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Kentucky Football bowl records and history

Four wins in a row.

Wan’Dale Robinson Noah Goldberg - SB Nation

This year’s Music City Bowl is the 22nd bowl the Kentucky Wildcats have played in, and they enter with a record of 12-9, having won their last four in a row—a school record for a bowl winning streak.

Before the December 31st showdown with the Iowa Hawkeyes, let’s dive into their bowl past a bit and see some of the team’s history in holiday football:

1947-1976: Bear Bryant and Fran Curci

Most of UK’s bowls during this era were rewards for big seasons under their two greatest coaches not named Mark Stoops. They went to five bowls and won all but one, winning the program’s first ever bowl in a chilly 20-19 Great Lakes Bowl over Villanova in Cleveland that sounds like a horrible bowl game to play in or go to but turned into a notable win for the program.

Here’s some other things they did over three decades of occasional bowling:

  • Went to the Orange, Sugar, and Cotton Bowls in ‘50, ‘51, and ‘52: the three most prestigious bowls UK has been to. They won the latter two, defeating #1 Oklahoma 13-7 & #11 TCU 20-7.
  • Defeated North Carolina 21-0 in the 1976 Peach Bowl, which was not a prestigious as it is now.
  • Because of the win over Oklahoma, UK was able to claim the 1950 national championship with their 11-1 record, and in some respected circles is recognized as the 1950 champions. Of course, before the BCS and CFP things could always be disputed. I guess the important thing was that UK had their best season ever that year.

1983-1999: Five bowls, one win

After a seven-year gap the ‘Cats made the 1983 Hall of Fame Bowl and lost to West Virginia 20-16, but the very next year beat Wisconsin in it 20-19 to cap a 9-3 season that also featured a win at Tennessee. In the 90s they lost to Clemson, Penn State, and Syracuse to begin a bowl-win drought that would last until Rich Brooks started coaching.

2006-2011: Rich Brooks

Even though they didn’t have Stoops yet there was some pretty good Kentucky football in the 2000s with Rich Brooks. In 2006 & 2007 they won the Music City Bowl two years in a row with wins over ACC powers Clemson and Florida State, then followed it up a year later with a six-point Liberty Bowl win over East Carolina. Of course, then another drought began as they lost in a Music City Bowl rematch with Clemson in 2009, lost in the BBVA Compass Bowl in 2011 to Pittsburgh, and didn’t go bowling again until 2016.

2016-present: Mark Stoops

In 2016 clutch kicking from Austin MacGinnis enabled UK to get over the hump and return to December football with a 7-5 season that scored them a trip to the Gator Bowl, where they got rolled by Georgia Tech.

The next year they returned to the Music City Bowl and lost on a failed two-point conversion to top-25 Northwestern, but ever since have ridden on one of the program’s best hot streaks.

They’ve bowled the last four seasons and won all four, helping them amass the nation’s longest active nonconference winning streak that currently stands at 20 games—if they beat Iowa on the 31st it’ll be 21 heading into the offseason, and they’ll have bowl victories in five straight seasons.

They’ll have to work for it and earn it—Will Levis and Chris Rodriguez won’t be able to help out—but if there’s any team in the country that plays hard it’s Kentucky.