This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
My all-time favorite UK football team is a close call.
In my earlier article in this series, I talked about what a great year 1976 was, and a few memories of the teams of the early to mid-1970's which featured Sonny Collins and Derrick Ramsey. 1976, when Kentucky won the SEC championship and the Peach Bowl was unquestionably one of the greatest years in Kentucky football history, if not the very greatest.
But after careful consideration, I have to say that my most favorite UK Wildcat team was more recent, even though they enjoyed limited success by the lofty standards of 1976's SEC championship and Peach Bowl bid. 1976 was everything we hope a Kentucky team will be these days.
My favorite Kentucky team did not win an SEC championship, nor seriously compete for one. It did not participate in a major bowl, like the Peach Bowl was in 1976. My favorite Kentucky team had only one all-SEC first team selection, and zero all-Americans (1976 had two all-SEC in Art Still and Warren Bryant, and Bryant was a first-team All-American).
My favorite team was not the greatest in Kentucky history, nor the most successful, nor the most talented. Who were they? I'll tell you after the jump.
Here is the short list of that team's accomplishments:
- Defeated the then-#9-ranked Louisville Cardinals in a dramatic, come-from-behind victory on a 57-yard Woodson to Steve Johnson strike, ending a four-year losing streak against the returning Orange Bowl champions and our arch-foes;
- Kentucky reached the top ten at #8 in the AP and Coach's poll and #7 in the Harris poll after starting the season 5-0 for the first time since the probation year of 1977 where the Wildcats went 10-1;
- Kentucky defeated the eventual national champion LSU Tigers while they were ranked #1 in the nation in Lexington, 43-37 in triple-overtime;
- Victory over traditional power Florida St. Seminoles in the Music City Bowl, giving Kentucky it's second bowl victory in a row.
There were many great highlights besides the Woodson-Johnson hookup versus Louisville that year. André Woodson had one of the most gaudy quarterback ratings in UK history, and he and Keenan Burton would become a feared tandem in the SEC. Trevard Lindley would become an elite cover corner, setting him up for second-string all-American honors in 2008. Kentucky would finish 15th in the nation in scoring offense, and who will ever forget the thunderous hit Dicky Lyons Jr. put on LSU's Craig Steltz during a kickoff return in the LSU game, or the 66-yard Lindley fumble recovery for a touchdown in Fayetteville versus the Arkansas Razorbacks?
2007 was one long highlight reel, even in Kentucky's losses, with the exception of the inexplicable game versus the Mississippi St. Bulldogs at Commonwealth Stadium in which Kentucky seemed to have no desire to even be on the field. But the rest of the games? Well, they were always exciting.
The 2007 team was the team that brought me back to full awareness of Kentucky football, and in many ways completely resurrected the Wildcat football team from its near-death experience in the early part of this century. 2007 established Kentucky as an improving football program that once again deserved its place in the Southeastern Conference. Even though that journey is still a long way from complete, 2007 was, in a way, the culmination of head coach Rich Brooks' efforts to rebuild the Wildcats from the ruins of the Mumme probation.
2007 is my favorite Wildcat team. What's yours?