2019 is here, and with it was the Kentucky Wildcats’ bowl game.
This game was a huge opportunity for Mark Stoops and this program, and they took full advantage of that opportunity and came away with a big time win over Penn State.
Throughout the season, Kentucky has relied heavily on its defense to shut down opponents and lead them to victory.
Through the first half, that was the case yet again.
The Cats’ defense stopped a fake punt attempt by Penn State which led to a FG giving Kentucky the early 3-0 lead.
A three and out, a missed FG, and another three and out led to a punt return TD by Lynn Bowden, extending the Kentucky lead to 10-0.
Unfortunately, Penn State would answer with a five-play TD drive to get on the scoreboard and make it a three-point game again at 10-7.
The first half offense for the Cats was atrocious to say the least, as they were held to just 87 yards of offense and were 0/7 on third down. Luckily, the defense stepped up and forced Penn State to be 0/8 on third down.
Penn State had a shot to tie it at the end of the half, but what was already a big half for Josh Allen, who had two sacks, got even bigger, as he blocked the FG attempt to send the Cats into halftime with a 10-7 lead.
After the break, Kentucky’s offense came out much improved as they went 65 yards in 6 plays capped off with a Benny Snell TD to make it 17-7.
The Cats would force a punt and make it 20-7 on a FG before Lonnie Johnson comes up with a huge interception setting up a 54 yards completion to Lynn Bowden.
12 yards out, and none other than Benny Snell took the handoff and bursts through the Penn State defense for a touchdown, which gave the Cats a 27-7 lead. In the process, Snell also break the all-time rushing record previously held by Sonny Collins.
It would get scary for Cats fans, as Penn State would storm back in the 4th quarter to cut the lead to 27-24.
But in the closing minutes, Kentucky put the ball in the hands of Benny Snell, and he did what he has done for the last three years and iced the game for the Cats, as they get the victory in the Citrus Bowl, 27-24.
Thoughts on the game
What a player Josh Allen is
Coming into the bowl game, Josh Allen had the most to lose out of anyone on this team. The top five projected draft pick was one of the few players in the country projected that high to play in their bowl game, and he left it all on the field.
He finished with three sacks to bring his career total to 31.5, and he made plays throughout the entire game. He even was in on a FG and came up with a block.
I have nothing but a ton of respect for Josh Allen and can’t wait to watch him do what he does best on Sundays. He truly cared about this team and this program, and I know we are all extremely grateful and blessed that we had the privilege to watch him.
Lynn Bowden is a star
All season Bowden has been our top WR and has made big play after big play. In this one, he continued to do just that.
He finished with 5 receptions for 84 yards including a 54-yard screen pass to set up the 12-yard TD. He also had a punt return for a TD for his second punt return TD of the season (the other was at Missouri).
We all get to see Lynn Bowden in a Kentucky uniform again next season, but I strongly suggest everyone enjoy each minute of it because he will be playing on Sundays as well.
Best season of my lifetime
Kentucky football hasn’t had a ton of success since I came into this earth, but this season made up for all of that.
Ending the Florida streak was something that I never thought would happen and this team went out and did it on the road. Not only that but they had a one game matchup to go to the SEC Championship game, and they put a whooping on rival Louisville.
Then they come out against Penn State and come away with a huge victory to get them to 10 wins on the season, the first 10-win season since 1977 and the first one in my life.
What an incredible team, and what an incredible season!
What a beast Benny Snell is. He came in his freshman year, took off and never looked back. Snell came into this one needing 107 yards to break the record.
So, what did he do?
He carried the ball 26 times for 144 yards and two TDs to set a record that will stand for a very long time.
Benny in my opinion, is the best running back that this school has every had and will do big things in his NFL career. He, like Josh Allen, didn’t have to play today but he wanted to go to war one more time with his brothers and he sure did shine.
I tip my hat to you Benny Snell and look forward to seeing you on Sundays as well.
Thank you, seniors!
It is hard to put into words what this senior class has done for this program. The 2015 signing class has done amazing things including three straight bowl game appearances and now a bowl game victory.
I know I have already talked about Josh Allen, but I also need to thank all the other seniors for everything they have done for this team, program, and state.
So, thank you Dorian Baker, Lonnie Johnson, Mike Edwards, Derrick Baity, Kengera Daniel, Chris Westry, Darius West, David Bouvier, Jordan Jones, Tristan Yeomans, George Asafo-Adjei, Bunchy Stallings, C.J. Conrad, Miles Butler, Tymere Dubose, and Adrian Middleton.
What an amazing ride and I wish you nothing but the best in your futures.
Good night, #BBN. We love you.#WeAreUK pic.twitter.com/qqZa1jdrDb— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) January 2, 2019
Now, here are the postgame notes and milestones, courtesy of UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Information
- Kentucky ends the season 10-3, with a three-game winning streak. Penn State is 9-4.
- The Kentucky/Penn State series is tied 3-3, including 1-1 in bowl games.
- Next for the Wildcats: spring semester begins Wed. Jan. 9.
What the Win Means for Kentucky
- Kentucky’s 10-3 record is the team’s best season in 41 years, since the 1977 team went 10-1.
- This is just the third time in school history that UK has won at least 10 games, also 1950 (11) and 1977 (10).
- Kentucky swept the non-conference schedule, including the bowl game, for the first time since the 2008 season.
- This is the first time since 1976 that UK had two winning streaks of at least three games in the same season.UK had two streaks of four wins in 1976. UK had streaks of five and three wins this season.
- However, if you only count “on the field” victories (UK lost a game that eventually became a forfeit win during the first four-game win streak in ’76), you have to go back to the 1949 season to find a Wildcat campaign with two three-game win streaks.
- UK has tied or improved its record every season since Mark Stoops became head coach in 2013.UK won two games in 2012, the season before Stoops arrived, followed by two wins in 2013, five in 2014 and ’15, seven in 2016 and ’17 and 10 in 2018.
- UK is the only team in the nation to tie or improve its win-loss record in each of the last six seasons, including this year.
- This was the final collegiate game for a 16-man senior class. Today marked the seniors’ 29th win over the last four seasons, the second-most of any senior class since freshmen became eligible in 1972. Only the 2009 class, which won 30 games, has more.It’s also the final collegiate game for junior running back Benny Snell, who has announced his intention to enter the 2019 National Football League draft.
- Kentucky has five wins this season over teams that have won at least eight games – Florida, Mississippi State, Missouri, Middle Tennessee and Penn State. UK also has wins over two more teams that played in bowl games, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
- Kentucky went 3-1 this season vs. teams that were ranked at the time of the game, with wins over Florida, Mississippi State and Penn State. The last time UK won three games vs. ranked opponents in one season was 1977.
- Since 2016, Kentucky has an 11-5 record in close games – i.e., games decided by one possession (eight points or less). UK was 3-1 in such games this season.
- With the win, Kentucky is assured of a spot in the final national rankings, the first time that will be achieved since the 1984 team was ranked 19th in the final Associated Press and United Press International polls.
- Making its 18th bowl appearance, Kentucky is now 9-9 in bowl games.
- After four straight bowl losses, UK claimed its first postseason victory since Jan. 2, 2009, a 25-19 triumph over East Carolina in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
- This was Kentucky’s first appearance in the Citrus Bowl.Today’s attendance of 59,167 was the largest Citrus Bowl attendance with a non-Florida team since Jan. 1, 2013.
- UK had 42 rushing attempts today, tying the UK bowl record of 42 rushes in the 2009 Music City Bowl.
- Benny Snell’s 144 rushing yards is the second-most in UK bowl history, only trailing Rafael Little’s 152 rushing yards in the 2007 Music City Bowl.
- After struggling in the first half, the Kentucky offense caught fire in the second half. UK scored a touchdown, field goal and touchdown on its first three possessions.
- Also, taking over with 4:12 remaining in the game and clinging to the 27-24 lead, UK ground out two first downs, liquidating all three Penn State timeouts and all but one second off the clock.
- Kentucky won the rushing battle today, 176 yards to 164. UK went 10-0 this season when having more rushing yards than the opponent, 0-3 when the opponent won the rushing yardage.
- Kentucky controlled the ball for 30:42 today. The Wildcats went 8-0 this season when winning the time of possession.
- UK special teams were, indeed, special today.Lynn Bowden had a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown.
- Miles Butler made both field goal attempts and all three extra points.
- Max Duffy punted for a 44.8-yard average, with a net of 44.7 yards. Duffy’s career-long 67-yard boot set the stage for Bowden’s TD return.
- Meanwhile, Penn State made only one of three field goals, including one blocked by Josh Allen.
- Kentucky had four wins this season over teams that have won at least eight games – Florida, Mississippi State, Missouri and Middle Tennessee. UK also has wins over two more teams that played in bowl games, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
- UK allowed 24 points or less vs. every opponent this season except Georgia.
- This is the first time since 1986 that UK has allowed 34 points or less in every game of the season.
- Josh Allen’s blocked field goal in the second quarter was Kentucky’s second blocked kick of the season. Both provided margins of victory, as Darius West blocked a field goal in the 15-14 win at Missouri.
- UK went past the 2,000-yard mark in passing yardage today. UK has run for 2,000 and passed for 2,000 in three consecutive seasons, the first time that has been accomplished.
- UK has allowed 16.8 points per game this season, the team’s best defensive mark since 1979 (13.0 points per game).
- UK’s game captains were RB Benny Snell, TE C.J. Conrad, LB Josh Allen and S Mike Edwards.
- Sophomore quarterback Terry Wilson completed 9 of 15 passes for 121 yards. Adding his 29 net rushing yards, he accounted for 150 yards total offense.He became the first Wildcat player with at least 1,500 passing yards and 500 net rushing yards in the same season.
- He completed at least 60 percent of his passes in 11 of 13 games this season.
- Junior running back Benny Snell Jr. was voted Most Valuable Player of the game. He rushed 26 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns.Snell finished his career with 3,873 rushing yards, breaking the UK career rushing record of 3,835 yards by Sonny Collins from 1972-75.
- His 3,873 rushing yards rank 12th in SEC history.He is fifth in SEC history in rushing yardage before a senior season.
- This was his seventh 100-yard game of the season and 19th of his career, breaking the UK career record held by Sonny Collins.
- Snell’s two touchdowns today give him 48 as a Wildcat, extending his school record for total touchdowns and rushing touchdowns in a career.
- He is third in SEC history in rushing touchdowns.
- He trails only Herschel Walker (49 rushing TDs) for the most rushing TDs prior to his senior season in SEC history.
- Snell finished the season with 1,449 rushing yards, second only behind Moe Williams’ 1,600 yards in 1995 in UK history in a single season.
- Senior tight end C.J. Conrad caught one pass for 21 yards.Became the 28th player in school history with 1,000 receiving yards and finished his career with 1,015.
- Sophomore wide receiver Lynn Bowden caught five passes for 84 yards. He also had a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter.It was his second punt return TD of the season, also a 67-yarder at Missouri.
- It is Kentucky’s first punt return for a touchdown in a bowl game in school history.
- It is the first punt return for a TD in the Citrus Bowl since 1992.
- He had 67 receptions this season, most for a Wildcat since Randall Cobb had 84 in 2010.
- His 67 catches broke the school record for most by a sophomore in school history. Derek Abney had 66 catches as a soph in 2001.
- Senior linebacker Josh Allen finished his career with a flourish. His four tackles featured three quarterback sacks for -16 yards. He also blocked a field goal and added a quarterback hurry.Allen’s blocked field goal is the first blocked kick of his career. It is UK’s second of the season, as Darius West blocked a field goal in the win at Missouri.
- He extended his school records for most sacks in a season (17) and career (31.5).
- 13 of Allen’s 17 sacks this season were in the second half, four in the third quarter and nine in the fourth quarter.
- Senior safety Darius West led the Wildcats with 10 tackles.
- Junior linebacker Kash Daniel was next with eight stops, including a seven-yard quarterback sack and an additional one-yard tackle for loss.
- Senior safety Mike Edwards had five tackles today and finished his career with 318 tackles, second in UK history among defensive backs.
- Freshman linebacker DeAndre Square made his first collegiate start today and tied his career-high of six tackles, including a six-yard quarterback sack.
- Senior cornerback Lonnie Johnson intercepted a pass in the third quarter, the first pickoff of his career for the junior-college transfer. He also had a pass breakup and four tackles.
- Sophomore punter Max Duffy had his season long with a 67-yarder in the first quarter, pinning Penn State on the five-yard line. It helped set up Bowden’s punt return TD, as the UK defense posted a three-and-out, and Bowden made the scoring runback.Duffy also had his second-longest punt of the season, a 65-yarder at the end of the quarter. He finished with a 44.8-yard average
- Senior kicker Miles Butler made both of his field goal attempts, both from 28 yards. He also made all three of his extra points. Butler closed his senior season in style, making his last four field goal attempts.