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Kentucky Football: A History of UK and the Music City Bowl

Kentucky and the Music City Bowl are a perfect match.

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl - Kentucky v Florida State Photo by: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Kentucky is headed back to the Music City Bowl once again, making it the first time the Cats have taken a trip to Nashville for postseason play since 2009.

And for the first time in my lifetime, Kentucky is taking on Northwestern in a battle of who gets to keep the ‘Wildcats’ name.

As Selection Sunday for college football ran through all the bowl matchups and playoff teams, what we all really care about is that UK finally get to go back to Nashville and party for the Music City Bowl and watch the Cats play, well, the Cats.

But getting lost in the shuffle is the fact that Kentucky, Kentucky fans, and Nashville are a perfect match for each other, and have a great history.

Seriously, I’m pretty sure there’s more Kentucky fans in, and around, Nashville than there are Vanderbilt fans. For the fourth time in program history, Kentucky is headed to the Music City bowl, where the Cats have had success in the past.

The annual SEC vs ACC matchup feels like it almost always featured Kentucky and (insert ACC team here.) The history between Kentucky and the Gaylord Hotels/Franklin American Mortgage Music City bowl is exciting and memorable, so let me take you on a trip back down memory lane.

1999 vs Syracuse, Loss 20-13

Kentucky had the luxury of taking on Syracuse in their first appearance to the Music City Bowl in Nashville, in Hal Mumme’s third season as head coach. Played at Adelphia Coliseum, it was a game that featured tons of yards on offense, with both teams combining for 769 yards, but the score didn’t really indicate an offensive shootout, as Syracuse won by only a score of 20-13.

Kentucky scored a touchdown on their opening drive and that was pretty much the excitement for the Cats, as they only put up two more field goals in the loss. Syracuse running back James Mungro was given MVP honors as he rushed for 162 yards on only 12(!) carries and two touchdowns.

2006 vs Clemson, Win 28-20

It was 11 years ago, but Kentucky has a win over Clemson in football. Let that sink in for a moment. Kentucky’s next trip to the Music City would come seven years later, led by Rich Brooks who had finally gotten Kentucky back into a bowl game, and a really good one at that. Kentucky came out and dominated a good Clemson team, who had finished the regular season at 8-4 and had reached No. 10 in the polls at one point during the season.

Jumping out to as big a lead as 28-6, Andre Woodson was controlling the game and the Clemson defense as he picked the Tigers apart for 299 passing yards and three touchdowns, and was named MVP as Kentucky got their first bowl win since 1984.

Fun fact about this game: Kentucky scored exactly one touchdown in all four quarters.

2007 vs Florida State, Win 35-28

Now I like Nashville and the Music City Bowl. I do. But playing in this bowl game this season was kind of a letdown after the insanely hot start that Kentucky had, had. Florida State was 7-5 and had been ranked as high as 19th in the polls throughout the season.

Kentucky was 7-5 and had been ranked eight weeks out of the season and had achieved a ranking of eighth in the country, Twice. Our best chance to make a then BCS bowl and we blew it.

Over 68,000 fans were in attendance for this one and just like the previous year, Kentucky dominated the game, though the scoreboard didn’t show it. The Cats were up 28-14 by the end of the third quarter and Andre Woodson was putting on a master class of a performance, throwing for over 300 yards and four touchdowns.

Rafael Little also blasted the Seminoles for 152 yards on the ground and one touchdown. This was the first time since 1952 that Kentucky had won back-to-back bowl games. Fun Fact about this game: Kentucky handed Bobby Bowden his first loss ever in a December bowl game.

2009 vs Clemson, Loss 21-13

Kentucky’s third appearance in four years in Nashville saw a rematch from a game three years prior. Unfortunately, Clemson ended the Cats’ streak of three straight bowl victories in what was a very boring, very cold game.

Clemson were the ACC runner-ups this season, falling to Georgia Tech in the title game. It was a close game throughout but it was one of the games where you didn’t really feel Kentucky would pull it out.

A running back by the name of C.J Spiller sliced and diced the Kentucky defense as he put up 172 all-purpose yards and scored his 51st touchdown of his college career during the game. Kentucky could not seem to score on Clemson at all, either, as they only scored one touchdown thanks to a Morgan Newton to Chris Matthews pass.

The Cats only mustered 277 yards of offense in what was, like I said, a very boring game. Thank god I was down in Florida for this one. (Not) fun fact about this game: This was the last game Rich Brooks would ever coach.

With the bowl game announced, it will be a fun time down in Nashville for the team and the fans. Nashville is Lexington’s south campus and the Cats always play well there in any sort of post-season play.

With the Kentucky-Louisville basketball game falling on the same day, this should be one day for the Kentucky fans’ books. See you December 29th. Party responsibly.