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Mark Stoops and Mitch Barnhart release statements on UK’s Gator Bowl berth

“This has been a challenging year, and to complete the season in the Gator Bowl is an incredible opportunity.” 

NCAA Football: Belk Bowl-Virginia Tech vs Kentucky Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats football team has accepted a bid to play in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl vs. the NC State Wolfpack, the school announced Sunday.

Mark Stoops is now the first head coach to lead UK to five-straight bowl games. As a program, UK has tied its school record for consecutive bowl games, with four under Rich Brooks from 2006-09, followed by one with Joker Phillips in 2010.

The Wildcats are 10-9 all-time in bowl games.

“We are very excited to accept a bid to the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl,” Stoops said in a press release. “I want to thank the Gator Bowl for the invitation, and I want to thank our administration, Dr. Eli Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart, for their unwavering support this season. It’s been a very trying year for all of us, and our team is ready to move forward with a fifth straight bowl game. We look forward to playing a great team in NC State. I’ve known Coach (Dave) Doeren a long time, and I have great respect for him and his program.”

Kentucky will make its second appearance in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl during the current run of five consecutive bowl appearances.

The Wildcats began their five-year bowl run in Jacksonville on Dec. 31, 2016, a 33-18 loss to Georgia Tech. The Cats have had much better success recently, winning each of their past two bowl games: Defeating Penn State, 27-24, in the 2019 Citrus Bowl and Virginia Tech, 37-30, in last season’s Belk Bowl.

“The University of Kentucky is very honored to represent the Southeastern Conference in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl,” said UK Athletics director Mitch Barnhart in a press release. “Having had the opportunity to be in the game in 2016, we have so much respect for Rick Catlett and his staff. Rick has been an incredible friend of college football and we appreciate all he has done.

“For UK, we’re excited about moving our football program forward with a fifth-straight bowl game. This has been a challenging year, and to complete the season in the Gator Bowl is an incredible opportunity.”

All fans wishing to attend the Gator Bowl, including season ticket holders and K Fund members, should purchase their tickets directly through UK Athletics will not be taking requests and selling tickets through the UK Ticket Office and K Fund Office this year. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and stadium capacity restrictions, ticket availability will be limited and stadium safety protocols will be in place at TIAA Bank Field.

UK is 1-1 all-time vs. the Wolfpack. The Wildcats first met in 1909, falling to NC State, formerly known as NC A&M, 15-6. The last meeting between the teams was in 1970 with UK winning 27-2 on Oct. 31 in Lexington.

Kickoff for the 2020-21 Gator Bowl is set for noon EST on Jan. 2nd in Jacksonville (FL) at TIAA Bank Field. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.