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Kentucky Football: Year in Review

Re-live the best moments of Kentucky Football’s memorable regular season

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

With all of the awards ceremonies and accolades out of the way, we only have bowl season left in my favorite season of college football ever.

This season saw a Kentucky Wildcats squad go 9-3, 5-3 in conference and play for a shot at going to the SEC championship game.

Josh Allen dominated every defensive player of the year award and the legend of Benny Snell grew to new heights.

This season turned into one of the best Christmas presents ever for Kentucky fans who have longed to see their program rise into the elite tier of college football.

So join, me as I break down the season, give out some imaginary awards, build the hype up towards the Citrus Bowl.

Coming off a 7-5 season with a heartbreaking loss to Florida as the cherry on top of the disappointment sundae, we really did not know what to expect from this Kentucky team coming into the season.

Combine that with arguably the Wildcats’ best offensive lineman, Landon Young, blowing out his knee before the season, and well, expectations were low. A transfer quarterback by the name of Terry Wilson had garnered a lot of hype for his speed and agility, seeming to be Kentucky’s version of a potential Lamar Jackson.

But the big question mark going into the season was not the offense, oh no. It was the defense, something that the Wildcats had struggled with all-season long the previous year.

Well, meet Josh Allen, your projected top-10 pick in the NFL draft.

Allen anchored the defense all season long, and I mean anchored. Kentucky did not give up more than 20 points in a game until the top-10 showdown against the Georgia Bulldogs in Lexington, a feat that I can say that I would probably never see.

Benny Snell made himself a household name after starting the season with four 100 yard games out of five, including two games against Florida and Mississippi State with over 160 yards. From Heisman campaigns, to, Benny and the Cats were certainly on the college football radar.

The year would finish with Josh Allen racking up basically any award that he was nominated for; Bednarik, Nagurski, Lott IMPACT, SEC defensive player of the year, first-team all SEC, you name it, he won it.

Now, let’s get it to the fun stuff: The imaginary awards.

Player of the year: Josh Allen

Mississippi State v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

A no-brainer pick, Josh Allen won the Kentucky Football team games with his tenacious pass rushing, and his ability to not let anyone block him. Seriously, he’s held on every play. Allen will probably go down as not only the best defensive player ever at Kentucky, but could very well be the best player to ever play for the Wildcats. A projected top-5 pick, Allen decided to partake in the Citrus bowl against Penn State, an unselfish way to end his collegiate career.

Offensive player of the year: Benny Snell

Kentucky v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Mr. Snell ya later came into the season with a chip on his shoulder from his ejection from the Music City bowl against Northwestern the previous season. Snell started the season with games of 125, 175, 75, 165, and 99 yards. The Heisman campaign started for Snell and SnellYeah took off across the college football world and the state of Kentucky.

Snell only needs 107 more yards to become the all-time leading rusher for the Wildcats after only playing two full seasons. Snell has solidified himself as the greatest running back the school has ever seen.

Defensive player of the year (Not named Josh Allen): Darius West

South Carolina v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Darius West solidified himself as the best defensive player not named Josh Allen and the bets defensive back on the Wildcats squad. His ability to be a ball hawk, through the air or on the ground, proved to be a major offensive stopper for the Wildcats.

West led the team in interceptions with 3 and had a crucial fumble recovery for a touchdown against Texas A&M that led to overtime against the Aggies. West accepted a bid to the Senior Bowl.

Newcomer of the year: Terry Wilson

Mississippi State v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Despite his flaws and the opinions people may have had about him, Terry Wilson saved this team on numerous occasions. His performance against the Florida Gators was phenomenal as he threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns and added 105 yards and one touchdown on the ground.

Wilson struggled during the middle of the season, but that could be because of the offensive issues that were circling the team after the Texas A&M game. However, Wilson threw at least one touchdown in the last seven games of the regular season, including a three passing TD, one rushing TD performance against Louisville, winning MVP of the Governor’s Cup.

Anyone else excited for junior Terry Wilson?

Best Moment: The streak is over

Kim Klement, USA Today Sports

Where were you when the streak died? After 31 straight, long, grueling, agonizing defeats to the Florida Gators, Kentucky finally beat the streak and they did it in the Swamp. The celebrations across the state, however, might have been more fun to watch and partake in than the game itself. This led to a State Street party in which a car was overturned, the newly-opened KSBar and Grille almost burned to the ground, and my friends and I somehow did not get a noise complaint in our apartment due to excessive partying and screaming after the final whistle.

The joy and jubilation from beating Florida was 31 years of built up frustration from Cats fans and that was all released on the second Saturday in September.

Best Game: Kentucky destroys Mississippi State

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

On this rainy night, everything in the Commonwealth came together for the perfect night to be a UK sports fan. After a week of disrespectful talk about the Wildcats from the Mississippi State team, to the Gameday crew picking against Kentucky for the second straight time, the night was perfect.

Once Mississippi State went up 7-0, Kentucky proceeded to kick the Bulldogs’ ass up and down the field, in a 28-7 rout. Benny Snell went off for 165 rushing yards and all four of Kentucky’s touchdown’s. Once Benny Snell scored his third TD and ‘Benny and the Jets’ played throughout Kroger Field, the crowd went bonkers.

What a great night this was.

Biggest Heartbreak: SEC East hopes vanish

NCAA Football: Georgia at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

By no means was this a heartbreaking loss. Georgia was a second half meltdown away from going back to the College Football Playoff. But I would be lying to say that this loss didn’t suck. A trip to the SEC championship game is very hard to come by for Kentucky Football, in case you didn’t know, and for a week, even if it was just for five measly days, we all believed.

Kentucky fans talked it up, and for the first time in ages, Kentucky Football had a chance to do something special. And then a reality check. Georgia was just far too talented for the Wildcats to handle, despite their best efforts. While a 34-17 loss to a team that took Alabama to the wire is nothing to be sad over, it was a little saddening to not get to see Kentucky play in Atlanta.

Best Offensive Performance: Terry Wilson torches the Cards

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Who doesn’t enjoy a 46 point beatdown in Louisville in football? I know I did.

Terry Wilson was the man of the game in a 56-10 rout over the Louisville Cardinals, and it could very well be this game that launches his career to new heights at Kentucky. Wilson threw Wilson for 261 yards and three touchdowns and added another 79 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Wilson was awarded the Howard Schnellenberger award for the MVP of the UK-UofL game:

Best Defensive Performance: Josh Allen becomes the all-time sack Leader

Regina Rickert

Really you could have picked any game from this season and said it was Josh Allen’s best performance and you would have had an argument. From his three sack game against South Carolina, to stopping Drew Lock and the Missouri offense in the second half. But to become the all-time career sack leader? That’s his best performance of the season.

Allen needed two sacks to become the leader and he got them against Middle Tennessee. Allen finished with 15 tackles and two sacks, putting his stamp in the UK record books.

This has been your Kentucky Football regular season year in review. Now let’s go beat Penn State.