowns for a lead UK would never relinquish.