Kentucky Wildcats football has never been better than it is right now. Mark Stoops has forever changed the trajectory of the program and has literally raised the UK football program from the grave.
It wasn’t always so sweet, but we’re here now and enjoying every minute of it.
So, what better way to celebrate the past decade of UK football, and seven years of Coach Stoops, than with the best moments from the past 10 years? I know, you may be thinking that there can’t possibly be 10 good moments, can there?
Oh yes, there is.
Let’s get into it. First, some honorable mentions.
Stephen Johnson beats Tennessee
Josh Allen’s Story
Road losing streak is broken
10. Hartline to Cobb
The earliest entry of the decade happened just a little over 10 years ago, when Kentucky took down the No. 10 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks in Lexington.
With a little over one minute to play, on fourth down and the game on the line Mike Hartline delivered a dime to a wide open Randall Cobb in the end-zone, all but sealing UK’s upset over the Head Ball Coach.
9. Benny Snell Football
Who would have guessed that a three-star recruit from Westerville, Ohio would go down as the greatest running back in UK football history?
Benny Snell arrived in the 2016 season, and immediately made an impact. Paired with Boom Williams, Snell and Boom provided a ‘thunder and lighting’ combo that not many SEC defenses could contain.
Snell would go on to be a 1,000 yard rusher in his first season and every season after that. Snell would eventually break the school record for rushing yards with 3,873 and added 48 touchdowns. Had he stayed for his senior season, he almost certainly would have broken the SEC rushing touchdown record.
That’s just Benny Snell football.
8. Austin MacGinnis for the Win
There were rumors that Mark Stoops’ job could be on the line had he not beaten a dreadful Mississippi State team in October of 2016. In his fourth season, Stoops had yet to get Kentucky back to a bowl game and Kentucky was sitting at 3-3 on the season.
In steps Austin MacGinnis to make the biggest kick of his life. a 50 yard bomb as time expires to beat the Bulldogs, and potentially, saved Kentucky from falling back into the fire from which Stoops pulled them out of.
7. Lynn Bowden Saves the Season
Kentucky lost their starting quarterback, Terry Wilson, in the second game of the season. They lost backup Sawyer Smith due to a shoulder and wrist injury. They also had lost their third stringer Nik Scalzo in camp to a torn ACL.
That left Stoops with virtually no QB options. Enter: Lynn Bowden.
The WR turned QB stepped into the role of quarterback as an emergency option for the Wildcats and Bowden, for lack of a better term, saved the season for the Wildcats.
Bowden has thrown for 330 yards, has 348 receiving yards, and an astounding 1,235 rushing yards this season. That was good enough to win him the Paul Hornung award for the nation’s most versatile player. Bowden led Kentucky to a 5-2 record with him at quarterback.
Lynn Bowden capped off his season with a 233 yard rushing, three total touchdown performance in the Belk Bowl win over Virginia Tech (which I will get to in a moment.)
6. The Mizzou Miracle
Kentucky was down 14-3 with a little over five minutes remaining in Missouri. They ended up winning 15-14 and playing for the SEC East title the next week.
Spear-headed by a Lynn Bowden punt return for a touchdown to give the UK sideline some life, Terry Wilson led a game-winning drive with less than a minute on the clock. Then, hit CJ Conrad in the corner of the end-zone on an untimed down due to an Ahmad Wagner pass interference.
The UK defense forced 13 straight 3-and-outs against the Mizzou offense and Drew Lock, keeping Kentucky in the game.
5. Belk Bowl Thriller
A chippy game between Kentucky and Virginia Tech saw the game decided on Kentucky’s last play from scrimmage.
Lynn Bowden did it all in the 2019 season, taking over for injured quarterback’s Terry Wilson and Sawyer Smith mid-way through the season. Bowden was named the Paul Hornung award winner for being the most versatile player in the nation, and Bowden had already decided to enter the NFL Draft, so the 2019 Belk Bowl was his last in a UK uniform.
Bowden made it count as he rushed for 233 yards, two touchdowns, and threw for an extra 73 yards and one game-winning touchdown on a beautiful post-route to Josh Ali in the end-zone.
This game might very well have been the most exciting game of bowl season, and has Kentucky on track to a glorious future.
Come see about it.
4. Governor’s Cup Victory over Lamar Jackson
Kentucky walked into Cardinal Stadium in Louisville of 2016 as 28-point underdogs facing the eventual Heisman winner, Lamar Jackson. They would leave as Governor’s Cup champions.
Stephen Johnson fired a bomb to Garrett Johnson on UK’s first play from scrimmage and from there, it would be a shoot-out as 6-5 Kentucky and No. 11 Louisville would trade blows.
All this leading up to Lamar Jackson fumbling inside the ten-yard line and Kentucky recovering. Stephen Johnson drives the Cats down field, and Austin MacGinnis gets the call again. And the rest is history.
3. Citrus Bowl Champs
The 2018 Campaign was a thrill-ride from beginning to end. But to cap off the amazing season, Kentucky had to take care of Penn State to prove a point. And they did.
Kentucky was in their highest profile bowl game in school history and was not going to lie down to anyone.
Kentucky jumped out a 27-7 lead on the Nittany Lions, and despite a furious rally by James Franklin’s team, the Wildcats held on for a Citrus Bowl victory and their first 10-win season in over 40 years.
2. The Streak is Over
Kentucky had not beaten the Florida Gators in 31 years. 31 years, 31 straight losses, 31 (mostly) miserable football seasons.
In the second game of the 2018 season, Kentucky walked into the swamp against No. 25 Florida and broke the streak. And they did it with relative ease.
Terry Wilson threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns and ran for an extra 105 yards and one touchdown. Benny Snell also put up 175 yards rushing while the defense held the Gators in check.
What a wonderful night.
1. November 27th, 2012
Why this date? On November 27th, 2012, Kentucky officially hired Mark Stoops as their new head football coach. On December 2nd, 2012, Stoops was officially introduced as head coach.
And who would have thought that in seven years time, Kentucky would have already had a Citrus Bowl victory, a 10-win season, broken the Florida streak, owned Louisville, brought in the best recruiting class in the school’s history, and produced two of the best players in school history?
If you had your doubts about Stoops, he should have answered them all by now.
Do you agree with the list? Let me know what you think.